I am often asked if I EVER eat junk food or pasta or bread or let myself have any high-carb treats. The short answer is yes, I do…Now that I am at the stage of maintaining my weight. But it hasn’t always been that way.
Low Carb Maintenance – At-A-Glance
- Boundaries and planning are needed to maintain weight loss but can be less structured than they were during the weight loss phase.
- For long-term success, your way of eating must be easy to follow, enjoyable, and effective.
- To create an easy-to-follow maintenance diet, always have convenient, low-carb meals available.
- You can enjoy high-carb treats during maintenance, but keep them special, not ordinary.
- Keep your diet effective and prevent weight gain before it happens by monitoring your weight weekly or monthly.
Do I EVER Eat Junk Food? Maintaining Low-Carb Weight Loss [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- The importance of boundaries and planning.
- How to create an easy-to-follow diet.
- Tips for keeping your diet effective and consistent.
Can I Have It?
I will admit that I am reluctant to write a blog post about eating for maintenance because it is going out to a broad and diversified audience, and – well – people hear what they want to hear. No one is immune to this. I do it myself, especially in this age of social media.
If I tell you that I was just at a family party last night and had a piece of chocolate cake, which I did, some people, not everyone, will say to themselves, “Well, Becky had cake at a party, and she seems fine, so I think I’ll have cake.” That might be okay, and it might not. It depends on where you are in your weight loss journey, and enjoying a treat is never completely without boundaries.
Boundaries are what create freedom, which is counterintuitive, and I will get to setting boundaries in a moment. But, before I do, it will pay to step back and get a perspective on losing weight and maintaining that weight loss.
The Right Perspective
To do so, it helps to think of the weight loss journey as preparing for retirement with planned vacations along the way. For instance, if you want to retire at the age of 65, you need to save money throughout your working years.
With every paycheck, a bit of your income goes toward retirement, and eventually, that consistent effort pays off, and your goal is met. But, if life is just work and a savings account, it gets pretty boring. You plan vacations along the way, with the word PLAN being important.
Planning & Boundaries
When I was in my twenties, life was chaotic. To ease the discomfort, I used food. The night was not complete until I had a bowl of ice cream. And sugar was by far my favorite flavor of anything. Put sugar in it, and I’d eat it. There were no boundaries. There was no planning.
That, of course, caught up with me, and if you want the full story on how I used boundaries and what I’ll call “planned diet vacations” to lose weight, download my free 0,1,2,3 strategy and watch the videos that come with it. It is what turned my life around in terms of eating.
But the reason I share this story about gaining weight in my twenties is because when I first decided that I needed to lose weight, I didn’t really want to change my habits. I would start dieting, then life would happen, and I’d stop.
That inconsistent effort never allowed me to reach my goal. It wasn’t until I set boundaries that results happened. Now that I am maintaining that weight loss, I am still using boundaries and planning ahead for treats, just with a bit less structure.
Boundaries are needed to lose and maintain weight loss because you are trying to achieve something that your body would rather not do. While you might look at excess body fat as a problem, your body looks at it as an asset. To your body, fat is available energy that you carry with you.
That is a great thing because when food is not available, survival is not a problem. However, today, food availability is not as widespread of an issue. On top of that, processed foods are highly palatable and contain a mix of ingredients that stimulate hunger rather than satisfy it. Because of this, there are two maintenance approaches that don’t work:
The Don’ts of Maintenance
First, you cannot go back to your old eating habits and expect to maintain your weight loss. Blame it on the food supply or technology that encourages a sedentary lifestyle, but eating without a plan or boundaries is problematic.
The second approach makes sense on paper but is hard to uphold. I am referring to simply increasing your daily calorie and/or carbohydrate intake. While this can work, it requires a lot of discipline and constant tracking to ensure your calories and carbs are not creeping up too much.
Again, this works, but most people are looking to lower their workload when they reach maintenance. That lower workload is achieved by creating the 3E’s.
The Do’s of Maintenance
For long-term success, your way of eating must be easy to follow, enjoyable, and effective. I call those my 3E’s.
Diets are projects that require a lot of focus and effort. When you reach your goal, you want to be able to loosen the reigns without gaining weight back. You can do that by creating a way of eating that is easy to follow.
Boundary: Quick Low-Carb [Not High-Carb] Meals
One key to creating an easy-to-follow maintenance diet is always having convenient, low-carb meals available. I cook from scratch most days of the week, but there are days when I just don’t have time. For those days, I need to have something appropriate on hand that can get on the dinner table in minutes.
To do this, stock up packaged meats with very few added ingredients (Costo has a good selection, including grass-fed beef sirloin, pulled pork without sauce, and crabcakes), have bags of frozen vegetables on hand, and freeze leftover low-carb meals that you can heat and eat.
It takes some planning, but I always have healthy, low-carb, easy-to-prepare meals on hand. The flip side of that is there are also easy-to-prepare high-carb meals. If you start fudging that boundary line by buying a frozen pizza, ice cream, or cookies, you’ll make maintenance much harder. You don’t want those foods to become ordinary again. But that doesn’t mean they can never be enjoyed.
This brings us back to that initial question: Do I EVER eat cake or pizza or a treat of some sort? Whenever I get a question like that, I feel that there is an underlying fear. That fear is that I am going to go through all of this effort to lose weight and then be miserable because I can never enjoy the “fun foods” of life.
I know some of you will bristle at how I am using the term “fun foods.” I agree that these refined and processed treats bring long-term consequences that are no fun at all. Unfortunately, just knowing that fact doesn’t suddenly make them look yucky.
Some people can say that junk food makes them feel so bad that they are happy never to eat it again. For others, that feels too scary and too hard to maintain.
Boundary: Keep Treats Special, Not Ordinary
In my approach to maintenance, high-carb, refined treats can be enjoyed when they are kept special, not ordinary. Make that your boundary. Put another way, have a plan for when you’ll eat them; don’t just eat them because they are there.
For example, having a piece of birthday cake at your friend’s party is special. Buying a cake at the grocery store because it looked good as you were walking past it is ordinary. Grandma’s cornbread stuffing at Thanksgiving is special. The breadbasket at the restaurant is ordinary.
I will also add that eating a healthy, low-carb diet is truly enjoyable. The meals you can make at home satisfy hunger, and it is easy to eat at restaurants. You get to enjoy the convenience of restaurant foods and leave the restaurant feeling good, not bloated, and ready for a nap.
The last E of the three-E approach to maintaining weight loss is Effective. You can see from what I’ve mentioned that I haven’t abandoned low-carb dieting to return to my previous high-sugar diet.
If I did, I would gain fat. Instead, by putting the focus on making this way of eating easy-to-follow and enjoyable, the effective “E” falls into place. Yet staying effective requires monitoring and a willingness to tighten things up when needed.
You don’t know if you are truly maintaining weight loss unless you monitor your weight.
There is a difference between body weight and body fat. Body weight is easy to monitor because you simply step on a bathroom scale. However, it will fluctuate from day to day, much more so than body fat. You can argue that tracking your body fat percentage is the best route. If that is not available, make a schedule and check your weight or how your clothing fits weekly or monthly.
You can monitor daily if you desire, but I find that while in maintenance, weekly or monthly check-ins help you put weight control in a comfortable place where it remains important but takes up less mind space, which is very freeing.
If your weight is creeping up, you can tighten up your diet by tracking your food intake for one week. This can be as simple as grabbing a tablet and writing down the calories and carbohydrate grams of the foods you eat or using an online nutrition tracking tool. That one week of peaked awareness is typically enough to recall and dial in the food choices and quantity that works best for you.
Weight loss requires boundaries and planning. Maintaining weight loss requires the same things, but you can loosen the reigns. The secret is to create the 3E’s by always having convenient low-carb meals on hand, allowing treats but keeping them special, not ordinary, and monitoring your weight or how your clothes feel to catch problems when they are small and easy to reign in.
Thank you for reading and have a great week!