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The Spark: Book Review

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I received my copy of the book, “The Spark” about ten days ago and I must say it’s exactly what I expected. The full title, “The Spark: The 28-Day Breakthrough Plan for Losing Weight, Getting Fit, and Transforming Your Life,” goes well beyond delivering what it promises.

According to promotional material for "The Spark," it promises to be a revolutionary tool that:

“distills the best of www.sparkpeople.com [and its] medically accepted nutrition and fitness plan and infuses it with a program of personal empowerment.”

That’s exactly what you get. “The Spark” is an easy-to-read manual that follows much of what you find on the website and gives more than just tips for losing weight. As the title indicates, “The Spark” offers a simple approach to transform your life.

As someone who has been overweight, I know that losing the weight is only half the battle; maintaining that progress is the greatest challenge. Well, “The Spark” is a must-have for anyone who is on this path. A key aspect of the book is that your health goal should not be just to lose weight. Your goal should be to make healthier lifestyle choices. The weight loss is a consequence of those healthier lifestyle choices. The best part of the book is that it doesn’t merely tell readers what they already know: that you should exercise and maintain a healthy diet to lose weight. Rather, “The Spark” focuses on the individual and the everyday choices that can help or hurt your progress.

For anyone who is an active member of www.sparkpeople.com and who routinely uses all of the online tools on the site, you will find that “The Spark” does a nice job of taking everything you’ve learned online and tying it all together. But even if you don’t follow the tools on the site, I recommend “The Spark” because of its motivational component. The book addresses the benefit of embracing the support of others, hence the premise of the website, www.sparkpeople.com . It highlights personal anecdotes of real people. You get to meet some of the www.sparkpeople.com members in their own words and read about their ups and downs along their journey.

If you don’t yet have “The Spark” (or if you have it but didn’t start reading it yet), you’re missing out on an important tool to help catapult you toward your health, fitness, and nutrition goals. It is available at any book retailer, and the average price is about $14.00. I think it will be the best $14.00 you’ll ever spend in your effort toward a healthier lifestyle.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

1LATINAJOURNEY 3/17/2010 9:31AM

    emoticon I will definitely check the book out !

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BAREADER 2/18/2010 12:35PM

    Nice review. I totally agree with everything you said (as usual). Actually I bought the book mostly because the website is free and I have been using it for over a year and gotten so much benefit from it. My attitude is "it's the least I can do!" I was glad to buy the book in support of the website and Chris Downey who has done so much for all of us.

I do like having it "all boiled down like a mess of cabbage" like a friend of mine would say. Nice to have the basic info. all in one place.

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LIV2RIDE 1/23/2010 8:15AM

    I couldn't agree more. I had one member say she wasn't going to buy the book because you could get all the information free on the website. That may be true but it isn't put all together. How many times have we read that we need to set goals? How many times have we read that we need to break those goals down into steps? Yes, that is on the website for free. But for me it didn't click until I read it in the book. It can not only help you with your weight loss but your life in general. For me setting goals is something I'm very good at for diet and exercise. When it comes to my life I let fear talk me out of doing what I know I want to do. Reading this book has brought me to a place where I'm going to make my dream come true. I'm working on my DETAILED plan and going to work it.

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DOROTHYBERO 1/21/2010 6:35PM

    I love my copy and am going through it a second time and makeing notes!

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CLWOODARD 1/21/2010 11:10AM

  Your blog was extremely inspiring. I'm trying to return to Sparks and am considering the book purchase. Finding this team and reading what you said about the book may be just the jump start I need.

Keep the focus!!!!!!!

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MONETRUBY 1/20/2010 6:15PM

    I agree totally with your review! I started reading it last week, and I love that it's not just about losing weight or getting in shape, etc. It really is about transforming your life for the better. It's about setting goals in every aspect of your life, not just in the "I need to lose weight, get more fit, whatever" aspect of your life. I think it will really help me this year, since I'm making a real effort to make goals and goal attainment a more integral part of my life.

Thanks for the review-it looks like it will inspire others to read the book, which will do so much good for so many people.

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GDY2SHUZ 1/19/2010 10:09PM

    You made a wonderful review. Thanks for sharing. I'm just starting the 6th Chapter and I'm enjoying it very much.

Comment edited on: 1/19/2010 10:17:03 PM

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SUNNYH99 1/19/2010 9:36PM

    Will, what a great endorsement! I'm sold. BTW, today I downloaded a free sample of the book for my Kindle, the introduction and a little more. I like it, and now that I've read what you say, I'm going to order it. Not sure yet if I want the hardcopy, or the Kindle version. Anyone with a Kindle have an idea?

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LIVINHEALTHY9 1/19/2010 9:35PM

    I have not read it yet, but I plan to do so.
Thanks for your review, Will.

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MUSYCLAU 1/19/2010 8:47AM

    And don't forget 50 SparkPoints for reading each chapter! I have to admit that Chris Downey inspires me.

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MOTHER-NATURE 1/19/2010 7:54AM

    emoticonWill for this wonderful blog .. I have bought the book, read the book, and now I am working the book .. life just can't get any better then that, or can it lol lol



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_VALEO_ 1/19/2010 7:53AM

    I bought it and I'm currently reading it.
What struck me is the % of sparkers who claimed to be happier since they're on Spark--I'm one of them, actually. The Spark is about a behavior change.

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KENDALL7261 1/19/2010 7:48AM

    I am waiting for my copy. It has been delivered but I haven't picked it up yet. Glad to hear you weren't disappointed! I can't wait to read it.

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Oh Happy Day!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

I spent my holiday with friends and family members who have not been around me since I developed my new, healthier eating styles. It was so refreshing to share it with them. Their questions were more inquisitive out of a genuine regard for my new way of eating rather than, “why are you eating weird that way?” as I had been accustomed to hearing from people. I guess to some people, it's weird to have breakfast without eating bacon and eggs.

Speaking from experience, it’s difficult enough trying to maintain your focus when it’s just ‘you’ trying to stay afloat. But when you have people around you trying to tip the boat over, that’s an added burden making things twice as difficult. Fortunately, I didn’t have those types of barriers this time. People went out of their way to ask thoughtful questions and offered healthy alternatives to the unhealthy fare that everyone else was having. I did sneak and nibble on a few of the unhealthy things; however, it was great having a choice.

I didn’t stray too far off course though, and I followed the same tips that I often give to others. These tips work not just during the holidays but all year long:

1. Start the day with breakfast. That helps to spark your metabolism early in the day, which can help curb your appetite;
2. Eat small meals throughout the day so you don’t get too hungry. That can help you avoid eating too much or craving things that can blow your whole program;
3. If you really want some, go ahead and have a sliver of pie or a piece of banana bread or some of that cake. I always have a piece about the width of two of my fingers held together. If you deprive yourself too much, it could backfire causing you to break down and over do it;
4. When you’re having dinner, don’t feel compelled to go back for seconds just because it tastes good;
5. Grab a partner and go for a walk after you eat; and
6. If you do eat too much and if you end up being a couch potato and you don’t work it off, try not to judge yourself too hard. That will only make you feel bad.

I followed these tips and only put on 2 pounds over the past 3 weeks. I’m back on track now and fully charged up; I hope that you are charged up too. Lets make 2010 our best year ever!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BAREADER 1/11/2010 12:01PM

    As always, great advice for staying on track. It would be very hard to go through the entire holiday season with NO weight gain. I feel like if I can hold it down to a reasonable amount I will be able to lose it once the feasting is over. I have about 6 pounds to lose but the good news is I am back on the exercise band wagon.

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JAVAJO47 1/10/2010 9:07AM

    Awesome blog! I thought your tips were great. The one I especially liked was #3. I like the way you measure a serving size for dessert. I'll have to keep that in mind the next time I want to splurge a little.

It's wonderful your family was supportive in your efforts. That's not usually the case as I've found when I go see family. On one hand they are happy for my lifestyle changes and the next moment they are trying to sabotage my efforts.

Have a great New Year!
Jo Ann

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SUNNYH99 1/6/2010 2:59PM

    Hi Will, great blog! I really feel good reading what you wrote, especially your suggestions for the holidays and all year round. I put on 4 pounds since mid November when I had a conference in DC (should have tried to connect with you!) and ate lunch and dinner out with colleagues, trying to gauge what I was eating but having a lot of trouble. Then we had TG, Hanukkah (and my awesome potato latkes), Xmas and NYs, and every occasion was filled with foods, baking, eating, sharing, and getting loose with my plan. If I was over 50 or 100 calories for a day by having a dessert, I went for it anyway. I'm back on track and not feeling ashamed, and reading what you wrote helped!

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    It's not easy sometimes, but as long as we keep trying, that's whats most important.

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LIVINHEALTHY9 1/6/2010 7:30AM

    Thanks for the blog and the tips, Will

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TRAVELNISTA 1/6/2010 5:29AM

    emoticon tips for us all to follow. It is really refreshing to see family and friends supporting you rather than undermining your progress as a lot of family or friends do. emoticon

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MONETRUBY 1/5/2010 11:44PM

    Really good tips! How wonderful that you had supportive people around you. All too often, we hear about people trying to sabotage someone's healthier lifestyle. It's refreshing to hear that those around you were curious and supportive. Hopefully, you "sparked" a few to eat healthier!

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_VALEO_ 1/5/2010 4:39PM

    I'm sure that holidays weight will history soon.

Happy New Year!

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-TAMI- 1/5/2010 3:47PM

    Great tips Will.
It's so wonderful that you were surrounded by people who are supportive and interested in your life.
I'm glad you had such a good time with your friends and family.

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SAMGERBINE 1/5/2010 1:19PM

    Good tips :)

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Goodbye 2009

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

As the year comes to a close, most of us will focus on where life has taken us, while others will look ahead to where it is we want to go. Sometimes when we look ahead to the New Year, we make a list of resolutions. Many people often say they don’t make resolutions. But I think resolutions are important.

A resolution is nothing more or less than a goal, and if you fail to establish any goals, then a year from now you will most likely be right where you are today. So, no matter how big or small – whether many or few – jot down a goal or two that you want to achieve in 2010.

Here are my top three goals for the new year:

CONSISTENT PHYSICAL ACTIVITY – While I do some measure of exercise now, I’m not consistent, particularly in the colder months or on those days when I work late. I have several at-home exercise gadgets (i.e., stability ball, resistance bands, medicine ball, dumbbells, Sparkpeople.com exercise DVD) that remove any excuses I could try to make. My goal for 2010 is to exercise four days a week.

WATCH OUT FOR SWEETS – for the past six months or so, I have found myself snacking way too much on sweets. I was fortunate in that I did not see any change to my waist size. But I know I ate more than I needed, and I will have to cut back. My goal for 2010 is to do a better job of limiting my snacking. Even if I make just small changes, it will have long term benefits.

CONTINUE TO BE SUPPORTIVE OF OTHERS – This goal is one that has been the most helpful to my own progress. You’d be amazed at how inspiring it is to ME when I try to inspire someone else. Whether you call it karma, reaping what you sow, or something else, it has been highly effective for me whenever I motivate others. My goal for 2010 is do more encouraging things and be more supportive.

These are my goals for 2010. If you don’t have any, now is a good time to come up with some.



  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SUNNYH99 1/2/2010 3:38PM

    Hi Will! Great to see your blog. Hadn't seen you around here lately (maybe we haven't been in the same places at the same time) and missed you, hoping all is well. You've been a source of experience, strength and hope for me and for many others. Happy Healthy, Prosperous New Year!

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BAREADER 1/1/2010 10:26PM

    Very good Will. You have encouraged me several times with your comments on my blogs, I appreciate the support very much. You are doing great, I know you will achieve all your goals this year.

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SCITEACHER17 1/1/2010 4:41PM

I am new to SP and just discovered your page. What an inspiration you are! I enjoyed reading your blog/page.

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PLATINUM755 12/30/2009 7:51PM

    Those are awesome and they are part of my list as well!

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-TAMI- 12/30/2009 2:29PM

    Great Goals!!!
I know you'll succeed in all of them.

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SAMGERBINE 12/30/2009 9:57AM

    Good goals :) I might have to steal them from you!

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FCASTELO 12/30/2009 9:44AM

    hope you keep them

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Healthy Eating: It's Really Not Hard To Do!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

If you’re looking for some interesting ways to have a healthier lunch or dinner, try adding a little imagination and creativity to your meals. Making just small changes can make a big difference. Consider these tips and hopefully they will make you think of some additional ideas:

- When eating sandwiches or wraps (whether at home or in restaurants or delis) add several vegetables, such as carrots, onions, mushrooms, romaine lettuce, sprouts, tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, snow peas, or other vegetables.

- Eat a side of a mixed green salad with your lunch or dinner. Be sure to avoid the creamy dressings. Try going for vinegar-based dressings.

- Don’t always go for a protein bar or shake to satisfy your hunger between meals. Fruits and vegetables can be some excellent power foods. This can be particularly important after you exercise to give you a boost of energy.

- Pay attention to the contents of the juices you drink. Many juice brands on the market are significantly diluted with water and contain a lot of sugar. Not only do they give you too many calories, but they also are not giving you the amount of nutrition that you may think you're getting. Be sure to read the labels carefully so you know what you’re getting. For optimal health, don’t buy a brand just because it’s on sale.

- When choosing a baked potato, get creative in garnishing it. Some toping alternatives to butter or sour cream include salsa, grilled vegetables, stewed tomatoes, or plain maybe with a little salt and pepper. In addition, some people are conditioned to having a potato heated; but a cold potato with the right toppings is delicious - or try this. If you have been eating a baked potato for a couple of days, try placing it in a skillet or a table top grill and browning it on both sides.

- If you’re like me, then you will love salads; however a salad can get pretty darned boring if you’re not creative. Add green peppers (or use different colored peppers), shredded cabbage or use a variety of different types of lettuce, apple or pear chunks, chunks of eggplant, shredded carrots, shredded butternut squash (yes it’s delicious raw), avocado, kiwi, chopped celery, and some beans. If you do it right, your salad can be a meal in itself. But like I mentioned earlier, be careful of the type of dressing you use.

- Make the most of your grilling, and don’t discount the benefit of your tabletop grill. Wrap your favorite vegetables in some foil, use some non-stick spray, and season with your favorite herbs and spices and place on your grill. Sometimes as a change, place the veggies on skewers. Grilled fruits are good too. I like placing pineapples, strawberries, peaches, and guava on skewers for grilling.

This is just a sampling of some of the things you can do to spice up your meals without all the fat and calories. Just a few changes can do wonders for your tastebuds - and your waist line.

Happy Eating!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SAMTHEMAN60 2/25/2010 4:27PM

    Thnaks for the great tips. I need all of the help I can get.

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SAMGERBINE 12/30/2009 10:01AM

    great ideas, I actually use many of these

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BAREADER 12/21/2009 2:58PM

    As always, lots of great ideas for eating healthy, thanks for sharing.

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EXERCISEVA 12/18/2009 11:22AM

    thanks for the tips and ideas and merry christmas and a happy new year

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TREE4242 12/10/2009 7:20PM

  Great Ideas!

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TRAVELNISTA 12/10/2009 4:21PM

    I loved cold baked sweet potatoes as a snack. Right now, I am not a happy camper and have not been eating salads like I used to. The prices of the produce due to the snows in California and what it did to the crops is killing me. emoticon

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MAMAOF3KIDDIES 12/10/2009 2:31PM

    Great blog - thanks!

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MOTHER-NATURE 12/10/2009 11:36AM

    Will emoticon thank you for the very healthy and interesting tips, I am going to use them for sure.

P.S. I'm saving this blog emoticon



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MISS_VIV 12/10/2009 9:46AM

    Another wonderful blog, full of helpful hints. I really enjoy reading these.
Thanks Will for posting.

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-TAMI- 12/10/2009 9:21AM

    Great ideas! Thanks for posting this. emoticon
Sometimes I need a reminder like this blog post to get me to add more healthy options to my diet.

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PLAINJANE11 12/10/2009 8:57AM

    Thanks so much for simplifying things for us! Sometimes I overthink it:)

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NOTBLUSHING 12/10/2009 8:52AM


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SHAYWEE 12/10/2009 8:52AM

    hmmmm all very good to know :) Thanks!

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Why Sparkpeople.com?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Whenever I get the opportunity, I tell my friends, family, associates, and even people I hardly know all about www.sparkpeople.com and what I like about it. It’s among the key reasons attributable to my success with maintaining my weigh loss progress. A Sparkpeople slogan is, “Make Your Life An Adventure” and that’s exactly what you get – an adventure – if you put forth the effort.

Sparkpeople is great for many reasons, however one of the biggest reasons is the support and encouragement you get from others. When you have a goal shared by others, it means a lot when they give you a little boost. When you feel like giving in to the temptation to eat a bag of chips and a box of Entenmann's Cookies or a couple of donuts, it’s good to belong to a community of other people who understand exactly what you’re feeling.

Here are other more practical reasons why Sparkpeople is an excellent tool for weight management:

1) The ability to record all of your meals on a daily basis, including calories and nutrition content is something that I really like. It’s easy to think you’re on the mark until you write it down. Until you get in the habit of conscious eating, most people either eat too much or don’t enough of the right kids of things consequently missing out on the nutrients they need. The Sparkpeople Food Tracker helps with that.
2) The cardio and strength training feature is good too, and not just for piling on the Spark Points. You can track your fitness goals and chart your progress toward those goals.
3) Many big and little things you do throughout the site assess points. The points aren’t good for much. They are primarily another way to give encouragement and motivate you to do more and get more involved. It’s just part of the site’s reward system.
4) Sparkpeople is a place to get answers to your questions. Not only are many members very knowledgeable, there are also many resident Sparkpeople.com Experts – people who are employed by Sparkpeople – who can help provide clarity on many topics. There are also several stories, articles, and reports on matters that pertain to health, fitness, and nutrition.
5) You can blog about your experiences, which really is good to (a) help you see where you are, and (b) share with others so they will know they aren’t alone in the struggle and perhaps learn a lesson or two from what you experienced.

There are several other benefits to www.sparkpeople.com which people must define for themselves. I am always recommending to people that they come here if they want something different – and most importantly FREE. Sparkpeople gives what you put into it. The more you give, the more you get.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BAREADER 12/21/2009 2:56PM

    I totally agree with everything you wrote, great blog! I tell people about Sparkpeople, I don't think very many of them have actually gotten on and done it though. Well, the info. is out there and if they want to do it they know where to find it.

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-PAULA 12/14/2009 12:43PM

    Thanks for sharing, that was a great blog!

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W0MANWARRI0R 12/9/2009 8:33AM

    There's something about this site being free that is indescribable. Its like a stranger changing your blown tire or returning your wallet and not accepting reward - once it sinks in they are there simply because its right the positive vibes are incredible.

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DDOORN 12/4/2009 11:48PM

    Lots of head nodding here as I read your blog...totally agreed!

I'm telling EVERYONE about SP! Today I read in our local newspaper about a new fitness trainer who was on Biggest Loser....just opened his own business. I sent him an e-mail singing the praises of SP and encouraged him to spread the SPARK to his clients!

I ALSO read about a local pharmacy offering self-help support groups...emailed them about SP too!

Last week I met with our local bariatric surgeon and spoke with HIM about SP and the benefits.

Earlier in the fall I wrote to both of our local colleges health departments encouraging them to leave SparkPeople fliers around for the new college students coming in.

My DW gets a little tired of my talking SPARK-this and SPARK-that all the time...but hey, when you've found something as special as SparkPeople...! :-)


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LKG9999 12/4/2009 11:17PM

    For me, the most important features of Sparkpeople are the tracking (for accountability) and the message boards (for support). Getting points helps too. What can I say, I'm a goal geek.
emoticon emoticon

Comment edited on: 12/4/2009 11:22:46 PM

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JAE_HENNINGTON 12/4/2009 10:57PM

  really great blog

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THEFITNUTLIFE 12/4/2009 2:53PM

    emoticon blog! and Hooray for you!

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ASH72461 12/4/2009 2:37PM

  sparkpeople is the first thing i have found that really works for me
horay for sparkpeople emoticon emoticon emoticon

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TRAVELNISTA 12/4/2009 10:54AM

    I have never been happier since finding SparkPeople. The amazing thing is that it is all free. I share the SparkPeople experience as often as I can. emoticon

emoticon blog!

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EMT6937 12/4/2009 10:01AM

    I missed seeing you on here. Nice to see a post from you.

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