Does SparkPeople Work?

Bridget’s Experience with the Diet Website

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As I progress through my twenties, I notice more and more that my peers are all about exercising, losing weight, and getting in shape. Despite many attempts to get in shape throughout high school and college, I’ve never been a huge fan of exercise–I’d much rather eat pizza and mozzarella sticks while reading a book or surfing the internet–but with a wedding a mere eight(ish) months away and a general desire to be healthier, I’ve grudgingly jumped back on the exercise bandwagon.

I’ll be the first to admit that I suffer from a touch of OCD. (Okay, maybe more than a touch.) I love being able to track things and measure my progress, or lack thereof. I had started using LoseIt on and off my senior year of college, but couldn’t quite stick with it. Then, about two years ago, the American Cancer Society, where I was working at the time, decided to begin a company-wide health initiative which included the use of Sparkpeople.com, in which employees could receive rewards for completing challenges that could only be tracked through Sparkpeople. I thought it seemed fun, so I decided to join Sparkpeople.

Some quick background: Sparkpeople, like LoseIt (our review), is a free online food- and exercise-tracking software. You input your starting weight and your goal weight, and you can choose to 1) plan to lose .5-2lbs per week (in which case, Sparkpeople will project a date at which you should reach your goal) or plan to reach your goal weight by a certain date (in which case, Sparkpeople will tell you how many pounds you need to lose per week to reach your goal).

Immediately, I noticed that it had quite a bit more to offer than Loseit. First of all, instead of giving a hard and fast calorie limit for each day, Sparkpeople provides you with a range that you should stay within. Maybe it’s a psychological thing, but it was easier for me to remain within a range than it was to consistently stay beneath a hard and fast daily calorie limit.

Second of all, it was much easier to edit the foods I had entered into Sparkpeople manually. Whenever I tried to edit something in LoseIt, even something that I had personally entered, I always got an error message saying that my edits would have to be approved by a moderator or something. So I was glad to find that I was able to easily edit my changes in Sparkpeople!

Something that I initially didn’t like about Sparkpeople was that entering calories burned through exercise didn’t increase your calorie limit for the day. However, this was just recently changed so that the trackers “talk” to each other. You don’t have to make them talk, but I find this incredibly useful.
Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 7.06.25 PMSparkpeople’s articles are informative and their message boards can be helpful, if badly punctuated (but that seems to be true of message boards everywhere). They have quizzes and trivia, and their articles focus on a variety of topics like healthy eating, exercising, and motivation. They also have healthy recipes and exercise videos. I really haven’t even begun to explore the depths of what they have to offer.

As far as results go, I’ve been using Sparkpeople more or less consistently since January and have lost about 15 pounds. That’s not a whole lot in 8 months, but being back in the 130s for the first time since high school or so has been a great confidence booster for me. With 8 months to go, I’m reasonably confident I’ll hit my 125-pound goal by the time I get married in April!

All in all, I would absolutely recommend Sparkpeople to anyone looking to lose or maintain their weight or just be more conscious about their health and exercise. It’s so much easier for me to lose weight when I can keep track of all of my food intake and exercise output. Once you get in the habit of updating it every day (which, admittedly, can be a pain until you’ve inputted most of the foods you eat on a regular basis), it’s pretty quick and easy to keep it up each day. So if you’re looking to lose weight, sign up at Sparkpeople.com (and friend me if you want, I’m bridget_germain)!