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Maintain Without Regain

Now that you’ve lost it, you’ve got to keep it off. Use these strategies to shift gears into maintenance mode and stay the course with your new, fit physique.

Shoshana Pritzker

You’ve been killing it in the gym and have mastered meal prep. You’re happy with your new, fit body and are ready to put the brakes on your quest to downsize. But then — fear sets in. What happens when you go off your diet or stray from your routine? Will you lose all your gains, or worse, put the weight/fat back on?

Creating a post-goal plan can help you determine where to go now that you’re ready for maintenance mode. That way, you can enjoy more of the foods you love (including cocktails and treats!) while maintaining your trimmed-down physique — without starvation.

BODY SMARTS

Keeping weight off after a loss is not easy, and most people end up gaining at least some, if not all, of it back. It’s not necessarily that you’re doing something wrong, but it’s more a matter of how your metabolism changes to compensate for your recent loss.

To lose weight and/or fat, you need to create a caloric deficit by reducing your daily intake by a few hundred calories and adding in some exercise to burn a few hundred more. For example, if your original metabolic requirement was 2,000 calories a day and you create a deficit of 500 calories — 250 from food and 250 from exercise — you’ll begin to see results.

Using that formula, you’ll probably lose 10 or 20 pounds or a few percent body fat, but soon your results will slow down because as you lose weight, your metabolism adapts, requiring fewer calories to function than it did previously. Obviously, it’s time to change things up. Maybe you cut back more on calories and add in more exercise, and that might work for a while before your body catches on — but where do you go from there? You can only do that so many times before you’re eating like a rabbit.

MAINTENANCE WITHOUT STARVATION

So now what? Are you doomed to live off a measly 1,500 calories or less to keep your new, fit body? Not at all. In fact, that could do you more harm than good, especially if you’re an active, athletic woman. Here are some guidelines to help you slide into maintenance mode without any collateral damage — and stay there for as long as you want.

- Diet Matters — but Not as Much as Exercise

Though the saying that “abs are made in the kitchen” is totally true, exercise is always going to be the magic bullet when it comes to maintenance. In fact, a recent study from the University of Colorado found that those who were successful at maintaining their reduced bodyweight for more than a year did so by relying on physical activity rather than diet. So keep up your physical activity or even increase it a little, and make sure you change your routine up every couple of months to keep progressing and prevent your body from becoming complacent.

- Increase Your Calories — Slowly

The end of a diet is not a reason to celebrate with more food. In fact, going overboard after a long span of restriction can lead to a rapid weight fluctuation and possible disordered eating behavior. Instead, use a process of slow, incremental calorie increases to allow your body and metabolism to adapt. That way, you’re more likely to use those calories for beneficial things like performance and strength instead of storing them as fat.

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July - August 2019

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