Monday, September 28, 2009
So, my camera refused to cooperate with me, I have no pictures (sorry, JENONTHEROX)!
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from a Sparkpeople convention, aside from the usual convention panels and activities, but winging it is my specialty.
The early-morning drive from Cbus to Cincy was uneventful, if foggy. I got to the convention center and parked in the lot across the street (which showed $3 for parking on Saturdays, but "ticketed" me for being there more than eight hours, grr) and headed in to pick up my packet.
Nice stuff - some questionable food samples (but those chocolate-covered cranberries came in handy later in the day), magnet, keychain, hair ties, a SP t-shirt, some Udder Cream, a Mission lipbalm - in a cloth SparkPeople bag.
Heading back out to the car, I spotted BILLALEX70 and TAMZTIME. I love meeting online friends in person, especially folks who are as friendly and outgoing in person as they are online (my other online love being Harry Potter, there is a large contingent of folks there who simply don't interact well in person). I wandered around a little, signed the huddle wall thingy and went in for the opening session.
It seems like all successful entrepreneurs are good dreamers, who can see the endpoint of anything they start, and it was no different with Chris Downie. He has an infectious joie de vivre that has carried through to Sparkpeople - it's not just a site, it's a community where you have the choice to do as much or as little with it as you choose. However, the more you do, the more you reach out, the more you strive to change not only yourself, but others - you truly can change the world.
Sounds sappy, but it's a philosophy that's been ingrained in me from adolescence through Rainbow Girls. I've already got a lot of buy in with the success I've had using SP. But it wasn't until I started reaching out to others, interacting through the site message boards, comments, Sparkpages, etc. - that I felt like I was doing this for a reason. That whatever pain or struggle I'd been through (and let's admit it, aren't many people overweight because they've dealt with pain and struggle by eating?), I could help another person feel better about their journey, give them the benefit of some small experience that might help them along the way, or simply perk them up. I know that's happened to me, many times, probably by people who don't even realize that 30-second comment made my day. :)
I hooked back up with BILLALEX70 and TAMZTIME after that and met KJNE80 at the break and we sat together for the remainder of the sessions. (Did I mention that everyone I met was super-nice and a blast? Oh, okay.)
The second session was SP's success stories, told by the folks who'd lived them. And you know - wow. I was wowed. I mean, as SARGEANTMAJOR always says, "It's simple, but not easy." Losing 50+ pounds is a life changing experience, and to bring yourself out, even to a friendly audience is even more inspiring. At first, I thought to myself, "you know, you ought to get up and do something like that," then I remembered how much agony it was to post my before and after pictures and thought again. Someday. I gotta work that out.
What I found enlightening was the fact that few people seemed to be shocked at discussing emotional eating, nor did they gawp at the idea of eating a 20-piece bucket of chicken - alone. In the general public, that is verboten - you are not permitted to acknowledge the manifestation of deep-seated emotion. I've known people to visibly cringe when talking about how to defeat "cravings" and "holidays" - because addressing the underlying emotions in order to defeat those compulsions is too uncomfortable to look in the eye.
At lunchtime, I unloaded my bag and parked myself at a table with BUCKEYESKIER, METAMORPHOSISAB, APPLEPIEDREAMS and LESSISMORE4ME, among others. I hit the road for the lunchtime walk (I deliberately left my trainers at home so I would be forced into a rest day) and talked with BUCKEYESKIER.
Afternoon sessions were tons of fun, too, with SP Nancy talking about transforming herself into a runner and dietician SP Becky talking about how to load your plate and eat more mindfully. (My growing up experience was the opposite of hers - we would pick and pick and dig and shuck and clean and cook and can and freeze and store, BUT it was always implied that it was a necessity for leaner times and the reward was getting to eat out...reinforcing a notion that had to be broken in me.) It was fun, again, to have KJNE80 beside me to testify to the CHURCH OF SPARKPEOPLE - amen!
Little packages of trail mix were handed out at the start of the session and we were instructed to save them until later...but some folks opened them up and ate them immediately. When it came time for the mindful eating exercise, I had TROUBLE just eating ONE piece at a TIME. Luckily, I couldn't eat anything but the nuts, but STILL. I was a bit LOL-tastic in my own mind...the struggle continues!!!!
I kind of hovered around the edges (er, sorry y'all) of conversations and smiled at lots of people. :) It was...not exciting...comforting? No...reassuring!...to see big "losers" with similar body shapes. I try to think "so what" when I look at my sad (littler) body and often forget how much more powerful it is now - it's hard to reconcile what I can do vs. what I "see" in the mirror. To know folks who've run marathons, biked 80, 100, 180 miles for cancer awareness, were bedridden and didn't resign to pain and death, who have overcome so many things and accomplished so much - it was...SPARK-worthy!
I did pre-order the Spark book, because as time goes on, I know more and more, and I do think that what was said about the book is true - diet books always have this plan and a specific setup for accomplishing the diet - but when you've hit the last page, what then? How do you continue to move forward? How do you give back? That is something this book delves into. Hopefully it's the tipping point for the SP movement.
Finally, it was over. I would've liked to stay for drinks and dinner, but IKEA beckoned, and I knew I had to be up early in the am. So I bid farewell and hit the road - but will definitely be waiting for the next SP convention.