As we weigh the inclusion of “Transition to Maintenance” as a part of our team name, I have reflected on why it is important. It is my belief that weight loss changes us from the outside in, while maintenance changes us from the inside out. Moving from the one to the other requires support, and I’ll share one model of how educational psychologists think this may happen.
Maintenance is different from weight loss in multiple respects. Fitness seems to be more important in maintenance, because if you don’t keep lean muscle mass, your metabolism drops and you will have to eat less and less to maintain the same weight. The quality of food seems to matter more, as empty calories, beget overconsumption. And the motivation for this healthy lifestyle needs to be internal rather than external, as compliments dry up or turn into pessimism, and progress is marked in years on the calendar rather than pounds on the scale.
Transition to maintenance is the process of getting from the weight loss mindset (which all of society is reinforcing) to a maintenance mindset, which it seems only a small minority of people achieve. Are these people just special in some way, or can we learn what they know? Is it possible for these lessons to begin while people are still losing weight, before they reach goal and in some cases begin to backslide? One way is to simply hang around other maintainers and model what they do and talk to them.
However, something I have found is that the perspectives of people who have been maintaining for a very long time are so different from my own, it is hard to absorb what is useful from them. Whenever I do math problems with my kids, my husband finds it enjoyable to throw them something out of left field, he says, to challenge them. The field of educational psychology looks at what level of challenge is actually helpful for people and what is too far and discouraging.