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What I've learned in three years of Sparking

Saturday, January 12, 2013

This is my unofficial SparkVersary; it was January 11, 2010, that I began consistently using SparkPeople, although I started my account about six months before that. That day, I weighed in at 252 pounds, my highest recorded weight. Today, I weigh 140 pounds, a healthy BMI for the first time in well over 30 years.

I've learned a few things in the past three years.

emoticon Plan for maintenance from the beginning.

I did not start dieting on January 11; I started changing my lifestyle. I had dieted many, many times before; in many ways, I was a world champion dieter. I had successfully lost weight, large and small amounts, in the past by sticking to strict diets, but as soon as I was no longer dieting, the pounds I lost found me again and brought some friends with them. I knew that I had to change the way I ate and the way I lived if I did not want to repeat that cycle. No foods were forbidden, but I started drinking water (this is day 1097 of drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day for me) and tracking my food so that I became aware of just how many calories I was consuming. That was a real eye opener; I knew I was eating too much (obviously!), but I had no idea just HOW much was really in that food. That led me to make better choices about what and how much to eat, which made it easier to lose weight.

emoticon Never stop learning--and never think you know it all.

As I said, I had been on many, many diets and read lots of books. I knew lots about losing weight, or so I thought. I started reading articles and blogs on SparkPeople, though, and learned not just how to lose weight, but how to make better choices, new workout ideas, inspirational stories, and more. I still read articles and blogs whenever possible, because they give me new ideas and keep me motivated.

emoticon The scale does not define our worth, but it is a useful tool.

I deliberately and consciously made a decision to ignore the warnings about weighing frequently and chose to weigh daily. That was a good decision for me, because it showed me just how wildly weight can fluctuate from day to day and broke the power of the scale to dictate my day. I can weigh 140 one day and 143 the next without changing anything in what I'm doing or eating, it's just the way it is and nothing to be concerned about. If it's steadily going up, though, that is a big red flag that I need to pay closer attention to what I'm doing.

emoticon You've got to move it to lose it.

Finding ways to move more was essential for me to lose weight, and I know it will be essential for me to keep the weight off long term. One of the best investments I made in the beginning was a Bodybugg to tell me how many calories I was really burning and encourage me to move more. I knew my tendency to start with the best of intentions to work out regularly and then stop within a couple of weeks or less; I hoped having the feedback of the Bodybugg would give me a little extra push to continue. It worked; I used my Bodybugg for two years, then last year I switched to BodyMedia Fit Link because it works with my phone and gives even better feedback. I may someday stop using it, but I don't plan to any time soon. It gives me the push to move a little extra every day, and it tells me just how sedentary my normal day is if I don't deliberately add some activity.

emoticon You can't (and shouldn't) do it all alone.

One of the best features of SparkPeople is the community here. Getting connected with others through various Spark Teams and blogs was crucial for my success. The support and encouragement of SparkFriends has kept me going many times when I was ready to throw in the towel. Sometimes reading about how someone else has handled a plateau or a problem is exactly what I need to help me push on. That continues to be the case for me in maintenance; the At Goal & Maintaining + Transitioning to Maintenance team has been a wonderful resource (and a great group of people to get to know) for getting a handle on how to keep the weight off for the long haul.

emoticon There will be bumps in the road, but keep going and you will get there.

I knew when I started three years ago that losing weight was not going to be easy or a smooth ride all the way. I am a perfectly imperfect human being; I make mistakes, I make less than stellar choices sometimes, and that means some weeks would not see the kind of losses that I wanted. Shoot, most everyone hits a plateau or two or three along the way; as much as we'd like to think losing weight was a simple math formula (calories out - calories in = X pounds lost), our bodies do not behave that way. Recognizing that and being mentally prepared for it helped me handle those days and weeks when they came. Maintenance is much the same, it seems; I've learned to not beat myself up if I have a higher calorie day than planned but rather to just keep going and adjust the rest of the week. It's not what we do one meal or one day that makes the difference, it's what we do on a regular basis.

emoticon It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle.

That may sound cliche, but it is so true. The best way to lose weight is also the best way to keep the weight off: change the way you live. When I lost weight on diets, I found ways to 'cheat' and still lose weight; I'd have a successful weigh-in, then go out and celebrate with a sundae or a milkshake. I thought I was beating the system, but all I was doing was cheating myself. I was perpetuating the kind of eating that had led to me gaining weight, so when the diet was over, I went right back to my old habits. Changing the way I eat and becoming more active helped me lose weight, and it's what will help me keep the weight off.

I never could have imagined when I started three years ago how far I would have come by now. Losing over 110 pounds and becoming a runner--no, an endurance athlete!--are far beyond anything I dreamed of back then. Maintenance is new territory for me, but the things I've learned over the past three years give me hope that I can navigate it successfully and beat the odds to keep the weight off for good. We have the tools here to help us succeed if we will use them!

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Awesome to read this Denise. You have inspired me so many times in the past and continue to do so. I am continuing to learn and evolve. I will get there too. Thank you for sharing your lessons.
    2270 days ago
    Congrats on your success!
    Your blog is a good source of inspiration.
    Thank you for sharing with us.
    Keep up the great work!

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2278 days ago
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog. We have all gone through so many different diets hoping to find the right one. Through a gradual process of elimination, I was approach a life style very close to being wheat free. I just didn't know until I read the Wheat Belly Cookbook intro that there was one more step to take, and that was what I did when I switched completely to Dr. Davis' program. It is a lifestyle that I am perfectly happy with, especially since has so many great recipes that are even more satisfying than the "real thing."

    Thanks for shring your insightful and inspiring blog.

    2279 days ago
  • KATI5668
    This is a great blog..yes it should be one of the featured ones for sure.
    you hit on every point that is needed ...& congratulations on your success!

    Thank you so much for sharing!!

    emoticon ... emoticon
    2279 days ago
    2279 days ago
    Excellent blog! Spot on!
    2279 days ago
  • SINGER73
    This is a great blog. I am right there with ya. I'm only 6lbs away from hitting my goal.
    2279 days ago
    Awesome blog!! Congrats on all your success. You are 100% right on every issue you address in regard to weight loss and maintenance.

    Perhaps it is presumptuous for me to make some maintenance recommendations, but please just consider a few things that have helped me. First, celebrating your maintenance anniversaries. Our At Goal team is set up to do that. Collecting my Weight Watcher monthly stars and annual key and displaying them (bathroom mirror, refrig, bedroom mirror) helps me. A notebook with compliments I got from people with date and name helps me. Compliments are now few and far between. Most people now think it is easy for me and don't have a clue how it takes a daily commitment. Staying active here on SP is probably the biggest support I get for maintenance.

    Thanks again for your great blog!!

    2279 days ago
  • PAG2809
    Awesome! emoticon
    2284 days ago
    I have no doubt that you will succeed at maintenance the same way you did at loosing. I agree, the best thing I've learned from Spark is it's a way of life. Congrats on your Sparkversary!
    2286 days ago
    Brilliant blog (as usual! emoticon )

    Happy Sparkversary! emoticon

    2286 days ago
    I'm in awe! What a GREAT blog! Thanks for writing this and showing all of us that it is totally doable and totally worth it.
    You are amazing. You've done it. It's completely inspiring. You're still here, and you are keeping it off. It gives us all hope. It gives ME hope.

    Thanks girl! I can't tell you how extremely of you and happy for you I truly am.

    emoticon emoticon
    2287 days ago
  • OJ_2_OK
    Wow this is such an amazing story. It should be featured!!!
    2287 days ago
  • TANYA602
    This is such an amazing tribute to the work that you've done, and all that you've learned! This needs to be a SP advertisement! Congratulations and Happy Anniversary!
    2287 days ago
    Happy Sparkversary!
    Congrats to you for your successes. Thank you for sharing your story and your lessons. There are many of us following in your footsteps or alongside the same trail.
    I'm so happy I can call you Friend!
    emoticon emoticon
    2288 days ago
  • 4CYNDI
    Great blog and great success! WOOHOO! Thanks for sharing.
    2288 days ago
  • STRINGI719
    Amazing, amazing, amazing! Thank you SO much for sharing! Even though I've lost 60+ pounds myself and kept it off for a year now, you are still such an inspiration! You show me that I still have mental work to do and so much room to improve!
    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2288 days ago
  • MILLIE5522
    Great blog! Congratulations and thank you for the inspiration! I have only been maintaining for 4 months and at times finding it quite difficult to stay on track so reading this has given me hope. emoticon
    2288 days ago
    Congrats, and thanks for sharing this. :)
    2288 days ago
    Happy Sparkversary!
    2288 days ago
    emoticon Great blog. I also think it should be a featured blog. It covered a lot of things i have also learned, but you said it so well.

    2288 days ago
    emoticon You have done so well!!!! All I can say about all your points is YEP!!!!!!! emoticon
    2288 days ago
    emoticon You have a lot to be proud of.
    2288 days ago
    Congrats on your amazing success! Thank you so much for sharing this blog is so true and so inspiring!
    2288 days ago
    You are awesome! Thanks so much for sharing what you've learned.
    2288 days ago
    Great blog. Thanks for laying it all out there. I especially like the sedtion about the scale. I weigh every morning. If I had a designated weigh-in day, weekly or monthly and by bad luck it happened to fall on a day of significant UP fluctuation, I would be most unhappy. By weighing daily I'm better aware of the expected fluctuations and can track the long term trend.
    2288 days ago
    What a great blog. I am so glad I clicked on the link I saw on the side of the Spark page I was on.


    1097 days of 8 glasses of water.... THAT IS AMAZING!
    2288 days ago
    emoticon Congratulations on all you have GAINED In the Past 3 years!!
    And Thank You for sharing Your "Secrets" With Us.
    2288 days ago
  • SUNSET09
    Thanx for sharing as you hit on a lot of important realizations, dieting and gaining..and it is a life style change a it not only changes your weight, confidence; knowing that you can do it, your attitude and living a healthy life. Good for you in hanging in there and way to go on your success. Keep up the good work! emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2288 days ago
  • DRB13_1
    GREAT BLOG! This needs to be a featured blog, you have really given us keys to success. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2288 days ago
    YES!! What a great blog and so true. So super proud of you too. As someone that has lost 100 pounds not once, not twice but THREE times and gained it back, I know all about the lifestyle change. Yet I slipped up. Your blog was just the words I needed to hear to continue on this journey. THANK YOU!!
    2288 days ago
    Wonderful blog. Well done!!

    And congratulations on your astounding success.
    2288 days ago
    Congratulations and thanks for the nice pointers. Glenn
    2288 days ago
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    Disclaimer: 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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