Sunday, February 26, 2012

Favorite Things: SparkPeople

Now that you know that I'm trying to lose weight, I want to share any secrets, tips, and useful tools I have found. 

The most helpful tool I have found is the smart phone app connected to the website SparkPeople.  So let's first discuss the website.  I first discovered this website a few years ago when I was trying to lose weight after having my second child.

The idea behind SparkPeople is very similar to the program Weight Watchers.  But the most important difference is that SparkPeople is free!  

Their "About Us" page begins:
At SparkPeople, our mission is to SPARK millions of PEOPLE to reach their goals and lead healthier lives. We offer nutrition, health, and fitness tools, support, and resources that are 100% free, while other sites like Weight Watchers and charge their members for similar services.
Click here to read more about their company, services, and tools.  

I personally find the SparkPeople website to be a little overwhelming.  I'm not really sure where I should click first.  Let me just give you some highlights.

You can enter your current weight and stats and enter your goal(s).  Then SparkPeople gives you a plan for diet and exercise.  They tell you how many calories you should burn each day through exercise as well as ranges you should stick to for calories, carbs, fat, and protein.  Their database is full of just about every food imaginable, as well as tons of exercises (and you can very quickly and easily enter nutrition facts for a food you don't see in their database).  So each day you just enter what you eat and what you do for exercise.  Then you can make any adjustments needed to meet your goals.  

I feel like it's a nice balanced approach.  They aim to help people meet their goals and then maintain them.  They don't want you to starve yourself or do anything unhealthy.  I was pleasantly surprised to see how many calories I needed to burn each day in order to meet my goal, and there are so many ways I can burn those calories.  The next step was convincing myself to be okay with just doing the work needed for that day and then being satisfied.  In the past I have tried to do too much right away and then burned out very quickly.

After tracking your diet and exercise, there are lots of options on the website that I don't use that much.  They give "SparkPoints" for doing all sorts of things, like logging in each day, reading an article, or trying a new recipe.  I'm generally not in the mood to play along.  You can have them email you a healthy recipe each day.  The recipe emails began to clog my inbox, unread, so I opted out.  You can join forums and hear from other people and add your own comments.  You can join teams, like Stay at Home Moms or Emotional Eaters.  You can also set other goals (like running farther or doing more push ups) and track other things beside food (like water intake, which I do track).  

I did use the website to lose weight years ago, but I have to admit it can get old to get on my computer every time I eat.  So now that I have an iPhone (and love it and take it everywhere!), I discovered a SparkPeople app.  It's awesome!  It's basically just my favorite features from the website.  

The app is very easy and intuitive to use, and not as cluttered or overwhelming as the website.  I click on "Food" to enter the food I eat (and yes, I enter EVERY morsel I me, it's fast and easy), I click on "Fitness" to enter any exercise (cardio or strength training), and I click on "Today" to see where I currently stand with my daily goals.  The "Weight" tab is pretty self-explanatory.  I weigh in once per week.  And the "More" tab lets you change your goals, manage meal plans, track your water intake, see reports, and more.  

To get the free app, visit your app store on your phone or click here

It can be overwhelming figuring out what to do to lose weight or even maintain your current weight.  I am a big fan of sharing any insider tips I have discovered that can help other people.  Later I will be sharing more tips and some of my favorite "diet" foods.

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