Saturday, January 19, 2013
This was a tough blog to write. It took me two days. It's pretty easy for me to write pep talks reminding myself of what I need to do. This isn't one of those blogs. It's an introspection to figure out how I feel about my success. I've sorted some stuff out in the writing, but I don't have any conclusion on what I'll do about it.
Last week, I got an email from SP inviting me to submit my success story. I clicked the link, read the questions, and decided that I needed more time to think about them and answer them well. I haven't done that yet.
The next day, my sister posted a blog mentioning that she got a similar email, and wrestled with her emotions after self-identifying herself as a success. I told myself I'd get to that success story the next day, but I didn't.
Yesterday I got a SparkMail from the At Goal & Maintaining + Transition to Maintenance team pointing at a message board post soliciting success stories from team members. The post was substantially the same as the email. I am reminded that I still haven't done that story.
Part of it is inertia. I get used to doing what I'm doing, running or working or wrestling with a sore thigh and trying to figure out how much rest it needs, or trimming the last 100 calories I added to my nutrition plan because I won't be running as much as I thought, and so forth. The success story falls through the cracks.
Part of it is mental energy. I get busy at work, and at the end of the day I don't want to work that hard mentally putting things in a decent order to tell a success story.
Part of it is that I don't feel all that successful when I'm resting a sore hip instead of running. But that's an obvious red herring, because the non-response predates the hip flaming out.
If I do a surprise inspection of my emotional closet, the biggest part is that I don't really think I'm a particularly inspiring story. A few years back, it was said of a noted politician that he was born on third base and thought he hit a triple. From a weight loss and fitness perspective, I know quite well that I started on third base compared to many other people here.
Life is not fair. When it comes to weight loss and maintenance, the deck is stacked in my favor. How is it stacked in my favor? Let me count the ways.
1. I'm male. That gives me a margin of error that the ladies don't have. In the weight loss phase, I was typically eating 1900 calories per day. That's a lot easier to manage while still learning to give up junk and deal with fresh produce than 1200 or 1400 calories would be.
2. Not everyone has a fast metabolism. I do. I read other folks' blogs about having a bad week and gaining 5 pounds. I have to have a bad month to gain 5 pounds, and it hasn't happened since I started tracking food. I'd rather not think about how many calories I had to eat to gain 5 pounds in a month.
3. I'm an empty nester. This means I control what food is in my house, and I don't have to deal with anyone else when I prepare meals or snacks. This is HUGE. If I can avoid social situations, it's very easy to stay on plan. There's no case of a wife or child wanting a favorite high-calorie meal that I also love. Granted, I think I could deal with the social pressure now; but not having to deal with it was an enormous benefit during the weight loss phase and while slowly transitioning how I ate from optimized for low cost to optimized for health.
4. I've never been morbidly obese. Three times, I've been obese by BMI standards. None of those times lasted long, as I was able to get back into overweight land simply by exercising more (sometimes, just walking) and trying to eat only when I was hungry. This is probably a benefit of being a male with a fast metabolism; I did not suffer as much from terrible eating habits as other Sparkers did.
5. I run fast. I didn't know this when I started with SparkPeople; it came out of the 5K Your Way training. I trained to be able to run for 30 minutes, and had a 7:43 or so pace per mile the first time I did. By the time I finished the 5K training, I had a training pace of 7:10 to 7:25 per mile. That has got faster with practice and a few more pounds dropped; and running that fast certainly helps with keeping the fat off. But I can't tell you how to train to run fast, because I didn't train to run fast. The pace is just what happened when I trained to run continually.
6. I didn't have that much weight to lose. My initial weight loss goal on the Spark was to lose 21 pounds, from a starting weight of 196.6 to 175. In hindsight, I probably ate less than I should have in the weight loss phase; but I got away with it because it didn't last very long.
So, the big picture is: I'm a guy with a fast metabolism who can control what food is kept in the house, doesn't have to contend with an immediate family creating pressures on what's for dinner, can run at a pace that burns a lot of calories, and didn't have that much weight to lose in the first place. All I really had to do was track what I ate and be a bit more consistent getting physical activity. Is it any wonder I achieved my goal? It's like starting on third base, with a world class bunter at the plate to help me get home.
That's how I was successful, and I don't see how it's useful to great masses of people. A lot of what made me successful was simply my nature and where I started from. Life is not fair, and I recognize that I had the weight loss journey much, much easier than many other people.
Now, success at maintenance . . . that's an interesting thing. I think I still have it easier than many others, but my advantage might not be as great as it was for weight loss. I still have that fast metabolism, which gives me an incredibly generous maintenance calorie range. I do have to change that range in response to how active I am, with the scale passing verdict on whether I get the changes right. But even at the lowest that my maintenance range has been (70% of the highest it's been), the range was higher than what most female maintainers report. And it's a whole heck of a lot easier to cope with mistakes and fit all the necessary nutrients in if you have more calories to play with.
Now that I think about it, there might be something in here to make a success story; but it will be a lot of work to tease out the themes that might be generally helpful from the pure blind luck that doesn't apply to everyone.
I don't know if I'll respond to that request for success stories or not. It will be really hard to do so thoughtfully and helpfully instead of just bragging about results that weren't as much work for me as they would be for a lot of other people.