SparkPeople represents the “such a deal” part of the online diet and fitness world a Web site with lots of support, a good food diary, and some excellent features for only $9.95 per year. Given the smart design of the Web site and the support features offered, SparkPeople is a great value. A lot of other people think so, too; the company claims that a significant percentage of its users are people who have switched from Weight Watchers or eDiets, two much more expensive alternatives.
Like Weight Watchers and eDiets, SparkPeople focuses on more than food for losing weight. The company’s philosophy is to concentrate on the whole person. “Many companies think that dieting is all about what happens in the kitchen or on a treadmill,” says company founder Chris Downey. “In reality, dieting is all about what’s in the mind and the heart more than the kitchen.” The site features a meal planner, an exercise tracker, a message board, and health related articles. The articles are always interesting and feature very good information to help people lose weight. SparkPeople focuses on portion control, and articles support the notion that portion control is a key to
losing weight. Products to help you control portions are available for purchase. SparkPeople is goal-oriented. You set the goals and it provides you with feedback. Taking the approach that short-term goals should be easy to achieve so that you can reach your long-term goals, SparkPeople is built on a weight loosing program of providing positive feedback. For example, suppose you set a goal of eating fruit one time per day every day for a week, and another goal of exercising every day for a week. SparkPeople helps you monitor your progress and provides you with positive feedback once you’ve achieved these goals.
Stage 1: Fast Break. This stage generally lasts for the first two weeks of a diet, and it is the hardest stage. SparkPeople’s philosophy is that you start with small goals, learn to use the Web site, and gain momentum on your diet.
Stage 2: Healthy Diet Habits. During this six-week period, you do daily meal planning and tracking and develop the healthy habits that will help you stay on your plan.
Stage 3: Lifestyle Change. During this 10-week period, you transition from being on a diet to making permanent changes to your diet and exercise weight loosing program so that you continue to be on a healthy lifestyle path long after you’ve lost your weight. The goal, after all, is to keep the weight off.
Stage 4: Spread the Spark. During this stage, which is ongoing, you move the habits you’ve learned into other areas of your life, which ultimately makes you not just physically healthy, but also mentally healthy. SparkPeople hopes that you like the weight loosing program so much that you’ll do a little evangelizing for them.
SparkPeople is not as comprehensive as some of the other sites and products available. For example, there are only 10,000 foods in their database, and their fitness weight loosing program isn’t as extensive as others. However, it’s a tremendous value, providing good food and exercise tracking and excellent support services. For $9.95 a year, it’s hard to go wrong.
SparkPeople offers optional meal planning as well as food tracking capabilities, plus an exercise assistant that makes it easier to track and plan your exercises and meals.
SparkPeople also has some good reports that measure your progress for health and fitness goals. Plus, it features a 12-week online weight loss class and some unique features, including a printable tape measure that can be downloaded in PDF and used by folks who want to measure their progress literally.
Denise and Matthew Tausig were tired of the grind. Both were overweight and both wanted to lose weight. Denise, a 26-year-old escrow assistant in Capitola, California, had 171 pounds on her 5’5” frame. Matthew, 28, a golf pro in Santa Cruz, had 265 pounds on his 5’8” body.
“We would start to eat better, but then we’d go back to our old routines and put whatever weight we lost back on again,” she says.
Denise was afraid that she’d develop diabetes as her mother did. “I don’t want to have to go through what she has gone through,” she says. “So I figured it was time for a change in my eating habits.”
Matt took a look at his family and decided that he had to do something. His parents were both overweight and had numerous health issues. Plus, his father, brother, and mother had all had back problems. “I had to do something about my weight to have a chance at a healthy life as I got older,” Matt says. “But I had to do more than lose weight; I had to make a lifestyle change.”
As a New Year’s resolution, the Tausigs started their weight loosing program on January 1, 2004. After evaluating several different weight loosing programs, the Tausigs chose SparkPeople. “I like the way that the weight loosing program stresses making lifestyle changes,” Matt says. “That and the price are what made me choose them.”
Denise set a goal of reaching 140 pounds by the end of 2004. Fortunately for her, she obliterated that goal and reached 132 pounds by the end of July.
Matt set a goal of 200 pounds by the end of the year. Both reached their goals in less than five months on May 23, 2004. Matt also continues to lose weight; he reached 183 pounds by the end of July, 2004.
Denise credits SparkPeople with helping her and Matt reach their weights so quickly. “We followed the plan very closely. Also, having your partner doing it with you was very helpful.We really supported each other a lot and still do.”
“I never cheated on any day,” Matt adds. “I followed the weight loosing program, exercised as much as possible, and lost weight very quickly.”
Denise likes many SparkPeople features, particularly the food tracker. “It’s easy to use and helps me know that I’m still on track with my calories,” she says.
They also like the message boards. “There is so much support there, and I am able to help out others who are trying to meet their goals,” Denise says. Matt also spends a lot of time on message boards, both getting support and helping others. Denise did a variety of exercises along the way to help her reach her goal weight. “I use an elliptical trainer at home, and [I] have a small collection of workout videos that I do at home. These are enough to let me change my routine quite a bit,” she says. Denise also uses free weights at home for strength training.
Denise credits Matt as well for helping her reach her goals. “Many people on the message boards complain about their significant others,” she says. “Sometimes, significant others who aren’t on a plan will hurt them because they bring foods home that sabotage diets.” Denise stresses that this often is not intentional; it’s just that most people who aren’t on diets aren’t as empathetic as they could be. The Tausigs didn’t have that. “I could always get the support that I needed from Matt,” she says. Matt agrees. “I felt that I would be letting her down if I cheated on the weight loosing program,” he says.
Denise says that the most important part of weight loss is planning. “Plan your meals ahead of time so there aren’t any surprises at the end of the day of how much you actually ate,” she says. Matt says the key is approaching a weight loosing program as a lifestyle change, not a diet. “Diets don’t work,” he says. “I approached this as a lifestyle change so that I could become a healthier person.”
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