Saturday, February 01, 2014
I have been a Weight Watchers member off and on for 11 years. After my daughter was born, I had trouble losing the weight. Weight Watchers worked. I got within 5 lbs of goal, moved and stopped going to meetings. I regained the weight over the course of the next few years and rejoined WW. In the last 5 years I have gained and lost weight because I did not stay on the program. I have lost 15 pounds this month and for all but the first few days of the year maintained two tracking systems - sparkpeople.com and Weight Watchers. I wore both the WW activity monitor and the Spark Activity Tracker. Far and above, I like the Spark product better. Here is why:
1. Sparkpeople.com is free. There is no monthly fee to use the Activity Tracker (SPAT) either. Weight Watchers charges me almost $40 a month for the online membership - it is more if I were to go to meetings. AND they charge $5 a month to use their activity tracker.
2. WW communicates only in points. While I think their program is a very healthy way to lose weight and I would recommend it to some people, I don't think it is for everyone. I like gadgets. I like data. Therefore, I like to communicate in calories, fat, carbs, protein, distance, etc. WW activity points always seemed vague to me and until the activity monitor came along I always leaned toward the lowest end of any guestimate for activity points. Also, many calorie containing foods are zero points - good if you just want to be eating all the time. But those calories do add up and there is no way of tracking it. It is easy to use your points on pizza and then eat zero point foods the rest of the day and end up consuming 3000 calories!
3. I know no one ever got fat on salad. But I tracked my nutrition on WW and on SparkPeople and found that even though I was within points, I was way high on calories. The basic math is that you have to burn more calories than you eat to lose weight. The SPAT calculates calories burned much the same way the Activity Monitor from WW does but it stops before calculating points. I get steps, distance and calories burned. It all automatically uploads to my tracker just like WW. But at the end of the day I can see that I ate 1500 calories and burned 1900. I can't see that with WW.
4. In addition to calories, the nutrition tracker also tracks fat, carbs and protein. You have the ability to track other things as well, like folate, calcium, water, hours of sleep, daily flossing or any other healthy habit you want to add (but there are a lot already there). The cool thing is that the site provides a range of necessary daily intake of fat, carbs, protein and calories based on my stats. I can change it if I want. But every day I can see a report that tells me if I had enough of each of these macronutrients to support healthy weight loss. I have found this to be incredibly insightful. Over the month, I stayed within WW points and met all the goals. But on SP, I struggled almost every day to get enough protein.
5. I did choose to add one small expense to my SparkPeople journey. I bought the $1.99 phone app so I could track on the go. The WW apps (3 of them) are free but I found them to be buggy at times. So far the SP app is great and really does everything the WW apps did.
6. The SP web site has everything the WW site has plus more. There are lots of recipes, plus several recipe videos. There are lots of workout tips and ideas, plus lots of free workout videos. There are lots of articles, plus a lot of videos/articles from real people sharing their very real journey. There is a huge message board and blogging capabilities, plus the community is very active and overall positive. PLUS, the trophies, blog entries, achievements, etc. can all be linked to social media so your friends outside the SP community can offer support as well.
7. The WW Activity Monitor can be worn several places on the body, as can the SPAT. The clip on the SPAT is way stronger than the WW product. Since it is recommended to be worn the shoe, I am not worried about losing it. The shoe is not even an option for the WW product. I often wore the WW product on my bra and it always showed through my clothing, and fell off multiple times. I was lucky in that I always noticed it was missing and found it. I had to remember to change the setting if I changed wearing locations. The SPAT is slightly less than half the size of the WW product. So if I want to wear it on my bra it will be easier to hide and it automatically senses its wearing location so I don't have to change any settings. AND, I never notice I am wearing it.
So, after a long essay, I hope I communicated why the Spark Activity Tracker and SparkPeople.com are my preferred weight loss companions to the Weight Watchers family of products and services. The month of January I used both products. In the month of February I will not have to pay WW fees. That will almost completely cover the cost of the SPAT and the phone app.