What is hard about weight loss is the act of doing; the commitment, remaining consistent, forcing yourself to say no to temptations that don’t align with your goals. Having will power and staying motivated is hard, but actually losing weight is not.
What has proven to be even more difficult than the act of consistent weight loss is maintenance. After having been in a calorie deficit every day for two and a half years, I reached my goal weight and found myself refocusing on efforts to build strength and muscle mass instead. That meant I needed to change the way I eat and what I eat, and it meant that I had to increase the volume of food I was eating and do things like, eat carbs.
I feel like I spent two years looking forward to the day that I could just maintain my weight but if I’m being honest, it has been a messy, chaotic, and truly emotional process.
Having been in a state of restriction for so long, I realized very quickly I didn’t know how to transition myself into maintenance. I’ll admit; I tend to be an ‘all or nothing’ kind of girl so I suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised that maintenance was such a challenge for me.
I found the freedom of the extra calories liberating at first, and I kind of went all in. And then I went a little too far. Suddenly my mind shifted from ‘you can’t eat that’ to ‘girl, you can eat everything!’. And truthfully I have been a little more than just relaxed with what I am eating.
While I have enjoyed the experience of letting loose for the first time in a long time, I have also discovered how absolutely terrible I feel physically after a binge fest of carbs and butter. What feels good at the time when I have released control often feels terrible later when I’m trying to sleep.
No matter what you do in your diet and exercise plan, your body eventually adjusts and re-calibrates to meet your needs. In my case, I had my body running very efficiently on lots of protein and not too much fat, so reintroducing mass amounts of carbs as if it were my last meal on earth was probably not the best approach. Not only did it produce a poor physical reaction, but mentally it tripped me up a lot too. I found that eating more than just my deficit calories left me feeling gluttonous and even a little guilty. These are feelings that I know to be trickery, but oh, how convincing and powerful the human mind can be.
For weeks now I have been in a cycle of overeating, feeling physically ill, and then feeling mentally ill. And I know it has to stop.
I know these things:
• I do not want to regain all of my weight back and put myself in an unhealthy position again.
• I love weight lifting and muscle gains.
• I also love food.
• I want to feel well.
• I need balance.
So how do you successfully transition from one mode to the other?
How do you maintain what you’ve achieved?
For me, tracking is essential. A lot of folks find that tracking calories or macronutruients can become obsessive and lead to unhealthy habits, and that’s going to be true for some people, certainly. But for me, tracking is an imperative part of my success.
Even with maintenance – the art of not making any changes – we still need to find a tool to keep us accountable. Good nutrition and healthy activity is not just for weight loss or weight gain; it’s a vital part of good health. And since I fully intend to continue my love of bodybuilding and weight lifting, I do need to ensure that my protein and carbohydrate intake is aligned with my ability to meet those physical goals, and tracking is the key to that success. It also soothes my OCD personality…
My advice to you is that slow and steady will win the race. If you are impatient like me, you may want to jump from loss to maintenance in a day but you have to consider that your body needs a little time to process the effects of change, just as your mind does.
A careful transition with small steps in the right direction would have been a much better plan for me, so now I start over with my reintroduction into maintenance. For the past few days I have taken myself back into my deficit calories and tracked all food and drink – and I feel amazing. Sometimes you need to go back to that comfort of knowing what got you here. Sometimes you need to go back a little in order to readjust the go-forward.
In a couple of weeks, I will add some additional macronutrients to my daily goal, and continue on from there. As an aspiring bodybuilder, my physique goals will require that I am able to shift between weight loss, and muscle gain depending on whether I am bulking or cutting, and if I am to be successful at this, I need to learn how to do it slowly and concisely, so that my body and mind can successfully travel with me to that place of achievement.
Take your time with this. Rome wasn’t built in a day, they say. Neither were you.