Losing weight to improve one’s health is a common goal for many individuals. Depending on your starting point, losing 5-10% of your weight can provide noticeable improvements in not only your health, but also lab values.
As we lose weight, our body will do everything it can to get back to our previous weight. This previous body weight is often called your “settling point”. For most individuals, they may have been at this settling point for years or have slowly creeped up to it. From personal observation, the longer someone is at this top settling point, the more the body will fight to get back to it. As an example, an individual who is 300 pounds may have an end goal weight of 200 pounds. Losing all 100 pounds in one straight go usually requires a substantial supply of willpower, dedication, and discipline. Due to all of these, losing 100 pounds straight through is not recommended. Larger and quicker bouts of weight loss also make our bodies attempt everything it can to pull us back to our old “settling points”.
This brings us to one of the best tools for long term weight loss – the usage of “maintenance phases”. Maintenance phases are the periods after weight loss where weight is maintained. The only goal during this period of time is to maintain the weight that was lost – the goal is NOT to lose more weight.
So, what exactly is the point of having a maintenance phase during weight loss? The purpose is to “reset our bodies old settling point”. After losing 5-10% of your body weight, your body will naturally want to find its way back to your old weight. You may have experienced this by having lower levels of energy and higher frequencies of hunger/cravings. But with each week you are able to maintain this new lower weight, the pull of your old settling point will get weaker and weaker. After weeks and month(s) of maintaining this newer body weight, the body will now “think” the new weight is its newer settling point.
After maintaining your new body weight and settling point, you can then again shoot for a 5-10% body weight loss goal. You will once again experience this pull back to that newly developed settling point, but this eases with slower, more sustainable bouts of weight loss. Alternating between both weight loss and weight maintenance will aid in combating the effects of the settling points. I like to personally think of it this way: Experienced climbers don’t climb Mount Everest in a single day. They have base camps along the way where they rest, recover, and then move on. These base camps are your “maintenance phases”, where you rest & recovery before making the next weight loss attempt.
Lastly, when attempting any form of weight loss, attempt to plan this approach appropriately to your life. If you have a vacation coming up, holidays, parties, etc., it may not be the most appropriate time. Stacking all of these on top while attempting a weight loss phase can be similar to swimming upstream – harder than it needs to be. When losing weight for your overall health improvements, aim to make it easier and not harder than it needs to be. To close, remember to not only celebrate your weight loss, but also your weight maintenance.