Monday, January 06, 2014

Six days into 2014

PellMel drove off to Bozeman yesterday, MadMax is back in school this morning, and Dean is, as always, faithfully doing his job to fund the whole thing. I spent a couple of hours on Thursday and most of the day on Friday putting away all the Christmas stuff. Why does it always take so much longer to put it away than it does to get it out? Actually, that may not be true since I've never timed it--maybe getting all the Christmas stuff out is just more fun since usually we're all four working on it and the Christmas music is going. Maybe it just goes by faster.

This year was just the right amount of holiday for me. Not so long that I got bored or cranky, but long enough that I was definitely ready to get back to the routine today. My to-do list is about three miles long for this week. Yikes.

The two posts that finish up thoughts from 2013 are mostly written, but I don't want to work on them today, so I'll tell you about SparkPeople instead. It's a new year, right? which means resolutions, renewed commitments to healthy eating, etc etc etc.

If you've been around for awhile, you may remember that instead of making a laundry list of new year's resolutions, I generally just have one thing. There's nothing magic about a new year, of course, and for the most part (in my opinion) New Year's resolutions are a waste of time. But there is some energy around the start of a new year that seems worth taking advantage of, so I more-or-less give myself something to think about for the year. The first year I did this, the theme was "lighten up," a phrase that just popped into my head. It came up over and over again in so many different contexts throughout the year that I've tried to do it every year since.

This year, it's freedom--what it means to me personally to be free, free of my own hyper self-critical-ness and self-condemnation, free of worry about other people's opinions, freedom from a couple of unhealthy compulsions. I had already picked it a few days after Christmas, then I started reading Jim Palmer's next book (more about that in a minute), and it is a major theme there, too. So this year I'm thinking about freedom. It was for freedom that Christ set you free, so stand firm and do not submit to the yoke of slavery again. (Galatians 5.1)

Oh, yeah, I was going to tell you about SparkPeople. That's the fitness site that I joined when I dropped out of Fitocracy a couple of months ago. There are some extremely irritating things about SparkPeople, and number one is all the ads. I know they have to make money somehow since most of the site is free, but it's ridiculous. Also sometimes even unethical--there's one particular pop-up that appears when you go to track your fitness that if you were elderly or not internet-savvy would seem completely reasonable and it is not. But I digress.

So far I'm putting up with the ads, because generally speaking the site is doing what I want it to do for me, which is give me that little extra bit of motivation to pay attention to my health and fitness. So far I'm not using the calorie tracking part of it since as I told you a couple of years ago, I refuse to diet. But it seems to be working anyway, slowly but surely. I've lost nine pounds since the beginning of last summer just by trying to eat healthily and exercise consistently (it was ten, but I gained a pound back over the holidays). I'm back down into the high end of the range that I was in before I started grad school, so even if that's all I lose, I'm OK with that. Oddly, not one single person has noticed--not even Dean (until I told him). I wonder how much weight you have to lose before other people can tell? And of course, now it won't count if any of you who know me irl say something. :-)

Another annoying thing about SparkPeople is that it's more a system than it is a fitness site. I try to earn 50-60 "spark points" a day, but I can do it without doing one single healthy thing if I want to, just by knowing how to work their system. You get a random number of points for just being there each day, but you don't get them by just showing up at the site, you get them by clicking on "spin" on their roulette wheel.

You can get points from reading articles about healthy snacks, crockpot recipes, strength training, etc (this morning I got five points for reading one titled "Nine Cardio Mistakes"). You can get points for playing their health trivia game, or donating points to a team that you've joined. You get points for tracking the food you eat, or logging minutes of exercise (1 point per five minutes), or watching one of their fitness videos, or participating in the forums, or any number of other things.

So really, like Fito, Sparkpeople is what you make it. If you want to just rack up points without doing a damn thing, you can do that--although that's definitely easier to do on Sparkpeople than it was on Fito. Or you can use it to be whatever you want, because it's also customizable. You can create your own checklist of daily activities (drink 8 cups of water, eat 5 fruits/veggies, meditate 10 minutes, write a journal entry, exercise 30 minutes, whatever you want), and you get a point whenever you check one of them off. That part of it works great for me. In fact, that's why I'm still using it, in spite of all the gimmicky stuff.

I try to look at all the cute-sy things like the roulette wheel as if I were at Club Med. We've never been to a Club Med, but we have friends who have gone. At a Club Med, there are all sorts of songs (with hand motions!) and games and activities. At the beginning of the week (we've been told), you feel like an idiot participating in all their silly stuff. But by the end of the week, you throw your inhibitions aside and join right in. And it's fun.

That's the way I try to look at SparkPeople, because if I can make myself quit being a naysayer (be free of negativity?!), it makes health and fitness a little bit like a game. It's working for me right now. It may not work forever, though. Those pop-up ads are really annoying.

Hmmm, this is already long and I never got around to Jim Palmer's second book (Wide Open Spaces), which I like much less than the first one but it is still giving me food for thought. I guess I've gone on long enough for now, though. Have a great day, and tell me what you think about New Year's resolutions in the comments.


  1. I never really like New Year's eve celebrations or resolutions. I always woke up feeling like nothing had changed and resolutions just seemed to be a set up for failure.

    So I've been doing something else, which is, every day is a new day, a first day of a year. And it takes something like 30 times of doing something before it becomes a habit. So I'm trying to slowly incorporate new healthy habits. The first was (don't laugh) flossing. The second was a commitment to exercise at least 3 times a week - I used the c25k program as a way to make that one happen. And now I'm good with both of those. So the next thing which got added in this morning is strength training. I'm going with the Scientific 7 minute workout since it gets all major muscles and doesn't take very long, although I admit to collapsing on the floor at the end, gasping "thank you baby Jesus" that it's over. So that's good until March. For March, I'm going to try a month with no added sugar and am contemplating exactly what that will entail. That one isn't a habit to change, exactly, just a try it and see how it makes me feel and then make a decision about how much sugar is okay. I'll let you know how it goes.

    1. That is a great way to build new habits. Interesting. I like the idea of picking something simple and obvious to do first (like flossing!). I've done a week or so without sugar, but I haven't done a long stretch since I gave up sugar for Lent once back in college. I've actually been thinking about doing something similar once I get off caffeine--which should be in the next ten days or so. I've been weaning down forever.