Articles » Lifestyle » General Health » Weight Loss Vs. Weight Maintenance: What’s The Difference?

Weight Loss Vs. Weight Maintenance: What’s The Difference?

By Marc Perry / March 18, 2018

Beach season is fast approaching, which means the 50% of the people who normally don’t go to the gym but have a gym memberships are suddenly avid exercisers.

Everyone is in a mad dash to lose the 10lb of fat gained during winter hibernation, but sadly few will be successful.

Here’s the Truth:

1. Most people don’t get any results despite considerable effort

2. Even if results are achieved, keeping those results are unlikely

Why is this so?

While there are many answers to this question, I believe a contributing factor is the mismanagement of goals and expectations – particularly the difference between weight loss vs. weight maintenance.

There is a huge difference between what is required to change our bodies by losing weight versus maintain our existing weight and physical condition, which may not properly understood, or appreciated.

Weight Loss: Are You Ready For Battle?

If you are in the camp of wanting to lose as much fat as possible before that beach trip this summer, it’s important to mentally get ready for a serious battle.

Steamrolling ahead is not a smart strategy if you are not mentally ready to handle the discomfort of changing your eating and exercise habits. Notice I didn’t use the word “sacrifice” to describe changing your habits – not having fries with your burger is not a sacrifice, but it does create discomfort.

Do these lines sound familiar? These are the lines used by people who aren’t mentally ready for battle:

“I’m going to ‘try’ to workout while I’m traveling next week”

“I’m going to ‘try’ to eat better”

“I’m going to ‘try’ to lose 10 pounds”

Getting the body you want isn’t about trying, it’s about doing. I’ve certainly found myself using the dreaded “try” line more than I would care to admit, but I catch myself when I do. Trying is for people who accept failure as an option. We need to create a mindset shift where success is the only option. Keep in mind the words we use have a major impact on our success.

If you are losing (not “trying” to lose) 5 to 10 pounds, follow this 5 step plan, which is the same exact 5 steps everyone who successfully completes my BuiltLean Program follows:

1) Self Assessment
2) Set Your Goal (& The Reason Why That Goal is Important To You)
3) Create, or Identify Your Plan
4) Take Action
5) Track Progress

So what happens if you simply aren’t ready, or don’t want to make improvements to your body? The next section will discuss some strategies for maintaining your existing condition.

Weight Maintenance: Cruising With The Top Down

Weight maintenance is a beautiful thing. It’s possible to maintain a high level of physical conditioning without nearly the same amount of effort as it took to get to that fitness level. Yep, your just cruising along with the top down, enjoying the fruits of your labor.

But just like the line “a fool and his money are soon parted”, the same applies to your body. If you make a lot of bad decisions and either massively overeat, or don’t exercise at all, you will lose whatever results you have been able to achieve.

In my opinion, weight maintenance is a lot of fun, because you can try different routines, different types of exercises, or activities like hiking etc., and as long as you stay consistent with a few workouts per week of sufficient intensity, you should be able to keep your results.

While maintaining your results isn’t quite a walk in the park, it’s pretty close. It goes back to mindset – if you are happy and excited to eat well 90% of the time, you will more than likely be able to maintain great results. Of course, if you “let yourself go”, we all know how fast results can be lost with mindless eating and lack of exercise – very, very fast!

It’s totally cool to go from Body Change to Maintenance as you see fit. The mental wiring that needs to be changed is going from weight loss to body destruction, which is normally how the process works – “Ok, I just killed myself for 3 months and lost 20lb of fat, now it’s time to reward myself”. That kind of mindset invariably leads to the yoyo effect of fat gain/loss over and over and over again.

So where are you at? Weight loss (or muscle gain) or maintenance?


  • Farseer says:

    Excellent article; thanks, Marc!

    It's funny, but I couldn't put my finger on why the gym has been more crowded lately. It's almost like the first week of January again... ;)

  • Mike dicarlo says:

    Great article Marc! You really hit the nail on the head. I liken it to being an alcoholic, until you hit the bottom and really decide in your heart to change and commit to it 100%, it won't happen. Thats how it was for me at least and now, 3 years later I'm within shooting distance, 4 pounds away from hitting 150 lbs lost. This has absolutely been the biggest thing I have ever done in my life and i WILL NOT go back. People keep telling me that I should stop, not to get "too thin" but they just don't get it. After so much hard work and dedication why would I stop now? This is a lifelong commitment that I have made, there is no stopping, there is no going back, and there are no excuses! Thanks again for being a great resource and all the hard work that you do informing people and inspiring us on our journeys.

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      Thanks a lot Mike, appreciate the kind comment and that's awesome you are so close to reaching your goal!

  • Valerie says:

    Hi Marc,

    Thanks so much for the great articles! I just stumbled onto your stuff while seaching for the proper push-up form, and I'm so excited to find you.

    Here's how you can help me...I'm totally committed to this fitness journey. I'm tracking my calories, working out at LEAST 5 times per week, and starting to see some some results. But, the scale doesn't seem to want to catch up, and I really feel like food is my problem. I'm learning what to eat (and what not to eat so often), but I do not know how MUCH - in terms of calories. I'm 35 years old, just had my second baby (6 months ago, lol), weigh 234 lbs, and am 5'6". I sit at my desk all day, but, like I said, work out all the time doing circuit training and Couch to 5K. I used your calculator, took away 30% and my total is at about 2200 calories a day. Yikes! Can that be right?? I've been sticking around 1600, and that is a pretty big difference. Your thoughts?? 2200? 1600? Could this be the reason the scale is thwarting me?? Any insight would be super helpful. Thank you so much! Keep up the good work!!! :)

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Valerie - Thanks for the kind words regarding the site and I'm super excited you found BuiltLean! I think all the working out you are doing is great. Congrats. You ask two very good questions which I will summarize to make sure I am reading you correctly (1) how do you know how much you've eaten and (2) what should be the right calorie level? Regarding #1, I have some solid tips on not only tracking your nutrition intake, but also better understanding portion sizes right here - Free Printable Food Journal Template. Another very important tip is to eat slower. It takes our brains 20 minutes to recognize we are full, so if you slow down your eating, it can help you eat less food in general. Regarding number 2, it's tricky. In my experience, the calorie burn calculations overestimate calorie burn for people who have a decent amount of fat to lose. While I'm not a nutritionist, my guess is somewhere around 1600 could work well, but you may want to start at 2000 if that's easier and slowly taper down. There is no question nutrition is the most important part of the body transformation equation. Just keep in mind it takes time to develop good habits. You may consider checking out this post as well - Divide & Conquer: Small Changes Add Up. And one more thing, filling up on veggies, lean meats, watery fruits (berries, apples, grapefruit), and smaller portions of nuts/seeds is a pretty darn good strategy to keep nutrients high and calories low.