It’s obvious that one of the best ways to maintain good mental health is to eat healthy food. Which is great. If it were just that easy.
I’ve written before about keeping a food diary, and how it makes you more accountable to yourself and mindful about what you’re eating. In fact research has shown that keeping a food diary can double your weight loss efforts.
This can be harder for people on meds, who in many cases are fighting an uphill battle against weight related side effects. Anyone who has taken Zyprexa, for instance, will tell you that you put on weight just looking at the box.
If going it alone or a diet club isn’t for you, then SparkPeople is a helpful site. It is the most popular of all 10,000 weight loss sites on the web, including Weight Watchers, with over 11 million members who have collectively lost over 17 million pounds. 94% of its users say that it works well for them.
Why is SparkPeople so popular?
- First of all it’s 100% free – a big drawcard. Lots of sites charge for information and advice that is readily available here.
- It offers personalised diet and fitness plans, based on your weight, personal circumstances and lifestyle, the food pyramid and the notion that if you take in less calories than you need, you’ll lose weight.
- Support is a key to the site’s success. Users aren’t doing it alone; they have the support of lots of other members.
- There’s a host of weight loss aids, like thousands of user-submitted and reviewed recipes, diagnostic tools such as a BMI checker, and email reminders to help you keep on-track.
- Information and advice is central. There isn’t the “magic bullet” approach of the many fad diets. And it’s not focussed on depriving yourself. There are many recipes that are healthy and also full of flavour.
- Signing up is easy and once you have your diet plan, it’s straight-forward to keep track of what you’re eating and count the calories.
- There is a community section for “Dealing with Depression” (amongst many) that apparently has over 800,000 members. At a glance it looks helpful but not exactly focused on weight loss.
Not everything about the site is ideal. The home page is loud. It contains too much information – about SparkPeople, their partner sites, their sub sites, various products and offers. Your eye darts about not really knowing where to look or click. The member pages aren’t a lot better in that respect, with too many colors and competing links. Personally I prefer the SparkPeople iPhone app, which isn’t much prettier but a lot easier to use.
SparkPeople wouldn’t be for you if you prefer a very specific eating plan. There are many controlled diets available, complete with home delivery, at sites like ediets. SparkPeople is more orientated to making wise choices and educating yourself for the long-term.
A personal experience worth mentioning came from my losing weight quickly in 2007/8. I shed about 29 pounds (13kg), but my moods became volatile, I became very irritable and I was difficult to live with. It took about 6 months to realize that the weight loss had thrown my meds out. This isn’t such an obvious thing to consider. If you have a large increase or decrease in weight then a check-up is wise – even more so if you take something like Lithium that is toxic at high levels.