From a client:
Why is maintenance so hard?
Maintenance can be perceived as hard initially because we are learning a new skill set. When you initially began the weight loss journey you probably thought that it was difficult at first but as you progressed you found you began to master the process and thus achieve the goal you had set. When viewed as the opportunity to learn a new skill which takes practice (all great crafts require practice!)
Another factor that can make maintenance difficult is a sudden lack of direction - all of a sudden the goal has been achieved with little time to think about "what next?", so it is a great idea to think about some new goals. Often focusing on a fitness goal, rather than a "looks" goal can work well. If you have been preparing for a competition, the thought of being nearly naked in front of a great big crowd is leverage enough to keep you on the straight and narrow, but maintenance? Different kettle of fish altogether.
That said, being "under the pump 24/7" isn't necessarily a healthy way to be - rather to be able to wake up and be doing it because you want to is the key. Maintenance is an excellent time to set boundaries (my favourite - don't eat standing up!) and look at your core values in regards to weight, size and fitness. An excessive fear of gaining weight is not healthy and often relates back to one's self worth. When I hear people tell me that "fat is disgusting", what I'm really hearing is "if I get fat, it really shows what a lazy, uncontrolled slob I am with no discipline and people who are undisciplined are disgusting , therefore what I'm really thinking is that I'm worthless and disgusting too". The day that you can wake up and like the reflection you see in the mirror regardless of your weight is the day you pick up one of the keys to the magic combination of maintenance.
Things that carry over from the weight loss journey and can hold you in good stead:
When you lost the weight initially, you probably eliminated highly processed sugary and fatty foods and foods that were a trigger for you - ie you couldn't stop at just one bite. The same rules still apply in maintenance - put this phrase into your head "No one functions well at all on highly processed package food and when one is maintaining this rule of thumb still applies." ie crap food is still crap food and doesn't do anybody any good regardless of current weight or size, so lose the "I'm missing out because I no longer eat x, y or z ". You're not, honest.
You may have kept a food log to track your calories whilst losing weight. Your food log now can be a good guide to prove to yourself how much you actually can eat, that you're not missing out and to also prove to yourself that you can squeeze in some favourite foods in there (just not the triggery sort) and still come out on top. The food log is very useful if weight creeps up - simply be vigilant with the eating (and maybe drop a few calories here and there) until the weight is back in line with your maintenance range. As soon as you become more confident that things are going right, you can reduce your usage of your log.
I am so scared of maintenance… what happens if one week you do overindulge and put on 2kg? Do you just make it longer until your next treat and try to lose those 2kg again? I know you are no doubt going to teach me all of this, but I am just a bit frightened and overwhelmed by it all! "This is where you think, "uh oh, weight is creeping up a bit, time to be a bit more careful for the next few days, watch it come down and then re assess whether I feel like having a treat then - I must always remind myself that food is always there - I am telling myself "I can have it if I really want it, but do I really feel like it?"
This balancing act does take practice - I can attest to it taking awhile for myself to get this after years of being on the diet merry go round but if you keep working at it and being positive you will get there.