Friday, November 04, 2011
Yesterday, I talked a little bit about what motivated me to start losing weight back in May, but I didn't cover why I chose SparkPeople to help me along this journey. The reasons seemed worthy of their own post, so here it is. Also, as a side note to anyone who read my very first blog post: see, now I've got my three posts and have earned my bonus pound credit! w00t!
Ok, back to the story. I mentioned yesterday that I had lost weight in the past by tracking my food and exercise. Back in May, the web site I had used off and on over the years was having some troubles. Basically, the site seemed to be on auto-pilot for a few years and sometimes the site could go down for days. In all honesty, their food tracking system was better than SparkPeople's. However, a web site's features really don't matter if the site goes down unexpectedly for hours and even days at a time. I had used this other site for years, so it was going to be a challenge for me to try to find another trusted system for tracking everything. I was also looking for a site that might be a little more "sticky" as we call it in the industry. Even though the other site was awesome for tracking stuff, it was kind of BYOM (bring your own motivation). This can be fine; it had worked for me before. But, being at my heaviest weight ever, I felt like I was going to need a little more help than usual and there really wasn't anything bringing you back to that other site day after day.
So, I tried out a few web sites comparing features like food/nutrition tracking, exercise and fitness tracking, mobile capabilities, as well as other content like articles, forums and the general sense of community. For a week or two, I actually tracked everything in multiple places with the intention of picking the best via my experiences. Some sites got chopped after a day or two; others lasted a week or so. I believe it was down to SparkPeople and one or two others, with one already having a serious disadvantage because the community members there seemed kind of pompous and maybe even mean (and no, I'm not going to name any of the other web sites since it was just my personal experience). I was starting week 2 or maybe week 3 and then I discovered SparkPoints. For me, this changed everything and the selection process was over.
As I mentioned in my first post, I'm super competitive. I can also easily get addicted to games (online social games in particular). A year or so ago, I came across Cracked.com's "5 Creepy Ways Video Games Are Trying to Get You Addicted." The article talks about behavioral game design. After reading the article, I was able to stop playing some of the games that I was addicted to and also break away from the more addictive aspects of other games. Isn't the saying something like "knowing is half the battle"? It's kind of crazy, but there is way more psychology behind a lot of the major video games out there than you would ever imagine.
I recommend reading the article whether you are a gamer or not; it's pretty interesting and you might get a better idea of what I'm talking about. The article spans two pages, but it isn't very long; here's the link: www.cracked.com/article_18461_5-cree
I quickly realized that SparkPoints (and the methods in which you earn them) were perfect examples of behavioral game design. And, unlike most online games, the rewards were real. I'm not talking about the trophies (which your brain actually does treat as real rewards), I'm talking about weight loss, self confidence, stronger muscles, etc. It would be total immersion into a healthy lifestyle. Articles, quizzes, trivia, forum posts, exercise and food tracking; they all racked up your points. SparkPeople has it all in behavioral game design: the easing in with the increase in time and effort between levels, the user avoidance of losing what you have accumulated (SparkStreaks) and even "Variable Ratio Rewards" in the form of the daily and bonus spins.
The difference is that at SparkPeople we can use these motivators to accumulate knowledge and engage in healthy activity instead of becoming morbidly obese, sedentary zombies.
Now, go rack up those SparkPoints!
Thursday, November 03, 2011
I came to SparkPeople on May 9th, 2011 after being at my all-time heaviest weight for about 2 months. Like a lot of people struggling to lose a significant amount of weight, I have a nice, long and complicated "sad story" to call my own. But, at this point, it doesn't really matter. So, I'll spare you the deets. I had lost weight in the past by tracking my food and exercise, so I knew it could be done and I knew it would take a long time. There were many factors that pushed me to start again, although I can't remember most of them right now.
I do remember seeing a friend of mine that had recently lost a significant amount of weight. He looked great and his weight loss definitely inspired me. He was on what most would call a very low calorie diet using some type of fancy milk shake system while being monitored by doctors. I couldn't afford this program and wouldn't necessarily want to do it if even I could. But, his success reminded me of how it's really all about calories in versus calories out. Some people disagree over this, but I'll save that for a future post. Anyway, I knew from past experience that I didn't need my caloric intake to be as low as my friend's. Plus, since I don't have the fruit and veggie aversion he has, I knew I would be able to actually eat more and still keep my calories fairly low. I also knew from past experience that my intake had to be less than the numbers given to me by my physician. I would say that I'm on more of a "low calorie" versus "very low calorie" diet. And, I've been slowly bumping up my caloric range as I've been adding more exercise to my plan. I'm pretty sure that I exercised more in October than several of the prior months combined. Also, I use the term "diet" very loosely since the way I've been eating is really how I should always be eating: mindfully and measured.
Wednesday, November 02, 2011
This isn't quite what I had in mind as my first blog post here, but then most things in life don't happen exactly as you plan them. In my head, my first blog post was going to be an announcement of some great milestone or achievement, or maybe a posting at a time when I would really need an extra push of support. However, I decided to post today because of a team challenge I'm participating in. The challenge is kind of in the style of Biggest Loser or Survivor with teams that whittle down as the weeks goes by and bonus challenges that allow to you earn extra pounds each week. This week we could earn bonus pounds by tracking all of our food for a certain number of days and by blogging three times. I track everything every day, so that was no problem. But, I've been holding out on blogging for a variety of reasons. However, I'm super competitive and after losing weight consistently for 24 weeks, I actually gained two pounds this week. Thus, I really need those bonus pound credits! So, here I am.
More tomorrow; remember, I need three posts!
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