10 Lessons Learned in My 3-Year SparkPeople Journey

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Sixteen months ago, while I was out on a Saturday run with my running group I came across a shiny copper penny on the ground. Never one to pass up money, I quickly turned around, snatched the tiny coin in my hand and took it home. Not quite sure what to do with it, I placed it in a jar on the counter, where it has been joined by many others since.

Now many of you maybe wondering what this has to do with this journey we call healthy living. The reason the jar of coins means so much to me today is not so much the value of the coins but what they represent--my journey to a healthier me!

I didn’t look down and find $11.37 one day, over the course of one week, in one month or even a year--in fact it has taken me over a year and four months to add each coin of varying denominations to the jar. Some are worth more than others, but every coin counts, whether it is the quarter I found on the side of a busy intersection or the very first penny I found in August 2007. Separately they are small in value, but together, WOW, what an impact they make!

On Friday, December 26, I celebrated my 3rd anniversary as a member of the SparkPeople community. Just as the coins carry little value alone, the same is true with this journey we call healthy living. While losing a few ounces here and there doesn't seem like much, when you add them up over a 3 year time period, my loss has totaled almost 70 pounds. But more importantly than losing the weight, I have finally discovered the key to living life and that is to appreciate every step of this great journey, even if that means falling flat on my face.

Below is my list of the top 10 lessons that I have learned on this marvelous journey!

  1. DO NOT expect changes to happen overnight. I learned early on to accept even the small progress I had made. Giving up was and never is an option.

  2. The mind changes so much more quickly than the body, but know that the changes are happening. As my running coach told me a couple of years ago when I was struggling with a plateau: “Nancy, all changes within the body must begin at the cellular level, all the way down to the powerhouse of the cell called the mitochondria. Just imagine how many cells you have and how long it takes for the changes to occur where you can see them on the scale. But trust that the changes are happening.”

  3. Learn to let go of perfection and many times the guilt that follows. It isn’t what I did or didn’t do every now and then that got me where I was, but what I did or didn’t do on a consistent basis that did. "Aim for progression, not perfection."

  4. DO NOT allow the scale to determine your self-worth. You and I are more than a number on a scale--we are humans with lots of challenges, but no matter what the number on the scale reads, we matter!

  5. View this new way of living as a journey--one with lots of twists, turns, obstacles, detours, and roadblocks, all of which can be overcome when we accept them as a way of life. Just as you would not turn your car around on a trip at the first detour; same is true for this journey will call healthy living. Accept setbacks but don’t allow them to define you.

  6. Ditch the diet mentality. If you look at this journey as only a temporary means of getting to a certain number on the scale, then you need to re-evaluate your journey. Living a healthy lifestyle is a lifelong endeavor filled with lots of challenges, all of which can be overcome by embracing healthy habits.

  7. Allow others to help you along the way. Three years ago, when I joined SparkPeople never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined how large my circle of friends would be today. I have met some of the most inspirational people from around the globe. From my best gal pal in Florida, to my running pals in Canada, England, and all across this great country--everyone is a true inspiration to me every day.

  8. Forgiving myself when I stumbled. We are fallible beings and when we focus on the could’ves, would’ves, and should’ves, this can only allow us to lose sight of the goals in life and that is to be healthy, active people ready to embrace life's challenges.

  9. Find a passion, whether learning to cook healthier meals or taking on the challenge to do an activity that you never imagined yourself doing before. These activities allow you to take the focus off the scale and put it on you. For me running is something I dared not even thought I would be doing 3 years ago, so every time I run, whether just for fun or in a race, I have won.

  10. Learn to accept where I am today! No matter what the scale reads or what size I wear, I still have something to offer the world. As long as we have hope, it’s just a matter of time before we make our dreams come true.

These are just a few of the many lessons I have learned on this incredible journey in the past 1096 days and as I continue on this quest I am sure that there will be many more lessons to learn.


How were you introduced to the SparkPeople Family? What lessons have you learned? Do you celebrate your Spark Anniversary? How do you plan on celebrating the milestones in your journey?

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I definitely think of this as a journey for a lifetime...not a diet. Report
Great perspective, thank you for sharing. Report
It was written in 2008, but it spoke to me today...Thanks! Report
I wish I could have learned all this in 3 years. But I will keep plugging away at it. Congrats on your success. Report
I am so happy I lucked upon this today. Not because I got new information but because it accurately captures the mindset I have developed about my journey. It was said perfectly. Every point is one I have embraced on my journey to a thinner, healthier you. I want to tell everyone making this journey to read and heed this. Thank you so much. Report
Thanks for sharing. Report
Thank you for such an inspirational article. I too have printed a copy. Congratulations on your 3 year milestone. Report
Congratulation on 3 years on SparkPeople. Great article. Report
I am going to make a copy of this blog and post it on my bathroom mirror! Thanks for sharing it!!
I LOVE THIS ARTICLE!!! I printed it out and am putting it on my fridge as well as the wall in my dressing room. So many great lessons and positive attitudes here! :) Report
Thanks for a very inspirational blog just when I needed it most! Congratulations on all your little successes over the years! Report
This is very motivational. Congratulations on the successes you have had and will continue to have. I agree this is very inspirational. Thank you. Report
Thank you for sharing....You are an inspiration to us all... Report
and #3! :) Report
my favorite is #2! Report
I loved your blog. Thanks for sharing! Report
What a good idea to collect pennies as you waIk or jog.. I also have a lot of weight to lose, and staying commented to the lifestyle change is the ultimate goal. Report
I loved your blog. Happy Birthday! Thank you for sharing your insights, they are inspiring. Report
Thanks for sharing! It really puts things in perspective. Report
This is an AWESOME blog…Your top 10 Lessons are great. I have a copy of them posted so I can review them every day! Report
I copied the phrase, "Aim for progression, not perfection," while I was reading this blog. When I finished the blog, the first comment I read referred to this same quote!
Awesome blog!! I loved the quote "aim for progression, not perfection." Such great words to live by!! Added this blog to my favorites!! :-) Report
thanks, nancy. very well written, lots of food for thought. it is hard to keep plugging away when we, seemingly, don't see results, but we have to remember, it's more than a number on the scale!!!!! i am new to spark. this is the beginning of my 3rd week. i retired 3 yrs ago and got lazy. i've always been active, worked in a nursing home on the alsheimer's unit. god was good to me and allowed me to work 'til i was 69!!!!!! loved my job as a nursing assistant. but now i am doing exercising and love it. so glad i found spark people. i lose weight slow, but i keep reminding myself it's one day at a time, one step at a time!!!!!!! good luck to you in your journey of healthy living. together, we can do it as we motivate and encourage each other. Report
Powerful! I now have new thoughts to help overcome those negative ones. Thank you!
Congrats on the 3 years. I haven't thought about the long haul in specific time frames.
I am getting the picture -- living healthier with each passing moment. Report
Awesome! Thanks for sharing. Report
Nancy, you are such a huge inspiration!! thank you for your continued support. love love love this article. Report
excellent article.. wonderful and so practicle.


Sonea Mudgal Report
Excellent article! Thank you for sharing it. Report
#2 is a very good point. All of those cells have to change. It takes time. They don't all just change the instant you go for a run or decide on veggies instead of chips.

Thank you for a great article! Report
I have decided to copy this an actually place in on my refrigerator as a motivator. Thanks for sharing. Report
Awesome advice. Thanks for sharing with us. Now I need to take it and run with it!! Report
I really like number 2, having studied biological sciences, I've never looked at it that way. We have to let our bodies adjust, one cell at a time. I've only been here for almost a month, but I have a history of giving up when I do not see any results, even if I do FEEL them. Thanks for sharing your lessons, its really motivating Report
Thank you for sharing what you have learned! Report
I had to add this to my favorites and I am sure that I will revisit this blog over and over again in my journey. Thank you for this as it was truly inspiring and helpful. Report
Amazing story! Thanks for sharing ;D Report
Love, love, love it! Report
Wow.... Report
I love that I have been able to keep Sparking for a year! It's taught me so much, and this blog is a great reminder to celebrate every milestone, no matter how small. Report
Tip #2 is great for those of us just starting out! Very inspirational! Report
Nancy, very eloquently put. I am printing it and putting it on my kitchen counter as an every day reminder!!! Thanks so much Report
Thanks for sharing your insights. It helps to reflect on where others have been and are now. It is a long road but one that is easier as we travel it together and help point each other in the right direction when we are stuck. Report
Great blog, Nancy. I've been learning a lot of these lessons, too, especially over the past few months. Report
thank you so much for sharing this is wonderful very good information.. Report
great encouraging words. Report
Great article!! Thanks for taking the time to share the wisdom you gained on your journey. Report
Thank you so much , I loved reading this and it has helped more than you know!!! Report
What an inspiration!! I am so glad I read this, as I have been not so good at healthly living the last month or two and am ready to get back on track! Report
Thanks so much for sharing your article. It is very inspiring!! Kudo's on your suggess ;o) Report
Thank you for sharing your stories and your words of wisdom. How true they are! It is more than a diet or a phase it needs to be a new you and a new way of life. Thanks so much and congratulations to you Nancy for all of your successes! Keep collecting those coins;-) Report
Great tips for someone early in the process. Report