Monthly Archives: August 2013

Functional Maintenance

I put a simplified version of this as a Community Journal on Sparkpeople.

This is a Community Journal inspired by a definition of “ideal weight” from the Beck Diet Solution blog.
“I first want to tell you about our concept of ‘ideal weight’ – it’s the weight that you get down to when you’re eating and exercising in a healthy way that you can maintain. Now this weight may not the weight of your thinnest friend, it may not be the weight you were at in college, and it almost definitely isn’t the weight of the celebrities we see on television.”

I was messaging another leader on Sparkpeople’s “At Goal And Maintaining + Transition to Maintenance” team and we were talking about the idea people get in their heads about what it means to be at goal. Even the addendum “Transition to Maintenance” suggests that we are still headed somewhere, presumably downward on the scale.

One thing I’ve learned in losing over 25% of my body mass is that I don’t know exactly where I’m going. I was overweight my whole life, so I don’t have a wedding dress or magic jeans I want to fit back into. I don’t have a weight I was when I graduated from high school or even middle school (I’m already past that).

So I’ve relied on the BMI metrics of obesity and overweight (even though I used to think they were bunk). Even though I reached the goal of normal BMI and my husband says he’d be concerned if I lost more, I still have saddlebags and a belly pooch. But you know what? So did Helen and Tara in the Biggest Loser Season 7 Finale. And I thought they looked better than the finalists of Season 8 who frankly looked unhealthily thin to me.

How low is low enough? The National Weight Control Registry reports that a 10% reduction in bodyweight, if maintained, confers significant health benefits of reduced obesity. It may be that the health cost of obesity is not from the actual amount of fat we have, but whether we are gaining vs. maintaining. When we gain weight, we are adding fat cells which can smother our organs, unbalance the connective tissues (which host immune and inflammation response cells) and increase Leptin activity.  You’re most likely to hear about Leptin’s effect on appetite, but it also increases angiogenesis, associated with cancer and macular degeneration.

Is it worth it to maintain, to watch what you eat and exercise consistently, even if you aren’t at your dream weight? Is it worth commemorating? It is a bold speculation, but perhaps the same physiologic conditions that are making that last 5 to 15 pounds so tough could be lengthening my life. I wouldn’t discourage you from trying, this is not a “fat and fit” or Rethinking Thin screed.  It’s more about whether you have taken control of your health even if you can’t dictate your weight.

So I guess there are three questions in Functional Maintenance. What are you willing to eat? How much are you willing to exercise? And then, perhaps most importantly, how is your stress level? Is your healthy lifestyle helping or harming your overall wellbeing? Eating right and exercising should both ameliorate stress, not increase it.

Further reading on Leptin:

and on my thoughts about obesity as disease:


8 months

Technically my 8 month mark is tomorrow, but it will be Monday Morning and there’s other things I want to dig into.  And I think that’s something important about maintenance lifestyle, that it has to fit in with your life.

I mean, eating right and fitness are never going to just do themselves.  But if maintenance takes too much time and energy, it is eventually going to get knocked off by something else.  How do we make sure maintenance is a part of our life that doesn’t get shaken loose by the vagaries of life?

I think one thing is to understand that healthy lifestyle is a resource as well as an obligation.  If we have truly made a lifestyle change, it gives as well as takes, in energy and mood and resilience.

So what is our relationship with our lifestyle like?  If we feel resentful about the things or ways we no longer eat, if we have to drag ourselves to exercise, that’s a relationship we will look for excuses to get out of.  If you can think of it as a relationship with your body, it should be apparent that it deserves the same status as your relationship with family members, your employment, pets and other “real things”.  Trouble is, these relationships can still be fraught with negative emotions.

If we look at the spectrum of things it is acceptable to have negative feelings for, there’s probably jobs on the lower end and pets on the upper end.  Oddly (and maybe this is just me) spouses go closer to the low end and children rank below pets, unless they are teenagers and they then are as natural to complain about as jobs.

For my eating, it was not that hard to view maintenance as a caring and nourishing endeavor.  I guess the thing about children and pets is that they are dependent upon you, and pets are perpetually.  While change was a gradual process, my attitude about it was always kind of how dog people are about their pets.  My trust in the rewards of the process never were in question.  You have to eat anyway, and so it’s just working out how to do it best.

The fitness end has been more like living with a cat.  The rewards are not as readily apparent.  They say dogs look at all you do for them and conclude you are a god while cats look at all you do for them and conclude they must be.  A cat may leave you alone for days but then according to their own will and pleasure they will curl up next to you and purr.  It is not rewarding on a set schedule, but sneaks up on you, when you see an unexpected shadow in the mirror or realize you can feel a muscle group you never had before.