Weight Loss Maintenance Mode is Total Garbage

weight loss maintenance mode is total garbage
You may have read my recent post about how the hardest part of weight loss is keeping it off, not losing it. That post has started me thinking a great deal about the online weight loss community and the idea of weight loss maintenance. And those have led me to do a great deal of introspection about how I see myself, how I will continue to see myself, and how I want other people to see me for the rest of my life.

I started actively trying to lose weight during the summer of 2010. That was four and a half years ago. In that time, I’ve lost 155 pounds, started this fitness blog, been featured on the Runner’s World website and in one of their books, and become certified as a personal trainer. I’ve even run a half-marathon, and my sights are set on running a full one toward the end of this year.

Yes, that’s all kind of a #humblebrag (sorry), but it’s a segue into my point: I lost weight and changed my life, but the weight loss does not define who I am.

I am living my life–not some weight loss maintenance routine.

Sure, the weight loss is a part of who I am, helped make me who I am, and I work every day at maintaining my fitness and health. But I no longer have to worry about weight loss being my number 1 priority.

Weight loss maintenance isn’t something I do actively. I don’t think to myself, “I have to do this so I can keep off the weight I lost.”

And that’s why so much of the online weight loss community strikes me as unhealthy–every bit as unhealthy as the commercial weight loss industry or even the fat acceptance community.

Sure, I’m scared of getting fat again. So I live my life better than I did back then. I use that fear as a motivator, not as an ID card.

So much of the online weight loss community seems to think there are two modes of life for its members: weight loss mode and maintenance mode.

You’re either actively trying to lose weight, or you’re actively trying to keep that weight off.

Let me be the first to tell you that is complete bullcrap.

By thinking about weight loss in such binary terms, you lose any way to disconnect yourself from your former life, from all the emotional stress and issues that caused the weight gain in the first place.

By seeing yourself as either a loser or a maintainer (or being in maintenance mode), you don’t get to create your new self-identity as healthy person with healthy habits–your identity is still tied directly to the obese person you once were.

Don’t think about your eating in terms of calorie restrictions instead of nutrition. You think about calories burned during exercise instead of training yourself toward some goal–or just exercising for the fun of it. By thinking about yourself in terms of weight loss maintenance, you’re living life in fear of going back to the unhealthy life you had, not giving yourself the opportunity to be someone who lost weight and is now living a fit, healthy, and happy life.

So…Let It Go

Let It Go
Like Elsa said, guys…you just gotta let it go. Let go of the idea that you have to live your life around weight loss maintenance, trying not to become someone you used to be. Don’t be scared to see yourself as healthy and happy. Don’t be scared to see yourself as who you are instead of who you used to be.

Let go of the idea that you’re always going to somehow be that obese person who couldn’t bend down, run 15 seconds, or fit on a roller coaster. Let go of the idea that you have to live your life in ways you don’t want to in order to maintain your weight loss.

You don’t.

You just have to live your life. True weight loss is sustainable through healthy living and honest-to-goodness mental change. I changed the moment I couldn’t fit on that roller coaster, and I knew that I never would let myself get to that point again.

My mind changed first, and my body changed over the next few years.

And I have never once been in maintenance mode because of it. I just live my life.

After 155 pounds, I don’t really count calories, and I don’t weigh myself more than once every month or two. I eat food I like when I’m hungry, drink a lot of water, exercise doing stuff I enjoy every day. In other words, I live my life.

I don’t think about weight loss maintenance because I’m not maintaining weight loss. I’m not a maintainer, and I’m not–nor have I ever been–in maintenance mode.

I’m me. I lost weight. I’m a runner. I’m healthy. And that’s how I live my life.

Now…how do you plan on living yours?

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  1. Janelle @ Run With No Regrets

    I love this post! I never thought of “maintenance mode” as being a negative, but it makes so much sense and sounds like it can do more harm than good. Congratulations on your weight loss and all of your accomplishments. #wowlinkup

  2. The Frugal Exerciser

    Hmm, I truly don’t agree with your theory. I have never been obese but because I have a thyroid problem I do have to weigh myself to make sure I’m in my weight range. I also believe that MOST but not all people can substain high impact lifestyle as one ages. Most of the friends who are in the fitness industry or were runners had to slow down due to arthritic joint problems. Long term weight maintenace is a combination of exercise and calorie control.

    • The Frugal Exerciser

      I also have to add, you are a male probably under 40 so you can run and probably not have to worry about calorie counting and etc. However, this might not work for a formerly obese female over 40 or 50.

      • B.J. Keeton

        That’s a very fair point. Bodies do work differently and less efficiently as you age, and women do tend to have a disadvantage to younger guys. But I think that quality of life enters in as well, and living a healthy and active life where you think about what you eat makes for a much happier life than counting calories and basing your identity on your former self. So much of weight loss is mental, and being in the right mindset about how you see yourself and your life is important. I think that holds true regardless of age. I still think about calories and snacks and all that, but it doesn’t overwhelm my decisions and impact my life like it did the first year or so after my weight loss. I’m not maintaining anymore–I’m just living. Good and truly effective lifestyle changes aren’t age or sex-dependent, though they have to be taken into account.

  3. Ashley @ A Lady Goes West

    Hi there! This is my first time stopping by, so I must tell you congratulations on your journey and weight-loss success over the years. And as a fellow personal trainer and blogger, I would agree that there is so much out there that is supposed to be motivating, but can be very confusing for people. It’s great to see someone like you share your story and the fact that you’re seeking to live a healthy life as you, not as someone in a certain mode. So be you! And happy Wednesday to you, as well! 🙂

    • B.J. Keeton

      Thanks for stopping by, Ashley. You’re right–it can be terribly confusing to have so many mixed signals. That’s why I think it’s so important to be upfront with people that so much of it is mental. The physical stuff can be pushed through, but if you always see yourself as a fat person, then health isn’t your focus, and you’ll backslide. 🙁

  4. Aimee

    Fantastic post! Our weight doesn’t define us, so why would we live our lives as if it does? I loved reading about your weight loss journey! Great job! 🙂

    • B.J. Keeton

      Thanks, Aimee! That’s exactly how I feel about it. My weight loss may have defined that period of my life, but not my life in general.

  5. Whitney @ French Fry Runner

    Great post and many valid points! I’m starting to take weight out of my fitness equation as well. What I mean is that I want to be a healthy weight, but, more important, I want to do all I can to live a healthy lifestyle. Losing any additional weight I have will naturally happen when I do this. If I worry about the scale too much, it’s counterproductive for me. I care more about feeling good and being strong. Hope I’m making sense.

    • B.J. Keeton

      That’s exactly how I feel about it. If I lose weight, then cool. If I gain weight, I want to know why, but I’m happy to maintain my +/- 3 pounds around where I am right now. It’s all about feelings and health for me now, and it’s taken a while to get to this point, admittedly.

  6. Julie @ Running in a Skirt

    So inspiring! It sounds like you have the perfect way to think about it. It is about being healthy for life.

    • B.J. Keeton

      Thanks, Julie. It’s so much about mindset that I can’t stand hearing about people who lost weight but haven’t reached any better quality of life. It breaks my heart that being fitter and healthier for some people involves so much pain and discomfort.

  7. Cassi

    When I saw the title of your post on the #wowlinkup I thought WTF? But as I read this it kind of made sense to me. I haven’t tracked what I ate in months but hit my goal weight at the beginning of the year. I use my HRM more to determine when I need to change my workouts than looking at it to balance calories in and out. So in a way I’ve been doing what you talk about even before reaching maintenance.

    • B.J. Keeton

      That’s awesome. I still need to try the HRM, honestly, and I may get a GPS watch like the TomTom Cardio to have a wrist-based one because I can’t stand the idea of wearing a strap. The Jawbone has honestly helped me keep track of just daily movement so that I know when I need to kick it up a notch. Hooray for the idle alarm!

    • B.J. Keeton

      I haven’t been able to use HRM because I can’t bring myself to wear a strap. But I do want a TomTom Cardio Runner GPS watch so I can start trying to use it as a metric. Right now, the one that I use most is the JawboneUP, and its idle alarm lets me know when I need to be way more active. It’s pretty awesome.

  8. Shrinkinguy

    Just saw your invitation posted over at Fitocracy and came over for a visit. Great blog and great post, I was thinking I see a lot of me in you. My journey was more recent – lost 70 pounds from Oct 2013 to Apr 2014. I started a blog as well just to help inspire and help others as well at http://www.shrinkinguy.com.

    I hadn’t considered your perspective on “maintenance mode” before, but it makes sense to me. I, like you, am afraid of gaining again, and statistics say that it’s a possibility. But who cares about statistics? I know that I feel a lot better this way than I did before, and I know the tradeoffs. I choose to be fit, and I am fit. I continue to set and achieve goals, but like you say, it’s not in the context of not getting fat, it’s in the context of continuing to better myself. So I too will ditch the “maintenance mode” mentality and if people ask if I’m maintaining, I’ll just tell them that I’m really happy living a healthy lifestyle 🙂

    • B.J. Keeton

      Dude! That’s awesome that you lost so much! Congrats! And it seems like you have the right mindset to keep it off for the long-haul. That’s what matters. 🙂 you keep up the good work!

  9. Diatta @ Femme Fitale Fit Club

    I see what you are saying and I think there isn’t one brush stroke that fits everyone. Some folks INDEED are in maintenance mode. That is where their mind is and that is how they live. Others meet a goal and intuitively just live their life in moderation. What ever works for you – as long as you are healthier for it. #wowlinkup

  10. Laina Turner

    Not living in fear of gaining and having balance is important. And something I don’t do well at. I rarely have probably losing it’s not gaining it back that gets me everytime. But I’ve found being too ridgid completely sets you up for failure. You need to relax and enjoy life. Not worry about food all the time.

  11. heather heinlein

    Great points. Thanks for sharing them. I do believe that it is a matter of where your mind is. For some, it’s harder to be in maintenance mode than losing mode. #wowlinkup


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