With over two-thirds of adults in the US being overweight or obese, diets are an essential part of health management. However, after dieting successfully, only 20% of dieters can maintain their weight loss long term.
We already looked at the benefits of having a diet break, but what about managing weight gain by deliberately switching into a maintenance phase? Maintenance can be used when you know it will be challenging to lose weight, like around holidays. It can help you maintain your weight while still enjoying the celebrations.
What Is "Maintenance"?
While there's no official definition, when we talk about maintenance in this article, it means a period where you're not actively trying to change your weight. That means while you might choose to keep tracking the calories you're eating, you're not trying to lose weight by being in a calorie deficit. You've decided on a set period where you're going to eat enough calories to maintain your current weight intentionally.
Many people neglect this step and keep aggressively dieting. By staying in a calorie deficit long term, they can lose focus on their goals for periods of 6 months or more. They might become discouraged or feel like their calories are getting unrealistically low. This is often most pronounced during times of celebration, such as birthdays, holidays, or Christmas.
Why Set Fall Goals?
Fall is the time when people are starting to think about the festive period. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year are all times when you might be likely to overindulge. They might be thinking about Thanksgiving dinner, stockpiling Christmas candy and chocolate, or planning their New Year's Eve parties.
By setting an intentional goal specifically during fall to switch to maintenance, you deliberately take yourself out of a calorie deficit during a time of year, which is filled with temptation. Planning in fall gives you time to set your intentions ahead of winter when parties and social events will attend.
Trying to stay in a deficit during these periods can lead to frustration. You might feel like dieting is more demanding at this time of year. Trying hard to stick to a diet and failing can lead to binging, and all the complicated feelings of guilt that go along with that. Or it can feel as though you're just missing out on critical social events with your family and friends.
Both can lead to failure to progress with your diet. You may lose less weight you expected or, even worse, gain weight, and feelings of resentment can mean that the diet gets thrown out of the window.
Instead of this battle with trying to stay on a diet, and the unhealthy emotions of FOMO and guilt if you go over your daily calorie allowance, you could intentionally switch to a maintenance phase.
By doing this deliberately, you eliminate any feelings that you "should" be dieting. You're in control of managing the calories, and you're in control of when the diet begins again. It's a subtle but essential shift in taking ownership of the maintenance phase.
When To Get Back On Track?
You don't have to stay in maintenance for the full three months of winter. You can get back on track whenever you are ready. The natural time to start considering it for most people will be January, when people will be setting their New Year Resolutions.
You can decide to continue with your maintenance phase if you're happy with your weight and feel comfortable. You can return to your diet at a time when temptations are much lower, and the people around you are likely to be thinking about dieting and training again.
Why Is It Useful for the Long-Term?
You can consider this phase as a period of deliberate practice for when the time comes to switch to maintenance for good after you're at your goal weight. Or you could switch to a muscle gaining phase because you have a solid base of maintenance habits already.
There's no right and wrong way to manage this. Working with a coach to support you through a maintenance period is underutilized. You might want to consider hiring an expert to help you with it, especially when it's your first time after a more extended period of dieting. You might be afraid of losing track and falling back into old habits, and a coach can help you find the right balance.
For most people that diet, keeping the weight off is more problematic than losing it in the first place. Being proactive about looking for potential pitfalls during the holiday season and not having a setback could be a way to preserve your progress so far.
If you'd like a commitment-free goal setting call with an expert, feel free to get in touch!