How did that happen?
I joined the SparkPeople community just over six years ago, in April 2012. We had just had our fourth child and my wife was looking to drop weight post-partum. She joined weight watchers and was successful with that. I wanted to lose a few pounds and get in better shape along with her (I figured it would be easier for her to lose some weight if I was also being more careful with what I ate and portion sizes too). I found SparkPeople and decided to give it a shot.
When I returned from a year-long tour in Iraq in 2010, I was 215 lbs, the heaviest I have ever been. I worked to eat better and exercise more and I was able to get to 200-205 range but wasn’t focused enough to do much better on my own. My long term goal was to get to a normal BMI (which, to be honest, I have not seen since high school or maybe college) which is 175 for my height. When I was really scrupulous about following the program, I was able to get in the low 180s but have not made it into the 170s. With focused effort, I can maintain in the 180s; but often my focus wavers a bit and I drift into the 190s. (As of this morning I was 191 after about 5 days straight at 189 lbs.) I weigh in daily and record it, but don’t get too concerned if it goes up a little here or down a little there. While I am not at my long term target, I am comfortable maintaining here. One of the things that I have adopted from SparkPeople is that weight is just a single indicator, there are many others that provide a richer picture of overall health.
Some SparkPeople features and numbers from the past six years:
Streaks – on the streaks page, I found out that I am currently on a 122 day log in streak (my longest streak was 858 days!). I also found out that I have logged 90+ fitness minutes for 228 straight weeks. On the fitness tab, I am not sure how to check my total fitness minutes but I have been consistent at getting them.
Miles of smiles - My favorite fitness activity is running: I enjoy trail/off-road but do a lot of road and (in a pinch) some treadmill. Apparently, I have logged 5,310 running miles since joining six years ago. That includes running over 1,000 miles in calendar years 2013, 2016, and 2017. I am on track to hit that mark again this year; I currently have 596 miles for the year and it is only late June. I wouldn’t say that I am a fast runner (fast is relative, I am faster than some and slower than others) but I am dedicated and persistent. I recently created a running ribbon rack with Hebrews 12:1, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” I still need to add the hooks and then add the bling, but the picture below is a good indication of what it looks like.
During the past six years, I have run numerous 5k’s, 5 milers, 10k’s, two ten milers, two trail half marathons, a full marathon (while deployed in Kabul, running many laps around a small area), and a trail 50k. I have to balance my running and races with competing activities such as gymnastics meets and swim team meets, but manage to squeeze in a few races per year.
After all this time on SparkPeople, I have learned what works for me and have read about what works for others. The five things that have had a significant impact on my success are:
1) Community. Being connected to your spouse or friends or accountability partner and through the great features on SparkPeople allows you to share goals, triumphs, ideas, non-scale-victories, set-backs and so much more. In a time of pervasive social media, the SparkPeople online community stands out in its positive tone and supportive nature. Some of the SparkGroups are more active than others, finding a good one is a really great way to get connected and share.
2) Diet > Exercise. What you consume is more important than the exercise minutes and miles that you do to work it off. Exercise is important to your overall fitness and health, but success starts by controlling what you intake first. (I will say that this works at moderate levels of exercise. When I ramp up mileage getting ready for a longer race, then I end up eating to fuel my workouts rather than trying to maintain a certain weight. Running out of energy when you still have miles to go in your training run or race is no fun. I would not recommend trying to increase training and lose weight simultaneously)
3) Tracking works. Keeping track of what you eat and your fitness minutes is the best way to honestly assess your caloric balance. It is not a perfect tool (your body and metabolism don't always react the way you would intend them to...), but it works. While in maintenance, I am generally aware of what I eat but inconsistent with tracking. If I drift outside my comfort range weight-wise, better consistency with tracking helps me keep on track and get back to a sustainable weight.
4) Daily weigh ins. I know that there is not consensus on this one, but for me it works. I do it first thing in the morning before coffee and breakfast. It can fluctuate up or down 2-3 lbs in a given day so I don’t get too excited when it goes up or down. It is a good accountability check. If it starts to drift up, then I know I need to be more careful with my intake. My biggest culprits here are: after dinner snacks, a second glass of wine, or oversized portions. The personal accountability that a daily weigh in gives me, helps me keep that in check.
5) Long term view. I am not looking for a quick fix. I am looking for permanent change that is sustainable and still provides me with the strength and stamina to stay fit, keep up with my kids, and be a positive role model to my family. Oscar Wilde said “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” That means a lot of things to me. You can watch your intake, but that doesn’t mean you have to eliminate foods that you enjoy. In many cases, you can scale back and only have a small portion, or enjoy it less frequently. Also, if you happen to splurge and have a slice of that homemade cherry pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (my father’s day treat this past weekend), that’s OK too. It is not a calamity or a setback or something you need to beat yourself up over. Enjoy it guilt free, in the moment, knowing that you will be back on track the next day.
Best wishes and many blessings as you pursue your goals!