Reaching Your Goal Weight Is Not the End

Weight Loss versus Weight Maintenance

I know I’ve talked about this before, but I have a new people popping in every day and wanted to touch on this really important concept once more.

In the weight loss world, we talk a lot about reaching our goal weight, finishing our weight loss journey, and getting back to “real life.”

A goal weight reached should be celebrated but you cannot rest on your accomplishments once you have reached your goal weight or you may be in danger of gaining weight back.

This happened to me the one time I successfully lost 22 pounds before I even became morbidly obese. I joined Weight Watchers and lost the weight over a period of a couple of months. I was ecstatic, I was thrilled, I was totally unprepared for the next step.

I went into the weight loss process with the express goal of reaching my goal weight. That was it. And that’s it for an awful lot of people who are struggling to lose weight right this minute.

It was a huge mistake on my part and I know that lack of foresight negatively affected my ability to maintain my weight loss then and in the future.

You see,

Reaching your goal weight is not the end of your journey. It is the beginning of your journey into a life lived at a healthy weight.

Yes, once you reach your goal weight you are finished losing weight, but instead of exhaling a sigh of relief, instead inhale and get ready to face the challenges of lifelong weight maintenance.

Because I promise you – lifelong weight maintenance is challenging, but worth every effort.

If you are not prepared for the end of your weight loss efforts and the beginning of your weight maintenance efforts, you may be surprised at how difficult it can be to keep those hard fought pounds gone for good.

Here are some reasons why it can be hard to maintain your weight loss.

1. You look at your diet as a temporary means to an end instead of a permanent lifestyle change. 

2. You have not dealt with the emotional aspects of what got you overweight/obese in the first place.

3. You have not developed new food habits to replace the bad ones.

4. You fall back into old eating patterns because of stress, tragedy, holidays, or habit. 

5. You quit your exercise plan as soon as you get to your goal weight and do not adjust your caloric intake appropriately. 

6. Your weight loss diet was so restrictive that you are unable to continue eating like that for the long haul.

There are lots more reasons for weight regain, but these six are the ones I see most commonly.

When it comes down to it, remembering that your goal is not only to get to a healthy weight but also to maintain that weight is a key to long term weight maintenance.

To that end, I’d encourage you to ditch fad diets, examine any diet center claim very carefully, and lose weight by eating a wide variety of healthy foods and exercising.

When you lose weight the simple way, getting to your goal weight truly is the beginning of continuing to live your life at a healthy weight because you have already taught yourself what that lifestyle looks like and don’t need to change it drastically once you begin the process of lifelong weight maintenance.

How do you look at reaching your goal weight? Are you confident that you can maintain your weight loss? Anything you need to tweak now to make that process easier? Diane

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33 thoughts on “Reaching Your Goal Weight Is Not the End

  1. Katrin says:

    I am living proof of this right now. Although I never reached goal, I was 1.8 lbs away. I ended up regaining quite a bit (not all). It really has to be a lifestyle change not a diet. So the struggle continues…

  2. Ann Wilson says:

    Yep, I’ve worked through this several times. My first bout with Weight Watchers at age 18 and then returning at age 35 having gained over 100 lbs. I went through a very bad year last year and gained 40 pounds and I’m losing it again. The journey never stops. For me, I don’t think I ever got over the mentality of believing I could cheat the system. I’m learning new skills this go around and finding what my body loves eating. The journey never stops. There is always something to learn or work on.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I had that same “cheat the system” mentality. It was crazy the things that I did to try and cheat the scale. Wearing lighter clothes, not eating before a weigh-in, eating huge fast food meals right after a weigh-in, eating like a pig for 5 days in a row and then being “good” for the 2 days before a weigh-in.

      I finally learned that I was just cheating myself. 🙁

      Congratulations on getting back on track – you can do it and keep it off this time.

  3. Vickie says:

    This is never popular, but I leave this same message when someone is approaching goal –

    Get to goal and then lose 5 additional pounds.

    If one reaches goal and then floats just above it, there is the sense they are regaining. They can never SAY they are at their goal weight. It is easy for things just to continue the upward creep.

    If one floats with the 2-5 pounds UNDER goal weight, with their actual goal weight being the higher end of their leeway, then they stay at goal.

    That 5 pounds can make a lot of psychological difference in one feeling positive and maintaining.

    Loved all the points you listed. I agree with all of them.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      That is good advice Vickie and one that people should take seriously. I agree that 5 pounds really can make a difference mentally when we are maintaining. I know it does for me.

  4. Karen@WaistingTime says:

    This is so true! As a yo-yo dieter, I am a perfect example. Actually, I have found that in many ways it is harder to maintain than it is to lose! I think in part because there is no longer that clear goal. And in a large part because it is harder to find the balance of what I can comfortably eat for the long-term and stay the same, not go up OR down.

    It took me many years and many returns of weight that I’d lost to really and truly adjust my thinking and my lifestyle. I eat so differently now. I just can’t go back to eating how I ate, even what I ate when I was able to maintain at a younger age.

  5. Lisa says:

    I learned this lesson the hard way. After losing 110 pounds and reaching goal weight, I stopped counting calories. I told myself I could mentally keep track and that I didn’t need to do it. I was so wrong! I ended up gaining 15 pounds back (it was a combination of culprits honestly) and then got my act together! I realized then I will always have to track and that’s okay. I need to be accountable to myself.

  6. Nancy B. Kennedy says:

    I have been maintaining for about six years now. I thought I had it all figured out. What I didn’t count on is that my already sluggish metabolism just gets slower all the time! What worked for me a year or two ago doesn’t work any longer. I need to account for every calorie and continually increase my activity level. The smallest indulgence shows up on the scale. It was nice not having to pay really close attention for a few years, but that’s over!

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Great point about needing to make changes as life goes on. I know I do as well. More exercise, more careful portion control, and really thinking about the quality of foods I am eating all helps.

  7. GiGi Eats Celebrities says:

    THIS IS WHY I ABHOR DIET BOOKS – They are always 2 week or 6 week plans or something, they always have an “end” and then people think to themselves, well I finished this plan, now I can go back to the way I used to eat and I will still keep the weight off, I mean, I followed the diet… Ugh! So frustrating! People need to adopt lifestyles FOR LIFE!! Once people realize this, then they will be able to keep the weight off for good! Diane, you and I think so much a like. I love you blog 🙂

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Well, except my book – right? 🙂

      You are right though – so many authors promise that if you do certain things for a few months and lose weight – your life will be changed. Such a deceitful phrase and really detrimental to anyone who wants to lose weight for life. I love your blog too!

  8. HappinessSavouredHot says:

    Definitely NOT the end. It’s the start of maintenance, and that is difficult too! I’ve been maintaining for about 6 months and I realized pretty quick that I did not have that much wiggle room. We can do it! 🙂

  9. Marc says:

    Hi Diane – This is a good post with good information. I felt exactly like your image at the top of the top when I previously reached goal. Making that mistake was part of a larger learning curve that taught me many lessons I have incorporated into new me.
    1. The fastest loser doesn’t always win – long term. Take your time and do it healthy.
    2. Have fitness goals that do not involve a number on the scale. In my case a couple are increasing the number of push ups and pull ups I can do, among other fitness goals.
    3. Develop and have a maintenance plan that involves life time changes and sports. We can’t all be power lifters or cross fit competitors. However, most of us can make time to walk on a regular basis.
    4. Use the tape measure more than the scale. Measuring my waist circumference regularly is much more telling than a fluctuation on the scale. In a few weeks I will begin an intense workout that involves training with heavier weights. Measuring my waist line will tell me if I am gaining muscle or belly fat.

  10. Hope K says:

    This is an important topic, so I’m glad you brought it up. I am now halfway to my goal (I’ve lost 35 pounds), so I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. I guess I’m just going to have to continue eating well and exercising the rest of my life, even after I’ve reached my “goal,” and that will probably mean weighing myself regularly and being diligent about my habits. It’s worth it to me, though, because I don’t want to be unhealthy. People like me, with bipolar disorder, tend to have shorter lives than “normal” people statistically. And that’s not okay with me because I have a young child, and I also feel like I have much more in life to give. So I have to remain strong in my resolve. It’s good to read about people like you who have kept up through the long haul because it inspires me to do so, too. If you can do it, I can, right?

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Congrats on being halfway there! That is awesome.

      You are right – it really does take consistency both during the weight loss process and after. If you start to slack off your awareness of healthy eating, portion control, and exercise, the weight will likely come right back.

      You can totally do this! I never thought I could but look at me now 15 years later. 🙂

  11. L says:

    I think one of the things I struggle with the most in working to reach my goal weight is counting calories, and while I’m not sure that practice is essential to keeping the weight off, I’m pretty sure it will need to be done by me to get where I want to go with the number on the scale. 🙁 I hate counting calories, but it is becoming more and more apparent, as I lose more and more weight so very slowly, that counting and tracking is the only way to avoid exceeding what I need to stay healthy and still lose weight.

    I guess the question becomes: how badly do you want to reach your goal weight, and what are you willing to do to get there.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I don’t count calories at all, but like Dr. J said I have a very good “calorie awareness” meter. That’s what works for me – being aware of calories but not counting. I respect people who do count calories for a lifetime but that is not what I wanted to do.

      Portion control automatically helps with calorie control – both during the weight loss and weight maintenance process. You are doing great!

  12. Dr. J says:

    Losing weight for me and maintenance are pretty much the same behaviors.

    Comparing which is harder seems unimportant.

    One thing I can guarantee is that you can’t do maintenance until you do the first!

    As I’ve heard, it’s a pretty common excuse to not lose weight because maintenance is so hard…

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      That was the key to my weight loss effort. I wanted to lose weight in a way that didn’t look any different than what maintaining would look like. Just a few more calories to quit losing and start maintaining.

  13. Jody - Fit at 55 says:

    There is no end game IMHO – it is work to lose & work to maintain & this is life – yes easier times & harder times but we are always changing & we need to work to maintain life long…

  14. JenB says:

    I didn’t even fight my weight gain for many years … I just accepted it as inevitable. Then things happened and I lost the weight and got to goal. But you’re right, staying there … that is hard. I don’t know that I ever really felt I could maintain it. Again, I accepted the weight regain as just something that happens.

    This time, just the second time I’ve really made the attempt, I’m going into it totally planning on making it a life-long change! I’m going to get there, and STAY there.

  15. Jenea Mason says:

    I think that this is an all too common occurrence. I find myself talking to a lot of people who ask me when I can go back to eating “normal”. What they don’t understand is that this is my new “normal”.

  16. No fluff weight loss says:

    Weight maintenance is in many ways a much harder challenge because people don’t focus on that. The focus is on losing that x amount of pounds and nothing comes after that. It is very important to have proper planning, focus, accountability and making your health and maintaining your weight a priority.

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