What Does Maintenance Mean?

by Karen Kondor

You may hear nutrition coaches talking about “maintenance,” or “sitting in maintenance,” or “ finding what your maintenance is.” And, you may find yourself wondering what that actually means.

Coach K here with the answers to your questions!

In general, maintenance means the number of calories you regularly need to keep you right around your goal weight and/or body composition, adequately supporting your activity levels and goals. Or, as I like to say, “Maintenance is keeping it between the buoys.”

More specifically, though, maintenance means different things to different people, so ultimately, you get to decide what maintenance looks like for you.

I’ll use myself as an example to help you get the thought process rolling for what you want your maintenance to look like.

For me, maintenance means:

  • I eat a consistent quantity of food to support my activity levels, ensuring that I don't lose muscle mass or gain fat.
  • I understand that the number on the scale may fluctuate up or down by a few pounds from one day/week/month to the next.
  • I track my food in MFP fairly regularly, but not 100% of the time. Sometimes I track full days for several weeks, sometimes I don't track for a week or two, sometimes I track partial days.
  • I am confident that I can keep myself on track and in my current state of physical and mental wellbeing
  • I am confident that I can eat intuitively without major fluctuations in food quality/quantity, and in body weight/composition.
  • I am very self aware, so if I am not tracking for a few days, and feel that my energy or sleep or strength or digestion is off, I dive back into tracking to ensure I am consuming what I know works for my body.
  • I have IF/THEN plans in place for what I will do when I encounter obstacles.
  • I don’t revert to habits and behaviors that I engaged in before I started my fat loss and wellness journey.

Getting to this spot took me years. I started my fat loss and exercise journey in 2008. And, it's only been within the last 2-3 years that I have gotten to the point of being able stay in maintenance. It took me 10-12 years of focusing on food and exercise to really understand what my body and mind need, to trust myself when estimating and eyeballing quantities, as well as trust myself to get back into dialling things in whenever I need to. And, I still have to work at it. Some days are easier than others.

So, the question is, what do you want maintenance to look like for you? And, what things need to happen in order to create that?

  • Are there pieces of the puzzle that you don't feel confident with yet?
  • Are there knowledge gaps that still need to be filled in?
  • Do you know what works for your body and mind, and what doesn’t?
  • Do you have IF/THEN plans in place for a maintenance phase? As in, if you go into maintenance, and you run into a speed bump, what will you do?
  • Moreover, what are the possible speed bumps you might face?
  • Do you know what signs to watch for to determine when you might be under or over-consuming food?
  • Do you view the number on the scale as a piece of data, and not hold your self-worth to that number?
  • Do you feel confident with eyeballing quantities of food?

In short, do you trust yourself?

It’s okay if the answer is, “Not yet.” Keep whittling away at what you’re doing now, with a focus on filling in the blanks to the above questions. But, remember: YOU get to decide what maintenance looks like, based on your experience, knowledge, and goals. 


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