SparkPeople | Free diet advice, but does it work?

Spark

Used correctly, SparkPeople can light a fire under your weight-loss goals. Image: Flickr/Myklrovertine

SparkPeople is one of the many online communities focused on weight loss and healthy living. SparkPeople also runs SparkRecipes.com, SparkTeens.com and BabyFit.com, but does the diet advice actually work? The short answer is yes — but, like all weight loss, people who want to get the job done have to work hard.

What SparkPeople offers

Sparkpeople is half social network and half diet advice. The free, ad-supported website calculates your BMI and offers recommendations on exercise and nutrition. Nutritional planning tools and a daily log help you keep track of what you’re eating while the exercise log tracks how many calories you burn. When you make progress on your weight-loss goal, you get SparkPoints that you can redeem for various small prizes. Unlike the $18 a month for WeightWatchers or $500 for various “diet food” systems, SparkPeople encourages you to make changes with its free system first. On top of that, the SparkPeople system will only allow “healthy” goals to be set or tracked in their system.

SparkPeople community helps out

The most helpful aspect of SparkPeople is not the calorie-counting engine behind it, but the other dieters. The message boards, forums and blogs built into SparkPeople help you connect and communicate with other people trying to accomplish the same goals. This community element is incredibly important when it comes to losing and keeping weight off. Like all social networks, the SparkPeople community relies on you to get out there and be social — so people can choose not to.

Does SparkPeople actually work?

The biggest question most people have, though, is whether SparkPeople will actually help them lose weight. It is true that SparkPeople is a great tool to track the elements of weight loss. If you are expecting a Biggest Loser-style change in your appearance, though, SparkPeople probably won’t help. Healthy weight loss is all about changing habits, not following a specific “diet” that will leave you in a yo-yo dieting situation. If you aren’t a fan of the SparkPeople system, there are a few other effective online tools that do the same sort of thing. Try Calorie Count, the About.com system that is very similar to SparkPeople. If you’re not a fan of an online system, you could even just try writing down everything you eat, cutting out liquid calories or just walking an extra 30 minutes a day. You don’t have to buy into the $60 billion a year diet industry to lose weight — you just have to change small things you do every day.

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