Wow. I've been a member of SparkPeople for 10 years today. I joined January 25, 2008. I wish I could boast of being a success story, with prolific weight loss and maintenance, an active lifestyle, and a stellar diet to boot. I wish I could be that person who oozes inspiration and has a bunch of followers who look to me for practical advice and wisdom and encouragement.
That's not to say my 10 years on Spark haven't been valuable in other ways. They most certainly have been. I re-read my 5 year Sparkversary blog from January 26, 2013 (day late, apparently). So many things I wrote there still hold true. Truly, even though I've taken a sort of sabbatical from Spark of late (I'm still here, lurking, reading your blogs!) I can't imagine not being a part of the site or the community. It's been a pretty significant part of my life for a decade!
I have gained WAY more weight than lost within the last several years. I've come to learn recently that there are several factors for that, and being a fat lazy slob is pretty low on the list. Depression, anxiety, and soothing those with food have played the biggest roles. I am now seeking mental health help for both those things with regular visits to a psychiatrist and weekly visits with a therapist. Progress is slow, but then again, so is weight gain and weight loss.
I still have the desire to become a registered dietitian and am slowly working my way toward that goal. SparkPeople influenced my desire to be an RDN greatly. Interacting with this community has shown me that there is a need for educated people who focused on one thing (like nutrition) their whole time at school who have the advanced knowledge to help the average person. Did you know most medical doctors receive a semester or less of nutrition education while they're in medical school? Seriously. Go to a dietitian with credentials for nutrition advice. Also, in most states the most a person needs to have done to call themselves a “nutritionist” is read a pamphlet. Do your homework and find a legitimate dietitian. I've hit a speed bump on my path with chemistry classes (turns out I'm really terrible with chemistry!) and am trying to figure out what to do about that. My psychiatrist thinks I need to give it another go when my depression and anxiety are in better check and under more control. Learning so many things about what mental health impedes is amazing and he suspects I have the smarts for it, but with depression the brain struggles with focus, memory, and keeping it cool under pressure, like in a test or pop quiz situation. So, I will wait patiently as I work on that until I think I can return for a heavy load of atoms and explosive chemicals and math that I barely comprehend, lol. After that, which will be 2 years of chemistry classes, I can start applying for programs.
With Spark, I have the tools at my fingertips- free ones, no less- to be successful at achieving better health. I have food trackers, fitness trackers, countless articles about any topic related to diet, fitness, and health written by people who are educated and experienced in those fields. It's all on one website and that is really amazing! Shoot, I even have the app on my phone, which I use more frequently. Right now I am not tracking neither food nor exercise digitally. I am tracking with good ol' fashioned paper and pen, but without Spark, I'm not sure I would have known how to do that. I hate tracking food, but the reality is, it is the key to success. I have tracked in the past, when I lost almost 50 lbs. It works. I know where to go to do that when the time is right. For now, a snapshot of my intake on my paper tracker is still valuable. I can see where I need improvement- eat less fast food, increase vegetable, chill out on the sweets and candy especially, drink more water, get more steps in... I don't need macros to see where my weaknesses are right now. Someday, when the time is right, I will. I will get back to my Spark trackers and see success again.
The best part about my journey on Spark has been the people. I miss living in San Diego so much as the team was active while I was there. We did hikes, paddleboarding, beach adventures, and so many more things. It was great! While I think the team doesn't do as much now, I still maintain friendships with a lot of the people I met. We may not interact a ton, but I am happy to still be able to see what they are doing with their lives and their health journeys. From having kids, to running marathons, to traveling to exotic places, to moving houses, I've gotten to see my SparkFriends move forward in their lives in exciting ways! I'm glad they keep me around to witness that. I am also lucky to have a handful of Spark Friends that are especially close and dear to my heart. I have an email thread with 2 of them (SMILINGTREE and CATS_MEOW_0911) and we check in with each other weekly-ish. It helps me to know they have my back and I hope they know I have theirs. I have a few other friends that support me with my work and spiritual life. I hope they know how much I appreciate and love them for that, even if I've sort of dropped off the map as of late (looking at you MEWHENRYSMAMA and DSHONEYC!) There are more who are so amazing to me... ARCHIMEDESII, CATARINA_CERISE, WOLFKITTY, ARUNNINGKAT, PROVERBS31JULIA, LUST4LIFE15, RSTM99, RADOOGA , SPRING4FAL... ya know, just go look at my friend list. Amazing people on there! I'd be here all night naming off people. I love them all and they've all played an important part of my journey at one time or another. I wouldn't have gotten where I am without them.
Truth be told, Spark keeps me going forward, keeps me trying, even in indirect ways. I don't have to be on the site daily to benefit from it. It's presence in my life has been a way to remind myself to keep fighting the good fight. I see that Spark symbol on my phone and instantly I think “What did I do today to be healthier? What can I do today to be healthier than yesterday, than an hour ago, than a minute ago?” I truly believe without Spark being in my life for the past 10 years that I wouldn't be trying to keep myself healthy. I may be yo-yo dieting, incorrect exercise, or doing nothing at all- sitting on my butt eating Jack in the Box tacos every night.
Spark's influence has reached my life in profound ways...
I exercise at a gym twice a week. I'm trying to go more or find space at home-I have to give myself grace though. I live in a desert and 8 months out of the year it's too hot to outdoor exercise, and I have asthma so breathing in dirt is a no-go. Plus, depression is a beast and inhibits a lot. But, I've maintained my twice-a-month habit fairly consistently since March 2017 (took a 6 week break in summer). I don't have any plans to quit. In fact, I try to find ways to add all the time. I have a seated pedal thingy at work for when I'm stuck in front of my computer for a long time. I am looking into getting a standing desk someday, and possibly one of those big ball chair things, too. Work that core while I'm stuck there!
I also have Spark ideas for a healthy diet. I am about 50% vegan, 30% vegetarian, and 20% omnivore at the moment. I'm allergic to beans, so I need meat protein every now and again. I'm loving it! I think it works great for me. I get more vegetables in, more fruit, more whole grains, and less fat and unhealthy proteins. I already feel better, not only about the foods going in, but thanks to the food going in I physically feel better. Less bloat, less sluggish, less gross overall. My digestive system is happier and my skin looks better. You want a miracle cure? Eat veggies. It really works.
Goal setting... there is a whole thing on SparkPeople about SMART goals. It is fantastic and includes a little worksheet for it, too. It's worth checking out, not just for health goals, but all sorts of goals! There are Spark challenges, there is a SparkPeople YouTube channel with fitness videos and recipe demos, there's Spark for expecting women, they have exercise DVDs, schwag, equipment, books, and there is a Spark team for literally any hobby, age group, fitness level, diet style, go find one and build a network of support!
SparkPeople is a worthwhile endeavor. You will only get out of it what you put in. 10 years on Spark has definitely taught me that. Make the effort, use the site's tools, build a support system of other Sparks, and follow your dreams. 10 years may not have turned me into a fitness guru, super model, or even a size 8, but it has turned me into an amazing person. It can do the same for anyone.
Me now. 11/2017