I had to accept, finally, after years of denial and struggling, that this is what I have to do forever to keep the weight off. Once I made the decision, it has felt incredibly easy.
Maintenance is exactly the same as weight loss. I do all the same things. I keep a daily food journal, I try to make healthy decisions at every meal, I still count calories. I still have daily food goals - to eat 10 super foods a day, to eat 5 servings of vegetables, etc. I still weigh myself once a week. If the scale is up, I lower calories for a week until it's back in the maintenance range.
I also don't let a treat meal spiral into a treat weekend or a treat week or a treat month. My treats are usually planned, because it was very easy for me in the past to say "well, I just ate that cheesecake, the diet is ruined for the day, might as well eat these brownies."
I no longer reward myself with food (as much as possible). I still go to restaurant websites before dinner to pick a healthy choices - I don't even open menus at restaurants. I have made 1000 little changes to stay successful, maintenance is just as much work as weight loss, maybe more work, because it is for the rest of my life.
When I was heavy, I was deliberately blind to the calorie/fat content of foods. I just didn't want to know that the "all the way" nachos from Qdoba I ate 1-2 times a week had 1200 calories. I didn't want to know that a Blooming Onion had over 1200 calories. I didn't want to know that my breakfast EVERY DAY at work (cranberry walnut muffin, venti caramel latte with whip had nearly 700 calories and 50 grams of fat). I am now almost hyper-aware of the fat/caloric content in everything. I can't believe the stuff I used to eat so blindly - never again.
I have made so many changes - I used to have to have the biggest of everything. If I ordered a latte, I had to have the venti. Now I get the tall and find it a perfect size. If I split something with a friend, I was always anxious to make sure I got the big piece. Now, I am very conscious to make sure I get the smaller piece. I always take the stairs at work, I park far away in a parking lot so I can walk a few more steps.
I have been maintaining a little over a year now, and I still don't feel "safe" - I am constantly terrified I will gain all the weight back. I actually think the state of fear is a good thing, complacency is what will ruin my weight loss success.
I love everything about being thin - especially shopping. I am slowly replacing my entire wardrobe. I didn't care about shopping for 5 years - I have no accessories. I had to buy belts, shoes, I need a smart bag (been carrying the same hideous black purse for almost 10 years). Shopping is definitely motivation to maintain! I also care more about my personal appearance. I get regular haircuts now and keep my hair colored and my eyebrows groomed. I bought perfume. I still don't wear any make up, but I figure I like my face how it is and why invest so much time/money into something I don't think I need? Being a thin person has changed everything for me, I like pictures of me now, I like looking in the mirror.
There are so many reasons to keep the weight off!
Big Fat Lies
When I was heavy, I made up all kinds of excuses for being heavy. My dad was a big guy so I was destined to be fat. I had big bones. I was a big girl. When I set my initial weight loss goal, I chose 150 because I thought I could never be thinner than 150. Imagine my surprise when I started to lose weight and realized that I have a very small frame. I have tiny little wrists and fingers, I am a small person. I told myself all kinds of lies so I didn't have to try to lose weight. I tried to make myself believe that I would always be heavy, there was no way I could ever be a slender person. Letting go of those lies and believing I could be thin was a huge step.
I was a secret binge eater all my life. I would buy candy bars in secret and eat them. I would buy boxes of cookies and hide them and eat them where no one could see me. I was nearly incapable of having 1 serving of any sweet thing. If I opened a box of cookies and took out 2 cookies and sealed up the package and put it away, I would eat the cookies and then want more cookies. I would fight it for awhile, and then go back to the package, open it, take out 2 cookies and seal the package again. Repeat until the package was empty.
I trace a lot of my unhealthy food habits to my childhood. My brother and I were "latchkey" children beginning when I was 11 years old. We had to come straight home from school and we weren't allowed outside until my parents got home. In the summer, we weren't allowed outside all day long. What else was there to do but watch TV and eat? I used to eat because I was bored. I remember sprinkling sugar on bread and eating it. I remember sneaking into my mom's container of icing and eating icing by the spoonful. I would eat Nestle's chocolate milk by the spoonful, and brown sugar by the spoonful. Anything sweet to give me something to do, give me some pleasure in my boredom. Learning how to fight the afternoon munchies was one of my biggest challenges for weight loss. I used to eat junk all afternoon at work (especially the buy 1 get 1 free pastries from the bakery downstairs after work!).
I gave up sugar almost by accident. When I decided to change my life and eat super foods, I was really concentrating on what TO eat and not really what NOT to eat. I didn't even realize I had quit eating sugar until I started to realize that my attitudes about food were changing.
I remember standing in line at Qdoba, waiting for my healthy naked vegetarian burrito (rice, black beans, salsa, romaine) and eyeing the chocolate chip cookies by the register. In the past, I would have had to have had one - what kind of dinner didn't include dessert? I realized I had no interest in the cookies, none. It was really fascinating to look at the cookies and not want a cookie. Around the same time I participated in a conference that started every morning with a heaping table of delectable pastries - my big weakness. No interest in the pastries.
It took a long time to get brave enough to add treats back to my daily life. I was terrified I would awaken the sleeping sugar monster. I still don't allow packages of cookies or ice cream in the house. I also don't buy a lot of cereal. These are definitely trigger foods for me and why tempt myself - I want to be successful!
I usually confine treats to splitting desserts in restaurants or having a biscotti with my afternoon coffee. I can handle those kinds of treats in moderation.
I never realized I was addicted to sugar until I kicked it - I never thought I would prefer a ripe mango to a brownie. Eating healthy changed my taste buds completely, I adore healthy foods. I love natural peanut butter on whole wheat toast, I love baked sweet potatoes, I love roasted vegetables, I love salmon, I love fresh berries. I would definitely take a package of meltingly ripe blackberries over an apple danish now and it is amazing to me. My tastebuds have completely changed.
I got a tattoo to celebrate my weight loss last June. I never considered myself "hip" or "cool" enough for a tattoo (I was in the CHESS club in high school for god's sake) and there was never anything that meant so much to me I would want to tattoo it forever on my skin.
Losing 68 lbs and feeling fabulous was definitely something I wanted to celebrate forever, to remind myself how hard I worked and something to remind myself every day that losing weight is much easier than keeping weight off.
I also thought about a pheonix or a butterfly or a bluebird of happiness. I started looking into Japanese characters, I wanted something that said "transformation" but when I started talking to Japanese speakers, it wasn't that simple.
A Chinese friend turned me onto Chinese proverbs. I found a bunch I loved and I picked my favorite saying that also had the most beautiful characters. My tattoo is 4 traditional Chinese characters of an old Chinese proverb "Dripping water eats through stone." Just to remind me of the hundreds of tiny changes I made and do on a daily basis to accomplish something enormous. Even a tiny drop of water can wear away a rock.
You can see my tattoo here (it looks huge, but it was taken in extreme close-up, it's barely 3 inches long, right down the middle of my back, the top is about an inch below a normal shirt collar):
Here are some of the other choices I considered:
The great proverb site I used:
It updates daily, this proverb was added after I got mine. I love this and would probably have chosen this one if I had seen it (not that I don't love mine! this one just says it perfectly)
I definitely wanted a permanent reminder of how important this weight loss journey is, the changes I made are permanent. It basically means - don't mess this up.