The Spark

Almost four years ago, Maya told me about SparkPeople.

I had little hope or feeling that this program would work any better than any of the other times I had tried to lose weight. I had just recently come off a failure with Medifast and was feeling fairly low. I mean, if I didn’t have the discipline to follow a plan so clearly laid out for me, what chances did I have?

Me (and Oscar the Grouch) in Atlantic City…probably in 2006? Pre-weight loss.

At first, I began the process with a rather apathetic attitude. I didn’t jump in thinking of all of the cute clothes I would buy when I finally got thin. I didn’t think about how finally I would be able to live the life I always wanted. I didn’t think about finding the person of my dreams once I became attractive. I had done all of those things before, all of my dreams riding in this one “lose weight quick” basket. Every single time they were all taken away from me due to my lack of self-control, so I decided not to bother with all of that again. I kept the entire Spark process a secret from everyone, excluding Maya, for probably two months.

Me after losing 19 lbs on SparkPeople. I had a really hard time noticing the difference at this point.

At that point, I was 20 pounds down and on the verge of believing. I wasn’t quite sold yet, as 20 pounds off of someone who weighs over 230 isn’t really visible. My pants were looser and I felt significantly better physically, but really, could this be different? The subject came up at work one day and I told my co-worker that I had lost 20 pounds. They said it was great and asked how. I told them. Time went on and I lost another 20 pounds and was finally in “one-derland”. People started to notice. People were impressed. I had gone down a size or two. It was working….and I started to believe that all of those dreams I refused to have in the beginning were actually attainable.

Celebrating my 26th Birthday in Reno…around 160 pounds here, so a 72 lb loss.

I went on to lose a total of 95 pounds and go down 8 dress sizes….but I would learn that many of those things that I thought would magically come to me once I was “normal” sized were in fact not based on weight at all. Who knew?

140 pounds and willing to wear a skirt!

If you are a regular reader of mine, you already know that I didn’t keep all 95 pounds off. I gained back 5 fairly quickly, but I maintained at 140-145 pounds for just about a year. I really couldn’t get my head into the game as far as losing more weight was concerned. After about a year, I started to gain. I knew things were slipping, and I kept coming back to SparkPeople….I’d log my calories and go to the gym religiously for a week or two…but I just hard a difficult time reconnecting with what had worked so well in the past. I didn’t feel sparked. I was hiding from the scale, as I felt too embarrassed to see the number. I felt embarrassed about having to buy a size or two up in clothes. I felt too embarrassed to admit on my nutrition tracker that I had in fact eaten 8 zillion cookies. I began to feel just what I had always felt before.

I felt like a failure.

I’ve spent the last several months trying to wrap my brain around it all. Why was I screwing everything up?

Various people offered an explanation. I knew their explanations were true. I just didn’t know how to fix it.

Instead of looking at the situation like a regular person…someone who has put on 10-15 pounds and wants to make a change, I am still looking at myself like I am fat. On top of that, I can’t look at the situation reasonably and unemotionally. I could say, “Gee, that sucks that I put on some weight, but hey, I’ve kept off 80 pounds for almost 3 years…that’s pretty amazing!” But I don’t. I say, “Gee. I’m getting fat again.”

No wonder Spark hasn’t been working for me…the whole point is to be positive, take small steps and set goals. I wasn’t doing any of that. I was beating myself up, going in all or nothing and still using the goals that I set nearly 4 years ago. Plus, there was the fact that I wasn’t even accepting the fact that I actually did achieve those goals:

  • Reach 150 pounds…done
  • Shop in a regular store…done.
  • Be able to do regular activities without worrying about my weight/size…done.
  • Move out on my own….done.

There were other goals, but those were big ones. I just wanted to feel normal in society…and, like I said, DONE.

So now it is time to figure out what else I want to do.


In an attempt to gain a fresh perspective, I’ve decided to re-start the program by reading “The Spark”, which is the companion book to the website. It came out quite a while after I had joined, so I never bothered with it, thinking that I already knew what it had to offer. While it is true that most of the information is available on the website, the book offers a more concise version of the plan. It also offers some extras on the website which are only available to those who have purchased the book.

I’ve found that reading Chris Downie’s (SPARKGUY) story has really motivated me to get up and try again. His story has made me ask myself what I want in life. I want a successful, enjoyable career, whether that includes being part of a team, or going out on my own. I want to help others who have been where I have been and I want to surround myself with people who push me and inspire me to go above and beyond what I think I can do. I don’t want to be stalled out forever….I want more.

One of the first things you are asked to do during “Fast Break”,  the first stage of The Spark’s “28-day Program” is to set three small, achievable goals. These goals set you up for success. Unlike big goals such as “lose 30 pounds by summer”, which are hard to tackle, these are easy. When you reach them you feel better….sparked, if you will, to make more goals and achieve them also. It’s through many small steps that you eventually get to that bigger goal. I often have a difficult time restraining myself from looking at the bigger picture, but I am giving it a shot.

My three Fast Break Goals:

  • Don’t snack mindlessly in the evening
  • Take the stairs at every opportunity
  • Get 8 hours of sleep

I tend to do well food-wise all day, then I get home and snack until I go to sleep. I never mean to…it just happens. So, I hope to kick that habit, as it sabotages the good work I have done all day.

I have a bad habit of skipping the stairs at work. I go up and down them 10 times a day or more, as I am a manager and I have to go back and forth from my office to the lobby. They’re three quick flights (that equal one floor) and take less than 20 seconds to walk, but at some point in the day, I always switch to the elevator. Can you say, lazy?

I’ve already started listing sleep on my Google Calendar. It’s one of the biggies for me. I tend to stay up late because I am a night owl. That would be fine if I had a job that didn’t start until noon everyday, but I don’t. When I don’t get sleep, I’m crabby, I skip my workouts and I eat poorly. I also do a lousy job at work because all I can think about is getting home and taking a nap. When I get solid sleep, I’m a different person….you know…the person I’d actually like to be.

So there’s my start to “The Spark”…my next step in getting my life under control. I will keep you all updated on how it is going!

If you were to set three small, achievable goals, what would they be?

8 thoughts on “The Spark

  1. I didn’t even recognize you in your first picture. I knew you had lost weight because I’ve read many of your past posts, but this is the first time I’ve read “your story.” How awesome — you have so much to be proud of, but I know how easy it is for us to beat ourselves up.

    If I were to set 3 small achievable goals, my 1st one would have to take more rest days from working out. I run so much and I feel really guilty when I don’t fit in even a few miles. While some view this commitment to exercise as a good thing, it’s actually bad — I have more aches and pains, more injuries, etc, and I feel like it’s going to take a toll on my racing. I now have a gym membership so I can do some cross-training instead of high-impact running, but I still need to learn how to take rest days altogether. Our muscles need the break!

    2. Stop drinking so much hot chocolate every morning. Yikes! I’m addicted and some mornings I’ll have 3 cups of it. That’s far too much sugar to start my day.

    3. Get more sleep. I often stay up way too late, which sucks because I also have to wake up early to catch the express bus to work. In my ideal world, I would be getting between 8 and 9 hours a night.

    Great post, Alexa. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

    1. Thanks. It’s always a struggle to hit the pause button on things and remind ourselves that we have accomplishments worth celebrating, even when there are setbacks. I’m just trying to do that currently…and it’s hard!

      Mmm. Hot chocolate. I haven’t had it in so long– I need to remedy that, stat! I have a similar problem, but with coffee. Two cups in the morning is fine…but sometimes I have my two cups at home…and then Starbucks later. Yikes!

  2. I’ve been right there with you through this entire journey, and I’m so very proud everything you’ve achieved. Even more than the actual achievements, though, I’m proud of you for the tenacity and strength you showed in working towards those goals. As someone with a very clear view of where you were before and where you are now, it’s been hard watching you beat yourself over each minor setback. You are capable of SO much more than you give yourself credit for. You’ve proven that 10 times over already. I have done what I can to help you through the rough patches, but, as you mentioned here, you will not fully escape from that doubt until you can accept yourself for who you are now rather than going through life carrying around the mental baggage of you were then.

    I have been seeing a shift lately that points towards you moving in this direction, and I hope that means you’re finally ready to break free. I will always be here to support you through this, but your real strength comes from within, and you need to trust in that above all else.

    1. Thanks.

      As you’ve heard me say before, it’s really hard to let all of that go. Ya gotta remember that I was that person for much longer than I’ve been this one and switching gears is a process.

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