Flexibility After Weight Loss

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?



Subscribe to Katie's E-mail List


  1. Oh Katie! Your timing on this post was perfect for me. I’m 2 lbs away from maintenance and already struggling mentally. I’ve lost weight so many times – but never maintained – so this is new territory for me. Your examples and experiences resonated with me and give me a better sense of how to approach maintenance. Thank you.

  2. Really helpful. It is especially important to remember the following quote from your posting

    “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.”

    It is something I have used ALL the time during my year of weight loss. Now transitioning, it is more important than ever. And unfortunately, some people seem to have a hard time learning it.

  3. Thank you for this post! Within pounds of maintenance , and these are the very things I’ve been wondering about and no one really talks about! Thank you , thank you!

  4. Thanks Katie for sharing your research. I’ve been at Maintenance since 11 November 2016. I’ve loved your blogs and recipes. I’ve really enjoyed reading this post too. 💖

  5. This is a brave and generous post, Katie, and very helpful. I have not yet come to maintenance, but after losing well over 100 pounds, I’m in the realm of maintenance and facing some of its issues–ramping up exercise, for example, and dealing with new hunger. I think I’ve proven to myself that “the dose is the poison,” so that small quantities of problem elements can be ok for me on occasion, but not on the regular menu. But some elements that are fine for others are problems for me–grits, e.g. It comes down to chemistry–glucose/insulin balance and brain chemistry reacting to the stimulus.

    One note–did you mean 2 rice cakes=1/2 grain? The regular serving is 3 rice cakes in one grain, right? Or do you have special rice cakes? 🙂

  6. Thanks for this post Katie! I’m 8lbs from my goal weight and am looking forward to adding some food in maintenance. Two things that resonated with me from your post. 1. Surrender. 2. Forever & Never. The first week on my weight loss plan I wanted to hold tightly to the disappointment of “never ever having _____ again”. I was tormented by those thoughts and I resisted the whole plan because of it. It wasn’t until I learned to say “just not today” that I was able to totally surrender to the plan. I totally embraced it. Rolled around in it. Leaned into it. Trusted it. I feel that the surrender is why it has been successful…dare I say easy for me (8 on ss).

    The truth is that once I got past those first couple of weeks the cravings for those things stopped and I’ve lost interest in them.

    Thanks again for your post and wonderful recipes. BTW the eggplant mash is one of my favorites!

  7. I would love for others reading this who on maintenance to itemize what they have tweaked and what they tried that didn’t work. It is helpful to know a person’s susceptibility scale number as well. I am not near maintenance but love details like this and thinking about how this program really will work for a lifetime.

  8. Thank you for this information! I am 60 days into maintenance and had discovered that following the exact formula in the book made my weight go up and down without settling. I have discovered some of your strategies too, so it’s nice to see what is working for me works for another. And to get even more ideas! Thank you also for all your great recipes and blogs! You are one of the first sites I found and was so excited for all the great vegetarian recipes and tips!

  9. Mary Judkins

    Your description of maintenance and living the BLE life is spot on! I am one month into my goal range and doing many of the same experiments to figure out what is right for me as I learn to live like this. THANK YOU!!!

  10. Hi Katie,
    I think my susceptibility is similar to yours. I tend to just binge any food, approved or not, especially when I am tired or at night. One thing I noticed is that I need to remember to add salt. My blood pressure is fine and I have always loved salt and some of the craving/binging is driven by a desire to eat salt. So, I am salting more at every meal and it seems to help decrease cravings at night.
    Your emails are very helpful – I look forward to buying your maintenance cookbook – I bought the first one you self-published and liked it a lot.

    I also find that I crave more protein and even though the BLE maintenance plan only adds protein back if one is an athlete (I do a fair amount of exercise – biking, ice hockey, Bikram yoga), I will sometimes add an extra half or full protein to a meal.
    Thanks for your support,

  11. Kate Shafer

    Day 241 still on weight loss: I measure rice cakes (3 for a 1 oz grain) and my almonds (15 for a 1/2 oz fat).

    I don’t eat out much so one-plate works there.

    I appreciate your cautious openness about exceptions & being mindful of what triggers.

    Sent from my iPhone


  12. Thank you for your thoughtful post. I love your blog and thank you from the bottom of my heart for your open sharing. I’m still in weight loss mode, but I’m also a 7 on the SS, so it is very helpful to see how maintenance is working for you.

  13. Toni Visconti

    Thanks for this Katie, I am within five pounds of goal and have done quite a bit of soul searching on what my “forever” good plan will look like. I have been experimenting this past month. I am an 8 on the scale.

    My forever food plan will bring back the following “non-compliant “ foods, they are not a trigger for me.

    Red wine- one glass nightly, doctors orders for keeping my good cholesterol up.

    Corn tortillas- with Mexican food only

    Honey- Raw from local sources (not processed)

    I have used an additional fat at breakfast since day one.

    I will bring back one additional grain for a meal of my choice (lunch or dinner)

    I don’t plan on making any other changes!

    • I’ve made some of those same changes to my forever food plan too. Although, I don’t think of them as my forever food plan, I think of it as my right now food plan, and I made adjustments as needed. I believe that what serves me now might not serve me later, and vice versa. Glad you’ve found long-term peace with your food! <3

  14. David Nathanson

    Dear Katie,

    Really liked your thought stream! My wife & I started BLE the day before Thanksgiving. My goal was to lose 9lbs. Was 164 & 5’9″. A pretty simple goal. Ending up getting down to 148 (not that I was trying to, I just kept losing weight)! I am also “6” on the susceptibility scale. I have been on Maintenance for 4+ months. I had to really play around with which numbers to add as I cannot eat the extra amount of veggies that I am allowed on Maintenance (I just don’t like most veggies).
    Here’s the #’s I added which are really consistent on a daily basis;
    #3-but only on the weekends

    I consistently weigh within 1/2 pound each week by staying on this regime. Also wanted to let you know that I LOVE your recipes Katie (-:


  15. Pingback: How To Cook and Eat Tofu – Katie's Bright Kitchen

  16. Laurie Lay

    I love your recipes! Thank you for this post. I havd released almost 70 lbs, so far, with about 10 lbs to go. I am transitioning into maintenance, but it has been hard and bumpy…. but I will eventually get to my goal range. I am a 10+ on the SS. so I have to be extra cautious about my “adds”. I always run it by Lynn Coulston.
    I was always most hungry around breakfast, so we have Front-Loaded breakfast, lunch is medium, dinner is small…. and that is working for me. I am Vegan. I have been for almost 4 years… and on BLE for almost 2 years.
    I know my meals will change over time…. and adjust as I notice my weight going up or down.
    My current breakfast is:
    1.5 servings Grain
    1.5 servings Protein
    1 fruit, 6 oz
    Veggies: 9 oz
    1/2 Fat

    3/4 Protein
    13 oz veggies
    Fruit, 6 oz
    1/2 Grain

    3/4 Protein
    13 oz veggies

    I am still losing… slowly.
    I have about 10 lbs to go, then will add back in my 1/4 protein… and go from there.
    I have started Walking 3-4 times a week.
    I am feeling really good.
    Balancing…. Extreme Hunger vs Energy vs Still needing to lose 10 pounds…. but I think this plan here is my perfect balance for now.

  17. Thanks so much for sharing this! Maintenance was on my mind long before I got to GW and it gave me anxiety. I’ve just reached goal but actually started adding 1/2 a healthy fat (coconut oil & flax meal) to most of my breakfasts a few months ago. I didn’t do this religiously every single morning but had peace about it. My reason was to improve preconception health and I felt like my body needed more healthy fat. A few weeks ago I started implementing it more solidly and now have a fat portion each morning. It’s not slowed my weight loss much.
    Now at goal, I’m about to add a grain to lunch because that is something I feel I will enjoy the most. And the maths is easier too. 🙂 I am aware though, that this might not be on my plan forever. Perhaps I’ll end up with a keto approach to BLE, perhaps I’ll choose more protein instead of more grain. Who knows?! I want to focus on what’s healthy, and have recently been aiming fo gluten & diary free options.
    I’ve been scared, lonely and excited all at the same time. But I’ve come to the realisation that maintenance is a place you live in rather than a strict (but safe) journey like the weight loss phase was and that we can actually control our weight now. That was like a revelation for me! I still don’t quiet know what maintenance will look like for me and how much flexibility I will allow, but I’m about to figure all that out.
    I love your posts and recipes, and am now feeling more peace about these mixed meals too whereas in the early days I was like OCD with my weighing! How we grow!
    Thank you Katie!

Leave a Comment!