Changing lifestyle with Spark People

I got on the scale after the 4th of July and my worst fears were confirmed.  I was as heavy as I have ever been.  That, and the fact that several of my girlfriends are going on a diet, was the kick that I needed.

I know that a simple diet isn’t enough.  I need to change my entire lifestyle.  A diet lasts as long as you maintain the routine and most of the time it’s a starvation routine.  So I need to change my idea of normal.  I need to find new go-to recipes and establish new menus and habits.

I have used sparkpeople before and it’s worked well.  I have had good success with Weight Watchers as well but that’s not free.  Spark People is a free website that lets you track calories, fitness and other goals.  They also have a huge community support and a complimentary web site where I have found dozens of recipes that offer healthy adaptations to my old favorites.  I especially love the recipe builder where I can enter the ingredients to my recipe and it calculates the calories per serving for me.

I have friends that use other apps like Loseit! or Myfitnesspal.  I decided to go back to spark people since I am familiar with the program.  The idea is that you have to create a calorie deficit.  So I have been eating between 1200-1600 calories a day.  The food database is huge and I often find that if the food I want isn’t in there that someone has entered it before I have.  I don’t think I have had to enter a food yet.  I also enjoy the bar code scanner that is part of the mobile app.  I had to get the paid version to get that feature but it was worth the $3.99.

The fitness side of the app is equally easy to use and gives credit for almost any activity.  I have been known to count heavy housework as activity.  It’s acceptable to count any activity that causes you to break a sweat.

So far I have seen a 5lb loss in the first week and I am expecting about a 2lb a week loss from here on in.  My goal is to lose 45lbs by Christmas.  I find that it’s important for me to be accountable for the calories I put in my mouth.  Even though I went straight to reducing my caloric intake I can definitely see the value in tracking what you eat for a few days or a week before you start confining yourself to the calories recommended.  The reason is it opens your eyes to what you are eating and how much you are really taking in.  It is definitely an eye opener when you start measuring your food and realize what you used to call a serving vs what is a serving now.

In addition to counting calories I have tried to be mindful of the types of fuel I give my body.  I know that by putting healthy fuel in my body I will feel better and be healthier.  No more do I sit down and eat large deserts or salty snacks.  I can still have those things in moderation but not like I used to.  Cravings are a reality I’m learning to deal with them by eating something healthy.  When I crave sweet I reach for fruit rather than sugar.  When I crave salty  reach for a few almonds rather than a bag of chips etc.

Not only does spark people provide free tools to track nutrition and fitness but it’s also a great resource for health information and articles.  They have a chef on staff that creates great new recipes all the time, and fitness experts that offer great workout ideas.  They also have nutritionists who write articles on the benefits of certain types of foods.  There is also a huge community that offers support along the way.

The hardest part of the journey for me is finding recipes that my family will eat and enjoy.  My youngest son is really picky and hard to feed without throwing a lot of new food at him.  So I try to stay close to what he eats and make substitutions or reduced portions for myself.  I hope he will adjust though and we have seen slow progress with him over time.

A few years ago I read the book by Spark people founder Chris Downie called “The Spark” in which he tells his own story of getting fit and healthy.  He also offers insight into how to make a lifestyle change.  Recently another book called “The Spark Solution” written by a dietician and a spark member.  It offers encouraging words and even a 14 days meal plan where they show you how to make similar foods that taste good but cut the calories.  I have been reading the book but I freely admit that I doubt I will use the 14 day meal plan in its entirety because I’m not that good at planning my meals a week at a time.  I usually open the refrigerator in the morning and look at what meat we have and take out something that looks good and then go find a recipe for it.  I am enjoying the book and I think I will use a lot of the recipes, just not in the highly structured way.

I will keep this blog up to date on my progress since this is the most fitness related content of my blogs.  I already live a pretty active lifestyle.  I’m hoping to make being active easier by becoming even healthier.


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