Doesn’t it seem strange that there are far more products out there to help people lose weight than there are to help people maintain that weight loss. In reality, the latter is far more of a struggle for individuals. Many people are actually able to lose some weight, but most people (on average 95% of people), regain the weight they lose. The lack of information and education around how to maintain weight loss can leave us feeling like we’ve ‘failed’ at dieting.
Sadly, what most people do post-diet is go right back to old habits of eating or take extreme swings up and down with calories toggling between restricting and over-consuming. Others will increase calories all at once causing rapid weight gain because their body and the metabolism do not have the ability to compensate for the changes the diet had created.
Not only is knowledge around how to maintain weight helpful for post-dieting, but there are also a ton of other benefits around increasing calories to a level where you maintain your new weight!
A maintenance diet is a phase of dieting, usually post weight-loss phase, where you increase calories up to an intake level that allows you to maintain weight. The timeline of this phase is largely dependent on three key factors:
If you still have weight you’d like to lose, taking a break to give the body more calories is often a necessary part of this process - especially if you’ve found that your weight loss has plateaued. In this scenario, the maintenance phase should be at least as long as your calorie deficit phase was, if not longer. We usually recommend a minimum of 3-4 months eating more, at maintenance, before trying to cut calories again. The longer you consume at maintenance, the more successful we find calorie deficits for weight loss to be!
When it comes to biofeedback, if you are struggling with sleep quality or extreme hunger, or performance is lacking in the gym - these are all reasons we may want to increase calories to maintenance for a while to give the body more support. We have to listen to our body if we want it to work for us.
The biggest misstep we see with this phase is that people are afraid to eat at their true maintenance, and in turn, end up not seeing as many benefits from nourishing their body with more beneficial calories. They typically don’t see as much success either when trying to go back into a calorie deficit phase. For example, if your ‘calorie deficit’ where you were losing weight is 1600 calories, and you decide to increase to 1800 calories to maintain your weight, that does not mean 1800 calories is your ‘maintenance’. It probably means you’re no longer in a severe calorie deficit, but it is very likely that you could continue to increase calories little by little much higher and still maintain weight.
We often refer to the tdeecalculator.net for a general guideline of where your maintenance may be, but remember this is not an exact science and there are many other factors that can go into determining your maintenance intake level.
We get that eating more can be really scary, especially if you still have weight that you’d like to lose and you’ve lived most of your life under-eating. Aside from the fact that under-eating kills metabolism, like we’ve talked about HERE, there are so many reasons to eat more!
Here are the main benefits of eating at maintenance:
If maintenance phases are done well, you should enjoy them! This is the phase where people tend to feel their best because the body has adequate calories for energy, performance in the gym, sleep quality, and it leaves a healthy amount of wiggle room to enjoy the foods you love in moderation. You should also be able to maintain your new lower weight by eating more because you now have driven a higher functioning metabolism with extra calories.
How to Do Maintenance Right
Maintenance phases sound pretty great, right? So how do we go about implementing them in the most effective and beneficial way?
First thing is first, if you are still in your fat loss phase eating at a calorie deficit, we have some recommendations for you to set yourself up for the best possible maintenance phase:
Once you decide you are going to begin your maintenance phase, here are the top tips:
Hopefully after this article you can understand the importance of the diet AFTER the diet and why it is not only necessary, but beneficial to maintain the weight loss that you work so hard for!
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