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Success Stories

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.

Why not?

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.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • MAGGIE101857
    As they say in the NIKE ads...JUST DO IT! You are a success and regardless of whether or not you have the "home team" advantage (watching a football game right now), you have battled demons just like the rest of us and have been successful! You inspire other Sparkers on a regular basis and will hopefully continue to do so. Going through my own injury phase (and not doing it well, by the way), I thank God every day that you (and your sister!) are here for me!!!
    1921 days ago
    I liked this blog . . . have to say it's my fave blog of yours to date! *And you've written a lot of great blogs*

    I had a very similar response both to the initial "invite" and to the follow up email from AGAM:TM.

    In addition, I prefer to preserve some of my anonymity (this has to do mosly with my general dislike of "social media narcissism": I'm not on FaceBook or LinkedIn or Twitter!!) and, I suppose, not to be caught up in the "commercial" side of SparkPeople (although very very grateful for SP sponsoring this free site which is so helpful for so many including me).

    But your reasons are elegantly expressed and genuinely humble and . . . yeah. Weight loss IS easier for some than others, for the reasons you set out. And maintenance, which is tough for just about everyone, is still easier for some than for others . . . "Success stories", if they are to assist in boosting overall maintenance success, will benefit from the kind of candour and integrity you articulate here.
    1921 days ago
  • KANOE10
    I think you are a success. Each of us has their own life to follow and you are showing great strength by staying focused on maintaining your weight loss and on exercising. I am sorry about your sore hip.

    Great blog.
    1921 days ago
    I got the same requests and haven't responded either. for me it's all abou the "mental energy" I would have to spend....Have to be in the mood for that. Not inspired to write it yet. You should be proud though for what you have accomplished and especially your disapline to run and work out.
    Good for you!
    Have a terrific Sunday.
    1921 days ago
    sparkpeople is filled with so many different people, with so many backgrounds - and you and your success definitely represent some of them! like you, i came to sparkpeople with 20 lbs to lose (though i didn't know it, i thought i'd lose 12 and be happy), not 50 or 100 or more. but sparkpeople and this weight loss have made a huge difference in my life, too. and it's learning the tools - as you say, tracking - that have made the difference. and that will make the difference in maintenance - which is another chapter in this journey altogether.

    the funny thing is, i've always thought it was "easier" for people with more weight to lose because they generally have something "easier" to give up - like soda, for example, loads of empty calories, that if you just stopped drinking, there is instant weight loss. while those who have healthy habits, and have already quit all the "bad stuff" have a harder time figuring out how to lose the weight. and that was, of course, where tracking came in.

    spark on, friend - you are a success in my book and share your story for others like us, who did not start out obese but nevertheless made a huge change in our lives and have to figure out how to keep things this way!
    1921 days ago
    Thanks so much for this blog! I anticipated that some people would have mixed feelings about submitting their success stories and I think you've nicely summarized yours.

    If you can find the time, I'd strongly suggest submitting your story. In my opinion, each and every person who loses and maintains their weight/health/fitness is a success story. Yes, some people may have more things working against them in their process to get healthier, but just think of how many people who have similar circumstances to yours that could benefit from seeing how you've done it. SparkPeople and our maintenance team feature a wide range of people so that everyone can find a story they can relate to. Just because some might not have a lot in common with you doesn't mean there won't be others who will and can benefit from the motivation reading about your success will provide.

    I say "go for it!"
    1921 days ago

    I think you should submit your success story. We're all different and while you may have a slight advantage over many women, the "struggle" to keep the weight off is something everyone can identify with. There are millions of people who've taken off the weight, but only 5% have actually been able to KEEP that weight off for a year or more.

    So, reading the story of someone who has been able to find the right balance of nutrition and exercise to keep the weight off would be a blog many people would want to read. I've said this in past, taking the weight off is one thing. keeping it off is another. So, even if you do have a fast metabolism, you know that you still have to eat right and watch your portions.

    We need more people who've taken off the weight to share their stories.

    I think you should consider sharing your success story because you are a success at keeping the weight off.

    1921 days ago
    Indeed you have those advantages over the average Spark population,
    but I still believe you have an inspiring maintenance success story, and you truly deserved the nomination.

    First of all, the foot injury you struggled with for so long was a great disadvantage, but didn't throw you off the track at all. You adjusted your food and found alternative ways to exercise. That's not easy!
    Also, fast metabolism is an advantage during weight loss phase, but it makes maintenance tricky when you have to fill a huge calorie budget with healthy food.
    And last but not least: there are many guys out there with the same advantages, who stick with their poor habits and stay overweight and inactive forever.
    1921 days ago
    Kevin, have you been successful? Yes.
    Therefore your success story is worth sharing.
    I've been inspired by your constant work and your continuous success.
    Being a guy on SP I think we need to be able to read more success stories about guys. I have trouble relating to females that have lost over 100 pounds. Their story is great, but it's not close to my story. Your story is much closer to mine. If I could loose 15 to 20 ponds that would be great. If I could run longer and maybe even faster, that would be great. If I could consistently eat healthier and do my strength training more consistently that would be great.
    I think it would be great to read you whole success story. I'd bet I could relate to you story.
    I'm looking forward to reading your success story someday.

    1921 days ago
    Hey there - how are you doing?

    I don't think someone needs to have been morbidly obese and struggled and lost it to be inspiring to others but I understand what you're saying about having a fast metabolism and being a guy and all that. I also know that it is easier for me than it is for some other folks.

    Whether you decide to submit a success story or not just know that being a positive influence here is helpful to someone like me and I'm sure it is to others.

    Make it a great day!
    1922 days ago
  • ALLISON145
    You know, I don't think you're giving yourself enough credit. Sure, there are folks around that have the odds stacked against them more than you do for a myriad of reasons (raises hand as a female with PCOS, insulin resistance, and gluten intolerance). HOWEVER, the steps (that is, the WORK) remain the same regardless of how long one must work at it. I can lose just like you can, but it may take me longer because my body resists my efforts more than yours does. That doesn't make your effort any less than mine, it just means your body responds more quickly.

    From another angle, look at it this way; yes, you can eat more calories than I can as a 5'7" female, but keep in mind that your larger frame asks you for more food every day than mine does. So just because you eat more than me doesn't mean you're not hungry like I am when you reduce calories by a similar percentage of your original maintenance range. And just because you can run fast doesn't mean that you burn more calories - it means your body is unusually efficient at running so you can do it well. My huffing and puffing may actually give me a calorie burn advantage as long as I run for the same amount of time each day as you do because I'm less efficient at it.

    The biggest factors here in success (for all of us) is the initial momentum to get moving and the motivation to keep going. I think where you may have the most to offer this community is by describing what drove you to get started and what kept you going along the way when it would have been easier/more pleasant to revert to old habits. ESPECIALLY since you didn't have a lot of (any?) health problems from being severely obese that would have driven you. Folks that don't have a health scare staring them in the face could really use some insight from folks in a similar situation that chose to change for the better anyway.

    Just my two cents - long time lurker, first time responder. :)

    1922 days ago
    good blog, makes me a bit jealous,
    slow metabolism
    have to cook for my DH
    he loves my cookies (and so do I)
    I had great luck losing to goal, but am now 11 pounds more than I was at my low
    I have to get my act together, and you do,
    1922 days ago

    Let me count the ways.
    1 - same
    2 -nope
    3 - same
    3 - same
    4 - same
    5 - nope, but similar with another type of cardio
    6 - same

    My feeling is that just because you didn't win a valiant struggle against impossible odds under difficult circumstances, does not mean you're not a success. TinaJane76 is championing the idea that maintenance is as much "work" as weight loss. Perhaps that's your story angle. A good lifestyle is as important as weight loss.

    (And I am jealous of your 7:10 to 7:25 training pace!)

    Good luck with the decision.
    1922 days ago
    I feel the same way about my weight loss and I lost 40 pounds.

    1922 days ago
    It took me a YEAR of thinking about it before I finally decided to call myself a success. Now, a week later, I ponder whether I'll remain in that category! This is the danger of "getting cocky"...

    So... will let you know in a month or two if I still feel I qualify!
    1922 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/19/2013 7:52:46 PM
  • DALID414
    IMHO you should answer the questions honestly and let the SP staff decide whether or not to publish it. If you feel like you'll be bombarded by haters, I don't the the SP community has it in them.
    1922 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/19/2013 7:42:39 PM
  • RG_DFW
    Interesting perspective... thanks for sharing what's in the closet!
    1922 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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