Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Re-defining Maintenance

I feel like I am standing at the edge of a cliff. 

Every month, after I weigh in at Weight Watchers I struggle with this feeling. As a Lifetime Member, I have to weigh in once each calendar month within my goal range (my goal weight is 148 lbs and you are allowed 2 lbs above that, so I have to weigh in each month below 150 lbs). I weighed in at 149 lbs the first week of December. I then proceeded to throw myself off the cliff into an oblivion of holiday eating and indulgence. Ok, it wasn't that extreme, but my willpower was significantly reduced. For a few weeks I ate with less restraint, made some poor choices, and gained until the scales reached 155 lbs in the beginning of January. I then spent the rest of the month clawing my way back up the mountain, eating properly and exercising. I was back to my goal weight at weigh-in Jan 31 (148.8 lbs) and proceeded to stay on track so I could complete my February weigh-in. Last night I weighed in at 147.2 lbs (down 1.6 lbs from last week) and I feel great. But now I'm standing on that cliff again. I know that the next time I HAVE to weigh-in is March. I also know that I am heading to Banff to attend a conference next week (where there will be plenty of food/alcohol) and I won't be able to weigh-in next Tuesday. I also know that I am really good at Achieving my Goals - as long as I don't let things get too out of hand, I can hike my way up the mountain, back to goal weight when I need to. 

I am less good at Achieving Equilibrium. So far, since reaching my goal weight one year ago this has been my version of maintenance. It is also my version of yo-yo dieting. In my defense, there has been a lot of life events that made it easy to gain weight: trips to Mexico, Hawaii, San Francisco, New York (yes, I have been very spoiled the last couple of years with travel - it is one of the big perks of my job), writing my thesis, defending my thesis. But that's true for life in general. There is always an excuse; there is always an event. I need to find a better balance. My other excuse is that it doesn't take much for me to gain weight. A couple days of not tracking, a couple bigger meals and the scale will go up. Even if I simply eat all my points for a few days in a row (which in theory is what I should be eating to lose weight), the scale goes up. I have to be pretty strict with myself to lose or maintain, and sometimes that gets really tiring.

I am good at losing weight. I am good at gaining weight. I am BAD at maintenance. 

So where to go from here? Do I jump off once again and embrace the freedom for a couple weeks? Or do I try (for the first time!) to maintain despite my upcoming travel and not having to weigh-in for a few weeks? 

I think part of the problem is that I have two totally different mindsets depending on whether I'm losing weight or not. When I'm losing, I take pleasure in choosing healthy foods that satisfy me. I don't feel deprived, I feel a sense of accomplishment from making healthy choices. I like how I feel, inside and out. But then as soon as I don't have to lose weight I feel trapped by this lifestyle. I want to eat! I don't want to think about making healthy choices, I just want to be normal

I need to find a way to adopt the first mindset all the time, or at least merge the two. I know I will never be able to eat how I used to ever again. I will always have to think about it. This fact really depresses me. But if I can accept it and adopt a new "normal" I will benefit long-term. I'm going to try it. I'm going to stay in my "losing" mindset where I want to be healthy, but allow myself small treats. This will be my attempt at true balance. I am tired of my weight going up and down. I need to get out of this cycle.

One more thing that I think will really help me is not just weighing in once a month, but doing it every week. I need to be accountable to myself more than once a month. I think that's part of my problem - I see maintenance as a goal to hit each month rather than the status quo. And, as I said, I'm very goal-oriented, so although I always hit the goal, it's not a healthy mind-set to be in. From now on, I will try to weigh-in every week at WW, not just once a month. The problem is the weeks I can't (because I'm out of town) I will be without access to a scale, so I can't just post the number on here for accountability. But I will still know I have to get on the scale as soon as I'm back, so I won't let the freedom go to my head (or hips).

Wow...real maintenance. This will be a new thing for me! I'm a little sad (no more freedom) but I think it's for the best. Now the key for me will be to focus on all the things I CAN eat rather than those I can't! I will use this blog to explore my feelings and figure things out as I enter this new phase of my journey. I am going to learn to resist my all-or-nothing tendencies and not dive off the cliff. Or, at the very least, I will strap on a parachute.


  1. I agree - for me, losing is in many ways easier. And gaining... oh I can do that fast! But maintaining is a struggle. I have written a lot on my blog about my own quest to be "normal." And for me, I realize that my "journey" really isn't about a goal weight anymore but about my mindset and my relationship with food. And that still needs a lot of work.

    I'm interested to follow along and see where this takes you.

  2. Great post Melisa. Can I come to Banff with you next Tuesday?? :) Or...I'll go to Banff and you go to W W??? Kidding...I'll miss you but am sure you'll be having a good time. See you tomorrow. R

  3. Good for you for fighting the good fight. I have also met my demons at the end of the journey to "goal" and am now working my way back there. I'll definitely be taking some advice from you as you conquer your goals!

  4. I was just going to suggest weighing weekly for a while and there you wrote that! I think there is always that mentality of "getting away with it" when you have time between weigh-ins. I am a member of the (Weight Control Registry, which you should look into, BTW) and a common theme among long-term maintainers is that they weigh in regularly. Some daily, most weekly.