Spark People

 By Mizpah Matus B.Hlth.Sc(Hons)

SparkPeople was founded by Chris “SparkGuy” Downie in 2001 as a way to “give back” after he was highly successful as an early eBay employee. He developed this program as a place where people could receive the weight loss support they need for free. There are now a few paid aspects of the program, but the majority of SparkPeople is still free.

SparkPeople is a goal-based weight loss program. Rather than just sticking to nutrition, SparkPeople has a large component of fitness, motivation, and goal-setting. SparkPeople began in 2001 and has been growing ever since with over 11 million people participating in the various aspects of their multifaceted programs.

Spark People Diet Plan Basics


SparkPeople encourages new members of their program to read, The Spark, a book that is a 28 day quick start weight loss plan which includes a structured meal plan as well as an exercise regimen that encourages the fastest results possible.

The macro-nutrient recommendations place SparkPeople as a moderate fat, high carb, low protein diet – similar the guidelines of the USDA Food Pyramid. A typical diet recommendation will come out at 15% protein, 55% carbohydrate, and 30% fats.

Calorie recommendations are based on whether you select “moderate” or “aggressive” weight loss. Selecting aggressive will put the calorie recommendations on the low side – too low for an active person.

Dieters who purchase the book also receive access to a number of free bonuses on the Spark People website

  • Downloadable and interactive versions of some of the trackers found in the book.
  • Interactive recipe wheels that let you create your own 300 and 400 calorie recipes.
  • Additional sample meal plans at 1200, 1500 and 1800 calories.

Dieters are encouraged to create their own meal plans because everyone has unique needs and preferences. Advice is provided on how to create a healthy diet and dieters have the option of accessing structured meal plans if they prefer.

Sample Meal Plan

Breakfast

¾ cup instant oatmeal
1 cup nonfat milk
½ fresh pear
5 hazelnuts
1 cup decaf coffee

Lunch

4 oz turkey breast
2 oz low fat cheddar cheese
½ cup mashed potatoes
¼ cup sweet corn
1 pat unsalted butter
2 wedges cantaloupe
1 cup herbal tea

Afternoon Snack

2 hard boiled eggs
1 cup sliced cucumber

Dinner

6 oz tilapia
½ cup low fat cottage cheese
2 spears broccoli
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 whole wheat dinner roll
1 small apple

The great strength of SparkPeople has to do with all the resources offered to members.

SparkRecipes

This section of SparkPeople offers a collection of over 300,000 healthy recipes submitted by members and the ability to share your favorite recipes with others. SparkRecipes also gives members cooking tips and techniques that can assist dieters in making everyday recipes healthier.

SparkPeople Mobile

Besides a mobile version of the main website, there are three smart phone applications are also available to members of SparkPeople for use in the grocery store, the gym, and while eating out. Their apps work on iPhones, iPads, Android, and BlackBerry devices.

Food and Fitness Tracker

This app allows people to track their calories consumed as well as there calories burned through exercise.

It displays the nutrition aspects of the foods eaten as well as the amount of calories different exercises will most likely burn.

Healthy Recipe Application

This app allows dieters to have access to there recipe collection anywhere.

The user can type in ingredients they have and the app will give healthy recipe suggestions.

Healthy Produce Application

This is a paid app, but helps dieters pick the healthiest and freshest produce based on what it should look and feel like when ripe as well as recipe ideas to use the produce in.

This is helpful for those who want to try new fruits or vegetables but aren’t sure how to use them in recipes. It’s available for $1.99.

SparkPeople Live

SparkPeople live is a new paid feature of SparkPeople. This feature offers 24/7 live support for those following the Spark diet. It allows subscribers to interact with other members in a live environment and participate in live classes and seminars. They allow members to try this service free for a week and then it’s 12.99usd a month which is a bargain considering all that is offered through SparkPeople live and SparkPeople in general.

 

DailySpark

This is a daily blog published by SparkPeople. It contains 1000’s of useful articles about nutriton, motivation, and fitness written by experts in the field. The blog is updated daily and even highlights member success stories.

More?

In addition to their standard weight loss support and help, they also have additional programs designed to help their members.

  • SparkAmerica- Conducts contests and challenges to get Americans moving.
  • SparkSavings- Helps members also get their finances in order.
  • BabyFit- Helps expecting and new mothers have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.
  • SparkTeens- A weight loss program designed for adolescents that addresses their unique developmental needs.

Comparisons

The majority of SparkPeople is free, however SparkPeople LIVE! is a paid subscription service offering live interaction with others in the community trying to lose weight.

This is borne out of the research that shows people are more likely to lose weight when supported in a community of others doing the same.

Even considering the few paid aspects of SparkPeople, it is still an incredible value because of the wealth of free information also provided.

Conclusions

Spark People is a great website, with an amazing array of easy-to-use tools. Many people have had success with SparkPeople as it takes more of a holistic approach than just prescribing a diet plan.

However – the caloric and macro-nutrient recommendations may not suit everyone, and if you intend to build or tone muscle, the combination of low-calories and low protein may not be appropriate. A higher-carb diet is more appropriate for endurance athletes who are burning a lot of energy. Also, people who require a lot of one on one support and counseling will probably only benefit from The Spark Diet if they subscribe to SparkPeople Live.

Over recent months Spark People have incorporated a large set of social networking features – such as personal blogs, profiles, and other communication tools. Highly recommended.

See Also

Click here to order the highly anticipated SparkPeople Cookbook, a collection of over 150 recipe and meal ideas.

 By Mizpah Matus B.Hlth.Sc(Hons)
Last Reviewed: January 21, 2014
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