The most consistently neglected part of the weight loss process is the phase of “maintenance.” Without solidifying our ability to maintain, our chances of creating lasting change in our relationship with food or enduring weight loss are slim. Change is not a one shot deal.

Just as quitting smoking involves a lot more than throwing your cigarettes in the trash, conquering emotional eating is something we do over and over again, in big and little ways, as we build new patterns and tools for coping and new ways of being in our worlds.

Many of my clients come to me after significant periods in their lives when they’ve walked on the road they want to be on. They’ve taken charge of their relationship with food. They’ve found the groove of eating the way they wanted to eat. They’ve lost the weight and felt the excitement and the satisfaction.

And then something happened.

Their focus on food and eating increased. The activity level decreased. The cravings changed. The weight came back. And now they are feeling defeated and tired and they have a bit (or a lot) less hope then they did before. They're usually feeling pretty guilty and mad at themselves which makes things even harder.

Change is not a one shot deal.

You probably know how it works. You’ve made a successful change. You feel proud. You feel like celebrating. Or you decide you really don’t need to be quite so disciplined anymore. You start to slack off or you loosen the reins a bit. Is this a bad thing? Haven’t you earned it? How do you know?

Maintenance is not something that happens automatically—AND maintenance is the stage where all the hard work can pay off, or can start to unravel. Most of my clients are very clear that they know HOW to make changes. They know how to lose weight (if that’s their goal). What they struggle with is keeping it off. What they don’t want to do is lose the weight and then have to lose it AGAIN.

Working at maintenance isn't as dramatic or visibly rewarding as starting something new. Because "maintaining" is the goal, you aren't seeing the motivating external changes or smaller numbers on the scale. Your clothes fit the same way everyday. But putting a firm foundation for long term maintenance in place is crucial. Sometimes this is the phase where extra support and accountability can pay off big.

My advice to you: don't hesitate to get the support you need to establish a solid foundation of maintenance. You've worked too hard to create the changes you've begun to put into place. What do you need to do to make sure that you don't short change yourself?

Author's Bio: 

Melissa McCreery, PhD, ACC, is a Psychologist, ICF Certified Life Coach, emotional eating expert, and the founder of, a company dedicated to providing smart resources to busy women struggling with food, weight and overwhelm. Find out more and pick up her free audio series: “5 simple steps to move beyond overwhelm with food and life” at

Copyright 2008 - Melissa McCreery, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Reprint Rights: You may reprint this article as long as you leave all of the links active, do not edit the article in any way, and provide full author credit.