Okay, so you achieved your goal, now what? It’s time for a plan to maintain your good fortune. You certainly didn’t work your way down to your current amazing weight to rocket on back to your old weight.
I know I haven’t. Yes, my wedding is right around the corner (it’s this tomorrow, October 12) and I was still at my goal weight when I took off for our wedding on the 7th but that doesn’t mean come the day after tomorrow that I start pigging out (or sooner).
Although the wedding has presented itself as a great milestone for my diet plan, in actuality, I like to think of it as a means to help motivate me, not an end in itself. The true motivator for me was my gut. That is, my spare tire of a gut—my beer belly—told me I was overweight, corroborated by the unabashedly unbiased CDC BMI calculator.
In fact, I was overweight for far too long and I finally decided I was going to do something about it thanks in part to my fortuitous reading of Timothy Caulfield’s excellent The Cure for Everything: Untangling Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness, and Happiness.
Of course, I could always revise my goal downward and continue to try and lose weight until I was 155 or 150 pounds or lower but I have decided that, for me, at this point in my life, 160 pounds is a good compromise weight. It’s both several pounds under the high end of “normal” for my height (169 pounds), and, as important, I believe it’s also realistic. I think I have half a chance of being able to keep my weight here at 160, plus or minus 5 pounds. (If the truth is to be told, I really mean plus 5 pounds; the minus side of the equation is very unlikely!)
Shifting Myfitness Pal to Maintenance
So about two weeks ago, I achieved my goal and I have to say that it was hard for me to figure out what to do next. At first, I decided to continue on plan until we left for Italy for the wedding. At the same time, I started to crave extra calories and would at times convince myself it was time to “cheat” a little here and there.
Meanwhile I dipped down to a low of 158.8. At one point I looked at myself in the mirror and worried that perhaps I was getting carried away and maybe even looking a bit too thin.
Eventually, after a significant back and forth in my mind, I decided to shift into maintenance mode. So how did I actually accomplish this?
I went into the configuration settings for myfitness pal and changed the What is your goal? setting from “Lose 1 pound per week” to “Maintain my current weight” as shown here.
Shifting Me to Maintenance
Making that change to myfitness pal was the easy part of the deal. More difficult was the realization that, although I could increase my caloric intake, the change was not a recipe (pun intended) for open eating season. My change of my goal into maintenance mode increased my daily target intake from 1450 to 1920 calories, a net increase of 470 calories.
The thing to realize is that one can easily consume 470 calories with a small dessert, plate of pasta, etc. Even a latte and a couple of pieces of banana can put you close to 470 calories. The point I am trying to make is that while this is a welcome increase in calories, it’s not a huge change.
This is where it’s important to realize that if you are serious about maintaining your weight at a significantly lower weight than when you started you need to permanently shift your views on eating.
While I am still coming to terms with how this will sort out—and I have to do this while getting married and honeymooning for three weeks in the land of pasta, pizza, cheese, wine, gelato, and cannoli—I am committed to making the shift in thinking.
This means eating less. Let me repeat that sobering fact: this means eating less. We humans in the Western World eat way too much. Caulfield drives this home in his chapter on diet in The Cure for Everything.
But we are also not talking starvation either—or even skipping meals. Just eating at a rate and frequency much more akin to what our creator (or evolution) intended. It’s that simple.
Will Exercise for Calories
There is little secret, however, that may help in the maintenance game. As I’ve written about previously, when I was on the diet, I tried—and sometimes it was very difficult—to not eat the extra calories that myfitness pal awarded me when I exercised. But in maintenance mode, I don’t plan on thumbing my nose those extra calories. Again, this is not an excuse for unbridled eating. And I will still do my best to avoid what Caulfield calls the poison foods, even when exercising.
Nonetheless, as long as I am exercising regularly (and hopefully vigorously) and successfully staying below 165 pounds, I will allow myself to eat the additional calories that my exercise burns.That’s my plan anyway. Wish me luck.
Postscript: It’s been a rough start to maintenance; four days into my trip. Not enough sleep or exercise, and too much stress, too much eating, and too much eating at restaurants. Plus, no scale in sight. I need to re-focus on my plan; but first the wedding.