Hi dear readers, just wanted to share some thoughts about maintenance.
Over a year into maintaining a significant weight loss, I’ve been reflecting on what my maintenance program looks like this far down the road. I thought it might be helpful to some people to see what sane, peaceful eating can look like in the long-term. And no, it doesn’t look exactly like it did a year ago.
Through my own long-term experimentation I found out where I have some wiggle room and where I don’t. This is where everyone is a little different. While the weight-loss phase tends to be a one-size-fits-all, maintenance isn’t like that. Bright lines provide a framework and roadmap, but you can’t work a strong program if you don’t believe that your lines are serving you. You have to really trust your lines in order to follow them, which means you probably will challenge them a little bit when you get to maintenance. Maintenance is about figuring out what serves you and what doesn’t. If it isn’t serving you, don’t do it. If it is serving you, surrender to that and keep doing it, one day at a time.
After losing about 70lb pretty easily by following the Bright Line Eating weight-loss food plan exactly, I landed in maintenance and have, at some point, challenged each of the 4 Bright Lines to see exactly how rigorous I needed to be. I tried the one-plate-rule instead of weighing my food, and my weight creeped up. Big surprise. I started eyeballing quantities and found that I have honest eyeballs with some foods and not others. I tried some “grey area” foods and found that some are triggering and some are fine. I tested a fourth meal in my food plan and found that it messed with my automaticity and I happily went back to 3 meals with nothing in between. I tried eating french fries and couldn’t control myself around them, so those are a hard no. Maintenance is SO individual, and that’s why it can feel difficult to navigate.
With weight loss or 12-step programs, there tends to be a major focus on one day at a time, and we strongly discourage thinking in terms of “doing this forever” or “never having ____ again” because that kind of thinking can derail our efforts. However, it may comfort some people to know that your recovery program can, and probably will loosen over time to become a little simpler, without sacrificing peace or food freedom.
The key here is to have the support and reflection practices to do that experimentation. The changes I will share below have come about for me over a year of maintenance, slowly, one at a time, and I never make a change to my food plan or program without discussing it with a buddy who is also in recovery, to check the sanity of my decision. (Note – I said a buddy who is also in recovery, not a regular-eating person. Regular people already question our sanity…) 😉
Little tweaks to your program can be empowering, but they can also be dangerous if they escalate and begin a slippery slope and saboteur rebellion. Be sure to externalize any changes to your program and make changes SLOWLY, and give each change a few weeks to get enough data about whether or not it’s truly working for you. Meditate. Journal. Connect.
That said, here are some of the ways that I have tweaked my Maintenance program to work for me long term:
- I sometimes split my huge maintenance breakfast into 1st and 2nd breakfasts, eating half of it in the early morning and half of it mid-morning as a snack.
- I have one grain serving in my food plan, and I let it move around flexibly between lunch and dinner, depending on what is convenient (although I do decide in advance and I don’t allow 2 grain servings in one day)
- I don’t always write my food down the night before. I always think through it the night before or in the morning, but I probably physically write it down in my food journal maybe 3-4 times per week. I definitely use this tool when my life gets busy and I need that extra support, but often I find myself not needing it. I think I’ve started to internalized the process.
- I sometimes replace 1/2 of my second breakfast protein with 1 fat (which is either oil or avocado for savory breakfasts or roasted potatoes)
- I allow a fruit/nut luna bar or dried, unsweetened fruit sometimes during intense exercise or hiking if my body tells me I need the fuel.
- I often eyeball my veggies and fruit serving and don’t precisely weigh them. Or, I weigh them within a personally acceptable range (8-12 oz veg, 6-8 oz fruit)
- I use a one plate rule at restaurants and don’t worry about ratios (although if I find myself eating out a lot, or justifying unhealthy food, I will tighten this one up or limit the amount of times I eat out in a week)
- I often eyeball a splash of oil in a plan as my fat serving, but if I begin losing my peace around this at all or any mental chatter starts up, I put it on the scale.
- I measure certain items for convenience instead of weighing them including:
- 1/2 package tofu or tempeh = 1 protein
- 2 slices Ezekiel bread = 1.5 breakfast grains, 1 slice = 1 breakfast grain
- 1 Ezekiel tortilla = 1 grain
- 1 veggie burger = 1 protein
- 2 rice cakes = 1.5 breakfast grains
- 1 veggie sausage = 1 protein
For those of you thinking of making small tweaks to your program, what have you found works for you that may be different than what you did when you started? What have you completely surrendered to, and what have you questioned? Where are your own personal boundaries?