A Fitness Sponsor: Someone Who Has What You Want

if_found_call_sponsorAll 12-step programs incorporate sponsorship as a vital component of success in remaining abstinent, but I have yet to hear of sponsorship in the terms of weight-loss or more general fitness efforts. Although Overeaters Anonymous is a good fit for many who have struggled with addictive food behaviors, not everyone who wants to get healthy or lose weight is dealing with the issues addressed by OA.

Many of us have role models (I can think of more than a few here online!), but a sponsor is someone with whom you form a closer supportive relationship. The relationship benefits not only the newcomer, but also the “old-timer” (sponsor) as well.

New York Crystal Meth Anonymous defines a sponsor as “another recovering addict who offers guidance and support in a one-on-one relationship.” If we were to look for a parallel figure in our weight-loss efforts, this would obviously be someone who has successfully gone through something similar to what we are experiencing. While the details of our dieting or fitness history may vary from person to person, the underlying struggles, frustrations, and goals are often the same. A sponsor would be able to remember what it felt like at the beginning of the struggle, and offer his or her strength, wisdom, and hope as someone a bit further along in their journey.

The Alcoholics Anonymous website publishes literature that goes into more detail about the role of a sponsor. Below I’ve translated some of the important points into what a fitness or weight-loss sponsor might strive to do:

  • Teach by doing; be a positive living example of what a healthy lifestyle can do for a person.
  • Encourage the newbie to consult a variety of reputable sources rather than insist that they are the ultimate authority on every topic.
  • Counsel patience; encourage the sponsee to stick with their new fitness or eating plan and give it a chance to work rather than immediately throwing in the towel.
  • Introduce the sponsee to others with similar goals if possible. The more avenues for support, the better!
  • Be knowledgeable and experienced in the food and/or workout plan the sponsee is following and makes themselves available to answer questions as they come up. . .
  • BUT: Also be comfortable admitting when they don’t know the answer; help the person they have taken under their wing to make contact with qualified professionals (counselors, nutritionists, doctors) when necessary.

In choosing a “sponsor” for our weight-loss or fitness journey, the best advice I have heard it to ask someone who has what you want. When you see someone exuding balance and health in a way that resonates with you, it is natural to respect and gravitate toward that person. I have yet to find the weight-loss/fitness version of a sponsor in my real life yet, despite my attendance at Weight Watchers meetings. It’s easy to just “show up” to a meeting but not forge deeper connections with fellow members, but then again, this is something up for each of us to take our own initiative on. Keep your eyes peeled: even if your group leader isn’t your ideal vision of a healthy, balanced person, there may be another member in the room who has made great strides toward living exactly the kind of lifestyle you want for yourself.


Thoughts on Strength

A rip in the fabric of life
might show sparklers behind our eyes.
“Blessings are heavy, too,” she said;
I hope that I’m stronger in time.

In other words . . . I am determined that one day I will be equal to all the gifts that have been bestowed upon me. I wish the same for you! Every day, we can get stronger. And the way to get stronger?

Don’t. Give. Up!

We Cairn a Lot

Ask and ye shall receive, my peeps! In a comment to my query about personal anchors yesterday, Goodwithcheese linked to the jewelry of Tarma, and now I’m infatuated with the symbolism of cairns and must have either a wristband or a pendant to help keep me balanced during the holiday season.

Cairns are piles of stones. But wait, there’s more! Although they sometimes mark burial spots, they also can act as trail guides to wanderers in the mountains. As each person passes along the trail, they add another stone—keeping up with cairn maintenance, so to speak. In addition to reminding us of the path we’re on, the imagery of the cairn conjures up the ideal of balance, stones stacked carefully one atop the other. Balance, following your path, building upon the lessons of others: a cairn represents all of these goals.

I identify strongly with fellow dieters, but I am also very much drawn to those who seem to have achieved or are consistently making a point of maintaining some kind of balance in their personal wellness. Sometimes I experience the petty emotion of jealousy, especially when the person is younger than me and already seems to have things “figured out.” At other times I am filled with an indescribable contentment and hope reading their words. I am sustained by vicariously cooking wholesome, varied meals in their kitchens and by reading about what it’s like to grow and change in healthy ways. I dream of traveling back in time and doing certain things differently, giving the younger me certain priorities that just weren’t there at the time. I feel like I have always been scrapping for emotional (and sometimes physical) survival and never dared hope for what I can only describe as something better. Something more for myself.

Balance is a beautiful, precarious thing that is well worth experimenting with, one stacked stone at a time.

Cairn pendant by Tarma

Cairn pendant by Tarma

Now, because you’ve read all of these very deep thoughts, you can have some Faith No More:

Manga (hint: it’s not a fruit)

About five years ago I started reading manga. That’s right, those little “comics” from Asia that have taken over several aisles in your local Borders at this point. They come in series for the most part, but they’re bound like little paperback books.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’m going to introduce: Useful Weight-Loss Lessons from Manga.

Those dots on Age-chan's face are supposed to be zits, FYI.

Today’s manga wisdom comes from Papillon, Volume 1. It’s the story of the “ugly” older twin, Ageha, who has always resignedly hung out in her vivacious twin Hana’s shadow. When Hana goes after Ageha’s crush, however, all bets are off and Age-chan starts to evolve with the help of her (admittedly pervy—par for the course in manga) school guidance counselor. A few tips on going for the goal:

1. Your attitude affects your behavior. The, um, “unconventional” high-school guidance counselor grabs a picture of Ageha and her crush that she’s been keeping in her date book and doodles things like “We’re in a relationship” on it. Not much different from creating a visualization board/vision collage or reciting a mantra as part of your weight-loss efforts, right?

Manga text reads right to left

FYI: Manga text reads right to left

2. No need to be shy about it. Telling others about your fitness goals is how you find a network of support.
In what seems like a disastrous turn for Ageha, the photo of her and dreamboy with the doodles on it is discovered by a classmate and passed around her entire homeroom. Even her crush sees it . . . Gah! I’m so glad I’m not in high school anymore. Naturally Age-chan freaks out and when she runs into her guidance counselor, she’s miserable and furious at him for doodling on the photo in the first place. Now everyone knows her secret! His response takes her off guard:

The counselor sees the bright side of Ageha's secret being out.

A bright side to the secret being out?

How to find supporters. . . .

How to find supporters. . . .

So . . . those are just few little pearls of manga advice for you today. Yes, I’m a geek, but at least I’m open-minded. I takes my inspiration wherever I can find it!

Winds of Change

And yes, if you grew up to the sound of 80s and early 90s Hair Bands, you are whistling that Scorpions tune right now. (Queue: Diabolical laughter)

Guess what? I’m back from Boston! It’s a beautiful, walkable town, a city on a smaller scale (sort of the way Austin is in Texas). This is what fall looks like in New England, for my fellow southerners:

Yellow leaves against a blue sky.

Yellow leaves against a blue sky.

The leaves are turning in Boston.

The leaves are turning in Boston.

The city streets there are beautiful, often cobblestoned, and I could picture how Boston might have looked well over a 100 years ago, something which isn’t easy to do in many American cities (not only because many of them aren’t that old in the first place!).

A street in Boston.

A street in Boston.

And last but not least, to prove that I was actually there, here’s a photo of me with the Charles River flowing by in the background:

Me in Boston, October 2008.

Me in Boston, October 2008.

I will also be using this photo as one of my Before photos. . . . because as Kelly mentioned in a post on her blog earlier this month, Before photos don’t have to be the dour standing-in-front-of-a-wall-looking-morose shots that they often are. This is me in the real world at my current (and heaviest) weight of around 200 lbs. I’ll be dropping the excess weight in the real world, after all, so it makes sense to incorporate this kind of photo into my chronicles online.

The breath of true autumn I experienced this weekend reminded me that this is the season I relate to most strongly. Beautiful but bittersweet, motivating, impatient, mercurial, it tugs at my heart and propels me forward with an aching hope that real change absolutely can be effected.

Action Figures!

A post I recently came across by Dr. J basically says that sometimes you have to turn into the action-figure version of yourself in order to make progress, whether it be in your personal life, in your weight loss efforts, or in your job.

This doesn’t mean running heedlessly into dangerous situations or any of those action-hero types of shenanigans, but it definitely does inspire me to respect those who are truly interested and actively involved in the world around them. I’m basically a giant brain with tiny little arms and legs (and a big stomach, natch); all thought and little action, in other words. Time to flex some of those action muscles!