I’ve been having this mental dialogue lately about my actual weight management efforts not being up to snuff, not being as strict and regimented as I would like them to be. And not because they need to be – my weight is right on target today, but because I like to practice what I preach, and I talk about the tools of weight management here a lot. But then it occurred to me – I’m not doing anybody any favors by pretending like long-term weight management is a military boot camp that goes on forever. So let me be completely frank:
Once I arrived at my goal weight and figured out my maintenance weight (not the same thing, by the way), I figured out how to enjoy life and food again, on new terms. So let me shed a little bit of light on how it is for real, not how it may be during weight loss or during the initial years of learning to maintain. I don’t use every single tool I talk about here every single day. Now that I’m 8 years out, there are things that I have been able to relax, and since I don’t want anybody to think this whole effort is impossible because you have to be hyper-vigilant every single day forever (that’s daunting!), let me reassure you: It’s not like that.
What’s important is realizing where you are in the process and figuring out just how vigilant you need to be for where you are. Right now, I’ve got it pretty darn good. I don’t write down everything I eat every single day, right now. Right now, I’m able to maintain a very consistent, stable weight with the habits I’ve built over the last 8 years. Right now, I exercise an hour a day 5-6 days a week and it doesn’t seem like a burden because I’ve worked it into my lifestyle. Right now, I can go out to eat one or two nights a week and enjoy a meal and maybe half a dessert following the restaurant eating guidelines I’ve built for myself over the last 8 years. Right now, I can eat a couple of cookies after dinner at home because my husband doesn’t like me to get too skinny, and I know I’ve got the room for it in my budget because I’m following the habits I’ve built.
So if you’re worried that losing a lot of weight means being in the Food Police for the rest of your life, please know that once those habits are built and ingrained, it won’t seem like a police state. It will settle into a comfortable place where you can enjoy yourself now and again. But it’s important to know where you are in the process before relaxing the level of vigilance. This means that there will be weeks when I do need to use all of my tools consciously to reverse an upward trend. My job is to be vigilant and recognize a trend I don’t like before it becomes a crisis, and bring my habits back in line using as many of the tools as I need to use to do the job.