Start off Your Spring Strong

Start off Your Spring Strong

by -

You might have packed on a couple pounds as you hibernated through winter, but now you’re ready to get back in action and live a healthy lifestyle. Well, locally based SparkPeople has just the thing.


In December, SparkPeople released a paperback version of their New York Times best-seller The Spark, which includes a special "Strong Start Guide" not found in the original hardback version. Developed from an in-depth survey of more than 2,000 SparkPeople members, this guide gets to the root of what goes into a successful strategy and what leads people toward failure when it comes to reaching their health and fitness goals.


From the survey, Nichole Nichols, SparkPeople editor and "Strong Start Guide" author, identified participants as "strong starters," or those who were successful in their mission, and "false starters," who didn’t reach that finish line. We connected with Nichols to talk about the seven secrets she discovered through the survey responses that will help make sure you fall into the "strong starter" category.


1. "Track food and calories." Many times we’re simply oblivious to what we put in our mouths. We often forget about the snacks here and there that can really add up, and we might not realize just how many calories are in the food we eat. So it only makes sense that 85 percent of strong starters (as opposed to 65 percent of false starters) tracked their food intake every day and were twice as likely to track their calories. To help tackle this endeavor, SparkPeople offers free online and mobile apps for tracking your food and calories.


2. "Don’t put certain foods off limits." It’s human nature to want what you can’t have, so don’t increase that temptation by telling yourself you can’t have that chocolate cake. Instead of sorting foods into "good" and "bad," follow thePhotobucket strong starters, who were "three times more likely to use portion control techniques that supported consumption of unhealthier foods in moderation," Nichols says.


3. "Spend LESS time exercising." Starting out slow and building a habit will be better in the long run than setting too high of expectations for yourself. "It seems counterintuitive. You think, ‘The more exercise I do, the better. Then I’ll burn more calories and lose more weight.’ But the trouble is people tend to over reach," Nichols says. In the first couple weeks, find 10 minutes every day to work out.


4. "Focus on both diet and exercise." What you eat is only part of the battle. "Seventy-four percent of false starters made both fitness and dietary changes from the outset, compared to 50 percent of false starters," Nichols says.


5. "Engage more with others/have a support network." Communicating your goals helps you hold yourself accountable. But your goals don’t just have to be a number of pounds you want to lose, Nichols says. Instead, she recommends setting other goals like packing your lunch every day or trying to take the stairs more often. And SparkPeople prides itself in its community where you can share your goals.


6. "Weigh yourself weekly, not daily." Most strong starters followed this schedule while the majority of false starters weighed themselves on a daily basis, Nichols says.


7. "Focus first and foremost on developing healthy habits, not losing weight." Your success is not just determined by the scale. Giving yourself a healthy lifestyle can impact you in other ways, both physically and mentally, that won’t show up in the number on the scale, so keep your eye on the prize — a healthy lifestyle.


To learn more about these seven secrets, check out the paperback version of The Spark, available in all major book retail outlets. And find help in implementing these steps at




Photos courtesy of SparkPeople