As mentioned in my feed and on my Spark Page, I'm going on a permanent (or semi-permanent if I randomly decide to return) hiatus from SparkPeople. I'm not deleting my page or removing teams or friends, just in case I do return for any reason, but I've found I don't use any of the tools any more.
SparkPeople served the basic purpose I needed at the time I started, which originally was just food tracking and adding a bit of walking, with a goal of ending a decade or so of deliberately gaining weight to hide, to be invisible. I started at 250.5 pounds and over the course of 16 to 18 months lost up to 80, my all-time low in probably 15 years was 166.5 pounds.
Unfortunately, as I got down to that point, I was losing balance. Instead of excesses in food, I had traded in excesses in exercise and an obsessiveness on weight loss. I would follow the daily range recommended, plus a little, only to end up seriously hungry and eating more for a day or two.
I'd never been a yo-yo dieter in the past or dealt with anything along the line of binges, and here I was actually close to my general goal ... only to be losing touch with lifestyle and obsessing with weight loss. I was eating and exercising in ways that were beginning to look unhealthy and nonsustainable.
I would buy a jar of peanut butter for sandwiches, and it would be gone in two days. I tracked it all, but was mad at myself for even getting INTO that kind of behavior pattern. At one point in there, I would buy candy bars, not the little one or two serving size, but the massive ones "because it costs less for the large ones" then eating it over the course a day or two.
I had gone from 15 minute walks of less than a mile in September 2011 to some days walking from a train to work (12 minutes), a longer route in the evening (29 minutes), doing an hour of cardio at the gym, then walking home from the gym (25 minutes). I wasn't just doing it on days I wanted to walk. I was doing it to build up my numbers - more minutes of activity, more calories burned. Those had become the entire reason I was walking so much. I also got to where I would eat a huge candy bar, but convince myself it was okay because lo, and behold, if I could eat less of everything else and exercise enough, I could make the Calories In Calories Out say I had a deficit.
What woke me out of that was making a shift in how I handle my finances. I'm much more in control of long-term predictable expenses now and even building up for the (*scowl*) required medical coverage or penalties for failure to be forced to be an insurance company's source of profit. (*avoids ranting by a hair*) I now have a separate account into which I set aside weekly portions toward expenses, then pay those when due. I've wanted to escape my "paycheck to paycheck" mentality for a long time, and this was the big step.
The more carefully I tracked and managed and arranged, the less I could put up with being careless with my health. I couldn't continue down that path, but realized that SP's tools and information didn't provide what I needed. Too often even here on SP the message of a lifestyle change gets diluted. (The new book might be about making a long-term change, but what is the big selling point? It's a "complete two week diet program".)
I stopped and actually looked at the Start Page.
What's the important number when we enter our food? Calories. Sure, we can track other nutrients, but Calories is the big number that shows up on the Start Page. (It can't even tell us how many fruits and veggies we had ...)
What's the important number when we enter our activity? Again, minutes and miles and steps show up, but Calories is the big number on the Start Page.
There it was every day -- nutrition (Calories), activity (Calories) and weight.
I finally managed to stabilize my thinking back to food as nutrition and activity for health. During the transitions I made, I did regain some weight - notably because I adjusted my activity down (from over 7000 calories burned a week to almost half that) without reducing my eating.
Oh, and "awful confession" time. Because at some point in I think March I said something about setting 180 as my cap while I transitioned, there was a point that I passed it ... and stopped reporting my weight honestly on SP or in my publicly available spreadsheet. (I've corrected the spreadsheet.) I kept track of the real weight in two places that were just for me, where I could make genuine decisions from the information, but didn't want to deal with anyone offering help or support, so I kept it away from others. At the very most, it was 10 pounds off from the real weight. Until a couple days ago, it was coming closer together. Yesterday's weight is real, as is today's - which will be the last I post.
I'll end with a general summary
Where I am as of today, 16 July 2013
I have a workout routine I enjoy. I can skip an occasional day as needed. I don't "count calories". (To generally keep track, I record them as 800 for days I do an hour of cardio, 400 for days I do weight training, 200 for days I walk briskly for an hour, and 0 if I skip. Those give me a very quick comparison of activity day to day by which I can adjust food or understand broader weight shifts.
I have made my primary workout motivation a desire to not lose any progress. While I'm very careful not to overtrain (one reason I do allow myself to skip when I feel physically not up to it), I hate missing a couple days and then feeling like my normal challenge level has become much harder to accomplish. If I'm using resistance level 9 as my starting point and suddenly I'm dropping that to 7 because I slacked off for a week, dang right I'm back in there building back up to 9 and aiming for 10 with a renewed determination.
When I do cardio, I am mostly concerned with how my heart is beating, how my lungs are handling the oxygen demands, and how my joints and body in general are taking the activity. That's it. As long as my heart is beating within the basic range needed, the calories take care of themselves. As long as I throw in alternate activities such as ice-skating or a long trail walk, and making little challenges to go faster, push harder, so I'm never stagnating, my fitness improves.
For a while there I had to just close my mind to the calories in. As I said, I did regain some (I was almost up to 190 and am back down to 184-185). It took weeks to settle into what I wanted my routine workouts to be week to week. I even dropped tracking at all for a few weeks (March-April period). Once I got back to it, my main concerns were keeping sodium sensible and protein well-provided. Every other number could be ignored as long as it wasn't an extreme need or dangerous excess.
What I learned and mentioned in another blog is that my metabolism is most definitely fast. I kind of knew that, but with holding a deficit, I didn't ever get a clear idea of how much faster.
With my height 5'7.75" and weight at 187, a workout routine that means approximately 4000 calories burned a week or less, the BMR calculation says I should be eating around 2470 calories to maintain. In the month of May I found I was eating an average of 3440 a day but mostly bouncing up and down, gaining a pound or two at most. That's right ... with what SP and BMR Calculators would consider a 1000 calorie surplus daily, I was burning most of it naturally.
I'm pulling that down very gradually with minor adjustments -- primarily things that when I look at I scratch my head and wonder why. Two sticks of string cheese at a time instead of one? When did that slip in? A triple serving of granola in a big bowl instead of one and a half in a smaller bowl? If I'm that hungry, I'm making eggs and boosting my protein intake.
I love spreadsheets, and use GoogleDocs a lot.
One spreadsheet I use to log what I eat - having added very simple information over three months. It only calculates calories and protein, based on the quantities. When I get home in the evening, I fill it into my recipe software and get all the nutrition data, clearing the log spreadsheet for a new day. It's a very fast, sometimes a tiny bit off, look at where I am through the day, easily accessible and usable on my phone in a way SP's mobile app just never managed to be.
Another spreadsheet is the Fitness log I have had linked in my signature:
It is based on a spreadsheet I'd seen 4A-HEALTHY-BMI link to with her own tracking, a few tinkers to my information and what I wanted to see.
I have a second similar one that only has the more basic information and then three columns for brief journal-like notes about the day. Those let me note why I skip a day at the gym or that I ate out with DDa, so I don't just have a number but a reason.
APPEARANCE / CLOTHING
I haven't quite outgrown any of the new clothes, but I'm at that too-snug, she should really wear the next size up point. Thankfully, I'm on the way down so the next problem will be when I hit the "whoops, these got too stretched out and need replacing" point.
I've noticed I'm less and less happy with the excess weight around my middle. I've got all this great muscle underneath - not just the middle, but arms, buttocks, calves - and it's squishy and padded. That, and the body fat % number on my scale, have been bugging me.
I don't usually like to think with appearance, because the usual point is what others think of it. But I'm finally at a point where it is my OWN attention to it that matters. That is hugely important. I want to look better for me. It's like the difference between eating for nutrition and eating for the number of calories in the way my mind approaches things.
I'm dressing up more, taking care of my hair and skin more. I'm not going girly, but dang did I buy myself some sexy heels that I wore to a July 4th BBQ and love the feel of walking in them. There's other little things, but when I am dressing and seeing these cute or sexy clothes, I want to make my body more fit rather than continue to half-abuse it just because I'm not "obese", I'm just "overweight".
All of that, and I don't give a fig when someone external to me comments because I know I'm doing it to please myself alone.
I think this is where I've finally had to decide I'm fully on hiatus from SP. For a long time I wasn't as happy with the tools, but they did the job, and they came with an absolutely incredible community. I loved supporting others, whether it was little surprise SparkGoodies or comments on blogs, pages, or pictures, or responses to threads. But that gets time-consuming (any forum or website does) and once I lost the other reasons for being here by replacingthe tools ... I faded away.
I've been broadening my social activities locally, adding a couple of groups I meet up with, as well as writing a lot more in various pieces of fiction. I have a novel to get back to writing so I can revise it (at 55,000 words now).
All adding up to ... for all that I really care about quite a few people here, that alone isn't enough reason to log in. (And it feels terrible to say, but if the only reason for caring was the shared need to eat healthier and be more active, there's not as much there as building a potential friendship with a wider variety of shared interests. I need to connect more directly with people, something I've avoided for many many years. Online friendships are so much easier to disconnect. It's time to actually get to know people locally more than "Oh, I see you at the gym."
This OUTLAW is riding off into the sunset.
May you all find your own paths and enjoy as much of your life journey as you can!
You will be missed, but in one corner of my mind I will always remember good times and good online friends!