Congratulations! You’ve lost weight. Now you might be wondering how to maintain weight loss after losing weight. Or perhaps you are still on your weight loss journey, but you want to know what it will be like to maintain once you get to your goal.
Weight loss is important, but keeping the weight off is what really matters. After all, lots of us have weight loss goals, but keeping weight off is a totally different story.
I cycled through losing and re-gaining 30,40 and 50 pounds many times over before losing 100+ pounds for the final time.
Here is everything you need to know to keep weight off after losing it, including the 7 strategies I use every day to stay at (and now well below) my goal weight.
Why Weight Maintenance Matters So Much…and No One Talks About It
As someone who has been maintaining a 100+ pound weight loss for over 15 years, I would argue that weight maintenance is more important than weight loss.
After all, most of us can lose some weight in the short term. But if we use an unrealistic method to lose it, the pounds quickly come back and we end up heavier than ever.
Yet where is the information about maintaining weight after weight loss? There are thousands of weight loss programs, websites, books, research articles, and products to help you lose weight.
There are few resources available specific to maintaining weight you’ve lost. The only resources I’ve found are one book on Amazon and the National Weight Control Registry which specifically studies weight loss success stories.
That’s also why I’ve created a new support community specific to maintainers. (More on that below.)
How Does Weight Maintenance Work?
Weight loss only happens one way, and that’s eating fewer calories than you burn.
Maintaining your weight happens when you eat approximately the same amount of calories that your body burns in a day.
This is calorie balance.
You’ll never get this exactly right, but over the course of a week if you are close to the target, your weight will remain steady.
Whether you lost weight using a low calorie diet, Keto, Intermittent Fasting, Weight Watchers, or some other method, the way to maintain weight is by keeping a daily calorie balance.
How Do I Maintain My Weight After Weight Loss?
Because you are no longer trying to keep up a calorie deficit, during weight maintenance you can eat a few more calories each day compared to during the active weight loss phase.
- Generally speaking, what you did to lose weight is what you need to do to maintain.
- The difference is 100-200 calories per day additional to maintain for most women. This is a bit more of condiments like ketchup or barbeque sauce, a small handful of nuts, or one small granola bar. The idea that you can “go back to normal” (aka eat what you did before weight loss) is a huge myth and why most people re-gain weight.
- As your body gets smaller, it needs fewer calories to move through space, so you burn fewer calories during daily activities and exercise. For this reason, some people find maintaining harder than the weight loss process.
- Research indicates that while exercise isn’t as important during weight loss, many people find it becomes more important during maintenance.
Weight Loss Maintenance vs. Weight Loss Plateaus
Maintaining weight loss is different from a weight loss plateau.
Maintaining means you are at your goal weight or content with your current weight. A weight loss plateau is when you are actively trying to eat at a calorie deficit but still not losing weight.
If you are currently stuck on a weight loss plateau, use these plateau strategies to get the scale moving again.
My Story: Life At My Goal Weight
I have had the joy and privilege of maintaining my 100+ pound weight loss for over 15 years. What a journey it’s been!
For many years, my weight was about 20 pounds higher than my goal weight, which was very frustrating and demoralizing. It was like that carrot always dangling just out of reach.
All in all, while I was frustrated to not be able to be at my goal weight, I was also overjoyed with what I had achieved.
Last year, through God’s grace and some mental work, I developed new strategies and have been at or below my goal weight. Read more about how I broke my 15+ year plateau here.
Today I’m enjoying life well below my goal weight and have now lost a total of 120 pounds.
I run a Christian weight loss program with my business partner, Becky (who has also lost 100+ pounds!) so now I have the joy of helping other women with their weight loss journey, too.
7 Strategies to Stay at Your Goal Weight
Here are the strategies I’ve found most useful for how to maintain weight after losing it.
- Whatever you do to lose it is what you do to maintain it.
- Take maintenance breaks during weight loss.
- Pay attention to your weight.
- Have a personal maintenance plan.
- Create a weight regain action plan.
- Set new goals & try new things.
- Give yourself grace and compassion.
1. Whatever You Do to Lose It Is What You Do to Maintain It
Don’t do anything to lose weight that you can’t maintain for a lifetime.
If you are doing anything restrictive to lose weight, like going hungry, giving up whole categories of foods, or never eating treats, there’s a high likelihood that you will regain the weight.
Instead, make small, steady changes that you can maintain forever.
2. Take Maintenance Breaks During Weight Loss
When I was losing weight, I hadn’t heard of the concept of a diet break, so I didn’t incorporate this into my weight loss journey, but I wish I would have.
A maintenance break during weight loss is when you take a break from a calorie deficit and eat at your daily calorie level to maintain weight. Click here to learn more about diet breaks and click here to learn how to figure out your maintenance calories.
You will be maintaining all your life so a diet break gives you a chance to practice.
Living in a calorie deficit is hard on your body, and some of us have been doing so for years. A break gives your body a chance for recovery and additional nutrition. Diet breaks also give you a time of mental refreshment.
Holidays, vacations, when you plateau, and when you gain weight are all times that it’s helpful to take a maintenance break.
3. Pay attention to your weight.
When you get to your goal weight, many people fear gaining the weight back. This is completely understandable, but the truth is that 25, 50, or 100 pounds will not come back instantly. This process of regain takes weeks or even months. If you pay attention, you will be able to stop regain quickly.
I weight myself every day (and actually find it reduces my scale stress) but some people at goal weigh themselves once a week or once a month. What matters most is that you are intentional and pay attention.
4. Have a personal maintenance plan.
I encourage people to develop a personalized maintenance plan for how you will maintain your weight loss. (I walk women step-by-step through this process in the new Maintainers program.)
A personalized weight maintenance plan includes things like what you will eat each day, your acceptable weight range, how you will exercise, and how often you will weigh in.
5. Create a weight regain action plan.
Some weight regain is going to happen. Weight loss doesn’t happen in a vacuum and things like crisis events, medical issues, and slip-ups are going to happen.
Rather than pretend weight regain won’t happen, a more realistic approach is to have a specific strategy for when it occurs. (This is another step by step process I teach in Maintainers.)
6. Set new goals & try new things.
When the scale stops moving and people stop noticing your weight loss, it’s important to find ways to stay motivated and encouraged.
For me exercise goals have been a huge motivator and the extra calorie burn (while it doesn’t fix any food issues) is a nice bonus.
Finding a way to give back and help others is motivating, too.
7. Give yourself grace and compassion.
Finally, give yourself grace that maintaining your weight loss is hard. There’s a reason why so few people are able to do it.
Rather than resent it, plan that you will spend time and effort on maintenance each week. The investment in your health and wellbeing is worth it.
When you have slip ups, offer yourself grace. You can’t guilt yourself thin. Shame and belittling never works.
When you mess up, get back on track as quickly as possible in the most loving way you can.
A Note for If You Aren’t At Your Goal Weight Yet
If you aren’t yet at your goal weight and are reading this for information, first of all GO YOU. You are awesome for looking ahead and learning about when you get to goal.
To be honest, when I was heavy I didn’t think much about life at my goal weight. I just figured it would be sunshine, rainbows, and myself prancing around in skinny jeans without a care in the world. (If only!)
Take maintenance breaks during weight loss. If I could give you one piece of advice for what to start incorporating immediately in order to help yourself when you get to goal, it would be to take intentional diet breaks.
The only way to learn to maintain is to practice, and the skill set is different from weight loss. There are lots of other good reasons for diet breaks during your weight loss journey.
Remember that what might seem like an end (getting to your goal) is really the beginning. It took me 3 years to lose 100 pounds, which at the time felt like forever. But I’ve realized that I’ll be maintaining at this weight for 65+ years. Wow!
You will keep growing. One of the exciting things for me about maintaining is that I’ve continued to grow and evolve. What I eat now is radically healthier than what I ate when I first got to goal. My workouts have changed. My strategies, skills, mental health, and spiritual growth have continued to evolve. Yours will, too.
While maintaining weight you’ve lost is not easy, be encouraged that it’s absolutely possible. Follow our 7 strategies to stay at goal to maintain the hard work you’ve done. Consider joining our Maintainers program for additional support.
Maintainers: A Support Community for Women Maintaining at or Near Their Goal Weight
Are you at or near your goal weight and finding it a bit lonely?
When you reached your goal weight, I’m sure you were incredibly proud, excited, and relieved.
Yet have you found that life at your goal weight isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?
You have probably quickly discovered…
- Almost all the focus is on weight loss. There’s not much support or information available for those of us at goal.
- You feel a bit lost. People have stopped noticing your weight loss. You wonder what comes next.
- You have to work just as hard to maintain your weight (if not harder) but you get less recognition for your efforts.
- You don’t know too many other people who are at their goal weight, so you feel isolated.
That’s why I created Maintainers.
Maintainers offers accountability, support, and education for women who are maintaining weight loss and at or near their goal weight.
If you’ve reached your goal weight and wondered, “Now what?”, Maintainers is for you.
If you are excited to be at or near your goal but worry about keeping the weight off, Maintainers is for you.
If you’ve felt lonely living at your goal weight, Maintainers is for you.
In addition to a supportive community, we will walk you through the exact steps to maintain your goal weight for a lifetime, so you don’t have to live with fear about gaining the weight back.
More Weight Loss Posts
Weight Loss Motivation to Lose 100 Pounds – Find the motivation to lose weight and keep it off for life.
30 Powerful Ways to Pray for Weight Loss – Do you want to pray for your weight loss but you aren’t exactly sure how or what to pray for? Use this helpful list as a guide for a month of weight loss prayers.
How I Broke a 15+ Year Plateau – Here are the 7 exact steps I took to break a years-long weight loss plateau.
101 Breakthrough Tips to Maximize Your Weight Loss – Use these tips, recipes, helps, and ideas for weight loss success.
How Many Calories Do I Need to Eat to Lose Weight? – Use this helpful calorie calculator to find out.