Monday, April 07, 2008
Well, I've just checked, and as of April 4th, I've been a member of Spark people for over two years now. What has changed?
I've lost nearly 40 pounds so far, most of it in the first 7 months with Spark people. Then, I maintained that weight loss through about 7 different major life stressors (ended an engagement, quit a job, moved, death in family, serious illness in family, moved again, started new job). It's been an interesting year or two. What helped? My new good habits that Sparkpeople taught me.
1. Start small. Every little bit counts (both in exercise and in nutrition).
2. Track everything. This helps you control what you can, while forcing you to realize what you can't control.
3. Develop good habits and it's harder to be derailed. If you're consistently tracking everything, it's easier to see that occasional off moments don't have to mean sliding completely off track. Just because I overate at one meal doesn't mean I've "blown it" and might as well take the rest of the week off. Tracking shows that all it really means is that you can start fresh the next day, or the next meal.
4. Take it one choice at a time. When I started, I didn't even know what I didn't know. Looking at my life now, I've changed in so many ways that it would take a LONG essay to even list them all. None of it happened overnight; all of it happened one choice at a time.
5. Be gentle with yourself. You can only do your best. Some days your best isn't as good as it is other days. Realizing that this is ok, and that it's a natural cycle has made such a difference. As I've learned to be more forgiving of myself, I've found my manner towards others also becoming more gentle. I like who I'm becoming.
6. Sharing with others really helps. It's scary to ask for help sometimes, and it can even be really intimidating to realize you need help. The positive community of all the Sparkers has really made a difference to me. I know that many times, logging on and chatting with team members made a difference. The accountability factor can be incredible. Most impressive? In my darkest night, when I was ready to throw in the towel completely, feeling that if I couldn't track everything every day then I should probably just quit and try again once my life settled down, I posted on the "Help!" thread. Almost immediately, two strangers took me to task the in the most loving way possible, and called me on my behavior. Just because I couldn't do everything perfectly didn't mean I had to give up. Such a valuable lesson, and delivered at just the right moment. (I kept tracking as I could, despite my crazy travel schedule, and now I'm delighted to realize that I can estimate fairly accurately how much I've eaten. This, for a non-mathematical English major, is a substantial accomplishment, and one I would never even have aimed for otherwise!)
7. Scaffolding really works! The idea is that you can take success in one area and use it to build success in other areas as well. For example, my new awareness of nutrition in the grocery store has led to greater awareness of cost, which has led to better budgeting than ever before. Learning how to break down huge goals, such as "lose weight," into manageable chunks has helped me to begin breaking down another huge goal, "keep a tidier house." It all ties together!
So, on my second anniversary, Sparkpeople, I just wanted to thank you again for saving my life. My habits are much healthier and I've learned how to succeed. I'm lighter in body, stronger, and more able to tackle everyday challenges. I'm happier and more able to choose my happiness. I'm even a nicer person.
Thank you. I look forward to seeing what the next two years bring!