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Canned Fat Drive: Donate Pounds Lost to People in Need

Find Weight Loss Motivation by Feeding the Hungry
  -- By Cindy Dyson, SparkPeople member
Did you know your cupboards are full of instant motivation? That the grocery store shelves are stacked to the rafters with it? That you probably open up a can of motivation on your kitchen counter every day?

Canned foods are everywhere. And besides using them for, well, sustenance, you can put them to use to motivate your weight loss and help others at the same time.

The idea came to me while I was putting away canned goods after a trip to the grocery store. I had joined Spark People the week before and already lost five pounds. But those pounds were just a few tiny ticks on my scale—nothing tangible. As I hefted cans overhead to my pantry shelves, I wondered, “What do those five pounds feel like?” I pulled out an economy-sized jug of sauce—exactly five pounds.

“Wow!” I said, lifting the jug up and down a few times. “That’s a lot of fat that’s not on me anymore!” It was so motivating that I put the jug on the washing machine and lifted it every time I walked by. By evening, I was so pumped about how those first 5 pounds felt, I vowed to keep adding to it.

After a couple more weeks, I’d added several cans of tomato sauce to my Canned Fat Stock, as I came to call it, witnessing, several times a day, the real weight of my fat loss boosted my motivation.

As the Christmas holidays approached, I thought, “Why should I put all these cans back on the shelves? Why don’t I give them away to folks who actually need more food?” I decided to donate the "Canned Fat" to a local food pantry. Every step I took while carrying the bag of cans reminded me of how much weight I had lost. And at the same time, I felt an overabundance of joy about transforming my loss into someone else’s gain. Later, I created the Canned Fat Drive SparkTeam to encourage others to create their own Canned Fat Drives.

Whether you join the Team or not, you can harness the motivation of Canned Fat in many ways to stay motivation and to give back—both symbolically and literally—the extra fat you used to carry around. Here are five ideas for your own Canned Fat Drive.

Anniversary Giveaway
Once a year (perhaps on the anniversary of the date you joined SparkPeople or reached your weight loss goal), give away the amount of weight you've lost in the form of canned goods. One member had lost so much that her donation filled the back of her SUV. Just lugging all that weight from the car to the drop box, was exhilarating for her—she was no longer carrying that excess weight around each day. And what a boon to your local food bank or animal shelter!

Monthly Donation
As you lose weight, place your weight-loss equivalent in cans somewhere where you'll see it often. Bag up those cans and lift them each time you pass by. At the end of the month, donate your cans. If possible, carry them--even if it means parking a couple of blocks away. Actually feeling your loss by carrying it makes a huge impact.

Weight Transfer
As a variation, buy the canned weight you’d like to lose in the next month. As you lose, transfer cans from a separate bag. Lift both as you go by. The day the pounds-lost bag outweighs the other is especially motivating.

SOS Motivation
On days when your motivation sinks really low, put all the cans you’ve lost so far that month into a bag or backpack and wear it around for an hour, or better yet through a workout or hike. You’ll be reminded of just how far you’ve come. If you’re up for it, keep walking, right out your door and to the food bank. Leave those cans--that fat you lost--behind you for good.

Pledge of Honor
If you want to put yourself on the line, call your local food bank, soup kitchen, or animal shelter and tell them what you’re doing. Say, “I plan to donate the equivalent of how much weight I lose this month and would like to know what kinds of supplies you need right now.” When they say, “We’re desperate for baby food this month,” you’ll have that extra motivation of knowing that if you don’t stick to your program and stack up those cans, you won’t be able to give as much to those in need. Then stick to your pledge--don’t give more than you've lost when the month is over.

There are, of course, dozens of ways to use "Canned Fat" as motivation. Stack up a can each time you exercise or donate an hour of your time for each pound, for example. Be creative with those cans.

Where and How to Donate
Most communities have some sort of food bank, although some are small, often run from the basement of a church. Food banks tend to run low on canned proteins, fruits, peanut butter, and baby food. They are often most desperate in the summer and winter months, especially during the holidays. Homeless and women’s shelters also need food, as do AIDS outreach programs, elderly care programs and soup kitchens. Your local animal shelters are always in need, and this is an especially good option if your grocery budget is tight.

If you’re not sure how or what to donate, just call. Pauline, a member of the Canned Fat Drive SparkTeam who runs a food bank, says it’s better to call and make sure your donation does as much good as it can.

As we focus on weight and health issues, we often look inward, delving into our emotional responses to food, our pasts and our goals. This is tough for many people who are used to focusing on caring for others. The Canned Fat Drive bridges our personal needs and the needs in our communities. So stack up those cans. Give away what you no longer need to those who do. You’ll be more motivated, lose more weight, and help those families in your community who could most benefit from your losses.