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Does Maintenance Become Easier Over Time?

May 29, 2020



March is Maintenance Awareness Month and I’m answering your big, burning Maintenance questions.


So far we defined Maintenance and explained why we so often regain after dieting.


Today is one of my faves: Does Maintenance ever become easier?


YES! Yes it does.


What I love about the question is the inherent acceptance of the challenge of Maintenance. Changing long ingrained patterns is never easy and the realization that it’s required means significant change is more likely to happen.


Research out of the National Weight Control Registry, the largest database of long-term weight loss maintainers, shows that the 2-year mark is key.


If people are able to keep their lost weight off for 2 years, they are very likely to keep it off for good. For some it could be up to 5 years before they feel stable enough.


Does that seem like a long time?


Compared to what?


Maintenance is for the rest of your life—decades and decades.

And how many years did the bad habits have time to settle in? Usually decades. Two to five years is a drop in the bucket compared to all that time.


Plus, I love knowing there is an ease point. A time frame. It does get easier.


When you keep on keepin' on it pays off.


There was a time neuroscientists thought old dogs couldn’t learn new tricks—that adults couldn’t change their habits or personalities. Turns out they can!


We can create new neural pathways. The ones we keep using, no matter old or new, get more deeply ingrained and become the default.

Repetition + time = habit.


I love the way Susan Pierce Thompson explains it. She likens the brain to a riverbed.


If you have water streaming down a river and you dam it up and point the water in a new direction, the water will start creating a new groove in the soil.

The new way is shallow at first, but with time, as the water continues down the new pathway it deepens it, making the new river more solid and stable. The water easily finds its way down the new river.


Now what happens to the old one? Well, it’s still there, ready to take the water. It never goes away. But as long as the dam is in place and the new river deepens, no water makes it down the old path. The new path is the only functional one.


After 2-5 years of your “new” maintenance habits the grooves are deep and familiar. You’ve created conditions to support your new habits and been through annual cycles dealing with any challenges that came your way.

You problem-solved and tweaked and kept the new habits in place all while keeping the old habits at bay.

And it got easier and easier with each passing month.

Now it’s just who you are and what you do, like the old habits used to be.


And you got to wear your skinny jeans the whole time!