As I was checking something on my Sparkpage I realized I have now been a Sparkpeople member for 4 years. How did that happen and where did the time go? I started reflecting on what brought me here, the ups and downs over the past four years and what I think is different about me now. Some of this I posted in my first blog so I’m sorry if I’m repeating myself a bit. This turned out to be pretty long so if you don’t want to read all this drivel you can skip to the end for the take home message.
How did I get started here? Looking at a start date of January 6 it looks like I was a resolutionist (a term I saw in someone’s blog recently and I really wanted to try out myself ). But I usually don’t make New Year’s resolutions and that’s not how I started. It was actually a post on a Michigan State sports related message board. Someone mentioned that they started a team on Sparkpeople for members of our message board and encouraged others to join. I had been slowly making progress on my fitness/weight loss journey but had not done anything systematic about my eating other than skipping meals and other dumb things like that. I decided to check it out. I was impressed with the ease of use - particularly the food tracker – and went ahead and joined. (Side note - Green Genes is the name I use on the message board so it carried over to Sparkpeople). Reading some of the resources taught me several important lessons such as: skipping meals is a really dumb way to get healthy and lose weight. You’ve got to eat to lose weight – kinda like you’ve got to spend money to make money. The team was fairly active for a while with a few active regulars and I eventually reached my initial goal by summer. Unfortunately, most of the team members slowly stopped posting, I lost interest and slipped away from Sparkpeople. Work related activities took over my priority list and fitness went by the waysisde. As you can imagine, I gained most of the weight back and by the end of the year I was up to over 200 pounds again.
In February 2010 I found out that our campus had a walking program which reinspired me to get back on my journey. In May I was heading back to Germany for a symposium so I thought I would see how close to my goal I could get by May. I remembered the success I had with tracking my food on Sparkpeople so I started tracking my food and fitness activities again. Surprise! I got pretty close to my goal in time for my trip. Inspired by my walking program, I decided to stay in a quaint hotel in a little village outside the town where my symposium was being held and walked to town every day. I was having a blast. By the end of the summer I was back at my goal weight and feeling great. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of thinking I had all the answers, I stopped tracking my nutrition, let work get in the way of my fitness plans and even stopped tracking my steps. By the spring of 2011 I slipped back over 210 pounds (who says yo-yos lose momentum?).
I eventually got my act together in the summer of 2011. I started tracking my steps again, revisited Sparkpeople and started tracking nutrition. This time I also started paying closer attention. What lessons had I missed that caused me to keep slipping back into old habits? What worked when I was having success? What caused me to slip away and what can I do to prevent it from happening again? The success part was simple – tracking. I’m not anal about tracking every morsel of food that I take in and I don’t worry if the exact food I eat is not available on the tracker. For me, close counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and nutrition tracking. The key point is simply tracking food and fitness activity. If I miss a day now and then, I don’t worry about it. I just get back at it and don’t make skipping a day become a habit. Surprise! It worked! I got back to my goal weight for the third time. Now comes the hard part. How do I keep it going? That’s where Sparkteams come into play. A Sparkteam got me started but my initial team disappeared. I looked for a Sparkteam for things I’m interested in and made sure they were active enough to hold my interest. I was disappointed that the remaining Michigan State teams were not particularly active so that wasn’t going to work. I had started looking into riding my bike to work and discovered the Slow Rider team. There are a couple of regulars who had interesting things to say and seemed to keep things going (especially the lead cyclepath Don!). I’m a golfer so I joined Golfers for Health. I started reading some blogs and checking out the Sparkpages of the people I liked on those teams. Some of them belong to a lot of teams and some of those teams looked interesting. I noticed a few of the guys around my age belonged to a team called 50+ Males which seemed perfect for me and which is now my main motivation. That led me to discover the Transition to Maintenance team which helped me realize that fitness/weight loss is a lifelong journey and not just a goal. I joined another cycling team, a German language team and now that I have a new FitBit, the FitBit team. All these teams are now an important part of a journey that I hope will last a long time. I have now been consistently tracking food and fitness for over one and a half years. I’m still oscillating a little but the peaks and valleys are getting smaller and smaller as I head into maintenance.
So here is what I’ve learned in four years.
Keep tracking. Even if you miss a day or two, just get right back at it. This is a long journey and one or two days is nothing in the bigger picture.
Make fitness a priority. It doesn't have to be THE priority, just keep it on your list.
Small steps can have a huge impact. Remember, it's a journey.
Use Sparkpeople community resources and make friends. Sparkpeople is full of awesome people and it's easy to make friends - even if they don't know it yet.
Have fun! Because if it's not fun, why do it?