A weight loss tool, for free? Is it possible? If you haven’t signed up at SparkPeople.com yet… what are you waiting for? After all, it’s FREE!
It’s hard to escape this growing empire, which is earning positive accolades all over the media and entering into strategic partnerships with a number of companies.
Most recently, ActivewearUSA.com signed a contract to begin offering their fitness apparel, reviews, guides on selecting workout clothes, and fitness makeovers through SparkPeople. Fitness Expert Nicole Nichols won “Top Personal Trainer To Watch” and “Fan Favorite” from a competition sponsored by Life Fitness and the American Council on Exercise. Fortune Magazine called SparkPeople “The Facebook of Dieting” and Good Housekeeping referred to it as “The Online Program that Works.” Some of their tools have even come offline — such as their new top-selling cookbook and SmartPhone app (which consequently, has been ranked #1 out of 204 fitness and diet apps).
What You Can Do There…
1. First, you’ll want to set a Goal. Maybe it’s to lose 20 pounds in 10 weeks. Maybe it’s to drink 8 glasses of water a day. Maybe it’s to walk 10,000 steps per day, get 8 hours of sleep a night, save $10 a day, or walk 5 miles per week. Based on weight loss goals, the website will create a customized caloric intake plan for you and generate charts that show your progress on other goals.
2. Then you’ll want to check out the Nutrition section. Here you can use the food tracker to log all the food you eat each day and quantify the calories, fat, protein, fiber, vitamins, cholesterol, and whatever other nutrients matter most to you. This tool alone has been an incredible eye-opener for me! I realized that I was low in protein, which was sabotaging my goals. (I also was able to show my husband how fast all his lemonades and Coca-Colas added an extra 2,000 calories to his day!)
Best of all, you can see what you’ve consumed versus what you should be consuming ideally, based on your specified goals. So, sometimes I’ll experiment with different portion sizes for my dinner to see what I can eat, without going over my target calories for the day. If you’re at a loss for what to eat, you can also opt to get free diet plans and meal suggestions that satisfy your daily targets! They even give you quick, easy, healthy recipes, diet tips, and grocery shopping lists for the week!
I’ve found some amazing food combinations here — like sweet potato with salsa, low-fat sour cream and black beans, for example, or their addictive Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins. Of course, there were a few stinkers… my portobella mushroom burgers didn’t bind together, for example, and the butternut squash with risotto was more like a side than a main course. Yet, all in all, I found it was much easier to make creative and smart choices with the SparkPeople guide.
3. Track your Fitness. See how many calories you need to burn today to meet your goals. Schedule your strength training or cardio workouts. Log your progress. See your weekly totals. Map your running, walking or biking route to see how far you’ve traveled (which you can then save or share with friends). Print out exercise demos to create your own at-home fitness plans. Look up how many calories different activities will burn. Of course, this is all just an estimation, as every body is different and no computer program can possibly calculate your exertion levels. Even so, it’s a great motivational tool to keep you on track.
4. Find information. Then there are centers for Motivation, Wellness, Lifestyle Choices, and Health Conditions, where you can access well-written, helpful articles. Furthermore, you can write and read blogs or post in the forums. This is an area that, admittedly, I wasn’t as interested in, but this area is very important for people who really want to maintain focus while they shed pounds and get into the right mindset. You can search for buddies with the same goals and connect with them in a social networking sort of way. You may even find new workout buddies in your area if that’s what you need to stay on-track.
5. Shop. This is another area I don’t really use, but if you want to buy weight loss books, cookbooks, DVDs, calendars, and apparel, this is the place to do it. I imagine this realm will be expanding considerably as more lucrative partnerships are forged. Who knows… maybe I’ll buy their cookbook for my mom for Christmas?
The Bottom Line
As part of their corporate wellness plan, my husband’s employer created a similar portal to motivate and inspire employees to make healthy changes in their lives. I tried to use their free counseling and training program, but the interface was so unfriendly, I soon abandoned my efforts. On top of that, all their articles were terribly overgeneralized and obvious, providing very little value. Logging my fitness and food was a chore — plus I received no new information or benefit from doing so. By contrast, SparkPeople is extremely helpful and incredibly easy-to-use. There aren’t many freebies in the world anymore, but this site is truly a diamond in the rough!