So, You've Reached Your Goal Weight... Now What?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I have lost well over 100 pounds and have maintained the majority of those lost pounds for over 3 years. Because of the length of time I have been on my weight loss/maintenance journey, I am at a point that I really spend much of my free time (which is not much at all), looking back and reflecting upon my journey. One of the questions that I have asked myself on many occasions is, "What was different about this last and most successful attempt?" If you have read any of my blogs then you may know that it’s hard for me to give credit to any single factor.  I almost always attribute my outcome to a multitude of things. 
I have tried to lose weight on many occasions. My first formal "diet" was at age 15.  I started at 180 pounds and dieted (starved) down to 140 in 3 months, utilizing a national weight loss program.  At the end of the diet, I went back to my old ways and it probably took me about 3 months to gain it all back. I can’t really blame my teenage self for that and all of the subsequent failures to come.  I had not yet learned about the concept of calories and the importance of balancing my energy intake and output. Not surprisingly, I went on many more "diets" with my last major attempt in 1996, when I lost 25 pounds on yet another national weight loss program (this was my fourth national weight loss program!).  I then went on to gain about 100 pounds in that following year and gave up on losing weight for about 10 years.

During those 10 years that I spent being morbidly obese, I accomplished quite a bit. I got married, graduated from medical school and gave birth to 5 beautiful children. So, it’s not like I wasn’t busy. I was very busy with the transition from adolescence to adulthood. I was also very busy with avoiding my increasing girth.

Over time I became extremely unhappy with my size and I was no longer able to ignore my nearly 300- pound body. The denial techniques that I used for years were no longer working and I reached a point where I had to make a decision. It was time to either lose the weight or face a future of early disease and probable early death.  My innocent children were growing up and witnessing me (and my husband at over 340 pounds) model unhealthy habits and we knew this could and would ultimately lead to them adopting our unhealthy ways. A combination of uncomfortable thoughts and my fears that our ever more observant children would follow in our footsteps become too much to ignore. 

Just as many others, I had reached an impasse and I was forced to make a decision. I chose to lose the weight. But, knowing that this was not my first rodeo, I needed to know how this attempt was going to be different from all of the other ones.

I believe that the biggest shift that occurred in me was that from day one, I had decided that I was going to have to make these changes permanent and to continue to model healthy habits forever.  My children will be watching me throughout my entire life and I have teach them healthy habits through my life choices for the rest of my life. This understanding helped to solidify my need to make sure that I got it this time.  I don’t quite remember the details of the first day that I discovered SparkPeople, but I’m pretty sure I found it while I was on my mission to find out what I needed to know to reach my goal of permanent change. 
When do you need to start thinking about weight maintenance? I believe that your maintenance plan starts at day 1. The day that you start your weight loss journey should be the day that you are thinking about what you are going to do to keep it off forever. You are either going to keep striving for a healthy lifestyle and continue to shed excess weight until it naturally stops or you are going to go back to your old habits and gain it back.

I guess I can call myself an expert at weight loss maintenance.  I’m not perfect and my weight certainly fluctuates (darn holiday pounds) but I’m not even close to where I started.  I can’t wait to say that I’m a 5 year maintainer which the National Weight Control Registry  has pretty much defined as the elite weight loss maintenance category.  But, I have maintained over 2 years, which has reduced my risk of weight regain to about 50 percent-- much better than the reported 95 percent. 

Please take some time to learn about the characteristics of those who have maintained a significant weight loss over time. Strive to learn from and hopefully model what these weight loss superstars have done so that you may one day join the ranks of those who have mastered weight loss maintenance. 
Here are a few of my tips:
  1. Keep monitoring your intake and output. You must continue to monitor your intake in some form (journal, portion control, etc.) and you must continue to exercise (likely more than you did when you first started). 
  2. Keep your home and environment trigger free. Triggers erode willpower. 
  3. Stay accountable to others. This can be accomplished by sharing your journey with your friends, colleagues, and the SparkPeople community. Don’t be shy!  Get all of the support that you can get!
  4. Resolve conflict. 
  5. Recommit to your goals each and every day.  I log into SparkPeople as my recommitment home base. 
  6. Stay motivated with success stories. I read all the success stories that I come across in order to inspire me to maintain my changes. 
  7. Never give up. When I struggle, I remind myself that giving up is not an option and is non-negotiable. If I feel like giving up it doesn’t mean that I am looking to quit-- it means that something is not working and that I need to tweak my plan. There’s no way that I would ever want to go back to where I started. 
  8. Remember that going back to your old habits means regaining the lost weight. I accept that I cannot return to nightly candy binges and that my lifestyle change must be permanent.    
What is the bottom line? To maintain your weight, you must accept that you will need to change your lifestyle forever and that you cannot return to your old habits. You need to find a plan that you can live with and that you can see yourself following for many years to come. Finally, you need to stay motivated and sustain your willpower. All of these things require continuous effort and cannot be maintained without keeping your goals front and center. 

I’m going to be hanging around SparkPeople for a long time because I’m in it for life! How about you?

Keep sparking, everyone! Never give up!

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NENEBFIT 4/13/2020
I haven’t joined this exclusive club yet so I seek out articles such as yours to encourage and affirm that it’s possible to maintain. Thank you! Report
KHALIA2 11/6/2019
Great Tips! Thanks for sharing this one! Report
Thanks for sharing 😊 Report
Thank you Dr Varnedore. I've been wondering/worried about how to maintain. Actually afraid to reach goal - "Now What?". Because I know if I don't prepare I will flounder and maybe gain back some of it. So thanks for the plan! Report
Tip #3, staying accountable to others, is probably the most important one for me, as well as being an eye-opener. I have always been very solitary and self-contained; it's been a bit humbling to acknowledge that I (yes, even self-sufficient I) do need other people.... Report
I'd expand what 4A-HEALTHY-BMI said even more. 1) Consider leading a team. As a maintainer you can be a powerful role model to others and helping others keeps you focused on maintaining your own losses. Your team members will look up to you and want to emulate your success. Look at it as healthy peer pressure to stay on track and not let your team down. 2) Make friends with people who have achieved more than you in some way. Whether it's marathon runners or bodybuilders, cozy up with people who are in better shape than you. Even if achieving what they have is unrealistic for you, these people can teach you great lessons in goal-setting and persistence even after you've achieved your weight loss goals. Knowing you can always aim higher can help prevent you from becoming complacent and undoing all of your hard work. Report
I second what 4A-Healthy-BMI said:
Having a group here on SparkPeople that support and understand my maintenance goals has been super helpful. The challenges run there are a BIG part of what keeps me at goal weight.

SparkPeople rocks! :-D Report
Good column, as always.

I'd add, "seek out the company of other maintainers" to the list of tips.

I've found the people in the At Goal and Maintaining team to be very helpful, supportive, and good at tough love when they need to be. They get it. They are living it themselves, and their advice is really valuable because of it.

And over there we have maintenance-specific challenges, a mechanism for celebrating our maintenance anniversaries, and a hall of fame so you can look up the Spark pages of long term maintainers and see what they're doing that is keeping the weight off.

Here's a link to the team: Report
Very interesting blog. Thank you for sharing. Report
Definitely agree you need a game plan for when you've finished weight loss. Begin as you mean to go on. Report
So many great thoughts! Some of this has been in the back of my mind. I have also begun this journey as much to be a better role model for my children as to lose weight and be healthier in order to (hopefully) avoid the heart disease, cancer, and diabetes I've watched my family members struggle with. I am more conscious when I say "no thank you" to the evening chips and dip when visiting family, and think "I'm never going to be able to do that again". The best part? I'm okay with that. I've been down this healthy eating and fitness road before. But this time, for reasons I can't quite put my finger on, it feels different. It doesn't feel like a means to an end. It feels like I've come home.
Thank you for sharing! Report
Very encouraging story. Thanks Report
Way to go Dr. B.! Maintenance can be such a STRUGGLE, but hey, we're in this for LIFE, after all, aren't we? :-)

Great advice and summary of what it takes to make it last!

Don, Co-Leader of All Health Professionals, Binghamton Area Losers and Laid Off But Staying Strong SparkTeams Report
Just what I needed today!! Thank you. The dash of reality and cup of hope. Congratulations on your journey. Report
Keeping the weight off is the hardest part. Report
Congratulations! Thanks for sharing! Report
"The day that you start your weight loss journey should be the day that you are thinking about what you are going to do to keep it off forever."

If we all started our weight loss journey with this thought - how much more of us would be successful!

Thanks for the great blog.

Thank you sharing your journey! Report
Thank you for a great article - I've been wondering about maintenance and wishing there were more info available for me even though I'm still on my weight loss journey. Thanks again. Report
Thank you for sharing your experiences with weight control. I, too, will be around for a long time. Tracking and visiting SP website has become as much of a daily habit as meal planning, portion control, working out, drinking water. Your blog is an inspiration. Report
Thank you! This blog is so motivating. Thank you and thanks SparkPeople! Report
Great tips for maintenance! I just have to keep on keeping on. :) Report
Just what I needed! Thanks for sharing! Report
Thank you! I was thinking of this topic just today. I'm just under 30 pounds from my goal weight, and tell myself each day "reaching my goal isn't the end! It's the beginning of a new goal." I've been so motivated by numbers moving on the scale, I need to remind myself there are other goals: strength, flexibility, and endurance. Report
Thank you so much for this blog entry! I like the part where you say that you need to start thinking about weight maintenance as soon as you begin your weight loss journey. I have struggled with weight over the years and in the last year I have lost 15 lbs just to regain it all + 5 lbs (ah, the bliss of newly wedded life). I used SparkPeople to help me lose the weight but as soon as I stopped holding myself accountable (tracking food and exercise even though I was still exercising), that's when the weight creeped back on. Since I know that I can lose the weight if I commit to diet and exercise, I am no committed more than ever to really hold myself accountable and track, track, track! I've seen incredible progress in both my weight loss and overall fitness in the last 2 months that I've recommitted to SparkPeople and am on schedule to be at my goal weight. That means in just 2 months, I could be entering "maintenance mode" and I'm kind of terrified at that thought. Last year, I've lost and regained in a matter of 8 months. I've lost weight before that and managed to keep it off for 3 years. I've never been able to hit that 5 year mark. I'm terrified that I'll screw it up again. Losing is the easy part. Keeping it off is the hard part. Report
I was just thinking about this! I was telling myself that the healthy habits I'm learning--and depending on to lose weight--will have to become a lifelong habit. If I jump off the bandwagon when I get to my goal weight, getting lax with new habits or just going back into old ones, I'll be right back where I started. I'm getting too old to be restarting every few months! I've got to make manageable changes that I will stick with for the long haul. I think I'm worth the effort! Report
You're fabulous. Thanks for sharing!
Jocelyn Report
Thank you! This blog was right on time. Great motivation! Congrats on the two (plus) years maintenance!! Rock on!!!!! Report
Thank you for sharing your journey and your tips for continuing to succeed! I am still early in my journey and have a way to go before I can even think about maintaining, but your tips are just as great for where I am currently. Report
Great blog Thank your for sharing so openly of your struggles and secret to success.
Way to Go! Report
Thank you for this blog!!!

Maintenance is a beast. I remember thinking back when I'd plateau how seemingly "easy" it must be to maintain, being that I found it impossible for the scale to move, but boy was I wrong!

Maintenance is more than being able to eat more; it is also mental. You learn a lot about how much trust you have in yourself every day with a higher calorie count and every time you are now "allowed" to indulge. I've never binged in the dieting phase as much as I am on maintenance. And that is the truth.

In the past, I've often thought as achieving my weight goal as the "finish line," but really, it was just to get me to the starting line. Now that I do not exercise and eat to achieve a "goal," I have to be especially creative to keep up my motivation and remind myself daily that this is a lifestyle, not a phase or means to an end.

So maintenance is hard, but is it worth it? Absolutely!!! It is the first step to taking care of myself. It takes work daily to keep it off, but when I think about it, I decide that *I* am worth the trouble. :):):) Report
Like others who commented, I needed to hear this today. These last few pounds are so tough to lose but I will not give up or go back to my habits of a year ago. This is a lifestyle change and I can do it. Report
I'm so glad to read this today. For the first time EVER I am thinking forward to maintenance (I've never achieved a weight loss goal before SP!)... How exciting and a little daunting! This article is a glimpse into what that entails. Thanks for sharing and inspiring! -Nat Report
Thanks! You're very inspiring at this point.. the first parts of your story are mine too.... several attempts, some of them more successful than others, but you've made me realize that I have to commit to maintenance right now.... thanks! Report
Thank you. I needed to hear this today! Report
So true! Thanks for sharing your journey and for you helpful reminders of not having to constantly start over; just because "I can do it any time that I choose!" There is no doubt that it gets harder over time; however, as your testimony proves, it can be done! It's a lifetime commitment to yourself and your loved ones. I hope that your husband was inspired to join you in your quest, for the sake of you, your children and most importantly for himself! Report