Maintenance is a Marathon, Babe, Not a Sprint

My friend Colton is always reminding me, “Life’s a marathon, babe, not a sprint.”

The same can be said for maintenance. Only I forget sometimes and fail to see the big picture when I’m living inside my bubble of scale-watching minutia.

In maintenance (to paraphrase Newton), for every emotion, there’s an equal and opposite “remotion.” Since reaching goal four years ago, I’ve been challenged/bored, frustrated/encouraged, confused/crystal clear and obsessed/aware. Thankfully, however, for every moment of obsession, I seem to have a moment of awareness, usually sparked by a fellow maintainer.

Ellen of Fat Girl Wearing Thin posted a blog recently about the betters and worsts of maintenance. She begins, “Maintenance is a bit like experiencing the ups and downs in a long-term relationship. There are good days when everything is going along just fine and dandy. But then, there are other days when there is a bit of, how shall we say… inner turmoil?”

When I was no longer pursuing a scale goal and the compliments died off because everyone got used to me looking the way I do now and very few people – let alone me – understood how to stay the same weight, the question I had to answer was, “Now what?” I spent more than two years pursuing the bright light at the end of the tunnel (my goal weight), but when I got there, no one handed me the light and said, “Here you go, hon! You’ll always know where you’re going now.”

As I commented in Laura Jayne’s recent post on maintenance, when I reached goal at 138 pounds, my body took me down to 128. Then I started thinking 120 might be even better. I got to 125 before I understood how obsessed I’d become with losing AND how afraid I’d become of gaining. I stopped losing, but I took that obsession into the gym and began over-training. I paid a high price physically, injuring joints that were already battling osteoarthritis.

Two years ago, I allowed myself (albeit reluctantly, I admit) to sit in my obsession and to take my exercise routine down several notches to see what happened. And what happened was…not much. I maintained for a year before I had knee surgery (which was a year ago tomorrow…wow…has it been that long already?). Then perimenopause hit like a ton of bricks late last year. The result: I’ve gained about 10 pounds from my ideal weight of 130-132. Coming to terms with my ever-changing body at age 48 has definitely been the biggest maintenance challenge so far.

In maintenance, it’s imperative we direct the positive, determined energy we had while losing weight to other goals. To meet the challenge of my changing body, I decided last spring to concentrate my energy less on losing weight and more on exercise goals.

My first goal was to, by Labor Day, do a 20-mile bike ride with no more than a 5-minute break. Because I rode 19 miles in 1 hour, 35 minutes on Sunday (I was so proud of my knees!), I’ve changed that goal to 25 miles.

My second goal is to walk a 5K in 36 minutes, breaking my personal best of 38 minutes. So far I’ve walked 3 miles in 41 minutes, so I have a ways to go. But my thighs are strong and that makes me happy. I get outside and that makes me happy.

The other part of the challenge is, of course, food. I still watch my food intake, definitely. But I’ve loosened up some of my hard and fast rules, at least the ones that directed my obsession. For instance, I used to hate going out to eat. Was afraid to try food that – oh no! – might contain some fat! *eyeroll*

Now I love discovering new restaurants with fresh menus. I’m in love with Mad Mex and their pepita hummus, and their Overtly Masculine Grilled Portabello with Foo-Foo Tofu fajita is seriously fabulous. In my super-obsessed restrictive days, tabouli was taboo and tzatziki sauce was a no-no. Now, they’re my “usuals” at Greek Stop. It’s all about moderation and control and having the strength to get all Mom on myself when I beg for more than I need. Just as strong thighs make me happy, so does a good food find.

Maintenance doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Maintenance is part of the fiber of my life, and like everything in life, nothing stays the same. My body will change. My mind will change. These things happen over time. And time, as Lyn from Escape from Obesity wrote in a recent post, is the true measure of success.

Maintenance is a marathon, babe, not a sprint. There will be equals and opposites and obsessions along the way. But there can also be clarity and awareness that can take us on longer bike rides and faster walks, and lead us to some really excellent enchiladas and gyros if we just step outside the minutia and into the big picture.

11 thoughts on “Maintenance is a Marathon, Babe, Not a Sprint

  1. I needed to see that today. I'm very close to being back at goal for the first time in 2 years. I regained much more than you….having regained 50lbs from my lowest weight and 40 from my then WW goal, which is now 7lbs higher because of my age. lol

    Anyway, this made so much sense to me and I relate to it so much.

  2. Truth is, part of me is terrified that when I reach goal I will not know where to channel that energy/obsession. Guess I will work on that when I get there!

    (thanks for the mention! Glad you liked my post.)

  3. “…step outside the minutia and into the big picture.” is exactly what I needed to hear today. Great insight into the maintenance journey!

  4. I love your exercise goals for this summer and how it's bringing you outdoors! Also? I love that you seem to be letting go and enjoying life more. It is a process, this whole “weight-loss-and-maintenance” thing, and it's a challenge to figure out what works. You're doing great, stepping up to the changes that have come your way and making the adjustments necessary to keep Lynn happy. 🙂

  5. Thank you for this post! I have been maintaining for 18 months and finding it pretty tough at times. But I've managed it so far and it's exactly like you say – there are good and bad times, but it all balances out.

  6. Lynn,

    I agree with you that weight maintenance is a marathon and a life time conscience effort to maintain the weight you feel comfortable with. It is about watching your weight daily and doing your daily exercises and consumption of food to help you maintain your desired weight. I have struggled with my maintenance over the years but with a strong mindset I continually make myself watch what I eat and doing those exercises.

    This maybe over kill but I weigh myself every morning and when the scales shows that I have put on some weight I take personal accountability and take steps during the next couple of days by watching what I eat and exercising to get down to my desired weight again. So if you start to see a gain, nip it in the bud immediately.

    Go back to doing what you did to lose the weight and that pound or two will come back off. Keep yourself positive about you weight, you have a great job taking the weight off and it sounds like you are doing a great job keeping it off. I really like the idea about setting other goals like riding a bike or running a distance within a certain time.

  7. Oh this one got saved to the 'special' file to be re read and journaled about.

    I don't think I've ever commented here , so it's a decloaking / delurking worthy post I guess.

    I wouldn't say I'm at maintenance, but I'm done with trying to sprint and drive hard to get to some number on the scale that I literally haven't been since I was a teenager. I could say a dozen things, but mostly I'll just say “yea”, “exactly”, ” me too”, “I'm going through the same thing.” “I don't fit in to the weight losing , scale obsessed world anymore.”

    One day I feel so body focused and so much fear about regaining the weight I've lost-130 ish pounds. The next day I feel great and very fit. I can eat out at a restaurant and not blow it. I can stop and get a semi healthy fro yo desssert and savor it with no guilt. The next day I just want to eat cookies and feel guilt for wanting to.

    Who knew that Dieting with it's black and white rules would be somehow easier than being in maitenance mode?

  8. I love the trolls who think YOU need advice. Har.

    Isn't it interesting? Here we are, living a life that has been mythologized as a zippy issue of style, collected tips and tricks. It is not. It is, indeed, moving along the marathon route day by day, a route that we do not know and with so few people on the course with us, really.

    I love the friends who really want to understand. (Though, as you've noted, those conversations grow fewer and fewer as the years pass and it's assumed that weight is no longer an issue.) I try to tell them about the odds: the statistical odds and the odd feelings of fear, necessary obsession followed by the necessary vacations from obsession. Trying to stay positive and motivated, or, lacking a good attitude, continuing anyway. Trying to find balance in a situation that is, medically and every other way, imbalanced. They answer condescendingly, “Well, surely the rewards keep you motivated.” My thought: Uh, nope. Not consistently. And the “rewards” are pretty sparce these days, anyway. At least external rewards. I have to create rewards if they're going to happen. Like you said, set different goals, even if the body is straining and those goals can't be as impressive as they were a few short years ago.

    Another thing friends might say, “Well, you're smarter than most people; I'm sure you'll stay on track.” On track? What track? The track that is laid in women's magazines and diet books is paved with half truths. Ideas like “it's as simple as returning to how you lost the weight in the first place.” Nope. It's not. Perimenopause and menopause create a different situation, as you well know. Decreased muscle mass. Changing hormones. Maintenance becomes a new creation every day, and yet so many think it's as simple as just doin' whatever it takes to keep the needle on the same number it was on yesterday. Somedays it is that simple, but others it is not.

    Do we call it a moving target? I don't like metaphors that suggest violence (targets — guns), but I'm lost for a better one today.

    Thanks for your thoughtful post.

  9. Thank you for writing this! I'm not even close to figuring out maintenance yet (I lost 125 pounds and have been going up and down with about 15 pounds for a few months now). I'm scared to death of gaining the weight back, but maintenance is so hard! This post was very enlightening.

  10. Love it love it love it, Lynn!!! Reading posts from you and Miz and Cammy this morning (along with many of the commenters,) makes me so optimistic that I can stay the distance.

    I keep thinking, and there is just not a book out there with long-term maintenance information in it–except Thin for Life, and its kind of old. That's why this little world of maintenance bloggers is such a wonderful support system.

  11. Thanks for the reminder. I've been really struggling lately with the all or nothing thinking. I think that I've also been really bored.

    I discovered that I really like the challenge of conquering something NEW, but then when I make it I want to move onto something else. Unfortunately, that doesn't work with weight loss or maintenance. Good realization though.

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