Very rarely do you find someone with a goal to maintain their current bodyweight, and it’s a shame.
Most of my clients are those that would like to lose body weight as fast as possible, and are willing to chop off an arm to get the scales down a little more.
They are always looking at getting to their destination as fast as humanly possible, irrespective of the consequences but rarely do they stop to think about what happens when they get there.
All they think about is how happy they will be to reach a certain number on the scales or to look a certain way.
Before we think about that end goal, let me ask you this: When was the last time you managed to maintain your current bodyweight?
Not many people can answer that question confidently and accurately.
This is the usual response:
“Never! I have always been trying to lose weight and then the weight creeps back on again”.
Does that sound familiar?
If we all learnt the skill of maintaining our bodyweight, we would never need to diet again.
Think about it.
Instead of focussing all of our attention on trying to lose weight, restricting calories/food groups and exercising as much as possible to impact the number on the scales, what about if we learnt how to stay exactly the same.
Not getting fatter and not getting leaner.
The pressure would be off and we would never need to worry about “bouncing back”. We could lose body fat in our own time and get it done over a long period of time.
The first hurdle to overcome with maintenance, is the mindset that you are not striving to reach a destination. You are trying to do the exact opposite in fact. You are trying to stay the same whilst continuing to life your life.
Maintenance is progress.
The sooner we realise that, the sooner we can stop trying to diet ourselves to death.
Managing your weight/body fat levels to stay exactly the same is a skill. A skill that is going to help you in the future more than you realise. You do not need to be constantly losing weight or trying to gain muscle.
When to maintain
Most people would assume they only need to maintain their body weight after they have reached their goal, but there may be a few other occasions where a maintenance period could be helpful.
Dieting can be exhausting, draining and is tough at times. Carrying this out for weeks or months at a time starts to have an impact on our mindset. We become less motivated, less driving and generally can’t be arsed.
Instead of giving up and throwing the towel in, we could just slow progress and maintain for a little while. This is going to give us more flexibility around our food choices, allow us to eat some more calories and take the pressure off for a little while.
After a big loss
If you have lost a large amount of weight (>10% of your body weight), the chances are progress is going to start to slow. You could reduce calories further or increase exercise, but there is only so far you can go. Eventually, you will be eating nothing but dust and running a marathon before work.
To prevent this from happening, a period at maintenance calories could help.
Increasing your food or decreasing exercise intensity or duration, will help push the reset button and allow you some time to refocus your attention and reassess your goals.
Transitioning from a change of goal
If you have been trying to pack on some muscle and get those biceps bulging, there will be a time when you switch to a different goal of getting a bit leaner. Whilst you could just jump from a higher calorie diet to a much lower one, it may be beneficial to maintain for a period of time.
A couple of weeks spent at maintenance calories could prevent extreme eating habits, binges and help you keep the progress you have made during that time.
How to Maintain
Now that we have discussed why and when to maintain, we are going to talk about the how. This part is largely going to depend on the method you have used to lose weight in the first place.
If you have used some form of tracking to help you lose weight, then I would continue doing so throughout this maintenance period. Whether that is calories, steps or exercise, I would keep it up for as long as convenient.
Don’t just give up and go back to eating whatever you want, as that isn’t going to help maintaining your new found results.
I would recommend slowly increasing calories or decreasing activity to a point you feel comfortable and manageable. Spend some time slowly making adjustments or work with a personal trainer to help find this point.
This is the part most people fear and find the hardest as they always associate an increase in food to an increase in scale weight.
Weight is not fat.
When we increase calories we are also going to be increasing food volume, carbs and stored water alongside those carbs.
Seeing an initial increase in scale weight is not uncommon when transitioning to a maintenance period, but it not a direct indication of results. Scale weight could increase without a single ounce of fat being added to your body.
To find your new maintenance calories, there are two methods we could use.
The first is by slowly adding food back into the diet until your weight stabilises over 3 to 4 weeks. Try adding 100 calories per day for a week until you feel at a comfortable level. This could take a couple of months and you are likely to still be in a calorie deficit for a few more weeks or months (depending on how low you went).
If you are a little nervous of the scales jumping up, I would use this method.
The second method is to calculate your maintenance calories using the calculator below, and then jumping straight back up to that number. The scales are likely to increase slightly but should settle down after a week or so. This is my preferred method, as it minimises time spent dieting and you can instantly get all of the benefits of maintenance calories (not bloody starving).
Understanding that maintenance is an essential part of your journey is key. It is a skill that is often harder than the dieting process itself, but is regularly over looked. Practice this skill throughout a longer fat loss phase or when you just need a break from dieting. There are lots of benefits to just staying to same and is going to help you in the long run.
If you need help applying any of these principles to your own diet and lifestyle, get in touch today to start working together. I have online and 1 to 1 personal training slots available. Click here to request a consultation.
The brains, brawn and beauty of Dackattack (basically it’s just me). A personal trainer with a private gym in Norwich, dedicated to giving out simple, actionable advice that will give you outstanding results.