How I Do Maintenance

From time to time, I get folks asking me how I manage my weight now that I'm in maintenance. My total time on the TSFL (Take Shape for Life) plan was 11 months. I learned a lot about my body, my needs, what drives me, where I am weak, where I am strong, and what I truly value.

I have adopted some hard and fast rules that I follow to ensure I'm where I want to be health wise.

1. I drink 100 oz. of water a day.
- Yes. I pee. A lot.
- It stops my cravings.
- It helps my skin.
- It's the right thing to do for my body.
- I have a 20 oz. plastic cup with a straw that never leaves my side. Ask my friends. It's with me all. the. time.

3. I eat breakfast, and I eat every 3 hours throughout the day.
- I always eat a high protein breakfast. I like the 80 calorie Dannon fat-free greek yogurts. If I want to bulk that up, I put in a 5-6 raspberries or scramble a few egg whites. Or I drink a Medfiast smoothie. I love them and they are packed with all sorts of good things.
- I eat about 100 calories every 3 hours. More for lunch and dinner, obviously, but I try to keep my system working.
- I try to choose protein for those fuelings.
- Doing this keeps my blood sugars more level so when I do eat, my body burns the foods in a way that is beneficial.
- I never let myself get to starving. Starving people make desperate choices.

3. I know what matters to me.
-I don't care about hamburger buns. I hardly ever eat them. I get just as much satisfaction eating a lettuce wrapped burger so I almost always opt to have mine "protein style".
-  I love soft French bread or sourdough bread. (Sourdough actually breaks down differently causing less of an insulin spike so I try to frequently choose this bread when I buy bread that I'll be eating.) I never serve bread at our table, other than spaghetti night. I know that on these nights, I'm gonna want to eat bread. I would choose bread over noodles every time. So, I don't eat the noodles. I eat a salad with low fat dressing. Then, I take 1/4 cup of the red sauce and put it on a dessert size plate. I like to dip my bread in the sauce.
- I also always slice the loaf in 1/2 and freeze it immediately. We don't need to eat an entire loaf of bread as a family, and I don't want to deal with having to make the choice about nibbling on it later. I just remove it from the "temptation" list by putting it away for another time.
- Take Mexican food. I love mexican food. But holy fat, batman. I like tacos. I love chips and salsa. I could really give a crap about rice and beans. So, I don't order rice and beans. I almost never get a combo meal. I order 1 tacos, a la carte. Then, I can eat my chips, salsa, and taco and live with myself.
- I never waste calories on bites, licks, and tastes. I never lick the spoon. I don't lick my fingers clean. I don't take a bite of the left over crust from the kids sandwiches. It all adds up. Those 15 calories, 10 times a day = 150 calories. Do that 7 days a week and you're at 1050 extra calories per week. After 3 weeks, you're up a pound. Do that over a year - you see where I'm going. I don't care about crusts. I'm not going to waste my calories on empty, unfulfilling extras.
- I do this with a thousand different things to make it work for me. It's all checks and balances.

4. I plan.
- I take healthy snacks in the car. I'm never stuck at lunch time feeling so hungry I'd eat anything.
- I have a basic idea of the menu for the week. If I know that on Wednesday, I'm going to be eating out or having a calorie dense meal, I make sure my choices prior to and after that are on the lean side.
- I cook large amounts of lean protein at once. If I grill chicken breasts, I grill 8-10. Dinner uses up at least 3-4. Then, I have a few left over. I can make a quick salad, a wrap, or whatever. Heck, I'll eat it right out of the fridge while I'm helping a kid with homework.
- I look at my calories kind of like sick leave. You only get so many days of sick leave. If you use it all screwing around, when you need it, you're in trouble. Same with calories. I can only eat so many before I start to gain weight. I choose carefully about those calories. Then, when I do really want something, I don't have to stress out about it.

5. I follow the 85/15 rule.
- I eat very mindfully 85% of the time.
- I'm less careful about 15% of the time.
-This might vary. Some weeks, it's 95/5. Some weeks, it's 80/20.

6. I have a number threshold.
- I stay under my goal weight. It gives me wiggle room for bloat, cheat days, unexpected meals out, etc.
- If my weight goes up by more than 3 lbs., I get really mindful again. And fast. I mean, it's only 3 lbs., right? But another 3 (a date night, some popcorn, a couple of sodas, for example) over one weekend and suddenly it's 6. Then, 9. Then you're feeling overwhelmed again.

7. I don't compare.
- "Comparison is the killer of all joy."
- This body thing is so much of a mental game. I don't waste time comparing myself to others. Some people lost 100 lbs and end up a size 2. Some people lose 100 lbs and end up a size 12. (Fo the record, I'm a size 8.) Allen can eat a snickers bar a day and not gain any weight. If I ate a snickers bar a day, I'd easily gain a few pounds in no time. I don't dare care what someone else is doing. It's not my problem. I have no business going down that road.
- Comparing kills positivity. Nothing good is borne from negativity. If you're too busy looking to what someone else is doing, you can drift right out of your own lane, and that never ends well.
- I never use someone else's actions as justification. For example, just because someone else is eating dessert doesn't mean I need dessert, too. If my family orders cheese sticks, I don't need to eat them just because they are at the table. Someone else's caloric intake has no bearing on mine. They are in charge of themselves, and I'm in charge of myself.

8. I accept my circumstances, and who I am.
- I have lots of young kids.
- I very rarely get any time for myself.
- Most of the time, I have 3 kids with me whenever I do anything. I never have less than 2.
- I hate exercising.
- I really hate exercising when my kids are interrupting me or whining or fighting. I hate it when they are in the house and I'm trying to squeeze in a 20 minute session. I hate it when they squabble and bitch in the jogging stroller. I'm not going to work out under those circumstances. I just don't love it enough.
- I'm also not going to get up at 5 a.m. to run. I'm. just. not. And, I'm not going to have time at any other point in my day. (I will say, one of the Habits of Health is movement on a daily basis. And, I have started running/walking a few days a week, but I'm new in the game and I can't honestly say it's a habit so I don't count on it as a way to ensure caloric burn in my life at this point.)
- Thus, I control what I can. I'm never guaranteed a work out anyways. Kids get sick, I get sick. I could get hurt. But, I can always always, always control what goes into my mouth.
-So, I eat the right stuff and I accept it. I don't lament what I want. I don't feel sorry about it. It is what it is.
- I do try to add in movement, however, in practical ways. I run the stairs in my house when I don't have a kid in my arms. I'm the primary lawn mower in our family. It's a pretty decent work out. I park far from the entrance at the store. You know, that kind of stuff.

9. I stay connected.
- I respond well to public accountability. So, I try to talk about my weight loss and maintenance on a semi-regular basis. Sure, it might be annoying to people. Yes, I've had some rude comments thrown at me. For the most part, though, I've received loads of support. People I don't even know have been so supportive. And I have my own "p/r crew" that constantly cheer me on and lift me up. The whole village thing is true for me. People do watch, and it helps me.
- I health coach. They've found that coaches are 500% more likely to keep the weight off. So, I coach. I don't do a whole lot of marketing. I like helping people do something that makes them feel better. It's a great way to stay social. And, it keeps me honest.

As far as I'm concerned, I'm like an alcoholic. Having an addiction to food, the eating process, the endorphin rush from a sugar binge - it's like any other addiction. I can't let down my guard. I have to be vigilant. I have to make choices that always increase my success. I'm too vulnerable when it comes to food. I never start feeling like, "I've got this. That craving won't get to me. I'll never gain it back." I can't get cocky about the whole thing.

This might sound easy. Let me assure you - it is not. I'm not always successful. I feel frustrated at times. I get hungry. I get tired of always being mindful. I get tired, period. I eat pizza. I get wrapped up in the whole thing and am distracted sometimes.

When those moments happen, I go back to what got me through the weight loss process. I get busy. I try to serve someone else - whether it's a family member I live with or a complete stranger. I do a chore. I don't sit in those feelings. I found, for me, that doesn't ever end well.

This has been my formula for success. So far.

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What started as a way to communicate with far away friends and family has become a place for this horse trainer/HR manager turned stay at home mom of 3 girls to hold on to a bit of her own identity. It's my take on the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the thoughts and feelings, the mistakes and triumphs of this family as we bumble our way to eternity.