All About Maintenance: What it is, what it isn’t, and why it matters

Mike Doehla
Founder and CEO


Maintenance is one of those questions that we probably get 10 different times throughout any given day – and rightfully so. It’s kind of a confusing to talk about staying the same when most people know us as a diet program. But people see others talking about it, and they want to know more about this weird world where you no longer cut away food – and maybe even add food back in.

This piece should hopefully answer just about every question you’ve ever had about maintenance.

What is Maintenance

The “Maintenance phase” of a diet is probably the most difficult part of this whole eating journey. It’s where you’ll be working hard to stay the same and as you can imagine, where motivation can die. It’s not like the cutting/fat loss/leaning out phase where you’re motivated by the scale and the mirror. It’s not like the building/massing/bulking phase where you’re motivated by gym progress, scale changes, and the mirror. Maintenance is a whole different animal. It will test your willpower, it will test your “why”, and for some, it will not be worth the effort required to stay in this land forever. My goal here is to give you a little more insight on what it is and why you should stay here.

When am I ready to maintain?

First up, how do you know when you’re ready for maintenance? Some can argue after certain periods of dieting but I don’t know if there is a right answer to that. Some say 12 weeks some say longer but I personally try not to put timelines on it. There are too many variables to do that. Instead, I put “look and feel” first. Specifically how lean you are or how sick of dieting (being in a deficit) you are.

The look is usually visible abs. We all have them but for many of us, they’re hiding. Once you can see them and you’re happy with that, you may be ready to maintain. The other is feel. This can be a tough one because true diet exhaustion and being slightly bored are different.

What I mean is this: There is a difference between being truly ready to maintain and just not wanting to eat less to lose fat. Unbearable hunger, real sadness, and declined performance are some key indicators. Not because your friends are going out drinking and you want to take a break 😉

So basically, if you are at a place where dieting further just to get a little bit leaner, lighter on the scale, or whatever that is for you isn’t worth the tradeoff of feeling serious hunger, skipping out on your social life, or seeing further drops in your performance, then maintenance and eating more food is probably a thing you should start thinking about.

What to expect

Once you’re in maintenance you will experience a lot of different emotions, changes to eating strategies, and fluctuations in weight. One important thing to think about is your weight. Most likely, if you are in a deficit for a while chances are you are a little less waterlogged and glycogen may be a little lower than normal. When we switch to maintenance we will be increasing calories. One of the most common calorie additions is in the form of carbohydrates. With carbs, you can expect a little water retention and glycogen replenishment.

These things weight something so expect some increases in the scale. Don’t freak out. You’re essentially a human sponge that was dipped in a pot of water. This isn’t a big deal and you have to do your best to realize that or you will drive yourself crazy.

Although the scale is an important tool in a dieters journey, it is only going to tell you one thing- weight. This is why you will want to take measurements often while in maintenance. As long as your waist and other parts of your body is not is not climbing you are doing a wonderful job. I wish I could say to get your body fat levels checked regularly but pretty much all the methods are too inconsistent to give you valuable data.

In maintenance, we tend to get a little relaxed. We go into “lifestyle mode” a little too early and we tend to eat out a little more, eyeball more, and as much as I hate saying this, it’s where we become a little more dishonest with ourselves. This is where scumbag brain shows up and convinces us we don’t have to pay as much attention because we already did. To really maintain those results you’ve worked so hard for you have to be careful of being too relaxed.

If you think you earned the freedom to go back to what you were doing before, you will do some damage and I can assure you will have some regrets. Ease into things and expect some challenges. But most importantly, be honest because even if you aren’t paying attention, your body still is.

How do I deal with it?

This is where I can write 2000 words on why you should keep working hard but I’ll try to wrap this up quick. The most important thing you can do is to think of other goals not relating to a weight or look. Maybe you find something performance oriented you want to do. Maybe you get stronger or maybe you run a race. Whatever it is, maintenance is the time that you start removing the attachment from the scale and start finding all of the ways you can progress outside of some number.  

Almost every day I see someone say “How do I deal with maintenance”. My response is usually something like this. Something led you to change. It was a feeling, a picture you didn’t like, or an outfit that no longer fit that resulted in some sort of emotional response. The reason you should work so hard to maintain all you’ve done is so you never feel whatever that feeling was again. Another way to think about this is with your job. You show up every day and do your work so you keep your job. If you slack you won’t ever get the promotion and you may end up getting fired.

Well, in this analogy you’re not getting fired but you are gaining that weight back because you thought all the work is over. Make no mistake, maintenance is still work. It’s a different kind of work than dieting tends to be. And it’s a phase where you can typically afford to relax a bit more than you did when dieting, but it is still something that you have to work at.

Please know, no one expects perfection, ever. All we want to see is you paying attention, and using the tools given to you to live a life where you always feel good about yourself.

Are you looking to learn more about how we work, how maintenance works, or something else? Then feel free to click over to here to learn a bit more about how we operate and why we’re the right fit for you.

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