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Resident Experts

Meet the people behind the SparkPeople program!

SparkPeople is made up of a small team of healthy lifestyle experts and staff members. Learn about the experts behind the site and meet the SparkPeople team here!

Chris Downie: Motivation Expert and SparkPeople Founder Meg Galvin: Master Chef and Healthy Recipe Developer
Becky Hand: Registered and Licensed Dietitian Jen Mueller: Fitness Coach and Community Leader
Nicole Nichols: Certified Fitness Instructor and Editor Denise Tausig: Community Moderator
Birdie Varnedore: Doctor and Resident Medical Expert

Additional SparkPeople Staff Members

"I've been fortunate to achieve great results using the SparkPeople program; now it's exciting that millions of other people are using this program to reach countless goals, too!"
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Chris Downie, Motivation Expert and SparkPeople Founder

Chris earned his bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Cincinnati. He started his career at Procter and Gamble, where he used proven health, goal-setting and motivation techniques to get fit, manage stress and create the fuel he needed to reach his goals. He left P&G to co-found an early Internet company, which became eBay's first acquisition. With the freedom and capital to do whatever he wanted, Chris founded SparkPeople so that he could SPARK millions of PEOPLE to get healthy and reach their goals, too. Since 2001, Chris has invested $5 million of his own money to create and operate SparkPeople.com.

A hands-on CEO, "SparkGuy" is an avid exerciser, leader of several SparkTeams, and active member of SparkPeople's positive Community. As SparkPeople's founder and resident motivation expert, Chris corresponds directly with members every day. He has written more than 10,000 personal messages to members, offering encouragement and congratulations alike. In addition to talking to members directly on SparkPeople.com, Chris frequently speaks at meetings and events and has "spread the spark" to millions through media interviews and appearances with FOX, "Entertainment Tonight," The New York Times and more.

Chris' first book The Spark was published by Hay House on Dec. 29, 2009, followed soon after by an expanded paperback edition by the same title. Writing and publishing the book was a team effort involving the resident experts from SparkPeople and its members, too. The Spark tells the inspiring account of how Chris founded SparkPeople and distills the best of the SparkPeople program, along with new strategies and secrets of success, in an easy-to-follow 28-day plan. Learn about Chris's new book The Spark.

"When you eat healthy, delicious food, you never feel deprived. You'll love what you eat--and still lose weight."

Meg Galvin, Healthy Cooking Expert and World Master Chef

At SparkPeople.com, Chef Meg Galvin develops healthy recipes, tests some of our best member-submitted dishes and teaches the fundamentals of cooking through informative and entertaining videos, blogs and articles. She's the author of SparkPeople's first cookbook "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight," published by Hay House in October 2011. A World Master Chef since 2005 (one of only 20 women in the world with that title), Chef Meg hosted the regional television show "The Dish" and a series of cooking videos on a local FOX affiliate. She has appeared on TV and radio, and in print, both locally and nationally as a SparkPeople expert. A faculty member at the Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, she trained at Le Cordon Bleu in London and uses classical French cooking methods and farm-fresh foods to create flavorful and satisfying healthy dishes.

Raised in a large farm family in central Kentucky, Chef Meg now lives in northern Kentucky with her husband and three teenage sons. On any given day, this world-class chef can be found hitting the pavement on long runs or cheering on her boys at their numerous sporting events. She balances her busy schedule by incorporating her home life and career, bringing her kids into the kitchen and testing recipes on--and with--her family.

Chef Meg's food philosophy is simple: Food should go straight from the farm to the table. No food is off limits, but it should be as unprocessed as possible. Eat what's fresh and in season, with plenty of variety. Above all, she likes to create dishes that are healthy and easy to make!

"Wellness is not achieved by accident. It begins when you assume responsibility for the quality of your life. It requires a search for accurate knowledge, the scheduling of time, and the constant commitment to energize and motivate."

Becky Hand, Registered and Licensed Dietitian

Becky Hand earned a bachelor's degree in food, nutrition and dietetics from Marian College and a master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. Becky has more than 25 years of nutrition experience in hospital and community settings. She is passionate about improving the health and wellness of people in her rural community as well as the lives of people throughout the world via SparkPeople. A licensed and registered dietitian with a certificate in weight management from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, she also teaches weight management classes for children and adults, conducts cooking classes and food demonstrations, and assists school districts in implementing wellness policies. Becky, who also maintains a health coach certification from the Cooper Institute, hosts a weekly nutrition talk show, writes articles for newspapers and magazines, and provides food and nutrition coverage on television.

Whether Becky is talking to schoolchildren, a scout troop, college students, high school athletes, a women's club, church group, or corporate America, she wants her nutrition messages to be practical, easy to apply and fun! She utilizes humor and hands-on activities to involve the audience in her presentations and assists them in setting realistic goals and action plans.

As SparkPeople's Head Dietitian, Becky stays on top of the most current nutrition research and provides nutritional recommendations for the SparkPeople websites. She also advises members by writing and reviewing food and nutrition articles and answering questions on the message boards.

"You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call 'failure' is not the falling down but the staying down."
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Jen Mueller, Fitness Coach and Community Leader

Jen's background is in business, but she left the corporate world because she wanted to make a difference in people's lives. She earned a master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati and then worked for two years as Program Director for the YMCA in Memphis, Tennessee. After returning to Cincinnati, she began working for SparkPeople. Jen is an AFAA-certified Personal Trainer, ACE-certified Health Coach, ACE-certified Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist, and certified Prenatal and Postpartum Fitness expert. A proud mom, she also loves to run and has completed several marathons.

Jen is SparkPeople's Community Leader, which involves overseeing the message boards, SparkTeams, challenges, and the development of new community-related features. She also writes and reviews fitness articles for the site and has been interviewed as a fitness expert for both print and television news stories. Jen's passion is coaching people to help them reach their fitness and health-related goals. She says the best part of working for SparkPeople is helping members realize that they didn't need her as much as they thought they did. "They've had what it takes to make a healthy change inside of them all along. I just pointed them in the right direction!"

"I have a passion for helping people live healthier lives. When you're healthy, you're happy, productive, and are able to enjoy all that life has to offer."
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Nicole Nichols, Certified Fitness Expert and Managing Editor

Nicole is a fitness trainer and health educator who helps people of all skill levels integrate simple but powerful fitness techniques into their daily lives. She's known for her approachable style that makes working out fun and accessible. "Coach Nicole" contributes regularly to the nation's top health and fitness magazines, websites, television programs and radio shows, helping to motivate people to live healthier lives. In 2011, Nicole received local recognition as one of Cincinnati's "Women of the Year," and national recognition as "America's Top Personal Trainer to Watch" by the American Council on Exercise and Life Fitness.

Nicole has designed and taught health programs on the topics of eating disorders, body image and self-acceptance, strength training for women, exercise for seniors, and prenatal exercise. She has created more than 50 free workout videos that have made her of the most-watched exercise instructors on the Internet. Her popular workout DVDs "Total Body Sculpting" and "28 Day Boot Camp" (a best seller) are available online and at retail stores nationwide. Additional DVDs produced by SparkPeople are available in the SparkPeople Store.

Nicole has a bachelor's degree in health promotion and education, specializing in exercise and fitness, from the University of Cincinnati. She currently holds a chair on the dean's advisory council for the College of Human Services at the University of Cincinnati, where she was the youngest graduate to ever receive their "Distinguished Alumni" honor. Nicole maintains several fitness certifications, including ACE Personal Training, AFAA Group Fitness Instruction, Spinning, PiYo, Prenatal and Postpartum Exercise Design, and EFI Sports Medicine (Group and Personal Training), and is certified in mat and reformer Pilates through Balanced Body University. She has also completed a 200-hour yoga certification through YogaFit, the only registered yoga school recognized by both the American Council on Exercise and the Yoga Alliance.

As SparkPeople's Managing Editor, Nicole sets the editorial direction for SparkPeople and SparkTeens, overseeing and contributing to the production of content, articles and newsletters. She enjoys breaking down complex fitness and nutrition concepts into easy-to-understand ideas that people can use in their everyday lives.

"Consistency is the key to success! If you are consistent in reaching smaller goals, that leads to bigger goals, and you'll be successful no matter how you look at it."
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Denise Tausig, Community Moderator

Denise's first introduction to SparkPeople was January 1, 2004--as a member. It took her eight months to lose 40 pounds and reach her goal weight, which she's maintained since thanks to regular walking, yoga, and fitness videos. Losing weight and committing to an exercise program inspired Denise to change her life. She went back to college and earned a bachelor's degree in wellness from Lincoln University in Missouri and also become an ACE-certified personal trainer. Now a SparkPeople employee, she helps others achieve their health and fitness goals, including the 13- to 17-year-old members of our sister site, SparkTeens.com, where Denise works as the Community Leader. At SparkPeople, you'll find her throughout the Community, answering questions, leading SparkTeams and challenges and providing support to members.




"I know firsthand what it takes to change one's lifestyle, and the struggles people face when losing weight, but I also understand it from a medical perspective. I hope my experience can help others achieve their goals, too."
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Birdie Varnedore, M.D., Resident Medical Expert

Birdie joined SparkPeople as a member in 2007 and lost 140 pounds the healthy way while balancing her demanding roles as a full-time neurologist, wife, and mother of five young children. Because of her amazing success, she has appeared in People magazine's annual "Half Their Size" issue, and on "Good Morning America" and "Oprah's Ultimate Weight Loss Finale."

A graduate of the University of Miami, Birdie has been practicing medicine since 2004. Board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in neurology and vascular neurology, she is a full-time neurologist at a hospital in Florida, and a member of her hospital's telemedicine stroke team.

Birdie enjoys spending time with her family and continues to make healthy living and exercise a part of her daily life, and is passionate about helping others do the same. As SparkPeople's Resident Medical Expert, Birdie helps review our health and medical content for accuracy, speaks to the media about weight-loss and medical news and healthy living, and also writes blogs and articles for our sites about the health and medical implications of both obesity and weight loss.

Do you have a question or need to contact SparkPeople?
Dave

Dave manages product development at SparkPeople. He loves finding ways to improve the site to help people better reach their goals. You'll often see him posting announcements about new features on the site.

Dean

Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies and extensive social work experience as a caseworker and community organizer. Dean's interest in healthy living began in 1999 when, at the age of 50, he confronted his own morbid obesity and related mental and physical health issues. He joined SparkPeople, lost 150 pounds and regained his health. During this process, Dean earned a personal training certification from ACE, received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant, and began working for SparkPeople. He is currently pursuing a certification from the American Senior Fitness Association.

Josh

Josh heads up the engineering department at SparkPeople. He does some programming of new features as well as site and database maintenance. Josh is on his own weight loss journey and is happy to help people use the SparkPeople.com tools to lose weight.

Kelly

Kelly is our Office Manager and one of our resident experts who assists with monitoring the message boards. Kelly also mails all of the promotional prizes that members win during contests, giveaways and by spinning the SparkPoints wheel. She joined the SparkPeople staff in 2004 and has enjoyed living a healthy lifestyle with her family ever since. With the help of SparkPeople and healthier fitness and eating habits, she was able to finally kick her smoking habit. WOOHOO!

Paul

Paul is a software engineer who joined the SparkPeople team in 2005. In addition to launching new features and SparkPeople websites, such as SparkRecipes.com and SparkSavings.com, he also films our online workout videos with Coach Nicole!

Sean

Sean has been a member of the SparkPeople marketing team since 2002 and currently leads advertising and sponsorship sales initiatives for the company. He enjoys being part of an innovative web company that makes such a positive impact on people's lives. Sean also loves to "go outside and play" through a variety outdoor activities.

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