Friday, January 16, 2009

Hey, Sparky.

So did you know? Today is *Spread the Spark* day! Aren't you excited? Or wait... is it SHOW your Spark? Right, right... anyway, I've mentioned SparkPeople on here before, but given that it's official *Show your Spark* day and whatnot, I thought I'd bring it up again.

Actually, I joined SparkPeople back in November of 07 after googling online daily calorie counters. I found some that wanted to charge you (no thanks), but I eventually stumbled upon SparkPeople's awesome site. It's this ginormous online community dedicated to health, nutrition, and fitness and it's entirely free (remember, we loves free). I initially wanted to start tracking my calories because (a) I never had before, (b) I had just turned 30 the month before and was a bit freaked about it, and (c) I was trying to get pregnant (duh) and wanted to pay more attention to what vitamins and nutrients I was getting.

So, I counted every single bit of food that entered my mouth for about 9 months. Every bite. Every sip. Every calorie. Tedious? Yes. But did I learn a lot? HELL yes. And without even really trying, I lost those 10 pounds that I thought were permanently stuck on me since college. I had grown to accept them, so I really had no intention to lose them. But guess what - I don't miss them! It was all about my eating habits... I think the biggest problem is people really have no clue what all's in the crap they're eating. A lot of people drink their calories. My weakness? Margaritas. Might as well call it liquid ass. Because that's right where it's goin'.

I also fell for the blended coffee drinks... the occasional milkshake... stuff like that. Munchkins from Dunkin Donuts? I mean, they're so small... they can't be... 80 calories EACH?! What?! I used to pop those babies like no tomorrow. Hahahha... no really, the name of the game for me was getting a grip on how many calories I was consuming - putting a number on everything. Because not knowing is where you get hurt. Restaurants especially will kick your ass. Most of those salads on dinner menus contain more calories than we should have in an entire day, let alone one meal. But if I can put a number on something, I can stop and think, OK is this really worth it? Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. I don't deny myself any particular foods - I love food too darn much! All things in moderaton. And for me, the biggest key was finding smarter ways to satisfy my cravings. My Frappuccinos turned into non-fat iced lattes.

I don't believe in fad diets whatsoever. Sure, they may give you results initially, but to get real, permanent results, you have to make a lifestyle change. You have to change the way you think about food. Doesn't this sound a bit like my thoughts on money?! Well, calorie-counting is very much like being on a budget. With SparkPeople, you set up a profile and they ask you some initial questions to help you figure out what your daily calorie range should be. It's based on your size, your activity level, and what your goals are (whether you're trying to lose weight or maintain your weight, etc). They've got all kinds of tools you can take advantage of - they'll even put together meal plans for you and send you off with a shopping list if you want. They have a huge food database to help you track your calories, but you can also add your own items easily. Like I said, it's definitely tedious, but you learn SO much from doing this. And it's not something you have to do forever. I did it everyday for 9 months, then I decided to drop weekends. Weekends are tough for me. My weekdays are very systematic and predictable, but my weekends? Not so much. So I did just weekday counting for another couple of months and then I ultimately stopped counting altogether. I felt I had learned how to ride and I could drop the training wheels for good.

Well... first weekday of 2009 and I'm back on it! Hahaha... I did gain a bit of a Christmas arse over the holidays, but really I just noticed that I'm not paying attention to my fruit and veggie intake and vitamins and nutrients like I was before. That's the other kicker to this daily counting - you really see what you're getting, and what you're NOT getting. I really have to consciously put those 5 fruits and veggies in my diet each day - I do it best by incorporating them in snacks (I'm a big snacker - I only go maybe 3 hours at a time without eating). And you know, with us being back in high-baby-making-gear in 2009, I really need to make sure I'm getting my iron and folic acid and whatnot. And I can monitor all of that through this site, so that's why I got back on the calorie counting bandwagon.

Another cool thing they have on the site is a fitness tracker. You set a fitness minutes goal for the entire year. It's weird, because I don't really consider myself a competitive person, but seeing that minutes goal on my screen everyday really makes me want to rack up some more minutes. Don't know why, but it definitely does. And there's something really satisfying about logging on and entering in my minutes when I get back from yoga or from a run or something. Love it! Really the calorie counter and the fitness minutes (SparkAmerica) are the two features I use, but there are TONS of great resources on there, not to mention a huge community of people. Lots of message boards and different groups on there. Bazillions of groups... everything from infertility support groups to Boot Camp Brides.

So check it out if you so desire. And if you create a profile, feel free to come find me and be my buddy (AAZ106)! Alright, I've officially showed my Spark. Hope y'all have a fabulous Friday and a wonderful weekend to follow!


Candice said...

Wow, this sounds great! Thanks for the info, I can't wait to try it! Should be interesting...

Belle said...

Spark on Girl!

Preppy Lizard said...

I think I'm going to check out this site this weekend. I am trying to be more conscience of what is going into my mouth and this might just be what I need. Thanks for sharing!

suzanne said...

I stumbled upon your blog yesterday, and wondered if it was the same Buford I live in and it IS! I've really enjoyed reading. My sweetie is dying to get us on the Dave Ramsey money makeover. You've made it sound like not-too-much-torture, so I may agree to it.
Happy Blogging :0)

QueenBeeSwain said...

will take a look later this weekend, but Amen about your POV on food/body/exercise.