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My new secret weapon!

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Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Okay, I've been hinting at my new secret plan, and today, I finally get to reveal what it is.

I was privileged enough to receive an advance review copy of Sparkpeople's new book, "The Spark Solution: A Complete Two-Week Diet Program to Fast-Track Weight Loss and Total Body Health."


You've probably seen it advertised around the site.

I've been stalled for a while, mostly because of self-control issues, and when I was offered a chance to check it out, well, who am I do say no?

The plan has been absolutely fantastic. The food is good (as anyone who has tried one of Chef Meg's recipes can tell you) and the plan is easy to follow; it's about education. It's a "diet" book, I suppose, because it provides you with specific foods to eat, but what it REALLY does is teach you how to make smarter choices. It provides specific foods you might eat, and then provides an alternate option that is better, and teaches you how to make clever substitutions that lower calorie count and boost nutrition. I'm sticking white cannelini beans in the weirdest stuff now, and I'm amazed at how much bulk I'm getting as a result. ;) Seriously, who would have thought to stick kidney beans in an enchilada?

Overall, I have really enjoyed this book. It's written in the upbeat, positive style that is Sparkpeople's unique voice, and includes tons of helpful tips that when applied, can result in big changes.

I will admit I didn't do much in the way of the exercises; I have an exercise plan I follow, and prefer more advanced strength training moves. But I have been following the plan, and have been thrilled. In the first week, I lost two pounds. I'm down 4, total! Given that my weight hasn't moved in months, that's what makes me happiest. The best part is how I am not hungry; these plans provide perfect nutrition to stave off cravings, and I find I don't even miss the stuff I'm skipping.

Now, you may ask, why in the world should you get this book? Well, for starters, the freebies that come with preordering (3 months of SparkCoach, a bucket of sparkpoints, and some DVDs) are well worth the cover price anyway.

But if you're just starting out on your journey, or are stuck and bored with the plan you have... I seriously think you should consider this. I mean, come on, a diet plan that includes cookies for breakfast? Seriously? (I'm not kidding. There are breakfast cookies.)

This isn't a diet like other diets. It doesn't promise to shed pounds with little effort, or "burn fat" more than others. It's about teaching you to make healthy choices for life. Teaching you to think about what you're putting in your body, and eat for energy. It's about mindfulness. None of these recipes are "diet food" - my favorite is the curried tuna salad sandwich. I used to make my tuna sandwiches with tuna, a splotch of light mayo, and a slice of cheese. This recipe uses curry powder, cucumbers, cranberries, and a bit of greek yogurt, and it's served warm. I added a little bit of shredded mozzarella for a cheesy addition. Stuffed into a sandwich round, it was honestly the best tuna sandwich I'd ever had. :)

Nearly every recipe includes veggies. Even things that you wouldn't expect to find veggies (like the aforementioned enchiladas) have added vegetable content in ways that aren't intrusive. It doesn't feel like you're sneaking them in, but it DOES make it much easier to get those vegetable servings in each meal.

Now, there were a couple of recipes that I got a bit frustrated with. Some of this may have been my lack of sleep, but one or two were too complicated for my liking. I couldn't afford a big trip to the grocery store for some of the ingredients. However, thanks to the information in the book, I felt comfortable swapping out things in the recipe for stuff I had on hand (no cucumbers? Dice some bell peppers instead!) because that's kinda the whole point.

Best of all, this is a two week plan, but the subtitle is very misleading. This isn't just a two-week diet plan. This is a handholding introduction to healthy living, and after you finish the plan, it arms you with the tools and resources to keep moving forward. One thing any of you who have seen or read anything I write now, I don't diet. I don't deny myself, I don't skip things I enjoy, and I refuse to disallow myself any food.

That didn't change following this plan. I averaged around 1600 calories a day (a little more than the plan recommends, but necessary for me) and still had days where I had takeout pizza, or even a bowl of ramen noodles. But I did stick primarily with the plan, and will continue to follow it for a while. I stopped for about a week, and found myself immediately feeling rough again... not tracking and ignoring the things I learned caused me to pay a price. I'm planning on doing it again starting this week.

This is a plan I like. And the cheesy chicken pouch? Dear lord, that thing is a sin, and no one who is "dieting" should ever eat it. At least, it tastes like you shouldn't. But that's what I love about the Spark Solution... you can have it, and eat it, too. Guilt free.

So please, if you're looking for a change in your routine, just getting started, or are plateaued and want a change, preorder the Spark Solution. If you do this plan, you won't regret it.

Besides, it's just two weeks. How long have you been fat? Two weeks is nothing. You have that kind of time. Try it. :)

Full disclosure! I received an advance copy of this book for free from SparkPeople and did not receive any form of payment for my review.
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