All Entries For holidays

How Fasting Affects Your Health


Many religions recommend fasting for both spiritual and/or health benefits. All religious fasts are different: Some restrict certain foods, while others only restrict the times of day in which one can eat. Few religious fasts involve a long-term or complete abstinence from food, but no matter what the nature of the fast is, you may wonder just how it really impacts your health.
 
Three religious fasts have been studied the most:
  • Islamic Ramadan: During the holy month of Ramadan, which varies according to the lunar calendar, Muslims abstain from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset.
  • The 3 annual fasting periods for Greek Orthodox Christians:  The Nativity Fast (40 days prior to Christmas), Lent (48 days prior to Easter), and The Assumption (15 days in August).
  • Biblical-Based Daniel Fast:  This fast typically incorporates a 21-day fasting period.
 
Read on to find out how these fasts impact your health and weight-loss efforts.
Posted 3/27/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 3 comments   9,200 views
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This Season's 7 Hottest Healthy Gifts


If there's ever a time to wish for an extra hour (or six) in the day, it's during the holidays. In addition to our normal work, family, and home obligations, we have all those seasonal responsibilities. That can leave very little time for yourself--and lead to excess stress that can interfere with your ability to reach your goals. To help streamline your shopping experience this year--which means more "you" time for healthy habits--we're sharing some of our favorite healthy gifts of the season. We think anyone would love unwrapping one of these!
Posted 12/5/2013  12:00:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 15 comments   10,726 views
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Want to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain? Burn It to Earn It!


Forget about all the food for a minute. Let's talk about the fitness. Holiday weight gain is a concern for many, but it's not just because of the food. Sure, we eat more rich foods than we probably should this time of year, but we also let our workouts go by the wayside. We're stressed out and busier than ever with mile-long to do lists. The uncooperative weather doesn't help—dark mornings and evenings make you want to curl up in bed—not to biceps curls. So how is it that we can manage to do everything else but not squeeze in a workout? And what does that say about our priorities (and our commitments to ourselves)?

Let's do things differently this year, starting with Thanksgiving. The solution really is simple. We know what causes weight gain and we know how to maintain and lose weight, too. So for the next few weeks, I propose a new philosophy that will keep winter weight gain at bay: Burn it to earn it.
Posted 11/25/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 115 comments   21,784 views
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13 Fitness Gifts You'll Want for Yourself


This holiday season was different from past years for me in that I actually finished all of my shopping early—almost two weeks ago actually. For once I'm relaxing and enjoying these last weeks of December without the holiday stress of finding and buying those last-minute gifts. But I know that others aren't quite as fortunate. Many of you are still part of the holiday rush, which is why I'm here to help with my own picks for the best fitness gifts for anyone on your list.
 
Don't panic: You still have a few days to shop before Christmas! The following fitness gifts are all available online and are ready to ship; most are readily available at national chains as well.  But even if your shopping is done (lucky you!), you'll find plenty of fabulous ideas here for YOU. After all, you deserve a nice reward for everything you've achieved this year, right? Maybe you'll even get some holiday gift money or a year-end bonus that you can use to treat yourself to a fit gift (or two) to start the new year off right.
Posted 12/19/2012  12:00:00 PM By: Nicole Nichols : 10 comments   17,833 views
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Tiny Tastes: A Surefire Way to Gain Weight during the Holidays


Editor's note: Don't miss the video of Becky sharing holiday weight-maintenance tips at the end of this blog!

Sneaky holiday calories are everywhere this time of year.  With travel, parties, big buffets, holiday baking, and extra snack foods at the office, a challenging environment is around every corner.  These extra calories don’t always come in full-size servings or large-distorted portions.  No, these extra calories tip-toe in amid the holiday hoopla.  However, if you took the time to count all those "tiny tastes" each day, you would be surprised at how quickly they can sabotage your weight-maintenance efforts.

Check out a typical day of tiny tastes during the holidays
Posted 12/19/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 20 comments   44,787 views
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Which Holiday Breakfast Will Save You from Overeating?


For many of us, Christmas morning is a time to indulge in a big, leisurely breakfast that we normally wouldn't partake in on most other days of the year. But if you're not careful, a festive a.m. meal could cause you to blow through a day's worth of calories and fat before Christmas dinner! If you were to choose a special and indulgent holiday breakfast to keep you satisfied without stuffing you silly, which would you pick: One medium-size iced cinnamon roll, or a plate of two fried eggs and two strips of bacon?
Posted 12/15/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Melinda Hershey : 34 comments   29,146 views
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30 Workout-Worthy Christmas Songs


Many exercisers agree that uplifting music helps increase energy and motivation while working out. This is especially important during the holiday season, when ''to-do'' lists are long and the temptation to skip workouts is high.
 
Making fitness a priority is a key to holiday weight-loss success. Use these festive songs of the season to help you create a perfect holiday workout playlist that will keep you moving and in the holiday spirit at the same time!
Posted 12/13/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 22 comments   21,496 views
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15 5-Minute Appetizers


This time of year, there's always an occasion where you need to bring a dish to share. But between work, home, and school obligations, not to mention your workouts and healthy meal prep, however will you find time to come up with something delicious and creative to take to the neighborhood gathering?
 
I've compiled a list of appetizers that will take no more than five minutes of hands-on work!
 
Appetizer vs. Hors D'Oeuvres
These days, appetizers and hors d'oeuvres are often used interchangeably (though we tend to use the word appetizer more commonly, probably because it's easier to spell), there is a difference. Appetizers are the first course of a meal, while hors d'oeuvres are bite-size portions of food displayed on a buffet or passed on a tray by the host or, at my house, a teenager trying to make up for tossing baseballs near the Christmas tree.  So really there's no big difference and who in the heck cares what they are called as long as they taste good.  To get started let's look at what make a good single bite of party food.
Posted 12/10/2012  12:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 7 comments   18,955 views
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4 Ways to Eat What You Want during the Holidays (without Gaining Weight)


It's the most wonderful time of the year, unless you are trying to adhere to a weight-loss plan.  Then the holidays can feel like a day-after-day deprivation. The 41 days between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day can be packed with festivities filled with fattening foods making you feel frantic and frustrated.  But denying yourself of all the holiday treats is not the way to go.
 
The act of restricting your favorite foods can actually backfire and bring about unplanned overeating and binging.  A 2007 study in the journal Appetite documented this vicious cycle which can result in feelings of guilt, anxiety and depression.  Dieters who implemented strict food restrictions had an increased desire for those "forbidden foods," bringing about food cravings and greater temptation; when compared to dieters who included these type "forbidden foods" on occasion.

So keep this the most wonderful time of the year--relax, enjoy the holiday and include the foods you love--on occasion! Here are strategies and tips to help:
Posted 12/7/2012  8:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 19 comments   23,708 views
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5 Easy Ways to Show Kids How to be Thankful


Gratitude can be a difficult thing to teach but a vital lesson for children to learn.
 
Psychologists have found that people who regularly say thank you and remember to be grateful for things in their life tend to be happier and more optimistic. They can't say there is definitely a cause-and-effect relationship between gratitude and happiness, but counting your blessings certainly doesn't hurt.
 
Teaching gratitude is something that should happen all year; however, the holiday season quickly can prove whether the lessons have been a success. The good cheer of the holidays can disappear in a whirl of greed and gluttony. That's true for all of us, young and old, but it's especially apparent when children, the prime gift recipients of the season, act ungratefully.
 
No one wants to have the kid refusing to thank Aunt Betty for the hand-made sweater – or even worse, declaring it ugly. Yes, we want children to be truly grateful in their hearts, but let's face it, we also want to avoid unpleasant scenes. Gratitude and politeness go hand-in-hand. 
 
Here are easy some ways to teach and show gratitude all year, and especially at the holiday season.
Posted 12/5/2012  6:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 15 comments   11,194 views
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A Dozen Fit, Healthy & Affordable Stocking Stuffers


Do you have holidays on the brain? How about holiday shopping? You're not alone! I love thinking of new, personal and creative gifts to give to others. Usually it takes all the willpower I have to not give gifts early. I just get so excited! And OK, I won't lie…I don't mind receiving gifts from my own wish list either.

If you're looking for a small, but thoughtful gift for a friend or loved one (or even for yourself), I've rounded up a dozen of my favorite healthy products that won't break the bank (and will even fit into your stocking). 
Posted 12/5/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 43 comments   38,654 views
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40 Ways to Lighten Up a Holiday Party Menu


Wondering what to make for your upcoming parties and special occasions? Need a new brunch dish, a sweet treat for a cookie exchange, or something special for the holiday meal? Look no further than "The SparkPeople Cookbook"! With more than 160 mouth-watering recipes and hundreds of additional meal ideas, tips, and tricks for adding flavor while cutting fat, this book is a healthy hostess' best friend.

Today we're sharing some of our favorite holiday recipes from "The SparkPeople Cookbook." You can take a sneak peek at a few of them, but the rest are available exclusively in the cookbook. But because 'tis the season of giving, we've also rounded up Chef Meg's favorite seasonal appetizers (including a brand-new one), plus a money-saving entertaining tip!
Posted 11/30/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 11 comments   33,386 views
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18 Ways to Stay on Track over the Holidays


Congratulations on making it through all of those Thanksgiving temptations! Now, it's time to face the upcoming barrage of holiday parties over the next month. Between the office buffets, neighborhood open houses, family gatherings, religious festivities, and community get-togethers, sticking to a healthy eating plan can become difficult, to say the least.

While there are a variety of excuses to overindulge during the holidays, the best defense against holiday eating disasters is a good plan of action.  There is no better way to formulate a plan for holiday survival than to learn from how others stay healthy during this time of joy and celebration.  Use these helpful SparkPeople member tips to stay on track into the New Year.
Posted 11/29/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 22 comments   23,604 views
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7 Ways to Ward Off Holiday Stress


Stress comes in infinite forms, and this time of year, it's hitting us on all sides. Be pro-active and take steps to reduce your stress level, integrating some of these products into your daily routine. Whether you give these to someone you love or treat yourself, we think you'll start to enjoy the holiday season a little more!

New Acupressure Roller Wood Foot Massager Stress Relief: We have thousands of nerve endings in the bottoms of the feet, so it's no wonder that a foot rub feels so good, especially at the end of a long day! When there's no one around (or no one willing around) to give your feet a rubdown, grab one of these and start rolling. Your feet thank you in advance.

Posted 11/29/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 11 comments   10,351 views
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Is Your Kitchen Ready for Holiday Baking and Cooking?


Around the holidays, it seems like the stove and the oven are working overtime. We spend more time in the kitchen, sharing meals or prepping dishes for festive gatherings.  Make sure your kitchen is up for the task with these easy and quick kitchen tips. Consider it the wintertime equivalent of spring cleaning.

1. Take and inventory of your spice cabinet.  Check dates on spices and leavening ingredients, such as baking soda and baking powder.  Most spices don’t go bad but will lose some of their flavoring power.  (The exception: Poppy seeds and sesame seeds will go rancid. Open them up and if they smell oily or off, pitch. )  Incorporate any older spices into your menus over the next few weeks to use them up.  Leavening agents, however, lose their ability to leaven, or make baked goods rise.  If your baking soda has expired, use it to freshen your kitchen sink drain.  Pour the rest of the box into drain or disposal, add 1 cup white vinegar and let it do its stuff.  Rinse with warm water after 3 minutes.
Posted 11/26/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 11 comments   7,654 views
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