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The Spark Solution - Review

Sunday, May 19, 2013

I'm not sure that right now is the best time for me to write a review of The Spark Solution. I have just spent the last four hours grocery shopping, cutting, prepping, cooking, freezing and doing the dishes. Literally FOUR hours. And that does not include the two hours it took me on Thursday to customize the meal plans and edit the shopping list to my meal plan.

The time, money and energy that goes into the meal plan is exhausting and, frankly, not sustainable. I have committed to these first two weeks, and I've seen fantastic results (-3 pounds in six days!) but I just don't know how long I can make this work.

Let's start at the beginning. I LOVE SparkPeople. I tell everyone about it. When I first discovered the site I was obsessed, I lost 38 pounds over a year and a half. I was within 10 pounds of a "Normal" BMI. Somewhere along the line little bad habits started creeping back in. I stopped measuring foods, then I stopped tracking, then I would make excuses to get take out... to be fair, it did take me two years to gain it all back, that's six months longer than it took to lose it. Still, it was clear that it was my problem, not SparkPeople's. I was still loyal to the site and I do what I can to support it so we can all continue to enjoy it for free. I have all four Coach Nicole DVD's. The Spark, The SparkPeople Cookbook, The Vegan Ebook Cookbook (I'm not even vegetarian!), The Grilling Ebook Cookbook, Two of the iTunes playlists, A three month Spark Coach membership, a SparkPeople acrylic cup, fleece headband and two long sleeve SP shirts. It was a no brainer that I would buy the newest book, besides, I needed a kick in the ass.

I really had no idea what The Spark Solution would entail, I did zero research, just went to Amazon and pre-ordered the Kindle version. When it arrived I started reading it right away. It sparked something in me. "Oh yeah, these are the things I did before that worked so well." So I committed myself the the two week plan... and then I saw the shopping list. WTH?! Copied and pasted from Kindle to a Word Document, with narrow margins and two columns per page the shopping list was seven pages long. Are you serious? I realize that a big part of the plan is to show you the variety of foods you can eat and still stay within a healthy calorie range, but the appeal of the plan to me was that someone had orgainzed it for me. I guess it was too good to be true.

I spent two hours the Saturday before Day 1 combing through the daily menus to decide what I would make. I am not a picky eater. Seriously, I have enjoyed every single food that has ever passed my lips. I don't have any food allergies either. So I was game to try them all but I needed to cut the list down some, and I'm cooking for one. I decided on making a big batch of the Spinach-Feta Breakfast Wraps because they would freeze well and I could carry them to work, so I eliminated four of the other breakfasts . I also planned on cutting the dinners for four in half and eating one serving for dinner and the second for lunch the next day, eliminating the need for all of the lunch ingredients. I wrote out each day what I would have for breakfast, lunch, snack 1, dinner and snack 2 then I cross referenced that with the recipes and created my own shopping list. I went to a produce market for the best prices on all of the fruits and veggies then to the supermarket for the rest. The total bill for my week 1 was $150, and then I still had to prep and cook all that dang food. I spent $75 for week two by planning around what I had on hand. That is still $225 for one person for 14 days which comes out to over $15/day.

I followed my plan religiously and have had a negative calorie differential each day. The scale shows that I was down three pounds by this morning (day 7), physically I look less bloated, my clothes feel good and I have some extra energy. I can't argue with those results. The plan works! But when the two week challenge is over and I'm left to my own devices will I be willing to commit this much time to it each week? Not likely. Eventually I have to go back to living a life.

My favorite part of the plan is how it feels like I never stop eating, that and I can still eat ice cream. My favorite meal from week one was probably the Better BLT. I also really enjoyed the One Dish Southwestern Chicken and Rice, The not-so-Quick Chicken Enchiladas and the Dijon-Herb Roasted Tenderloin with Perfect Mashed Potatoes. Oddly the two meals I expected to like the most, the Inside-Out Burgers with Herb Fries and the Panko Fish were disappointments. Burger and fries and Fish and Chips are two of my favorite meals, these two did not hit the spot for those cravings.

The Insider Tips were all good reminders and I especially liked the tips where it had you prep things for the next day while cooking dinner that night, however, I still think there were some missed opportunities for this plan in simplifying the meals and using more ingredients in different ways. More planned left overs would have been helpful too. In fact, I subscribe to Coastal Living Magazine (despite being land locked in a city in Ohio) and in the June 2013 issue they have a feature called Week at a Glance, where they give you five meals that you can cook in your beach rental using a total of 20 ingredients for all five meals, yet the meals all seem unique and delicious. I can't tell you how great of an idea this is, I think a lot more people would respond to an easier plan like that and many more people could afford to follow that plan.

I'm still dedicated to SparkPeople.com and Week 2 of The Spark Solution (www.sparkpeople.com/sparksolu
tion). I hope to continue my success through week 2 and into the future. My week 1 goal was to lose 1 pound or 1 inch and I meet that easily, so my goal for week 2 will be to lose another 2 pounds or 2 inches. Week 2 has an added challenge for me because I am traveling for work Monday evening - Wednesday evening. I'll be at a conference that serves breakfast pastries and a full lunch and then I am spending an evening with a friend who happens to live in the city, so we'll likely be eating out. I guess week 2 for me will be about making the plan work with my life and practicing moderation.
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    Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.