Recently, I interviewed Lauren Wardell (Sparkgirl32), who has lost 80 pounds with SparkPeople. She joined SparkPeople at 197 pounds but had previously tipped the scale at 211. Lauren, 23, lives near Chicago.
~Indygirl: What is your number one health priority and why?
Sparkgirl32: My number one health priority is making sure I am living a life of balance. I am so passionate about what I do and helping other people, I have to make sure that I am making MY health a priority. I LOVE structure, so I make sure I’m leading a life of balance by scheduling my workouts, time to plan my meals, and time [for SparkPeople]. I’ve been trying to get all my ME time (workouts, reading, meal planning) done first thing when I wake up in the morning. I find if I don’t do this, I don’t have that time for me. Me time is VERY important—it allows me to be the best me I can be! When I’m the best me I can be, I’m helping people to the best of my ability (which is a HUGE priority for me). Taking that time out for YOU is SO important and one of the most selfless things you can do! It can be hard to reprogram though, and that’s why I have to schedule my “me” time—I’m hoping eventually this won’t be the case and will be something I do automatically!
~Indygirl: How did you lose the weight?
Sparkgirl32: When people ask me for weight loss advice, they’re always surprised to hear my answer. It’s not a pill, exercise program, or specific diet. My #1 ingredient to a successful weight loss journey (and finding happiness in life) has been to be kind to myself! Prior to SparkPeople, if I didn’t make all of my goals (which were usually unrealistic to ask of myself), I would begin beating myself up. I would say things to myself like, “of course you weren’t able to follow through with your plan, you have no self-control” and “I’m never going to be able to lose weight. What’s it matter anyway? Even if I do lose the weight, I’m never going to be able to keep it off!”
Once I got on SparkPeople, the positive energy was CONTAGIOUS. I literally just immersed myself in everything Spark (haha). I tried to get ALL of my points for the day and immediately got back on track instead of beating myself up when I “fell off the wagon.” We don’t realize how much time we spend beating ourselves up (weeks, months, years) for not following our diet and exercise plans 100%. More times than not, when we beat ourselves up, it leads to getting off track even MORE. We usually end up emotionally eating, skipping workouts, and thinking that there’s no point in trying (we’re just going to fail anyway). I eliminated the concept of failure from my life and started reminding myself that there’s no such thing as failure—just feedback! Any time I got off track, I was still successful as long as I identified the trigger that caused me to fall off the wagon. When I did this, I identified my problem areas that caused me to get off track.
Building awareness is KEY to success—when you are aware of why you do things, you are much less likely to repeat the behavior in the future.
When I would have high-calorie days, I looked at the positive (I was keeping my metabolism guessing by calorie cycling). Beforehand, I would have thought of myself as a failure that would never be successful with weight loss. When something didn’t work for me (i.e., a type of exercise, a specific diet, etc.) and stressed me out, I searched for other solutions. In the past, when I picked a program that didn’t work and was unable to stick with it, I beat myself up for not finishing what I started. If you look through my blogs, I am CONSTANTLY changing my plan. Sometimes I even make plans and don’t even use them. That’s OK! I should be proud of myself that I’m even making a plan! We forget to give ourselves credit for the effort we put in towards even making goals—lots of people don’t even do that! I try to stick with plans that don’t stress me out. If you hate running, don’t run! If you hate calorie counting, try intuitively eating! Once you build confidence in your ability to lose weight, you can add the calorie counting. Do what works for you NOW :).
I also exchanged the “I’ll be happy when… [I reach my goal weight]” mentality and began genuinely believing I deserved to be happy REGARDLESS of what the number on the scale said. When I started thinking this way, I realized that life isn’t about following some super strict diet and exercise program. Funny thing is, the weight just fell off. I’m guessing it was because I wasn’t emotionally eating anymore due to the fact I was allowing myself to be HAPPY :)
~Indygirl: Was it fast or slow and why?
Sparkgirl32: My first 50 pounds came off in about six months. After that 50 pounds came off, my journey became more about what was on the inside. I struggled with my perfectionism, which reared its ugly little head for five months.
I hadn’t realized how IMPERATIVE having a positive attitude/being kind to yourself was to weight loss success until the negative self-talk caused by my perfectionism kicked back in. It really taught me that everything happens for a reason and has a purpose. The other 30 has taken about a year to come off. I have loved every step of the process! I’m learning so much about myself and that has become a really big priority for me. I literally had to learn to love myself and that I was worthy of happiness—that takes work! :)
~Indygirl: You say that SparkPeople has changed your life. How?
Sparkgirl32: WOW--where do I start!? Seriously. I can’t tell you how much support I get from the community and how much gratitude I have for SparkPeople. I felt SO alone before I started out on my journey, I genuinely didn’t realize that millions of other people struggled with the same exact things as I did. It was such a relief to talk about how I felt in a safe environment!
Prior to SparkPeople, I had so many limiting beliefs and negative thoughts about myself; like I didn’t have the self-control or willpower to ever lose weight or that I was destined to be fat because of my “slow metabolism” and body type. Not only that, I had this belief that I HAD to follow my diet and exercise program perfectly to lose weight. By reading articles and reaching out to the community, I learned that this wasn’t true at all! It was so liberating to allow myself to “fail” and not beat myself up over it!
Aside from that, I also found my extreme passion for helping others reach THEIR goals. I feel my best when I am motivating and helping other people, SparkPeople really showed me that. It also showed me that I didn’t HAVE to follow the conventional way of life. I don’t have to work a 9 to 5 in order to be successful, which is something that was a HUGE belief because of how I was raised. I had the limiting belief that no one would take me seriously as a life coach because I was so young; the community really proved me wrong and encouraged me to go after my dream. The result was me enrolling in a coach training program at the age of 23, something that completely changed my life for the better. SparkPeople taught me that I was worthy of happiness NOW—not once I reach my goal weight. Being a motivator and role model for the community really gave me confidence that I could be successful with my passion of helping others.
I haven’t even touched on all the AMAZING friends I have made on SparkPeople. Sparkies are a rare breed of people who genuinely care about others and of super supportive people. I would be lucky to have just one friend like that! SparkPeople has made it possible to connect with some of the greatest people out there who are extremely sweet and caring. I feel SO blessed to know these wonderful people!
~Indygirl: Can you tell us in closing what drives and motivates you?
Sparkgirl32: Knowing that I’m making a difference in the lives of others is the best feeling EVER; to hear how I’ve changed someone’s life for the better. It energizes me like nothing else can! It’s my passion and life purpose. I also LOVE hearing when the people I’ve touched are helping other people and changing lives themselves. This is how we change the world together! I genuinely believe a great leader doesn’t create great followers—they create other great leaders. I have seen the people I work with turn into some of the most amazing leaders that change people’s lives for the better, too. It makes me so proud and is what motivates and drives me to do what I do, regardless of how hard I have to work.
Has Lauren inspired you?
*Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.
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