It Only Takes a Spark

It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing;

– Pass It On, Kurt Kaiser

Not too long ago, the founder of SparkPeople, Chris Downie’s book The Spark hit store shelves. I was able to read a few chapters before I decided to buy the book. This morning, I sat down to read them again.

In the first chapter, Chris gives a bit of a background of how the idea for SparkPeople started. Unlike other entrepreneurial ideas, I don’t believe he set out to make millions dollars, but rather “help millions of people” (The Spark, 2010) and he did! Starting out, Chris was a painfully shy adolescent who in any given day wouldn’t speak to anyone other than family. Soccer forced him to become part of a team. In college, he forced himself to take a public speaking class to get comfortable talking in public. After graduating, he got “sucked into” the corporate world  and got too busy to do much of anything besides wolf down some fries and a fast food burger in his car during lunch break.

But he made a change that started with just 10 minutes. Every morning, he would get up and do 10 minutes of exercise. Day after day. Soon, he had created a steak of 100 days, 200 days. He even inspired a co-worker to do the same.

The reason why I’ve gone back and reread the first chapters of The Spark is to remind myself that small, daily actions lead to big changes. Chris didn’t dedicate hours of time in the gym (although eventually he had enough energy to head into one after work). The time he dedicated to his change was small, but it was consistent.

It reminds me that I can make small changes in my life and they will matter. I’m not talking just about weight loss (although this is definitely where I’m starting). Small actions that lead to big changes can affect all areas of my life. I will call it Chunks of 10. If I come home from work and take 10 minutes to straighten up the house, put in a load of clothes or make my bed, at the end of the week, my Saturday chores won’t take so long to complete. If I wake up 10 minutes before I need to, I can sit down and spend time with God. If I take 10 minutes to go through the mail as soon as it comes into the house, I won’t have to deal with it at the end of the week.

10 minutes is all it takes. I plan on incorporating Chunks of 10 to my daily routine.

By the way, if you’d like to read the first two chapters of Chris’ book, The Spark, you can do so by clicking this link.

Until next time…


Do What Works and Stick With It!

A couple of years ago, I lost 40 lbs. I used SparkPeople’s free tools to help me do it.

I counted calories by logging my food.

I measured out my food to help me log it.

I kept track of how many calories I burned by logging my exercise.

And slowly, over time, I stopped doing all that.

But I had a talk with myself. I said, “Self.  You know what works. You need to do it. And you need to continue doing it and never, ever stop.”

Pretty daunting – to do something forever. Especially when what you need to do is hard. Not hard, challenging. To fit in an already busy day. But fit it in you must. Because you deserve it. Because maintaining good health is better than fixing bad.

So I have to go back to basics. I just have to. It worked and while it was challenging at times, it wasn’t impossible.

Today, I printed out a calendar. I have scheduled time for me every day – before I’ve even transferred over the scout meetings, the church activities and the due-dates for my bills. I did it because I knew if I didn’t, I never would.

I also printed out a two-week meal planner. This is not a menu planner that gets posted on the refrigerator so the kids know what’s for dinner. This is a meal planner for me so I know exactly what I’m eating breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Why? Because planning sets you up for success. Lack of it guarantees failure. I’m living proof of that.

I grabbed my pretty, red measuring cups and my food scale (yes, really) so that I can relearn what a serving size of food actually looks like. People in the US have a really warped sense of what a portion really is; hey, we want to get more for our money, right? We got it: tight pants, jiggly bellies, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

I found what works for me – what works for you? I suggest you find it and stick with it – forever. Because only then will you continue to have success.

The time is now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Already doing something but had a bad week? Put it behind you and look forward. You can’t change the past. Tomorrow isn’t here yet. Don’t worry about it. Worry about today and take it one day at a time.

It is the premise of SparkPeople – creating little streaks, one day at a time.

It’s time to start mine today. What streak are you creating? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time…

This post is part of the Mamavation Monday Carnival. Be sure to visit the site to read of others successes and struggles!

Six Word Saturday 1/16

Sick, snotty, schooling but snug inside.

Not a great start…but it’s a start!

Hello Mamavation Moms (and anyone else who happens to venture over to my corner of the shell)! I hope that your week was successful and that your goals are in the right direction.

As promised, I am returning today to report in to all my Mamavation Mom. I’m afraid I don’t have a great week to report, but the fact that I’m reporting it instead of hiding out on my side of the screen has to account for something, right?

Last week (Well, Monday & Tuesday, at least) were the last days of Christmas break. I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner on those days – no snacks and no working out. Wednesday was my first day back and was also the day that I came home to no water.  No, my pipes weren’t frozen (that happened yesterday, thankyouverymuch). Long story short, I misread my bill and they shut me off a day before I was going to pay it (doh!). The Man Beast straightened everything out and four little bodies that went to school/work dirty, were able to get cleaned the next day. All was good in my world again.

All in all – last week was a bust. I didn’t do anything to work towards my healthy goals. Nothing. Nada.

This week I have plans, though. I have my fit buddy’s schedule and we’re planning on hitting the Y at least three times this week! I bought a new Pur water filter for my faucet mount, so I’m all set to get some fresh, clean water to start my day. I am ready to make this week better than last!

Keep on keeping on ladies even if you have a bad week. Because a bad week doesn’t undo your success, not correcting your course. I know what I did wrong last week. I know what to fix. I’m looking forward. Why would I look back? I can’t change anything about the past.  I’m not looking at tomorrow. I can’t control tomorrow anymore than I can control yesterday…but I can control today (well, certain aspects of it – certainly how I react to whatever happens).

I am in charge. You are in charge. Do ever let setbacks permanently set you back. This is what I did in the past and it is how I gained almost 20 of the 40 lbs I lost. Keep on keeping on.

Until next time…

6 Word Saturday 1/9

Girl Scouts, Grocery Shopping and Papers

Happy Birthday to my wonderful husband! (Oh! That’s six words, too!)

School Starts

Yesterday, my spring semester at school started. I’m taking my first education course and it says right on the syllabus: writing intensive.

No joke!

The first semesters of class were a piece of cake! This class is just starting to get into the meat and potatoes of it all.

But I suspect a large part of it stems from the fact that it’s all so new to me. For example, I had to buy a subscription to an online portfolio service so that I can start building my portfolio for after I graduate (tentative date: February 2013). I have weekly papers due. I’ve had weekly papers due for all of my classes thus far except chemistry, but they’ve been papers I can just shoot out in three hours time (okay, maybe an hour on some of the shorter ones).  The papers for this class aren’t short. Where as past papers were between 500-1000 words, these papers are 1500+. Yikes!

On top of the weekly papers due, I have journals do each week plus a benchmark paper at the end of the eight weeks.

I’m not complaining. This is what I signed on for. I’m excited that this is my first education class. I’m excited because I’m finally over the freshman classes and can finally study for my degree. I’m excited because my money is actually going towards something!

But I’m nervous because it’s all so new. But, being it’s a 200/300 course, I know that I’ll probably get walked through it a bit more than if it were a 400 class. Besides, once I get the feel for how the higher-level classes work, I’ll feel more confident in my studies.

That said – I’ll have to make very good use of my time this semester. There won’t be anymore waiting-until-the-weekend-to-do-my-work. In fact, I would love to get my work done by Friday so I have the weekend to relax with the family.

Let the games begin.

Until next time…

Mamavation Mondays

My New Year’s Resolution included moving more, not losing weight or getting healthy. But they all go hand-in-hand (kind of neat how that happens, huh?)

I’ll be posting every Monday on my journey the previous week as part of the Mamavation Mondays – a group of women who support each other in their healthy journeys. It’s not about losing weight (although that’s part of it). It’s about taking care of ourselves as women so that we can take care of others in our lives – be them husbands, children, or friends. Support is key in any endeavour as it helps get you through the rough times and gives you a cheering section to celebrate your successes – no matter how small they might seem to the general population.

I’ll be bringing over a lot of blog posts from Spark People – no sense in doing double the work, right? But I’ll give you a brief run-down on my weight loss journey in the past:

January 1, 2007 begins my journey of seriously buckling down and taking steps to make a healthy lifestyle change.

Through the course of the year, I lost 40 pounds. Then, I went to VA to visit friends and family. One day turned into a bad week. A bad week turned into a bad month. Long story short, I’ve gained back 20 of those original 40 lbs lost. Truth to tell, I can stand to lose 30 to be at a healthy weight – 40 to be at a comfortable weight. I have a long way to go.

The reason why I chose MOVE MORE as one of my New Year’s resolutions (goals, whatever) was because I felt it was the one area that I was lacking – the one piece of the puzzle that I’ve never quite mastered. While I struggle with drinking water, I can do it. Not going back for seconds – yeah, I got that mastered (when I put my mind to it). But moving was one thing I always struggled with – so it’s the one thing I’m focusing on this year.

MOVE does not mean exercise in my book. Sure, I love Tae Bo and enjoy walking (I would really like to work up to running). But another aspect of moving for me is just getting up off my duff and MOVING. Playing  racquetball with a friend, playing with the kids on the beach, taking a walk with the kids, taking a walk with The Man Beast (TMB). Just MOVING.

Because my goals aren’t a diet. They aren’t an exercise program. Those, in my mind, mean short-term actions. I want a long-term action. And not only that – I don’t want to have to think about it. I want it to become who I am. I want it to become so automatic that I’m not thinking, “I need to take my walk now”, “I need to drink 32 more oz of water to get my daily allotment in”, “I only have 250 more calories left – what can I eat?” My mind doesn’t work that way. I become obsessed.

I don’t want to be obsessed. I want to live.

For all my Mamavation followers out there, be sure to check back each week to see my progress. You are my accountability – at least publically. I know that I’m accountable to myself on this side of the screen.

Until next time…