Carol Bontekoe

This blog has been keeping track of my adventures since 2004. The stories and the adventures have come from my college dorm room to Uganda, Peace Corps Kyrgyzstan, learning Dutch in the Netherlands to living in the wilds of Homer, Alaska. I went back to school in Amsterdam to study Theaterwetenschap (Theatre Science) at University of Amsterdam. And now my adventures as a Fruit Fly, a Sexy Unicorn, and creating a movement with Team Sparkle in Chicago.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Team Sparkle

I'm doing it.
I'm going to run a 5k in September.
I'm going to lift weights.
I'm going to bike everywhere I possibly can.
I'm going to lose 100 lbs.
I'm going to run a marathon in 2013.
Changing your habits, your lifestyle, and yourself is a very difficult process.

Team Sparkle: Double D, Scott, Me, and Alana
I was born a big kid and have subsequently grown into a big adult. My size only rarely phases me. Living abroad for a large chunk of my adulthood didn't make me notice it either, because aren't Americans suppose to be fat? Me being bigger than everyone or unable to fit into things just seemed right. It wasn't till I moved back to the United States, and the Midwest in particular, I became aware of just how big I had become. It was the fact that I wasn't actually the biggest person around anymore that drew attention to it.
I work at a large museum that practically every Midwesterner visits at some point. I started noticing people around my age who couldn't walk up 3 flights of stairs or had trouble covering the entire distance of the museum. I started to think there must have been a point when they could have turned it around. I'm not saying it is ever fully impossible, however, when someone can barely walk because of their weight I can see where it starts to feel like an impossibility. This made me start to look at myself more carefully. I began to realize how inactivity and an unhealthy lifestyle can creep up on you. It had creeped up on me. I wasn't really heavier than I have been at other points in my life but I was flabbier, softer, quickly tired, eating all the time, and yet totally malnourished. That's how you get to the point where you can't climb stairs at the age of 30. It isn't an overnight thing but a decade of bad choices, lack of focus, and self loathing that enabled me to keep with a destructive lifestyle.
I decided then and there that I didn't want to live a life of self destruction. I want to live a healthy, active, and engaging life.
A year later I actually started working on changing for good and making a complete lifestyle change.
In the year following my decision and getting to the point where I actually started working towards my goal there were a few failed attempts to become more active and to eat better. They failed pretty quickly and I burnt out fast trying to do it all by myself. I would go out and buy, for lack of a better word, vats of cookie dough. There were huge bags of candy that I would consume in my room with the wrappers covering my floor, serving as a reminder of what I just did. A lot of shame comes when you have one of these binges. The shame last 4 to 5 times longer than the satisfaction of having just torn apart an entire pie.
As a very goal orientated person I knew I need to pick some BIG goal. Something that wasn't coming up too quickly and would give me time to work towards it with smaller milestones leading up to it. I knew exactly what it had to be, something I have always wanted to do. I like to be mentally and physically challenged. It had to be a... MARATHON. The fact that people laughed whenever I brought up the idea of me running a marathon when I haven't even run a 5K was a good indicator to me that it is the perfect goal.
There is a weird amount of embarrassment involved with saying you want to lose weight or get in shape or quit an addiction (sometimes it's a 3-for-1). It means having to admit out loud to another person that there is a problem, even though odds are other people can already see the problem you are so desperate not to acknowledge.
I thought weight loss and better health could be mastered the same way I took on knitting. Someone takes an hour to show me the basics, makes uncomfortable faces at my awkwardness, then I go into another room for the next two days watching Barbara Streisand movies and when I re-appear I have a scarf. It turns out while knit and purl is a challenge, it is nothing compared to eating healthy.
I have a tendency to crumble if I know anyone is paying attention to me. Crippling stage fright has plagued me my whole life. I wasn't able to knit when my mom, who was teaching me, was looking over my shoulder. I had to be able to go in another room and fail and succeed and fail without anyone noticing. That's how I wanted weight loss to be- in another room, alone, where no one can see me fail they just see the end result of my triumph.
Also, when speaking of weight loss I feel the weight loss reality shows have hurt people. How so? They hurt people because we all love the idea of the "Big Reveal". The moment you come out with the lights on you, in a tight skirt, and some rockin' heels. However, if you aren't leaving your world behind the "Big Reveal" is impossible. And trying to hide or keep your goals a secret seems fruitless. No one can help, encourage, or join you if it is a secret in hopes of some moment of revelation in others. And you are unable to help, encourage, and set an example for others if you are keep your own struggle a secret.
Once I decided to run a marathon, for me, it meant game on. I needed to get in shape for this test of endurance. That meant eating better and working out. I also knew I needed to include at least one other person that would be with me all the way to the end. To me the natural person to ask was my best friend, Scott. When I asked him if he would commit to the next year and half of training, races, and finally the 2013 Chicago Marathon; he laughed in my face and said, "no". I wasn't surprised by his answer.
Scott and I are not friends because we have so much in common that it was inevitability. We met when I crashed a party at his place and proceeded to talk to him because he has a Frisian last name. I am an extrovert to the nth degree combined with a relatively open nature. Scott in contrast is introverted and a very private person (I'm sure if he reads this he is not happy that he is even mentioned in this- tough cookies! :P). And where I have a tendency to give a resounding "yes" without thinking about the situation, Scott will give an automatic "no". Sometimes he comes around other times he'll let the gut reaction "no" remain.
When it came to the marathon question a few days later he came around and said he was in. I am so glad he decided to go on this journey with me and to know I'm not alone, it made a world of difference in my training and focus to know someone will be there for me. Also, it's been nice to see him reengaging with a healthier routine after the most tragic and stressful year of his life had moved him away from a healthy lifestyle.
I began a quest to recruit more people. To keep me accountable but to also give others a goal to work towards as they try to become healthier and happier people. I know that to ask people to commit to a a marathon is a bit much, so I have begun with the Bucktown 5K in September. This particular 5K was chosen because it has a particularly nice goodie bag combined with being enough in the future to get people to join in and start running. So far two others have committed to running the Bucktown 5K with Scott and I; our friends Alana and Daniel David (Double D).  I am so excited for all of us and have started calling us Team Sparkle. I'm committing myself to helping the other members of Team Sparkle live more active lives.
I have read lots of articles about how your friend groups influence your health and weight. Maybe I have had a negative impact on friends in the past because I didn't take care of myself. I hope now and in the future I can be a good influence on my friends lives instead of a detrimental one. The only requirement there is to being apart of Team Sparkle is the taking responsibility for your life and to live an active and engaging life.
It's encouraging not to feel alone in this struggle anymore. To feel others are helping me and maybe I'm helping someone else.
 Remember if you want to see change, than you have to be the change.
 And most of all sparkle so the world can see you.


  1. chris, kelly, emerson + baby said...

    Yay!!! I'm so happy for and proud of you, Carol! I look forward to fully signing on to team sparkle after baby #2 is born. Much love to you, girl!

  2. cableclair said...

    Carol!!! This is so incredibly well written! I am all moved and sappy! And proud. And grinning like an idiot. You might be the only one who could convince me to join any kind of marathon running ever. You are sorely missed.