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More Than: Kat from LFK

February 20, 2010

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Hi, THS readers!  I’m Kat from Low-Fat Kat, and am honored to be doing a guest post for Heather!  When I was working on my Master’s degree, I did my thesis on social networks and virtual communities and how they could benefit healthcare organizations and hospital systems.  At the time, I was focusing mostly on what I knew from Facebook, MySpace, and the networks our professors used in college – WebCT and Blackboard.  In my head, I was thinking of this ginormous network wherein patients could talk to each other, share information with their healthcare providers, schedule appointments, and retrieve information and resources. 

A mouthful, yes?  Well somewhere in my book (I’m calling a spade a spade here), I briefly touched on how virtual communities can improve the health of their members through social interaction – the topic I want to focus on for this post. 

One of my attention-grabbing examples was that of a girl who turned to the PostSecret Community forums for help.  She was in her early 20s and lived in a society where women had very few rights, especially those regarding sexuality.  She discovered she was pregnant, and she risked exile or even death (at the hands of her own family, mind you) for seeking an abortion or having a child out of wedlock; she was a literal case of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” 

She came to the PostSecret community looking for suggestions or any help that could be offered.  People from all over the world were researching women’s shelters and doctors in her area that might be willing to help her; they were researching chemical abortifacients she might be able to find nearby, and they were researching halfway houses for her, if she had been willing to carry the child.  Outside of helping her find physical resources, two of the biggest things the community offered her were “merely” a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen.  When she was contemplating aborting the child by her own hand, people talked her out of it.  When she sought out an abortion from a reputable professional and took a few days off to recover, a virtual vigil was held on the forum – people praying for her, talking about her situation, offering nothing but well-wishes.  Her situation really struck me as unique but yet universal – we turn to virtual communities to gain support and to find like-minded people who help us find and establish our places in life.

When I was writing my thesis, I understood and appreciated the points I was making about virtual communities, but I wasn’t a “capital-B” Blogger at that point.  It wasn’t until a year or so ago when I started my blog and unknowingly created my own little social network (hi, guys!!) that I truly understood the impact virtual communities can have on their members.  Unlike some of my in-real-life (IRL) community members, the people who make up my virtual community were handpicked by me.  I follow people who struggle with the same things I struggle with (being a bit too addicted to chocolate and baked goods, for one), those who have succeeded where I intend to succeed (losing and keeping off large amounts of weight), and those who have stories different than my own but that intrigue me (being vegan, being gluten-intolerant, having kids, or recovering from bulimia to name a few).  I’ve surrounded myself with various positive influences and have thus shaped my own reality.

I’ve done every diet under the sun and have struggled with my weight for over 20 years (a fact that royally sucks when you realize I’m writing this post a week shy of my 26th birthday).  I’ve succeeded at many, but have always gained the weight back and then some.  The problem each time was the same – my lifestyle never changed.  A diet is like putting a Band-Aid over a severed artery.  It might temporarily fix the problem (very temporarily – this metaphor isn’t my best), but that Band-Aid won’t hold for long.  Each time, I’d lose 5, 20, 80 pounds, and go right back to the life I had previously been living.  Quelle surprise – it ain’t gonna work that way.

Now, I’m not saying that it’s anyone’s fault but my own that I gained the weight back, but it’s pretty common knowledge that people with social support are the most likely to succeed at changing their behaviors – I could get all nerdy on you and find some resources to cite, but this post is long-winded enough already and still has a way to go.  I’m also not saying that my IRL friends and family weren’t supportive; they just didn’t truly understand my plight and often didn’t know how to help me.

The #1 problem I had each time was failing to change my lifestyle – we’ve established that.  The #2 problem I had was not surrounding myself with the right kind of support.  I’ve never had a close IRL friend who has struggled with their weight like I have; my friends were always the type to eat whatever they wanted without gaining an ounce, and we never really engaged in physical activity when we hung out, so exercise was always a chore.   I’d like to think that if my social norms had changed early on – i.e., “everyone works out regularly” or “no, Katherine, it’s not normal to eat dessert after each of your three daily meals” – making those lifestyle changes would’ve been a helluva lot easier then than they are now that they’re so deeply ingrained.

So how am I wrapping all this up?  Through blogging and tweeting, my case is semi-parallel to that of the pregnant girl in Jordan – I had a problem, I knew I couldn’t face it alone, and I needed people who knew what they were talking about to help me. Even though I knew HOW to lose weight (calories in < calories out), it’s a very difficult thing to put into practice. Before I could succeed at it, I needed people who had lost weight to help me know how to change my lifestyle.  I needed people who were in the process of losing weight to show me I wasn’t alone and to lean on when it got hard.  I needed people who were losing weight in different ways so I could make informed decisions and figure out my best shot at success. I needed to tailor my own social network to suit my requirements, and blogging has allowed me to do that.

I have made friends from all over the world through blogging – people who are so like me, it’s scary (scarier for the audiences who read our Tweets and comments, I’m sure).  I’ve “met” people who annoy the crap out of me, but I still read their content because their viewpoints, while opposing my own, make my experience more well-rounded and better-informed.  I’ve created my own little virtual community because the one I physically inhabit was lacking something.  That sounds like a blow to my IRL friends and family, but it’s not – I was missing something in my life, the absence of which caused me to be unhealthy and left me feeling lost, despite years of health and weight loss education.  Through blogging and tweeting, conversing with people who truly understand me and have the same issues I do, I’m getting better at this healthy living thing day after day.  When I falter, I turn to them for support.  When I succeed, I turn to them for praise.  This healthy living blogger community is my “something missing” – they let me know what it truly means to live a healthy lifestyle by comparison and are helping me make the lifelong changes I need in order to become the health nut I so desperately need and want to be.

 

 

katlowfatkatherine

 To learn more about Kat and her journey to lose at least 100 pounds, visit her blog.  You can follow Kat’s 140 character long thoughts by reading her twitter feed.

a few of Heather’s favorite posts by Kat can be found here, herehere, and here.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. February 20, 2010 1:13 pm

    Thanks so much, Heather! I’m honored to be a part of this!! 😀

  2. February 20, 2010 8:43 pm

    Kat- thank you so much for this great guest post!

    I totally agree that being apart of the community has totally helped me in making healthy decisions. Especially during difficult times; for example on days/weeks/seasons I’m feeling especialky lazy or not seeing the results I’d like to (no matter my efforts.) I know that I can count on my blends (blog friends, a la caitlin at thetwentyfifthyear) to keep my thoughts in perspective.

    If I need motivation to make a good choice, weither it be about a work out, a meal choice, or a responsible decision I SHOULD be making- a quick turn to twitter is always helpful. And relationship/making a flirtatious move advice may or may not have started the longest group email chain in the history of the world.

    Sometimes I find my socialmedia pals such a great resource for my life bc I am, perhaps oddly, less concerned with how they judge me. (This is something I have a hard time explaining). Somethings are easier for me to discuss with my blends than with my IRL friends and people I spend time with every day.

    What do you guys think? Are there things you find easier to discuss with those people whom you got to know on the internet rather than those you met IRL first?

  3. February 20, 2010 9:30 pm

    great post, kat!

    i love the blogging community not only for the support but also for the never ending supply of recipes, product reviews and workout ideas. so fun to learn new things from everyone.

    i love stalking you 🙂

  4. Kat permalink
    February 20, 2010 11:34 pm

    Great topic Kat!

    Way to realize that being healthy means more than just loosing a ton of weight all at once to gain it back later. I totally agree that social media outlets can be great resources. For support and encouragement as well wonderful new recepies, and new workout ideas. I also feel like the online friends seem to be less judgemental – or at least I feel like they will be because I don’t “really” know them as well as my friends IRL?

    It makes it seem like you are not the only one struggling when you have a community of support that you may not have IRL.

    Lovely Post 🙂

    • Kely permalink
      February 21, 2010 9:50 am

      Oops, guess I was so excited about the article that I put Kat’s name as my name! 😛 My name is Kelly 🙂

      • Kelly permalink
        February 21, 2010 9:51 am

        And then I spell my name wrong again. Oh boy, its been a long week!

    • February 21, 2010 4:52 pm

      i agree that my online friends seem more judgemental. or maybe its just that my perception of their opinions/attitudes are different. or that my online friends are often people who are doing/desiring hte same things as me.

      sometimes i am fearful of how my IRL friends will view my healthy eating, my working out, my class challenge, my blog, etc.

      the online support i receive for these things mostly comes from people who are on the same paths as I am. I dont worry if they are thinking to themselves “that girl is too big to try and do power yoga” or “why does SHE have a blog?” like I often do with the people I see IRL every day. I still have a hard time telling some people about THS (read: the crush) but WHY!? because i am embarassed by what I am doing- NOT THE CASE- but because its often looked at in our society as something “weird/different” – (have you SEEN the twix commercial?)

      ok…end tangent.

  5. February 21, 2010 8:20 am

    Kat, what a great post! That is an amazing story about the pregnant girl. I’m really just beginning to understand the power that the online community has. Its truly a wonderful thing.

  6. February 21, 2010 11:53 am

    I loove this guest post so much. I hope how Kat feels is exactly how I feel a year down the road. It was amazing to hear about how helpful she has found the blogging community, and it makes me really happy that I’ve decided to join it myself, and reach out to you guys.
    P.S.
    heather, thanks sooo much for all the lovely comments on my page! 🙂

  7. February 21, 2010 5:28 pm

    OK. Wow. This is a fabulous post to kick off the series. Kat – I know I already follow you on Twitter, but get ready for us to become great blends! (Thanks for the trademark BTW Heather) I vaguely remember the story about the pregnant girl and the Post Secret community but thank you so much for sharing. What a testament to the power of the Internet.

    I cannot speak enough to my belief in the effect and importance an online community can have. I have a few theories on friends and how there are different kinds for different aspects of your life. It’s the same with blends. Many of mine know just as much about “life outside the blog” as my IRL friends do. Many of them know more. My IRL friends can respect and read my blog, but they certainly don’t “get it” to the degree that the online community does. It’s kind of like all my friends who are married and/or have kids. I can listen and keep up and talk about it, but having not experienced that in my life yet, I can’t have those, “OH MY GOSH, ME TOO!” moments.

    When I met up with Jessica from How Sweet It Is and Abby from Abby Normally, we had this unspoken understanding of the “healthy living blog” community. We connected instantly without having even spent five minutes in each other’s presence. I know we all feel changed by this. What a great thing to take away at the end of each day.

    Looking forward to more!!!

  8. February 22, 2010 11:33 am

    Great post, Kat. Blogging has been such an important tool for me, too. It is where i have found myself, in so many ways. I have found people that understood my struggles and really supported me through some really tough times. I’ve learned about listening to my body and treating it with respect and about foods that I would have never considered before. I love blogging 😀

  9. February 22, 2010 3:31 pm

    I will probably expound on this on my own blog at some point, because I have SO much to say on the subject, but really, the blog world…. its so strange.

    I go to my healthy living blogger friends for SO MUCH.

    AFFIRMATION

    ENCOURAGEMENT

    ACCOUNTABILITY

    CHALLENGES

    FEARS

    I truly talk about things with you guys that I would never talk to my IRL friends about because there is something about us that makes us special. My IRL friends are wonderful, but no, they don’t all GET the blog thing. Why I want the connection with strangers in the same boat as me. They don’t know why I want to photograph my food, or report on a run… but you guys GET it.

    It is that UNDERSTANDING that makes me keep coming back to the community… even though we have different goals, there are fundamental similarities in our personality that makes us compatible, as partners on this journey and friends.

Trackbacks

  1. Yoga is More « Sweet Tater | Food | Fitness | Etc.
  2. More Than « The Twenty-Fifth Year

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