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.
  • NOTES PROGRESS THAT THE SPONSEE CANNOT YET SEE FOR THEMSELVES!

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.

3 Organizational Strategies for Weight Loss

Lately the universe has hammered home to me the lesson that in order to succeed in any number of ventures, including weight loss, putting certain organizational strategies into place multiplies the chances of success.

Tidy Up.

How can you create a masterwork if you can’t even find your paintbrush? How can you plan a delicious new meal if you don’t know what’s in your fridge—or, for that matter, what that moldy item lurking in the crisper drawer is? Throw out things that are past their eat-by date, sort through your coupons, organize your tupperware. Figure out what you’re working with.

planner2Sometimes you need to tidy up your calendar rather than your physical environment. Blackberries and iPhones are great and I’m certainly no neo-Luddite, but sometimes nothing can compete with an old-fashioned hard-copy day-planner with half hours blocked off.


Do The Prep Work.

A post on Abundance Blog about mise en place or “to put in place” reminded me that doing the nuts-and-bolts legwork in advance makes it possible to execute a plan with ease, whether you’re making a recipe or going to the gym.

Doing the prep work—the veggie chopping and utensil-locating—ahead of time makes preparing a meal more relaxing. Laying out your gym clothes the night before gives you one less excuse to put off your morning workout.

Visualize All The Angles.

If you’re a visual person, brain-storming the various elements of your particular goal in advance can give you the reassurance you need that you have all your bases covered, which in turn bolsters your confidence in the plan and in your chance of success.

Here’s just one example of a diagram you might draw to help you consider all the angles:

Click on diagram for full-sized image

Click on diagram for full-sized image

An itemized list might suit some people better, because we all have our own way of assessing where we are and where we want to be. Laying down the structural foundations for success enables us to focus more on the present once we set out on the pathway toward our goals.

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Weigh-in: Paper Plates

flickr.com/photos/gaylon/

flickr.com/photos/gaylon/

At today’s Weight Watchers meeting I weighed in and was met with a loss of 2.0 lbs. Right on! I just have to keep on keepin’ on, know what I mean? I’ve long known that persistence is the true challenge in this endeavor.

During the meeting we all wrote what we plan to eat for Thanksgiving dinner on paper plates (with stickers on them, no less) and then added up the Points in the food and talked about the importance of being prepared for holiday foodfests. (On a related note, I’ve made up my mind to forgo indulging much at work-related functions and plan to enjoy a bit more seasonal cuisine at the two big family holiday dinners: Thanksgiving and Christmas. Those represent the spirit—and tastiness—of the season much more to me than an ordered-in buffet served out of vat-like containers, or a big mess of store-bought cookies.)

As far as my weekend goals are concerned, I’ve hit three out of four: moved some more of my stuff out of the storage unit, weighed in, and . . . joined a gym! The last one is the most exciting :). I worked out by walking on the treadmill for 30 minutes today, which may not be much but is definitely a start.

What I didn’t accomplish this weekend: Buying a simple cookbook full of healthy meals. This was not for lack of trying, because I spent a good hour in Borders sitting in a chair and flipping through a big pile of cookbooks. I kept being torn between the “light” cookbooks and the introductory/beginner’s cookbooks like How to Boil Water, which doesn’t include calorie counts with its recipes but does provide a good foundation of general cooking knowledge. After a while, my head started to spin so I decided to sleep on it all for a night or two!

General summary of how I felt this past week:

I’m not going to lie: it was a rough one, emotionally, when it came to my eating plan. On the outside, things were reasonably low-stress in my life, but I had a lot of inner turmoil regarding the food choices I’m making and the plan (Weight Watchers Flex Plan) that I’m following. I have found myself gravitating more to the “easy,” more processed food choices that my sweet tooth wants (Fiber One Oats & Chocolate bars) as opposed to the more wholesome options (celery with nut butter, or hummus on a whole-wheat pita).

In a way, the more processed foods, like the grab-and-go bars, are the “paper plates” of food, and the foods that take a little more thought for me or a bit of preparation are the “good china.” This is a war I’m waging in my head and in my body, and unless you have spent time truly addicted to sugary, processed foods, you cannot understand how painful it is sometimes. You just can’t. The mental battle takes a major emotional toll, as well as a physical one. It even affects your relationships at times. A feeling of dis-ease takes over. You don’t feel “right.” You are used to your paper plates. You are feeling vulnerable and tired, on top of all that. It ain’t easy, chickens.

Last week I discussed my pity pizza-fest, and Dr. J from CalorieLab offered this take on things:

I’m going to give you some real advice, OK? Learn to make your own healthier version of a pizza. No it’s not store bought, but it will get you past those times when you are weak. Occasionally get the store bought. Over time, you will enjoy and be satisfied by what you make. Trust me, you need to diminish your dependence on fat, sugar and salt or you will not pull this weight loss thing off, nor sustain it. Very few people are successful at weight loss and there are reasons for it, that if you do not deal with, you will not make it either. That’s the way it is. I’m sorry. I will not tell you this again.

How are you at taking constructive criticism? Mature, thoughtful, objective? Me neither—at least not at first. I am what could be facetiously called a fragile flower. I felt almost crushed by this advice; like I had disappointed a favorite uncle. I’m only two weeks into this weight-loss program, and I constantly question myself and the nutritional wisdom I’m bombarded with every five seconds. I’m hungry more than I’m comfortable with. I’ve wanted to throw in the towel multiple times. And now I felt like I was being told by someone I respect that I wasn’t doing enough. In other words, I focused right in on the “or you will not pull this weight loss thing off” part without soaking in the sound advice surrounding it. I fear this is a habit of mine. Tunnel vision for the negative.

Luckily, I decided to stop being such a baby about it. When I got beyond my bruised ego, I realized that I pretty much agree with everything Dr. J is saying in his comment. I just felt irritated and disappointed in myself that I can’t seem to get to that place of nutritional wholeness instantly. I’m slow and can still be side-tracked by frozen treats. But here I have an actual doctor giving me personal advice, and I am not going to ignore it! Not to mention the fact that I—the turtle!—totally read into the comment that I had to make these changes in the blink of an eye, rather than gradually. I have a habit of transforming everything into black/white, all/nothing propositions.

It just goes to show that our lives are shaped much more by our take on things than by actual events themselves. Our perceptions have so much power. If I can train my thoughts to perceive that I should use the good china regularly, pretty soon those paper plates will look much less attractive. If I can be kind but firm with myself, I stand a much greater chance of success.

Weekend Turtle Steps

smallturtleThis weekend, I’ll be making a couple more steps in the direction of better health and fitness:

1. Checking out a nearby gym with John. It’s very new, very inexpensive/no fills, and may be just right for us.

2. Getting a workout by moving some more boxes out of my storage unit and into our garage.

3. Sticking to my food plan and weighing in on Sunday at my regular WW meetings. FYI, all of my weight changes will be updated weekly on my Weight-Loss Progress page, accessible by clicking on the tab at the top of this page. I’ll be adding photos as the weeks go by.

4. Buying a simple healthy cookbook. Any suggestions? Think VERY simple, people. You cannot underestimate me enough in this particular area. At the same time, I want to be cooking with whole, mostly unprocessed foods as much as possible.

What are you up to this weekend? What turtle steps are you taking toward your goals?

When the Moon Hits Your Eye

Riding the bus home from work in the already-dark yesterday evening, I felt extremely dejected. I feel much better now, but at the moment I was in the emotion, I felt like crap. I was staring out the bus window thinking morbid thoughts when a glimpse of the moon appeared between buildings and treetops.

It was huge, and round, and bright.

It reminded me of pizza.

I was very hungry, and not in a good frame of mind. I decided that when I got home, I would order a medium cheese pizza, eat it all myself, and then hate myself a lot. I had a plan. I take comfort in plans, even when they are counterproductive and willfully self-destructive.

I got home and went to the pizza place’s website—no human interaction required!—and paused slightly. What would John eat when he got home, if I only ordered pizza for myself? I didn’t want to share my medium cheese pizza with him. I want to do this thing proper and I was NOT GOING TO SHARE. But then I considered our finances and realized it was stupid to get us each a separate pizza, so I compromised and ordered a large pizza, half plain and half with his favorite toppings on it. It was still not the healthiest choice I could have made last night, but it was an improvement. I even calculated that I could eat all four of my slices and still be within my weekly bonus Points allowance.

Quoi? But if that happened, would I still have license to wallow in self-loathing afterward? Oh, probably not. Dammit. But it was too late. I had already made the less-dysfunctional choice.

Which worked out well, because soon after the pizza arrived, I had a great phone call and felt lots better about myself and life in general. I didn’t want to spend the evening hating on myself. I ate three slices of pizza, marked it in my food journal, and was at peace with the choice I had made. How strange for me.

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:

Weigh-in: Anchors Away

ist2_4762716-anchor-iconMy weigh-in last night showed a 3.6-lb loss for the past week, putting me just under the 200-lb mark again! So I guess I’m doing something right.

The meeting was meh. My regular meeting schedule will be the Sunday afternoon meeting, and I’m glad. The leader last night kept asking questions and then staring expectantly at the group, and during the awkward pauses I could hear “Bueller? Bueller?” echoing in my head. And then inevitably the same two women would bray their opinions. A couple of times a few other hesitant souls would venture a guess to the leader’s Socratic-style questions and I swear to God that on at least one of these occasions, they were made to feel as if their answer were somehow wrong. Oh, please! This is a Weight Watchers meeting, not law school!

The topic of the meeting: Anchors for the holiday season. Touchstones to keep you grounded and focused despite the madness swirling all around in the form of consumerism, family which you may or may not be pleased to see, and baked goods. One of the women who was basically shot down mentioned that the anchor could be something like a piece of clothing you want to fit into, but when the leader gave her a vaguely disapproving hawklike stare, she mumbled, “Maybe it’s a little materialistic.”

Well, we can’t all be Joan of Arc after all, and I’m totally planning to go the materialistic anchor route! I’m currently in the market for a little bracelet or something to wear every day that I can touch or look down at to re-center myself and recommit to my plan. How about you? Do you have an anchor that reminds you of your goals and helps to keep you resolved even when things get mental in your life?