A Bright Lifer™ recently wrote in, and I want to address her question because it's on a very important subject—Maintenance. She says, “I've lost over 60 pounds with Bright Line Eating. Since I'm more sedentary during the cold winter months, I've gained about seven or eight pounds back, but the scale goes up and down within a 10-pound window. In the warm summer months, I love to walk and hike, so the weight drops back down. Is this what Maintenance looks like? I'm not quite sure as I'm afraid of gaining—so I'm back to the Weight-Loss Plan.”
It's a great question! I’ve been on Maintenance now for two decades. It is very much a process of adding and subtracting food.
There are, of course, factors that influence our weight—our activity level, the seasons, injuries, aging. When you age, for example, you need less food, though you still need ample protein. So you may cut back on your food, but not on protein. And then there’s someone I know who was doing great, maintaining a 100+ pound weight loss, but then he got injured and he suddenly couldn’t exercise. He neglected to compensate by removing some food from his food plan, and he also stopped weighing himself. Over the next few years, he slowly put on 40 pounds because he should have been removing food as his weight crept up.
Here's what I do to accommodate fluctuating weight, whether it’s because of the seasons, exercise levels, the metabolism shifts that come with age, or whatever it is. I weigh myself once a week to see if I’m keeping within my weight range. My goal weight is a range, not a number. If you don’t want to use the bathroom scale, have some clothes that don’t have elastic waistbands. If you put them on and they fit, you know you’re doing okay. I have some “truth pants.” They’re just black slacks, with no stretch or give in them. And I know from seeing how they fit me if I’m within my range. However you want to track it, think about a roughly ten-pound range that you want to be within.
When those pants get a little tight or your weight is at the high end of your range, start to shave out food from your plan. Typically that means taking out one thing—whatever was the last thing you added in, whether it was grain at lunch or dinner, or maybe you’d gone from four to six ounces of grain. Take out the grain or shave it back to four ounces. Then wait a week or two, or even a month or two, to see if that did the trick. You may have to shave out more.
Some people might find that they don’t even need all the food that’s on the Weight-Loss Food Plan. For me, I remember being on a food plan twenty years ago that was twice as heavy as my plan right now. That was before I had kids and when I was exercising a lot. I just needed a lot of food. Now I don’t need nearly as much as I age.
So you add food when your weight is low, and take food out when your weight is high. There’s nothing wrong with going back to the Weight-Loss Plan if you’re carrying enough extra weight to warrant that, say more than ten pounds.
But generally, it’s best to shave back rather than make drastic changes. Your body will respond. Weigh yourself once a week and check back in a few weeks to see if your body is responding. If not, take another food out. This is the ebb and flow of Maintenance. We add and subtract food to keep ourselves within the Bright Body weight range we want to be in. We tend to settle into a size, a shape, a level of mobility that feels right for us, and we can feel when we trend too far in either direction. Then it’s time to adjust our food plan accordingly. That’s one of the beautiful things about Bright Line Eating—the ability to adjust as needed.
One last thought: I recommend that everyone work with a Maintenance guide or Maintenance buddy. I never make a change myself without running it by someone. It’s good to externalize it—meaning to get it out of my own head. There’s a recovery saying: if you’re alone in your own head, you’re alone in a bad neighborhood. This is especially true with our food, our weight, and our bodies. Many of us have body dysmorphia and heightened levels of stress about these topics. So I talk to someone before I make a change and then I listen to their feedback.
And when you’ve been stable in Maintenance for a while, you can do the service of being a Maintenance guide for someone else. It’s simple. It takes five minutes a week—just check in with them on their weigh day. It’s great for the long term to have someone to talk it through with, to make sure you’re being slow and steady around additions and subtractions to the plan. It’s just the way to go.