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.


My First Week on Weight Watchers

I’ll be heading to my first weigh-in straight from work this evening, and right now I can honestly say I’m strangely relaxed about it. In previous Weight Watching incarnations, I was fraught with tension pre-weigh-in because I felt that if I hadn’t lost a certain amount of weight that week, it meant the whole effort was pointless.

I have followed the Points system quite well this first week; my main problem was not always getting in the 5 daily fruits and vegetables that are part of the WW healthy guidelines. This week I will do a little better in that area. I haven’t really created a regular exercise schedule yet, and that’s also on tap for this week. Exercise tends to make a lot of difference in my weight-loss progress. I don’t want to overdo it, but I would like to get out there and walk 5 days a week. Who’s with me?

Ever since I decided it was okay if the weight came off slowly, I’ve been feeling a lot better about life in general and getting in shape in particular. Once I decided to focus on two goals for the coming year (improving my mental health and getting out of the obese category), I felt quite a bit of tension subside. If you are stressing out right now about life and can postpone a few of your goals in order to focus on the one or two most important ones and devote a full year to these, I highly recommend it.

Did anyone else watch Ruby last night? What did you think? I will definitely be tuning in for the next episode. My boyfriend and I watched it together and both agreed that a lot of interesting and important points came up in the show. And as one person on the Ruby message boards commented, “it’s a REAL reality show,” if you know what I mean. No host, no zany challenges, just a very large woman facing her beast.


You know in Fight Club, when Ed Norton is a raging insomniac and keeps attending all these support groups for diseases he doesn’t have because the crying and hugging helps him sleep? And how at one of them he has a vision of his Power Animal, which turns out to be a penguin that is all cute and probably in the imagery of the film totally symbolizes being a slave to the Man? Well, I have identified my own power animal.

I discovered this while visualizing a deep well in my body. But wait. Let me explain.

I experienced three-pronged distress meltdown last night, which burst to the surface of my consciousness around 9:30 PM CST:

Prong 1: My new therapist? Has not impressed at all me thus far. (Although I guess I should thank her for inadvertently introducing me to my power animal.) I pinned all my hopes on this particular therapy working for me (I have tried so many, many times before) and although I haven’t said much about it, I have been feeling pretty upset about how things are going.

Prong 2: I’m supposed to be taking the GRE in a week and a half. At some point this weekend I realized that it wasn’t going to happen and it was all my fault because I was too paralyzed to even begin studying the Math. I am all over the Words. But the Math is but a fleeting high-school memory to my now 31-year-old brain. I got psyched out, blew off studying, and now I need to cancel my test appointment because I refuse to bomb the thing. What this means, in terms of my cognitively distorted mind: I will never ever go to graduate school. Big fail.

Prong 3: The diet. Ahhhhh, the diet. Saw this one coming, didn’t you? Yes, I’ve been sticking like glue to my new Weight Watchers food plan, which I initiated on Monday. But I am not sold on everything WW teaches. I never have been. A lot of the guidelines are very sound common sense. But I . . . I think we should be eating more food. Or at least I should. Last night I fell into the merciless deprivation mindset. It’s like having a screaming, Banshee-wailing two-year-old lying on the floor kicking and red-faced . . . in your BRAIN. Get out get out get out!! I hate that kid.

As I snifflingly discussed these various dilemmas last night, I realized that maybe, just maybe, I need to slow down and take on fewer demons at a time. Slowly.

Slowly? To me a thing isn’t worth doing unless it can be done in a blur of procrastination-induced hyperactivity!

Slowly. That word. It reminded me of the one not-totally-disappointing part of my last meeting with my therapist: the mindfulness exercise. It’s not worth paying $110 a week for, but it did involve the counselor hitting a metal bowl, gong-style, and me picturing a deep well inside of me. Evidently this well is where my Wise Mind resides. Because I had to picture hanging out in this well for a good 5 minutes, and I got kind of tired of looking at the wall of the well and the water and all, I decided I wanted company in the well, and that the company would be a turtle. MY POWER ANIMAL, REVEALED!

I was very pleased to have the turtle in my wise-mind well with me, although I started to get worried that he would drown if he couldn’t go up for air soon, a concern that put a slight dent in me communing with my awareness of the moment.

The turtle is a common metaphor for sensible weight loss. But the truth is I have always had an affinity for turtles. Maybe because they resemble my zodiac sign, the delightful and pinchy crab, in that they have a safe shell to retreat to in times of trouble. I even had a pet turtle for several years in my early 20s. She was liberated on Cinco de Mayo, 2001, on the same day a man flashed me and my roommate in Central Park, but that’s a whole other story.

That being said, at some point during a conversation last night, I realized that it is perfectly okay for me to lose weight slowly. Like, even at a glacially slow pace. If I eat more (relatively healthful) food, it may actually be a great thing for my metabolism and the weight-loss will zip right along. Or it may very well be that I lose less than a pound a week. It could take me two years to lose the weight. Is this okay?

Deep breath. Yes. Yes, it is. Turtles are stubborn, and slow, and tough, and so am I.

This year I will not worry about graduate school or career (non)goals. This year I will not worry about finally saving some money; as long as I stay out of debt that’s acceptable. A car can wait. So can the advanced degree.

What can’t wait is working on my mental and physical health, making those the priority while at the same time being patient and compassionate with myself during the process. I’m going to visit a new therapist next week. I’m going to stick with a (modified, Liz-personalized) version of Weight Watchers (take what works and leave the rest) and keep attending the group meetings. The rest can wait. Tiny turtle knows this is all good, and so do I.


Soundbite of the Day

“Counting calories is so 1980s.”

Soooooo 80s.

Soooooo 80s.

This one comes from a tap dancer in a Broadway musical. In a recent New York Times article, however, she goes on to admit, “But when it’s right there, it’s kind of hard to ignore.” She’s referring to the recent policy of listing calorie counts on menus in New York.

They say that everything comes back around. Like when flared pants came back for that brief period in the 90s. And, more recently, those mod mini-dresses. So why not calorie-counting? If Atkins could make a comeback, why not the unglamorous yet persistent calorie? Indeed.

Soon they’ll be renaming it the nouveau calorie-based weight-loss plan. Shortened to NCBWLP, naturally, because acronyms sound authoritative. Someone go buy that web domain, STAT! Let’s make lots of money.

Everything old is new again. Except my lime-green raver pants from 1996. I suspect they may never be poised for a comeback.

Top 7 Ways to Lose Weight

#7: Haircut. It doesn’t matter if you’re bald. You’ve got some hair on you somewhere.

#6: Refuse to wear shoes and shy away from clothing when at all possible. Everyone does it at at Weight Watchers weigh-ins. They swear it takes off 5 lbs immediately, and you’ll get used to the nudity eventually.

#5: Get a job in NYC working as a criminally underpaid editorial assistant living in Manhattan in a shoebox walk-up apartment on the sixth floor of an crumbling yet overpriced Lower East Side former tenement building. Up and down you go, dearie. No elevators in this hipster squalor, no sir! That would be so . . . inauthentic.

#4: Amputation. The human head weighs 8 lbs, or at least that large-craniumed Jerry MacGuire kid’s head did.

#3: Tuberculosis, aka “consumption.” The only thing being consumed will be your body—from within as it’s ravaged by a glorious wasting disease. Hurrah!

#2: Pay a $8,000 dollars or so to be starved for a month at an adult fat “retreat” alongside the likes of Russian mobsters’ daughters and rich divorcees as well as an obese Native American chieftain who just happens to part-own all the Hard Rock Hotels in Florida. Go home with a calorie deficit AND a budget deficit!

#1: Call your local meth dealer and arrange for a rendezvous. A few grams should keep you speedy and svelte . . . until the inevitable comedown, at which point you will have bigger fish to fry. Like pawning your grandpa’s antique rifle to get some more crank.