Weight Watchers

The Facebook of dieting

April 13, 2010: 11:32 AM ET

SparkPeople helps millions of dieters lose weight --  but not from their wallets.

Today people turn to social networks for help with everything from finding a job to landing a date. So it's only natural that virtual communities would crop up around another of life's big challenges: losing weight.

But the usual suspects aren't the ones leading the way in convening calorie counters online. That title belongs to SparkPeople.com, a free website that with 2.7 million unique monthly visitors, recently eclipsed Weightwatchers.com as the most popular dieting website.

SparkPeople isn't new. Launched in 2001, the site claims to have helped users drop more than 10 million pounds, although most of its user growth has occurred more recently: Spark added 6,000 new members daily in 2009.

Its philosophy isn't exactly novel either. Rather than plug a faddish, overnight diet plan (see Atkins, South Beach), the site pushes modest and flexible lifestyle changes via goal setting. It promotes fitness and healthy eating habits by offering tools like a calorie tracker, video demonstrations of exercises, and downloadable grocery lists.

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