Maintenance 101: The Basics


What is Maintenance?

Weight maintenance means keeping your current weight fairly constant rather than losing or gaining weight each week. Some people might think this means the number on the scale should never move. Not so. For most people, weight maintenance means weighing within three or five pounds of their goal or current weight or staying within their current BMI unit, which usually has a 5-6 pound range.

Why Does Weight Fluctuate?

Fluctuations in weight of about a pound can be normal when you are maintaining your weight. They may be due to:

  • normal body fluctuations related to eating and elimination
  • the amount of salt or high-sodium foods you take in
  • a temporary water-weight gain, for women, near the time of menstruation
  • a decrease in physical activity due to weather conditions or illness

The Energy Balance

The key to successful maintenance is to create a balance between the calories you take in through the food you eat and the calories you burn up through your daily physical activity

It works like this:

  • When you take in more calories than you use, you gain weight
  • When you use up more calories than you take in, you lose weight
  • When the calories you take in are equal to the calories you use up, you maintain your weight

Any shift in this balance can result in either a weight gain or weight loss

For example:

  • Aging: as you age, as a consequence of decreased activity and reductions in muscle mass, your metabolism slows down. If you take in the same number of calories as you always have without increasing your physical activity, you will gain weight
  • Seasons of the year: some people are more active in summer and less so in winter. For others the reverse is true. If your activity level decreases in winter months and you do not decrease the number of calories you take in to compensate, you will gain weight.

(Definition: Your metabolism is the rate at which you burn energy for the sake of maintaining routine bodily functions.)

To Establish Your Energy Balance

You need to balance the number of calories you take in against the amount of physical activity you are willing to do on a consistent basis.

To determine the approximate number of calories you need each day to maintain your current weight, visit the Cyberkitchen. It can also help you determine the approximate amount of physical activity you will need above and beyond what you normally do if your calorie intake for the day is too high.

Make Maintenance Success a Reality

The following strategy can help you catch an energy imbalance early on. You can then take some corrective action to restore your balance -- and maintain your weight.

  1. Weigh yourself (even better, measure your percent body fat) on a regular basis — approximately every week.
    • Wear similar weight clothing (or no clothing at all) each time you use your scale or body fat analyzer.
    • Be consistent. Measure yourself at the same time of the day. If you are using a body fat analyzer, be sure you are well hydrated by drinking 12-16 ounces of water 2-3 hours before you take your measurement. Engage only in very light activity during the 2-3 hour hydration period.
  2. Nip any problems in the bud. If, over two or three weeks, you notice a consistent change in your weight, determine where your trouble spots are. Keep a record of your food intake and your physical activity (You can use the Food and Physical Activity Diary).
  3. Take corrective action, if necessary.
    • Add 10 minutes of physical activity to your routine 2-3 days during the week
    • Make sure your portion sizes are appropriate. For example, you might weigh and measure your food for a day or two, using a food scale, measuring cups and spoons
    • Develop a plan to deal with any "just because" eating that you are doing in addition to your meals and snacks
  4. Help yourself stay motivated.
    • Make a list of all the benefits you have at your current weight or BMl and/or why you don't want to gain any more weight. For example: My knees no longer hurt when I walk, all the clothes in my closet fit me, I like how I look and feel
    • Remind yourself of these benefits/reasons on a regular basis

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