Q: Is it harder to lose weight, or to keep the weight off once you lose it? A: There are several unique challenges that people face during the maintenance process that they don’t face during the diet. Let’s discuss one.The reality is that people think that dieting is hard, and maintenance is easy. Because of this people will devote a lot of time and energy into a diet, but not into maintenance. Certainly, if you do not give maintenance the focus and energy it deserves, you will not succeed because it does have unique challenges. One of those challenges is as follows: Even though you hopefully recognize that maintenance requires a lot of work, the people around you don’t. So while they were there to support you, encourage you, and even actively assist you during your diet, they all of a sudden disappear when you’re trying to maintain weight.
When you were on your diet, perhaps a family member was there to help you with meal planning, your friends and neighbors encouraged you and complimented you on your success. People may have even offered you incentives to lose weight. However, while you are in the middle of the lifelong process of maintaining weight, do you think your family will be the same focused on helping you? Will your friends forever be encouraging you to maintain your weight? Of course not! But if only they understood that maintenance is also a big challenge, they would be more supportive. Not only are they not supportive of you while you’re trying to maintain weight, they often turn against you and make it even more challenging for you! For example, your friends who’ve felt that it was perfectly reasonable for you to decline their invite for pizza with them while you were on your diet, now that you’re on maintenance you have no excuse! Your spouse was careful not to bring unhealthy foods into the house while you were on your diet, but would never agree to eliminate it from the house permanently! Your hostess perhaps didn’t mind when you turned down her homemade peanut butter pie during your diet, but if you declined it after your diet is over, she will be insulted.
People who lost weight and are trying to keep it off have to hear comments all the time that make them feel like going back to their old eating habits. “You’re too skinny!”, “You’re disappearing”, and “You don’t have to be strict anymore.” are all examples of comments made by well-meaning people that make maintenance more of a challenge than it has to be. So to answer your question, for most people, maintenance is much harder than dieting. But for those of us who are willing to learn about the challenges of maintenance and prepare for it properly, it doesn’t have to be.