Losing weight is a piece of cake (so to speak) compared to keeping those pounds from coming back. If you are following a mostly clean ketogenic weight loss diet for an extended period, figuring out how to maintain your successes after you reach your target weight can be even more challenging.
Last week marked my second keto-versary, In honor of this important milestone in my transformational journey toward better health and wellbeing, I am sharing what I’ve learned during the past year about how to maintain the significant weight loss I achieved on a ketogenic diet.
The Best Tips to Maintain Your Keto Diet Weight Loss Success
In part one of my post about preparing to succeed on a keto diet, I shared my belief that there is no “one-size-fits-all” ketogenic weight loss diet that is optimal for everyone, that dirty, lazy and strict keto are not your only options, and that designing a personalized approach to this way of eating that best fits your unique needs, lifestyle, and priorities can improve your chances of success. Based on my own experience so far, I think it’s just as important to design a personalized plan to maintain your keto diet journey wins after you reach your target weight.
For the past 12 months or so, I have been working on and refining my long-term strategy to maintain not only my new, healthy weight but also the other profoundly positive changes that resulted from my switch to a mostly clean ketogenic diet. Although I will likely continue to experiment, evaluate and make further tweaks over time, I have gradually figured out a viable “new normal” that is meeting my needs, for now.
The best advice I can share is to learn as much as you can from people who have transitioned from a keto weight loss diet to a healthy, sustainable maintenance diet and kept those pounds from coming back. Use whatever aspects resonate with you to help you design your own personalized plan, tailored to your needs, priorities, and preferences.
To help you get started, here are the seven strategies that have helped me maintain my nearly 60-pound weight loss so far.
Make Small, Incremental Changes to Your Diet at a Time
Increase your carbs and calories very slowly, then wait at least a week or two to see how your body responds before deciding whether, what, and how much to change next. You also may want to try gradually decreasing your fat intake somewhat and evaluating the effects. I increased my carbs by 5 grams and added 50 calories every three weeks, very small changes to my calories and macros roughly every 3 weeks so my metabolism would adapt to each minor change without overreacting to a perceived food surplus or famine.
Use Most of Those Extra Carbs and Calories to Add Nutrients and Fiber
It’s okay to reserve some of your extra maintenance carbs and calories for a keto-friendly cheddar cheese and chive biscuit or a square or two from a healthy, sugar-free The Good Chocolate bar, but try to invest most of your carb and calorie “raise” into a broader range or slightly larger portions of nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods, such as berries and root vegetables, especially if you plan to continue with a modified keto or low carb diet as part of a healthy lifestyle. You can also try introducing small amounts of high-fiber beans and legumes and see how they affect your blood sugar, insulin, energy level, mood, and mental clarity.
Pay Attention to How Your Body Responds
If you have (or had) a lot of weight to lose, start experimenting with very small, gradual increases to your calories and carbs when you are within three pounds of your target weight, even though it means waiting a bit longer to reach your “magic number” on the scale. Finding your personal nutritional “sweet spot” to maintain your new, healthier weight will require navigating uncharted territory. Switching your focus from losing those last few pounds to figuring out how to keep them off for good will give you a good head-start on testing the effects of those dietary changes and fine-tuning them by the time you reach your weight loss goal.
Don’t Revert to Your Former Bad Habits
To paraphrase Henry Ford, if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten. So, if you go back to eating the things that caused you to put on weight and made it hard to lose—especially sugars, refined starches and highly processed foods—you will soon put back any pounds you dropped on keto, and probably a few more, too boot.
Build On Your New, Healthy Lifestyle Habits
If you have been following a "dirty keto" approach, consider eating fewer highly processed foods and buying healthier, fresh, whole, or minimally processed foods, such as organic fresh berries and vegetables and grass-fed (and, ideally, grass-finished) beef and dairy products.
If you your meals have relied heavily on fast food restaurant chains or packaged foods, try cooking more of your meals and eating out less to help you control the quality and quantity and enhance the flavor and nutrition of the foods you consume. (You will probably also save some money in the process.) To expand your repertoire of quick and easy, delicious and nutritious breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks, I highly recommend Carolyn Ketchum's cookbook The Everyday Ketogenic Kitchen: With More than 150 Inspirational Low-Carb, High-Fat Recipes to Maximize Your Health, Maya Krampf's The Wholesome Yum Easy Keto Cookbook: 100 Simple Low Carb Recipes. 10 Ingredients or Less, Kyndra Holley's Craveable Keto: Your Low-Carb, High-Fat Roadmap to Weight Loss and Wellness, Natasha Newton's Southern Keto: 100+ Traditional Food Favorites for a Low-Carb Lifestyle, and Maria Emmerich's Keto Restaurant Favorites: More Than 175 Tasty Classic Recipes Made Fast, Fresh, and Healthy.
If you miss traditional baked goods and have been disappointed by the keto recipes or packaged versions you've tried, invest in a couple of cookbooks with reliable recipes from a keto baking expert, such as Ketchum's The Ultimate Guide to Keto Baking: Master All the Best Tricks for Low-Carb Baking Success or Hilda Solares' Essential Keto Bread: Sweet and Savory Baked Goods to Satisfy Any Craving.
If you haven't been getting much exercise, look for ways to build a more active lifestyle.
Get Rid of Clothes That No Longer Fit You
Don’t sabotage yourself by holding onto this safety net in case you gain back the weight you worked so hard to lose. Try on every piece of clothing you own and sort it into the appropriate pile: throw away, give away, donate, sell, or bring to a tailor to be altered to fit your new size, depending on the style and how much would need to be taken in. If you’re having trouble letting go of some favorite pieces that would require too much alteration, think about how much good you will do by donating them to someone in need.
Keep Paying Attention (for the Rest of Your Life)
Body weight can fluctuate frequently for many different reasons, so stepping on the scale too often when you’re on a reducing diet can be frustrating, demotivating and even misleading. However, once you are close to your goal, more frequent weigh-ins can provide important feedback as you experiment with and fine-tune changes to your diet to develop a successful eating plan to maintain your target weight.
Even after you have developed a maintenance diet framework that appears to work for you, it’s important to weigh yourself consistently, at the same time of day, at least twice a month. This is even more important if you stop tracking your calories and macros with nutrition tracker app such as Carb Manager after you reach your desired weight.
The longer it has been since you reached your weight loss goal, the more likely it is that you will start taking your ability to maintain that weight for granted. I learned this the hard way after Carb Manager’s initial poorly implemented redesign of this popular keto and low carb diet tracking app early this year forced me to stop using it for several months. Recording and tracking everything I ate or drank against my daily calorie limit and macros in the Carb Manager app had been one of the keys to achieving my target weight and maintaining it for the next eight or nine months. So, when the initial launch of the redesigned app made it too time consuming and frustrating to keep using, I was nervous about losing the main tool I had come to rely on to help me keep my weight and my healthy eating on track. But it didn’t take long to become confident in my ability to maintain my weight without tracking every bit and sip. Then, a few weeks ago, I noticed that my tummy wasn’t as flat as it had been a year ago, and the scale informed me that I had gained back four pounds. I realized it was time to start learning to use the new version of Carb Manager and get back to tracking my calories and macros. I have already shed two of those four pounds and returned to weighing myself every two weeks, so that if my weight creeps up a pound or two, I can nip that trend in the bud and return to my ideal weight quickly and easily, simply by cutting back on the carbs for a week or two.
The Best Advice to Maintain Your Keto Diet Weight Loss by Margaret Schindel
Posts In This Series About My Keto Diet Journey
Reviews of the Keto Diet by Barbara C. (aka Brite-Ideas)
Read More Reviews About Health and Wellness by Our Review This Reviews Contributors
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