On our care and feeding during Maintenance
During Maintenance, we were instructed to eat a balanced diet of solid food which was planned and portioned according to standard food exchanges. For my weight and body composition, the dietician prescribed an 1,800-calorie-per-day diet comprised of various numbers of grain exchanges, dairy exchanges, meat and alternate exchanges, and fat exchanges. I was given a guide to describe the typical weight and/or portion size for each type of exchange, and I was instructed to plan and prepare my daily meals using those food types and portion sizes. The goal of Maintenance was exactly according to its name: we were simply to maintain as much of the weight loss as possible that we had experienced during MR. To the chagrin of many participants who had become accustomed to seeing a falling number on the scale each week, we were now instructed not to lose any more weight at all for the following six months.
In addition to all of the learning we had experienced so far, there were two key elements of Maintenance of which we were made aware. First, we were instructed not to consider any particular foods as “forbidden.” Part of the path towards developing such maladaptive eating habits was tread by our placing undue or inaccurate judgments and evaluations on our food choices. The reasons for avoiding the very idea of “good or bad foods” were evident to all of us with a repeated history of “falling off the wagon” from so many diets in our lives. Deep down, I knew I could derive no further benefit from that way of deciding which foods I would eat. Instead, I had to live in the real world—the non-diet world—and work out a way to get through all sorts of social situations and my own home life while eating an ordinary, nutritious diet that didn’t involve me gorging myself mindlessly on calorie-dense, emotional comfort foods.
Second—and perhaps most importantly—we were told to expect to gain back a certain amount of the weight we had lost during MR. This was considered entirely common and natural. If we could maintain a 10-15% reduction in our total body weight since the outset of the program, our participation could be considered successful. My own firsthand experience proved this to be true. After an initial rapid weight gain of about 10 pounds during the early weeks of Maintenance, I was able to maintain the rest of my weight loss for more than four months. However, with two months left in the year-long program, I found myself reverting to some of my former habits. These were mostly focused on eating in secret, either at drive-thrus on my way home or simply by overeating more frequently—especially at home, late at night.