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How to Keep Up with the Kiddos--and Burn Off All That Energy

The news is full of reports about childhood obesity and sedentary children with their bottoms glued to couch cushions and their eyes trained on electronic screens.
But for me right now, with a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, the reality is more like children bouncing off the walls and forcing me to get off my bottom to run around the yard with them. Young children are full of energy and can't help but want to master their new motor skills. The trick is harnessing and keeping that joy for movement and exercise.
Here's what we're hoping works:
Posted 4/24/2012  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 11 comments   15,848 views
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Raising Strong Daughters

Grade school was tough for me.  I got picked on a lot, mostly because I got good grades and didn’t like to get in trouble.   I think a lot of my insecurities as an adult began on the school playground as a 9-year-old who just wanted to fit in.  Because of those experiences, I’ve become super-sensitive to how I’m raising my daughters.  I want them to be strong young women who don’t let the opinions of others determine their self-worth.  I know some of that is inevitable (I see it already in preschool when my daughter gets her feelings hurt because a girl in her class doesn’t want to play with her), but hopefully they will be able to avoid at least some of the negativity that I experienced so long ago.
Posted 4/20/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 38 comments   17,764 views
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Poll: Have Your Children Lost Weight Along With You?

When you decide to start making healthy changes in your life, you probably start at home.  Common changes include getting junk food out of the house or replacing an evening T.V. show with an evening walk.  You might be the only one in the house who’s formally committed to the change, but that doesn’t mean that everyone else doesn’t benefit from it.  If you cook the meals, maybe you start making healthier dishes instead of opting for fast food a few nights a week.  And it’s easy to ask for company on your nightly walk, so soon it becomes a family event. 
In many households, it’s not just one family member who has weight issues.  Years of unhealthy habits can create weight problems for everyone, young and old.  If you’ve got a child in your house who has weight issues, it’s likely very stressful to try and figure out how to help.  How do you make eating healthy and exercising fun, to create habits that they can carry on for the rest of their lives?  According to a new study, the best strategy could be leading by example. 
Posted 4/10/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 15 comments   13,130 views
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Kid-Friendly Car Snacks

My family tries to eat as healthy as we can, with lots of fruits, vegetables and whole foods and as few processed foods as we can. Maintaining that kind of eating is harder when you're traveling, but it's not impossible.
We live 1,000 miles away from our extended family, and we make a pilgrimage to see them at least once a year. We used to fly, but now we drive. Either way, gathering snacks for the trip is a big part of my preparations. Snacks stave off hunger and boredom, keeping bellies full of the kind of food you want your family to eat and, in the case of younger children, keeping little fingers busy.

Here's what works for our family.
Posted 4/10/2012  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 12 comments   14,968 views
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Are You Always Trying to do Everything for Everyone?

I like to write blogs based on subjects I can relate to because I think what I’ve written ends up being more interesting.   If that’s the case, this should be the most interesting thing I’ve ever talked about because I felt like the results of this study were speaking directly to me.  And I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Posted 4/6/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 36 comments   14,957 views
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Tips for a Healthier Spring Candy Fling

Candy tempts me just as it does everyone else, especially when it is chocolate. Estimates suggest that Americans spend over $2 billion a year on Easter candy making it the third largest candy-consuming holiday. In a SparkPeople poll asking which Easter candy is most tempting, Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs are the leader. They are the most tempting to me too especially after Easter when they are on the clearance table!
Many of us have a love-hate relationship with chocolate. We love the melt-in-your-mouth texture and flavor of chocolate especially when we enjoy it with family and friends during celebrations. We hate the guilt that loving it brings as well as the potential damage it can do to our weight loss goals. With Easter only a few days away, the clearance candy is not far behind. Here are some strategies to help keep your spring candy fling in check.
Posted 4/5/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 29 comments   10,714 views
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Babies Are Smart From the Very Beginning

I’ve always believed that babies catch onto things faster than a lot of people give them credit.  That’s one reason I’ve never used “baby talk” with my kids, and discourage my 5-year-old from talking like that to my 5-month-old.  “Just talk to her like a regular person,” I tell her.  “That’s how the baby learns our language, from how you speak.”   We all take pride in seeing our babies grow and develop.  I think babies are like sponges, soaking in everything around them, so the more I can facilitate that learning experience, the better.  That’s why I was interested to read about a new study that says babies might comprehend words and their meaning sooner than expected.
Posted 3/30/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 16 comments   9,621 views
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Why You Should Drag Your Reluctant Teen to the Dinner Table

I have a teenage son.  He is your typical high-schooler; he has his driving permit, participates in some school sports, and plays in the high school band.  He is striving for complete independence from his parents, yet is secretly still glad to have mom and dad around most of the time.  He often hangs out with his friends in my basement, playing pool, air-hockey, and euchre.  My husband and I have nick-named them the ''basement boys.''
So a few weeks ago, three of the ''basement boys'' decided to arrive on my front doorstep at 4:30 pm.  Their plan was to capture my son, eat at the local pizza place and then head to the basketball game.  I, on the other hand, had a better idea and invited them to stay for dinner and then go to the game.  Luckily, I had prepared a large pot of soup and had enough to feed the crew.  They agreed to stay for our evening meal. 
Posted 3/22/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Becky Hand : 23 comments   8,716 views
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Does Healthy Cooking have to be Complicated?

As my kids get older, I find myself focusing even more on meal planning.  I want my kids to try a wide variety of foods.  I don’t expect them to like everything I cook, but I want home cooked, healthy meals to be second-nature to them.  Growing up, my mom was (and still is) a great cook.  She was always trying new recipes, and now I’ve become just like her.  My husband commented the other day that “you never know what we’re going to be having for dinner” because I’m constantly mixing things up.  Granted, I’m just like my mom in that I don’t deviate from recipes.  Someday I’d love to learn to really cook, where I can throw together a bunch of random ingredients in my refrigerator to create a delicious meal.    But I’m not at that point yet.
Posted 3/16/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 21 comments   8,434 views
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Get in the Kitchen

It seems that one of the biggest obstacles folks have to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the kitchen. 

Cooking healthy and fresh food isn’t as daunting as it seems. You just have to approach it like you approach exercising. Plan your time.Be proactive. 

Here’s the deal: the Spark rule is to start with 10 minutes of fitness a day, right? This way you aren’t overwhelmed, but you still receive the benefit.  Shouldn’t this same rule be applied to the kitchen? I know it can be overwhelming to attempt to plan your week ahead of time in this fast and furious time that we live in.
Posted 3/12/2012  10:00:00 PM By: Jerome Merlau : 25 comments   8,134 views
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What Kind of Example Are You?

What kind of examples did you have while growing up? Who were some people in your life that helped shape your habits and behaviors?

My grandfather was probably one of the largest influences in my life.  Maybe that’s because I was named after him? I will always admire my grandpa. He was a man of character.  He lived his life by working extremely hard, loving God and taking care of his family.  Grandpa set so many examples for me, just by the way he lived.  He knew that there were others watching, and he knew how to live his life by example.  I hope to live my life the same way.

As we move about in our daily lives, there are people watching. Some of those people may be none other than your children, your co-workers, and your family. Do you realize that everything we do, is helping to shape an ‘image’ of us based on what others see through our actions?  Here's a metaphor for you: Say you're in the car driving and there are very simple arrows painted on the road that tell you which lane can turn, go straight forward, etc.  You realize that you are about to miss your turn and so you decide to completely ignore those lines and turn right from the center lane, cutting off the driver next to you, which causes them to slam on their brakes, along with the multiple cars behind them. Instead of going around the block, it is easier for you to do what is convenient and not what is necessarily right. Or maybe you’re working on a project at work and you find a shortcut that doesn’t correct a problem permanently, but will work for the short term. That way it can be someone else’s problem later. What sort of example have you just set? What are you telling the world about how you live your life? 
Posted 3/5/2012  10:00:00 PM By: Jerome Merlau : 22 comments   8,000 views
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Early Snacking Helps Avoid Later Weight Issues

My oldest child has always been a great eater.  She’s very active and has a big appetite.  She’s willing to try new foods (within reason) and is always asking when the next meal or snack is being served.  She’s a healthy eater (although she does have a sweet tooth like her mama), and is happy to snack on carrots or tomatoes if she’s hungry and dinner isn’t ready yet. 
I give my kids reasonable portions and encourage them to ask for more if they want it, because I hate to waste food and don’t want to force them to continue eating if they aren’t hungry just to clean their plates.  I’m hopeful that the way I’m teaching my kids to eat will help them avoid weight problems later in life.  I want them to develop a healthy relationship with food and not have to worry about “diets”.  We are big snackers in my house, so I was happy to see results of a new study regarding snacking and weight gain in young girls.
Posted 2/17/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 17 comments   17,982 views
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Diet Friendly Dining: Quaker Steak & Lube

I had to do a double take the first time I passed this restaurant. Born out of a desire to preserve "the culture of those old gas stations and high-powered muscle cars," The Lube isn't your ordinary wings joint. If you are looking for a new place for a night out with the guys or a family-friendly restaurant that focuses on dad, The Quaker Steak and Lube might be worth checking out. Not only have they won "Best Wings USA" they have over 100 local, national and international awards for their sauce recipes as well as a focus on healthy kids options. Oh yea, there are plenty of cars, trucks and motorcycles too!
Of course, there are plenty of high fat and high calorie options to tempt you. Yes, many are extremely higher in sodium and only slightly better when you request no added salt when ordering. However, you can also find some health conscious options as well. Although the restaurant doesn't make their nutrition information readily available, the team at Healthy Dining Finder has. Here are some of the healthier options and special request suggestions they highlight.
Posted 2/6/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 20 comments   23,667 views
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Let’s Move! and Physical Activity: Nominate a Champion of Change

Hey, SparkPeople! We know that plenty of you are Spreading the Spark and sharing your passion for healthy living beyond the confines of the internet. We've heard stories of how you influence your friends, your co-workers, your family, and even your kids and your community through your healthy habits and better choices. Every meal you make, every workout you complete, every pound you lose--it all gets noticed.

Back when SparkPeople was a mere "spark" in Chris Downie's eye, his own healthy habits inspired his co-worker, which in turn inspired others. All these years later, look at how many people Chris' healthy choices have affected and motivated! We know plenty of you have stories that are equally as inspiring.

We want you to get the recognition you deserve, so that's why we're so excited to tell you about the The White House Champions of Change initiative for physical activity.  The deadline is January 23 at midnight, so you don't have much time!

What is it?
The White House Champions of Change program highlights the stories and examples of citizens across the country that represents President Obama's vision of out-innovating, out-educating, and out-building the rest of the world through projects and initiatives that move their communities forward.

More than one out of every three American children is overweight or obese, placing them at greater risk for chronic disease and contributing to rising health care costs, as well as declining productivity. In 2009, the magnitude of the problem moved First Lady Michelle Obama to launch Let’s Move!, a comprehensive, collaborative initiative to combat childhood obesity. Last April, the White House hosted a Champions of Change event to highlight the work of chefs in improving school nutrition programs. This year, we are seeking recommendations of individuals and organizations that are increasing access to physical activity and play for young people. 

Tell us about an individual who is helping youth in your community get the recommended 60 minutes of activity per day. Please use the form below to nominate a champion to come to the White House to be honored for his/her work:
Champions may increase access to physical activity through some/all of the following:
  • Organized or competitive activities for teams and/or individuals, including youth with disabilities;
  • Unstructured play;
  • School-based activities, including physical education, recess and activity breaks;
  • Outdoor activities that promote time in nature;
  • Afterschool or summer programs.
Posted 1/20/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 4 comments   7,366 views
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Your Spouse is Getting Healthier, So Why Aren't You Happy?

Are you threatened by the lifestyle change your spouse has made? Have you ever said things to your spouse about their lifestyle change that have made him/her feel bad?

I have to tell this story that really happened just a few weeks ago.  I was having a discussion with a friend we’ll call Sam about my transformation and lifestyle change.  He had a lot of questions, which I was happy to answer.  But I wasn’t sure where he was going with this line of questions. 

Finally, we came to the point of his inquiry.  He told me about a mutual friend of ours (we'll call him Bob), who is morbidly obese.  I had seen Bob myself recently and honestly his poor health broke my heart.   Sam told me that Bob had been working on his health a few years back.  He had been going to the gym and was trying to eat better.  I was super excited to hear this, but I had to ask why he stopped.  Apparently he was making some progress and had lost just enough weight for it to be noticeable.  That’s when the support at home ended!  
Bob’s wife had told him she was worried that he was going to lose weight, get sexy and leave her.  You can probably guess what he did.  He stopped going to the gym and gave up any progress that he had made and gained back all of his weight if not more.

This story is devastating to me, absolutely devastating.  The more I think about it, the more frustrated I get.  I’m confused about why Bob didn’t talk with his wife about the situation to ease her fears.  Why didn’t he explain that he was doing it to be a better husband to her?  I’m confused about why she would completely sabotage his progress like that. Would she rather see him dead?
Posted 12/19/2011  6:00:00 PM By: Jerome Merlau : 35 comments   8,591 views
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