MrsDarwin kindly obliged me with a question on my introductory post:
I really appreciate your maintenance/reminder posts, since I'm kind of at the same stage you are (though with less exercise). I'm at a basically acceptable weight which I maintain without much trouble -- I could stand to lose five pounds and tone up, but on the other hand, my clothes fit in a mostly flattering fashion. But I need the constant reminder not to be complacent. You should write about "keeping motivated in the face of okayness."
This is really the crux of maintenance, and it can even be the crux of initial weight loss, too. Remember the Akron U-Turn? I think it's common to use "hey, I'm doing pretty well!" as an excuse to undermine ourselves by going back to undesirable behaviors.
Some good habits have persisted in the face of my okayness, and some have drifted away. What's the difference? I think a lot of it has to do with having created "bright lines" around some behaviors: some rule I've stated to myself, even gone public with here on the blog or in my family. Something that It's not okay to eat a whole pizza. A normal breakfast can contain one egg, but not two. The right dessert size for me is about as big as two Oreos. I don't go through a drive-through to get a snack. I go to the gym at least twice a week.
You have to strike the right balance when it comes to these:
- they have to be something that you really want to adopt permanently, with few exceptions.
- They have to be something where it doesn't matter if you're doing "okay" -- for the rest of your life you want to live with these bright-line boundaries, no matter what your dress size.
- And you have to know when to define your bright line around a "never" (in my case, "never eat a whole pizza") and when to define it around a "normal" that can be excepted on special occasions (like the two-egg thing; if I'm starving, I'll order a big fat omelette at a restaurant, but I think of it as a splurge, a deviation).
The hard part is creating the bright line in the first place. I may think I want to stop doing a certain behavior, but often I find that I don't really want to. I've tried to establish "I never nibble off the kids' plates after lunch" and it hasn't worked very well. On the other hand I might well be able to establish "I make the kids scrape their own plates into the trash after lunch," now that I think about it. So maybe part of it is carefully choosing which behavior to enclose in those bright lines.
Right now the "okayness" I struggle with is in the physical activity. I'm in pretty good shape compared to the average woman my age; training at a higher level is not feasible right now because of my other responsibilities, so I have no reason to set a stringent goal; even Mark can't run faster or longer than I can because he's recovering from an injury, so I haven't got the motivation to keep up with him. I still go to the gym twice a week, and try for three times, but I haven't been pushing myself very hard lately; I've told myself "I only have to run for twenty minutes and then I can quit," and pretty often when I get to the end of the twenty minutes I do quit. For a while there I was running at a peak speed of 7.2 mph at intervals, and these days I go "meh" and set the treadmill at 6.0 and try not to think about it till I'm done. Well, I didn't draw the bright line around a certain number of minutes or a certain speed; I drew it around showing up twice a week. And I faithfully show up twice a week, but I don't work very hard right now.
Why the backsliding? I think I feel a little bit overwhelmed with things right now -- look how badly my blogging has fallen off -- and so it's harder to say "no" to the voice that says, "You're sick of this treadmill and you could just get off and go take an extra-long, extra hot shower." My solution to this has been to run less and swim more, since I hate to run and love to swim. It works. At minimum, I want to keep running enough that I don't hurt myself when I do run, and one run every week or two seems to do that.
Anyway, I still have to take a good hard look at my habits and clean them up now and again, because where I didn't draw a bright line they occasionally veer into "old bad habit" territory. One way I'm doing that right now is by keeping a food diary and counting up the calories -- it's not a permanent habit, it's a diagnostic tool to find the places where I can improve. Mostly it reminds me of things I already learned: I don't need a snack between breakfast and lunch. An afternoon snack with a little protein in it is generally a good idea, but it doesn't have to be big. Second servings at dinner is something I have to be careful about. All these things I know, but it's really easy -- when things have been going well -- to trick myself into thinking I'm in pretty good shape -- I can afford to splurge often enough that the "splurge" creeps back into becoming an everyday thing.
Anyway, I think the best defense against the "okayness" problem are bright lines -- boundaries which are meant to stand no matter how "okay" you feel. They can be somewhat porous and can have exceptions -- but the point is that they define a lifelong norm. I find that wherever I've managed to establish them, they have remained.