Have you been on what seems to be a never-ending quest to lose weight? Or perhaps you are a die-hard gym bro that is always in a bulk pushing for dem gainz (lean mass). If either of these scenarios sounds familiar, you may want to rethink your approach towards progress. I ask that you consider that, at times, maintaining weight may be the progress you (and your body) need. I present to you my “case for maintenance.”
Maintenance is the foundational component of the dietary timeline as it relates to optimal health and wellness. In short, it is where most of your time should be focused. Fat loss (calorie deficits) and lean mass phases are considered variants of that timeline, for the purpose of this explanation.
When thinking about our diet in terms of reaching a specific goal, it is best if we have a plan. The process of planning allows us to manipulate variables to achieve a specific outcome. This plan and variations in the maintenance timeline are known as “nutritional periodization.”
For the sake of clarity, keep in mind that to lose weight, calories in must be less than calories expended. In other words, burn more with activity than you consume.
Drastic weight change in either direction is not sustainable or realistic long term. Chronic restriction can impede total weight loss (plateau) and relationship with food. Eventually, you will reach a point of diminishing returns.
You will note a decrease in many areas, some of which are:
• Hormones (Thyroid and Sex)
Prolonged low-calorie dieting also causes resting metabolic rate to decrease, ultimately decreasing total calories expended daily.
Conversely, spending too long in a caloric surplus can cause unwanted weight gain and frustration. I understand it’s important to be sensitive here, so I’d like to point out, there is absolutely nothing wrong with gaining weight and sometimes it is necessary. This is especially true for those who have diet hopped or chronically been on some form of diet for an extended period. However, it is not optimal to forever target bulking and doing so can leave you with negative body composition results (aka more fat than muscle).
So where does this leave us?
When we’re able to plan out the phases of our dietary habits, we’re better able to manage our expectations. When we go off course of a maintenance plan, either to cut or bulk, eventually we need to come back to our baseline (maintenance). It’s also important to note that flipping back and forth too frequently may also stall progress. The more time we can spend building muscle with sufficient food intake the better off we’ll be for future dieting.
Since most of the general population target weight loss, this next area of consideration is geared towards that.
What if losing weight isn’t what you need right now?
What if it is maintenance?
- Maybe you struggle with a lot of emotional eating OR struggle to stay consistent on the weekends, with a lot of overeating happening. Due to this, the scale has gradually crept up and is a source of frustration. – Maintaining your weight, instead of gaining, is progress.
- Perhaps you are constantly undereating all the time and now the scale is going down but at a snail’s pace and you don’t know how you will manage to eat less food without risking binge eating due to hunger. – Learning how to slowly increase your calories and maintain your weight eating more is progress.
- You are a newbie and just starting your journey. You haven’t been making the best food choices or maintaining daily activity, so now you must learn these healthy habits. – Simply maintaining your weight while learning these new skills, without stressing yourself out over learning all the things AND making sure the scale is going down at the same time, is going to be amazing progress for you.
Weight loss isn’t always advised, or what your body may need at the time. Sometimes maintenance (or even weight gain) is what you truly need.
I understand that all of this can be confusing, and that is precisely why Adaptive Transformations was formed. We would love the opportunity to coach and guide you through what is optimal for you during this season in life.