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Gym Bag Essentials for Every Woman


For those of you avid gym-goers out there, you know how important it is to keep your gym bag stocked and ready to go! If you are anything like me, you also like to stay stylish, even while getting sweaty, which is why I designed my oGorgeous brand of bags, so that I can have a gym bag that is as pretty as a purse! I make sure to pack my bag full of the essentials so that I'm always ready for a workout, wherever I am. Let me share some of my gym bag must haves:

Fitness Gloves
These really come in handy when you're lifting weights and want to avoid getting calluses. They're also great as you're developing grip strength.


Posted 5/15/2013  12:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 14 comments   14,780 views
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All You Ever Wanted to Know about Zumba


Editor's note: You've been asking about Zumba for a long time, so we are happy to share this guest blog post from one of our favorite bloggers. Gina, otherwise known as The Fitnessista, is not only a HUGE fan of Zumba, but she's a Zumba instructor and former dancer as well. She was happy to write about her favorite form of aerobics for the dailySpark.

Hi, everyone! My name is Gina and I write over at a little blog called The Fitnessista. On my blog, I write about fitness tips, nutrition advice, recipes, workout routines and my daily shenanigans. Determined to experience a negative “freshman 15,” I lost 40 pounds about 8 years ago and have since then become a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. My favorite class to teach, by far, is ZUMBA!

So, you may have heard about Zumba or you might be wondering what the heck it is.

Posted 5/8/2013  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 481 comments   135,969 views
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10 Tips for Preventing Colorectal Cancer


Research has shown that at least 50% of all cases of colorectal cancer could be prevented by lifestyle, and one recent Harvard study found that risk could be reduced by as much as 70% to 75%! Here are 10 things you can do to minimize your risk for colon cancer: 
  1. Maintain a healthy body weight. Watch portion sizes and balance your food intake with activity to reach or maintain a healthy weight.
     
  2. Be physically active. Walking just 4 hours a week significantly reduces your risk, and being active will also help you achieve tip #1.
     
  3. Don’t smoke. Smoking increases your risk of many cancers not just colon and rectal cancer.
     
  4. Practice moderation when drinking alcohol. For women this means consuming no more than one drink per day, for men no more than two. All of the following equal one drink:
    • 12 oz. can or bottle of beer or wine cooler
    • 5 oz. glass of wine
    • 1½ oz. shot of hard liquor
Since your colon is part of your gastrointestinal tract, it makes sense that your diet would have a powerful impact on colorectal cancer risk. Here are the most important things to consider when eating for cancer prevention:
  1. Eat a plant-based diet that’s high in fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain powerful antioxidants and are the best source of important phytochemicals. Green vegetables and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are especially helpful as they may slow down or block the expression of cancer genes.
     
  2. Increase your intake of fiber. Whole grains, beans and legumes contain important vitamins and minerals, and are excellent sources of fiber. They help to soften your stools, prevent constipation and keep things moving through your GI tract.
     
  3. Eat less red meat and avoid processed meats.
     
  4. Don’t overcook your meat. It’s important to cook meats enough to prevent food-borne illnesses, but overcooking can cause cancer-causing compounds to form.
     
  5. Replace animal fats with nuts, seeds and vegetable oils. Olive and canola oil are great choices. Fish oils containing omega 3 fatty acids offer additional health benefits for your heart, brain and immune system.
     
  6. Be sure to get enough calcium and vitamin D. Studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D in the body are associated with an increased risk of colon cancer. For the best advice on whether you need extra calcium or Vitamin D, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian. 
And here’s the best news! The same lifestyle choices that reduce your risk for colon cancer also lower your risk for other forms of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke. In addition, they enhance the quality of your life by improving your overall physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
 
Since its inception, the Susan Cohan Colon Cancer Foundation (Susie’s Cause) has followed a specific road map for success and firmly established itself as the National Voice for the prevention, early detection, and treatment of Colon Cancer. (Susie’s Cause) will continue to strive to eliminate colon cancer as a life-threatening disease through the development and dissemination of grass roots educational programs and a robust online campaign to touch both medical professionals and the general public worldwide. Please support our efforts to save tens of thousands of lives each year.
Posted 4/26/2013  6:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 6 comments   9,915 views
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Ultimate Weight Loss--It's Not What You Think


For me, this is so much more than simply losing weight. I didn’t get to be 170 pounds overweight because all was right in my world. What pushed me to the point where I woke up one day and found a 385-pound man staring back in the mirror?
 
I sometimes think that the continued popularity of fad diets, quick-fix weight solutions in spite of their dismal track record is simply because it focuses on the symptoms rather than the root cause. These quick-fix, knee-jerk solutions exploit the panic that people feel when they are confronted by their condition.  Dealing with the root causes requires digging deep and peeling back painful layers of truth until an answer is unearthed. Unraveling knots is a tedious process.
 
I believe the path to ultimate success for me isn’t in some mystic root or berry found in a remote part of the world or some new fad fitness routine that will magically melt off pounds. How about the latest gizmo that will flatten your problem areas with just a few minutes a day? If the diet and gizmo industry had the solution, why would obesity still be such an issue?
 
Before I continue, let's focus on the word ultimate, which I used when describing success. Let me define. The word ultimate can be used in a sense that states that the success that you experience will be unparalleled in its greatness, but that is not the application here. ‘Ultimate’ defined in my statement “ultimate success” is the sum total of all your efforts, the final outcome, where you will finally wind up. In my journey I have lost a lot of skirmishes with my eating addictions yet I have managed to lose more than 100 pounds and keep it off in spite of my failings. My success was ultimately determined by my overall commitment to the ultimate end of reclaiming my life, not in day to day perfection in routine.
 
So where does the path to ultimate success lie? For me, I found it in identifying the hotspots in my life. Like a firefighter, I have put out a wildfire that threatened to consume my very existence. I have endured, fought and continued to fight the good fight; however, underneath the ashes lie hotspots. Hotspots that threaten to re-ignite with a vengeance. The fire could burn again and all my hard work would be lost.
 
I have found that if I do not address the forces that influenced me to get to such an unhealthy place, I will soon find myself back there again.
 
My hotspot. 
Posted 2/1/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Robert Wadhams : 64 comments   13,165 views
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Don't Deny Your Trigger Foods--Manage Them


You’re at a party and you see a table filled with some of your favorite foods: potato chips with sour-cream dip; charcuterie heaped high next to pieces of crusty baguette; and a steaming tray of macaroni drunk with melted cheddar cheese. Nearby is the dessert table where you see dense chocolate cake topped with fresh whipped cream; peppermint bark and still warm ginger snaps; a ten-layer coconut cream layer cake. Do you:

a) walk on by clutching the celery sticks you brought from home for dear life
b) grab whatever you can as fast as you can and shove it down at warp speed
c) enjoy a reasonable portion of the food in front of you without a shred of guilt.
 
I vote for c: a choice informed by moderation and pleasure, not gluttony or denial. It’s totally do-able, but first you need to come to terms with what it means to eat treats.
 
For many of us, treats are triggers. In other words, if you eat one cookie, you’ll eat a dozen. When I first began my journey to lose weight a few years ago, there were some foods that held me in such thrall, I literally could not go near them. My list included triple cream cheeses, crusty bread of any kind, charcuterie (especially salami), cookies (any kind), cakes (ditto), Doritos, and olives. If two bites were good, twenty were better. I couldn’t eat just a little of these foods so rather than go to town, stuff myself, then feel the inevitable guilt, misery and anger, I cut them out of my life -- for a while anyway. Until I could gain some distance, examine what my relationship was with these foods, and discover what lay underneath my insatiable desire.
 
I learned a lot.
Posted 11/30/2011  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 27 comments   7,754 views
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Throw a Party Like a Pro


Editor's Note: Coach Nicole and I recently had the pleasure of meeting Jill Donenfeld, a cookbook author, caterer, and seasoned party expert. She was home in Cincinnati to promote Party Like a Culinista: Fresh Recipes, Bold Flavors, and Good Friends. Jill's mom is a fitness instructor (who has modeled for exercise demos on SparkPeople!), and every night the family cooked healthy meals together.

Jill's philosophy: "The Culinista way to party is all about celebrating with the best ingredients—minimally processed whole foods, lots of greens and grains, seasonal and local when you can—to create incredible health-minded dishes that will wow your guests without weighing them down. Jill and Josie have written detailed menus that make dinner parties stress-free with lots of tips for pre-party planning and easy multi-task cooking. They even include a break for that essential wardrobe change so you’ll be looking great and frazzle-free when hungry guests arrive." 
 
Today Jill is sharing her best entertaining tips, plus three recipes from Party Like a Culinista: Fresh Recipes, Bold Flavors, and Good Friends! She's also giving away three copies of the book. Take it away, Jill!
--
Before you even begin grocery shopping, make sure your broiler, oven, and burners are working, if you are not in the habit of cooking. Prior to cooking, take out the garbage and make sure you’ve got enough room to trash odds and ends in the appropriate places (carrot tops in compost, tofu package in recycling, etc.) as you go. Be sure all of your dishes are clean. Get the place ready for cooking! It’ll only take a few minutes—you can do it!

As your guests start arriving, think about things from their point of view: They’re nibbly and could us a glass of wine after a hard day’s work. So, first things first: Put out some bites—our menus include some great appetizers—or prepare something simple such as popcorn or a cheese plate. Then, open a bottle of wine. Done!
Guests are taken care of for at least a half an hour. Now you can stop feeling like they are waiting for something. They’re not! They are here to see you, to plug in with friends, and to enjoy themselves. So you should, too!
Posted 11/7/2011  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 6 comments   6,647 views
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90 Pounds Down, Jamie Shares 7 Tips for Sticking with Your Workouts


I’ve been going to the gym for a long time. I love to exercise and move my body while tuning out the world to the sound of Kanye West on my iPod.
 
But I wasn’t bred and conditioned by Herculean, health-nut parents who cycled on Saturdays or ran 5Ks for fun with their Spin class buddies. I learned to love exercise on my own.

I grew up in the suburbs of central Florida in a polished small town, where both popularity and athletic prowess escaped me. I was chubbier than most of my classmates and started wearing plus-size clothes at 16.

I hated P.E. class and exercise because I was insecure about being too big or not good enough. The summer before I turned 20, I decided, would be the summer that I would lose weight. I had moved away from that small town, and I was ready to flaunt the independence I had discovered in college.

It took a lot of courage, but I joined a local gym and was strategic about my choice.
I wasn't looking for the best deal or the biggest facility: I deliberately chose a gym that wasn’t popular or hip. I didn’t want to be spotted by the cool kids as I waddled on the treadmill in my size XL T- shirt or heaved through a set of lunges.
 
I chose a gym dominated by retirees who read newspapers or listened to books on tape on the stationary bike. It had TVs and an easy exit, too, in case someone I knew spotted me. I was sold.

Those first months and pounds were excruciating. But once I dropped my first 30 pounds, it became easier. After 40 pounds, it started to feel good.

Today, I'm 90 pounds lighter, I still go to the gym several times a week and I run outside on the weekends. It’s not always easy to stay motivated--even now. I get burned out and need breaks and lose motivation… like when it's 95 degrees or I've had a bad day and want to devour a plate of cookies. Still, even if I slip up, I don't give up.
 
Here's why--and how.
Posted 11/2/2011  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 142 comments   107,463 views
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Inspiring Woman: Triathlete and Two-Time Breast Cancer Survivor


Editor's Note (Nicole Nichols): I've had the pleasure of competing against Laurah Turner in multiple local races (and by "competing" I mean "watching her leave me in the dust"). I always found her athletic achievements admirable, her sheer speed enviable, and her personality contagious. Recently, I learned Laurah, an amazingly talented endurance athlete who appears to be the epitome of health and fitness, is a two-time breast cancer survivor—and she's only 29. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I asked Laurah to share her inspiring story of how breast cancer changed her and inspired both her career and her fitness goals.
 
I grew up a type A personally. I tended toward routine, was obnoxiously punctual and saw the entire world through Excel spreadsheets and lists. In fact, I was so married to my routines that I even developed the quickest and most efficient way to prepare the perfect pot of coffee. Every morning, I woke up and immediately dove for my coffee pot. I employed a specific set of procedures which resulted in the first bold, sweet, creamy sip of caffeinated heaven rushing over my palate within 3 minutes and 40 seconds, and never deviated from this ritual.
 
July 25, 2004 was no different than any other morning, but somehow during my distribution of  six leveled scoops of Folgers into the coffee filter, my fingertips found themselves palpating a large lump on my right breast instead of steadying  the canister of grounds as they usually would. Was it that? I didn’t have this lump yesterday.  Suddenly a wave of panic engulfed my body.  Had the lump been there yesterday? A week ago?
Posted 10/27/2011  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 48 comments   12,416 views
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6 Lessons from Motherhood That Will Spark Your Fitness


Hi! I’m Tina, the face behind the healthy living blog Faith Fitness Fun, where I discuss a variety of topics related to health and fitness. Join me as I share some ways I used motherhood to actually help me get fitter than I ever have before!
When it comes to being a fit mommy, popular media like to focus on celebrities who drop all their baby weight and have six pack abs within six weeks of delivery. The messages that weight loss and fitness progress should happen in the blink of an eye can discourage those of us without access to personal chefs and hours to spend with trainers. I want to tell you not to get discouraged!

I know from personal experience that, with a little consistency, persistence, and balance, changes can happen and you can have a fit, healthy, and strong body. After my son’s arrival in January of this year (in an ice storm, no less), I had 30 plus pounds I needed to lose to reach my happy weight.

I achieved my Body After Baby goals with the help of some lessons from motherhood. And that’s what I want to share today because I know you can do it. Whether or not you’re a parent, these six lessons I learned from motherhood can help your goals too!
Posted 10/11/2011  6:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 10 comments   10,593 views
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6 Tips to Transition Workouts from Summer to Fall


Days get shorter, temperatures dip, and the leaves fall from the trees. Fall brings many changes, but that doesn't mean your workouts have to suffer. Instead of letting these autumnal changes bring upon excuses for exercising, look for the opportunity in each of them to renew and revamp your workout routine.

To make your workouts work with the season change rather than against it, try one of these excuse-proof tactics.

Change it up. No matter what the season, it's important to switch up your workouts. Don't let your body expect and adapt to the same mode of exercise. So, the change of seasons is an excellent time to "trick" the body and try some new twists to your workouts.   Listen for cues from your body to tell if it's time for a workout changeup: are you bored, are your workouts inconsistent, and are you not motivated?  If so, it's time to switch things up. If you've been running all summer long, try adding in some strength training. If you've been a cardio machine queen, try some new group classes instead or personal training sessions instead. You could also add in different kinds of workouts, like metabolic work or tabata workouts.
Posted 10/3/2011  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 9 comments   11,020 views
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How to Keep a Long Commute from Wrecking Your Healthy Habits


"I don’t have enough time to get in a good work out." "I’m too tired when I get home to cook dinner." I am guilty of these statements. I have a full-time job, a long commute, a personal blog, a house that needs cleaning, and a boyfriend who needs attention. Most importantly, I have a healthy lifestyle. That’s right – I have found a way to balance it all even with a demanding job and a 75-minute commute to and from work. I’ve adapted to the long commute and workday, and will reveal some helpful tips to keep your diet and workouts on track.
 
Once I landed my first job and was thrown into the real world, I realized that people were not kidding when they said, "There are not enough hours in the day". Sometimes, you can’t control the amount of hours you put in at work each day. Traffic and train delays will slow you down, too. Not everything is in your control, but leading a healthy lifestyle definitely is.
 
I recommend working out in the morning. Not only do you feel energized for the long day ahead, but also you are guaranteed to fit it into your day. If you end up having to stay late at work, you’ve already completed your workout for the day.
 
Even though sometimes I feel like crying when my alarm goes off at 4:45 AM, I always feel so much better after a workout. Exercising in the morning will give you the energy you need to get through the day. Thinking about the long commute and workday ahead can be stressful. Exercise will help relieve that feeling before it even starts! Below are some tips that can help you stay motivated.
Posted 9/22/2011  2:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 45 comments   23,335 views
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Staying on Track When Life Changes Drastically


A lot of changes have occurred in my life in the past two months.

I quit my full-time job to become a freelance writer and healthy living blogger at Peanut Butter Fingers. Then my husband accepted a new job and we moved--into a hotel. We couldn’t find a house to rent in our new hometown right away, which led us to living in a hotel on weekdays and living at my parents’ house (two hours away) on the weekends.

Needless to say, all of these big life changes affected my normal eating habits.
I no longer had access to a real kitchen. No stove. No oven.

In the beginning I was tempted to throw in the towel and rely solely on microwaveable meals to get me though the transitional time until we moved into our rental home.  

Three days of frozen burritos later, I felt lethargic and knew I needed to introduce fresh produce, whole grains and unprocessed foods back into my diet.

I made an action plan.

The first obstacle?
Posted 9/13/2011  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 44 comments   15,031 views
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Think INSIDE the Lunchbox with '4 Ingredients'


Editor's Note: I recently connected with Kim McCosker, of the Australian best-selling cookbooks and popular websites, 4 Ingredients. Vivacious and passionate, the 4 Ingredients team is run by busy moms who are committed to making healthy cooking easy and fun for the whole family. Today, Kim shares her best tips for getting kids to eat right at lunchtime.
 
With three active and growing boys ages 9, 6 and 3, lunchboxes are a part of my family’s daily routine! If you are like me, a busy mom intent on giving your kids delicious, nutritious lunches, here are some great ideas to get your children back to school packed with healthy foods.
 
I like these because they are quick, easy and economical and often help me make use of my leftovers.
 
Choose a lunchbox with individual compartments, or otherwise use lidded containers, kids loooove little containers of things! Then add some of these...

 
Apple slices: Served with peanut, cashew, or almond butter or then sprinkled with coconut or raisins. Or add thinly sliced orange and lemon slices with honey to the top.
 
Cheese cubes: With sliced turkey and grapes--for a lunchbox cheese board!
Posted 8/29/2011  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 21 comments   35,063 views
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I'm 'Doing Whatever It Takes'


My motto: "Doing whatever it takes."
 
When the dailySpark asked me to write a guest blog I was completed humbled and honoured. What better way to help inspire people then getting to share my story, where I have been, where I am and where I am going.
 
On to the title of my blog, "doing whatever it takes." When I started to lose weight in May 2009, I had hit rock bottom with my self-esteem, was very close to the heaviest I had ever been, at close to 320 pounds. My athletic abilities were completely gone and I knew that it was a time for a change.
 
I had contemplated losing weight for years. In my second year of university, I had a huge drug problem and when I eventually stopped doing drugs (it has been over 4 years) I gave myself 3 goals all with equal importance to me.
Posted 7/6/2011  6:00:00 PM By: Gerry Antman : 90 comments   16,484 views
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Finding Freedom from Numbers


by Whitney Fretham (FIT-WHIT)

When I first sat down to consider what I should write about for this blog, I opened blank document and set out a plan. As I was cramping the end of my second page, I stopped, reread my windy thoughts, sat back and thought, "Who wrote this?" I had gotten myself wrapped up into this "persona" of what I thought a health-blog-writer should write like and think like and say. My writing became just another way for me to try to conform into a preconceived notion of who I should be.

I think this happens to us all along our journeys to a healthy life. It's especially easy to get caught up in what we *think* we should do, who we should be, and how the "perfect" end result will equate that proves we are a success: If the numbers don't all add up, somehow we feel we're not really "there," or have failed in some way.

Posted 6/15/2011  6:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 59 comments   12,835 views
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