Once you get to a point where you are happy with your weight, what’s next? Some people might think that the job is done and they can go back to all their old habits. Well, we hope after being a part of Be Strong for even just a short time, you will come to realise that this isn’t the case. This is why we work on building long term lifestyle changes, rather than quick fix diets for quick results. You might be wondering why we mention this now, when maybe you are only just starting out, or you don’t feel like you are near the end of your journey, well it’s because we want it to be clear how you need to make this life long, and make sure you never go back.
Because the battle (if you want to call it that) will be life long. 8 years in, and I still have to put a lot of energy into maintaining my lifestyle and my weight, sometimes. It has undoubtedly got easier for the majority of the time, but there are still days when I want to eat the contents of the fridge and lie on the settee, stuffing my face. There are most certainly some days when I don’t want to exercise and I want to eat nothing but cake and pizza and crisps.
There is a actually a psychological process that we have to go through to enable us to achieve this – to get us almost like a psychological ‘maintenance zone’ if that makes sense. And doctors and scientists far more intelligent than I, call this the ‘Self-determination theory’.
This theory explains how our motivations for why we do what we do, move from feeling like we are having it done to us, like we must; along a sliding scale, to a point where we do it because it is intrinsically a part of us and we enjoy it, we choose it 99 times out of 100, because it is now who we are.
Maintaining a healthy weight
Getting to goal weight can become a pretty tricky time for some – and that’s because they think the hard work is done. But it isn’t. Once you get to goal, you do get some flexibility, in food and if you have developed some level of fitness, your ability to do things is greater, but you can’t just rest on your laurels and expect that number on the scales to stay the same – you still have to get the energy balance right, calories in vs calories out, and you still have to hold yourself accountable to your choices. You still need some sort of plan – because if you don’t and you take your eye off the ball, that is where you can go right back to square one. However, if you can get yourself all the way up that sliding scale to the point where this is who you are, and not who you feel like you have to be, then you stand a much better chance of long term success.
How to maintain goal weight
What will I eat?
We hope that you will stick to healthier, lower calorie choices. What’s the point in learning about nutrition if we’re not going to carry it on through life.
Amazingly tasty food and drink doesn’t have to rely on huge calorie content. You already learned that!
Why not continue to eat as you have been doing – do things really need to change? If you enjoyed the food you were eating, carry on – just eat a little bit more of it, and maybe add an extra snack here and there.
You could take your foot off the gas, your eye of the ball but ask yourself why. Does it not matter any more? If it still matters to you, then you keep eating to your new increased maintenance calories.
How will you ensure you continue to eat in a controlled manner. This is best described as where you are in control of the food you eat, not the other way around. You will need to have an idea of what to eat, when to eat it and how much to eat. Don’t let the food and drink take control back, it will if you let it!
How much will you need to increase portion sizes? Do you know or are you going to risk it by guessing, or winging it?
Why not take track your new increased maintenance calories for 3 weeks so you get your new portion control perfect. It worked for you last time. When you think about this, the hard work has been done and you acknowledge its the riskiest time for you – then why would you choose not to track again?
Make sure that treats stay just that. Having a treat daily, or hourly, is far from out of the ordinary. Isn’t that what got you into gaining weight in the first place. Don’t go back to doing what you always used to do, it’s a slippery slope. A treat a day soon becomes habit then one a day just doesn’t cut it, you’re soon eating them constantly.
Did you enjoy the exercise you were doing? If so, why stop?
When will you exercise? What will you do? Where will it be? Who will it be with? How long will it be for? Is it enough – will you cut it back or increase it?
Did you solely do it to help lose weight so now you will stop as the weight has gone? Will you take your foot off the gas or will you remain just as focused?
Make a manageable plan and include in it who you are doing it with and what you are going to do. This is the new you, this is how it’s always going to be.
Keep a check on your weight
You should by now have agreed a lower and upper weight range for yourself. You will need to know exactly where you are in those tolerances at least every couple of weeks. You should be comfortable with looking at stats relating to yourself by now, and not be frightened of getting on the scales and seeing the result. Use the information wisely. If the scales are going up then the calories need to come down. If you’re maintaining then all is cool. If you’re still losing then increase your calories. Remember, you’re now in control – not the food! I weigh every few days, and if I see a pattern where the scale is going up, I just reign it in a bit, eat a bit less, and then all is good again in a few days.
Always set goals, have aspirations, be a good role model and advocate for eating better, moving more and living your life differently. You will inspire others to be successful and prove that the ethos of Be Strong ensures that we continue this for life.
So what is this self-determination theory and how can it help us? As I said before this is like a sliding scale or continuum of what motivates you to do what you do. It is written particularly in relation to physical activity, but it also lends itself to leading a healthy lifestyle.
The self-determination continuum has 6 stages:
The lower end of the scale starts with Amotivaton – here a person has absolutely no personal intrinsic motivation. There is no motivation to perform an activity at all.
2. External regulation
A person at this point has no self-belief that they can achieve their goals, they may not even have a goal. Here, the person perceives that they don’t have a choice in performing the activity. An example might be participating in PE at school. Or in the world of lifestyle change, it might be that all their friends and family are telling them they need to change their lifestyle, so they ‘go on a diet’ reluctantly, because they feel they have to.
3. Introjected regulation
Here, the person might understand that they need to make some changes for fear of something bad happening, or fear of feeling guilty. They may have had a health scare and the doctor has told them that they need to make some changes, they are frightened of the issue recurring or they may feel like they will let people down if they don’t do something. At this point the person still doesn’t feel like they have a choice in the matter.
4. Identified regulation
Here a person sees the personal value in performing the activity. There is a belief that they have a choice and that they choose to do it for all the perceived benefits they feel it brings.
This is the point where what you do is becoming a part of you. You do it to meet personal goals and challenges- whether that’s losing a particular amount of weight by choice, wanting to reduce your cholesterol to a certain number because you believe in the health benefits, or being able to run a particular distance in a particular time.
6. Intrinsic motivation
This is the ultimate goal – to participate in something for the sheer enjoyment of it. Not because of any perceived need, or goal, but just because it feels good. In terms of lifestyle change, this is where we are all aiming for – to make the choices we make in relation to food and exercise, because we like the way it makes us feel, not because we want to lose weight, or because we want to run a race in a set time. This is where we should be aiming for, this is how we maintain.
It could be demonstrated by this visual:
As you can probably appreciate we will move up and down this continuum, depending on what is going on in our lives, and where we might be with our goals and aspirations. I can say I definitely sometimes move back down to points 2 and 3 at times, but for the main I am up around points 4,5 and 6.
Can you identify where you are on the continuum, with your lifestyle change journey? I think most people who stay with us once they are at maintenance are the people who are at 5 or 6. Those who leave and go back to their old way of life, and then return later with a few extra pounds are perhaps more around the 2 or 3 mark.
Our job is to get you to a 5 or 6 for the majority of the time. If we can get you to the end point and this healthy lifestyle is part of your make up and not something you have to physically force yourself to do all the time, the more chance you have of being successful for the rest of your life, and not relapsing.
In summary to maintain we need to:
- Know our calories and a general idea of what that constitutes in food terms.
- Its a great idea to regularly ensure that your weight is in your agreed range.
- Manage treats so they don’t become a habit. Once they become a habit they are no longer treats, remember what the definition is!
- Don’t let food and drink take control of your mind and body ever again.
- Keep moving! Have a plan with where, what, when, who with and how long? Make sure its enough and manageable- don’t over commit and risk burnout.
- Never stop dreaming. Always have goals and aspirations. Try to achieve beyond people’s reasonable expectations of you. If you do want to achieve things make a plan to ensure you don’t just talk about them – you actually do it.
- Stay connected with Be Strong – all of the above is what we are. We’re a lifestyle group that’s to support you for life. Weight loss and weight maintenance is just a by product of what we do. There is no doubt about it, those who stay connected are the ones who maintain. Those who leave usually return with a few extra pounds to lose again.
Think about where you are on the Self determination continuum, and think what steps you need to take to move along it. What support do you need? What do you need from us to help you get there? What will help you do this forever?
Tell us, because we are keen to get as many of you up there as possible.