Saturday, November 26, 2011
I had an awesome Thanksgiving with my extended family on Thursday. Besides getting to spend some quality time with those I love, I indulged in some of my favorite holiday foods including turkey (skinless breast meat only please), sweet potatoes (topped with marshmallows and infused with brown sugar and butter), pumpkin pie, chocolate pie and ice cream. So, yeah, I definitely went over my caloric range for Thanksgiving, but I tracked everything I ate (all 3,051 calories) and don't feel bad about it at all. I know that if I hadn't tracked my food, I'm sure I would have probably consumed at least three times that amount! With 28 people at our family Thanksgiving, there was a ton of food to go around. There were plenty of goodies that I looked at and thought to myself, "I don't even want to try to figure out how to track that." So, for the most part, unless it was something healthy or easy to measure, I skipped it. I had my food scale with me and was able to access the recipes of the things I really, really wanted to try.
Speaking of my food scale, it's funny how people treat my methods a little differently now that I've actually lost a significant amount of weight. Back in May and June, when I would bring my trusty scale with me to events, I would get a few laughs and "oh brother" grunts out of some people. At Thanksgiving (64 lbs lighter), no one questioned my scale, my food selections or really anything I did. The only questions were "how much weight did you lose?" and "how did you lose the weight?" During Thanksgiving, I think I also received the most compliments on my weight loss since I started. This was probably because of the number of people in attendance who have actually seen me before and after. The results speak for themselves. I have obviously lost a lot of weight. Basically, it's awesome!
So, yes, Thanksgiving was great. I was especially thankful this year because I'm really starting to live life again. And, the more you actually get out and live your life, the more you notice all of the things you have to be grateful for. I'm thankful for my partner who stuck with me during some of the darker moments of my life. I'm grateful for my family and friends. I'm grateful for my business and our clients. I'm thankful that I came upon SparkPeople back in May and that I decided to get back in shape when I did (rather than wait another month, week or day). I'm grateful for being able to walk a long distance now, without getting winded. I'm thankful for being able to run, if I need to or want to. And, I'm very grateful for a summer and fall full of more experiences and fun than I have had in many years.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
I'm getting in a quick post far away from home. I'm on my last night of a mini-vacation visiting a friend in Arizona, so I need to keep this brief. It's been a great visit, especially since it is sunny and warm. Tomorrow I head home to a snowy, dark and cold Minnesota. Something else that made this trip memorable is how awesome it was to travel and have the energy to do a bunch of physical activities that I would never have been willing (or able) to do 6 months ago (pre-Spark). I'll talk about it more once I'm back at home. But, let's just say I climbed a mountain. Literally… I hiked up a freakin' mountain!
Friday, November 11, 2011
6 Months. It's amazing what can change in six months. Heck, it's amazing what can change in six days! In my last post, I explained what attracted me to SparkPeople and what keeps me here. Today, I thought I would go over some of those real life rewards and tell you a little bit about how far I've come personally. A couple of days ago, I had my 6 Month SparkVersary. I was down 60 pounds that morning, although my ticker isn't updated yet since Mondays are my official weigh-in days. The best part of this whole experience is that so much more has changed over these six months than just losing 60 pounds. I've lost over 9" from my waist, about 5" from my hips and over 3" from my neck. I have stronger muscles and more self confidence. I feel 1000% healthier. I sleep better. I don't get winded doing ordinary daily tasks. I can comfortably do things now I wouldn't have dreamt of doing six months ago. I've gone from not wanting to leave the house much to really wanting to get out and go places again. Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely a work in progress and still have a ways to go. But, these changes are so rewarding that I know with certainty there is no turning back. Now, more than ever, I know that I will be able to make it to my goal weight.
Speaking of changes, today I also took on the role of Team Leader at the SparkMinneapolis/St.Paul team. I'm really excited about this because it should be a great way to give back to the system that is helping me achieve my goals. Minneapolis is currently the #2 city on SparkPeople in regards to Fitness Minutes logged (#1 when adjusted for population). Because of this, I would really like to *spark* the activity on our team's forums and have more of those members that are burning through the fitness minutes reach out to build a stronger local team and help to motivate those that may be having more of a struggle with exercise, weight loss or other goals. I know people like to do their own thing (myself included) and most people belong to several groups/teams. But, even with all of our different goals, I think a strong sense of local support could be helpful for a lot of people. We'll see how that pans out. Wish me luck!
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.
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