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Confession: I don't have much interest in minor holidays. I think dressing up can be fun, but I am picky about candy and I really don't like scary movies, spooky decorations or haunted houses. Halloween just isn't my thing.
That said, I don't participate in trick-or-treating. I don't have kids, and I'm not home during the hours set aside for Beggars' Night (usually at yoga class, the gym or a volunteer commitment). I haven't thought about trick-or-treating in a long time, but this year we bought a house, and our neighbors go all out for Halloween.
My boyfriend, on the other hand, is bursting with holiday spirit--it doesn't matter which holiday. He loves them all.
He's excited to sit on the porch with a mug of hot apple cider, give away candy to kids, and chat with our new neighbors. Here's where I need your input.
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Back in 2004, I was much heavier than I am now. I worked second shift, which meant my dinner was eaten at my desk or in the basement lunchroom of the newspaper. Usually, I grabbed takeout with my co-workers--and I rare had any leftovers. Every few months or so, frustrated with pants that were growing tighter, I made up my mind to lose weight.
I also wanted to save money, so I started making food at home and bringing it to work. One the menu: couscous and baked chicken breasts, with frozen broccoli or green beans. Little to no sauce, and just herbs and spices for flavor. Needless to say, I often abandoned my packed dinner in lieu of more exciting takeout options.
Why? Because I was forcing myself to eat bland and boring food I didn't really like in an effort to lose weight. In the end, it just didn't work, and I wasted money and gained even more weight.
I knew I wasn't alone. Plenty of other people fail before eventually losing the weight and keeping it off. In writing and researching SparkPeople's first cookbook, Chef Meg and I been hearing from people about the different foods they've eaten in an effort to lose weight. Many people reported that, while trying to shed those extra pounds, they chose foods they thought were healthier and lower in calories, but they ended up not wanting to eat them--and not losing much weight.
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Every month, SparkPeople employees take on a new challenge as part of our worksite wellness program. In the past, we've been challenged to exercise outdoors, meet our daily quota for calcium, and do an extra core workout each week. For October, our challenge is to drink no more than five servings of soda (diet or regular) each week.
We do this challenge every year, and I kind of love it. Not because I have a serious soda habit that I need to kick, but because I don't have anything that even resembles a soda habit. I get to coast by without doing anything extra—score! Why? I hate soda. Always have, actually. It's never something that I crave. I never want to drink it ever, and for that I am grateful! I know countless people who can't seem to kick their daily soda habit. Those extra calories can really add up and affect your weight. Even if you're choosing diet, you can still overdo it. Most nutrition experts recommend no more than two servings of these artificially sweetened drinks per day, although a lot of people exceed that recommendation.
This led me to wonder: Are there any "junk" foods that simply do not tempt you? Read More ›
Hi, dailySpark readers. We're doing some research for an upcoming project, and we need your help.
We've created a quick, one-question poll on SparkPeople that we'd love for you to answer: As part of your weight-loss plan, do you regularly eat foods such as fat-free dairy products (excluding skim milk); fiber-enhanced or low-carb bread products; or artificial sweeteners?
Click here to take the poll! Thanks so much for your input! Read More ›
Happy fall, everyone! While it's still 92 degrees and humid here in Cincinnati, this weekend will mark the unofficial start of fall. Bring on the corduroy and boots, warm soups, and hikes through the leaves.
Chef Meg and I are cooking up (ha, ha) some fall recipes, but before we get started, we want to know what you like to eat when the leaves start to change.
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Many people have a love-hate relationship with the scale. We love it when it gives us numbers that appeal to use, hate it when it seems to be "stuck" or going in the wrong direction. But no matter how you feel about the scale, using it is a reality for most people who are trying to lose weight. Weighing in is a quick, easy, cheap and pretty accurate way to measure your progress compared to other methods, but the scale is just one option out there, since other measures (waist circumference, body fat percentage, how your jeans fit) matter, too.
Will just any scale do? These gadgets run the gamut when it comes to price, features and accuracy. You can find a basic model for $5 or $10 at a big box store, a mid-grade model that stores info and estimates your body fat percentage, or a pricier version that does all that and connects wirelessly to your computer to upload your data and show you progress reports. Then of course there's aesthetics. Some really sleek, modern scales appeal to a certain design-minded consumer, while others are just as happy with the "flamingo pink" scale they've had for 15 years.
When a sleek, modern scale with all the bells and whistles arrived on my desk to test out recently, it led me to wonder: Do you own a fancy scale with a lot of bells and whistles, or just a basic model? Read More ›
When you're trying to eat healthier or lose weight, reading nutrition labels is a must. With all the numbers, percentages and details, what's really the most important?
A recent report shared the top five nutrients consumers look for when they study nutrition labels: total calories, total fat, calories from fat, sugars and sodium. The report also lists which five nutrients consumers are trying to avoid (such as trans fats) and the ones they're interested in eating more of (such as whole grains).
This led me to wonder: What nutrients do you look at first when studying a nutrition facts label? Read More ›
In a weight-obsessed world with no shortage of diets, food products and meal plans to choose from, it can be hard to know how to eat. Should you eat low-carb, no-carb, or only complex carbs? Are more snacks better than none at all? Are mini meals throughout the day really better than three solid squares? It can be overwhelming to think about it all, and we haven’t even gotten into specific foods, nutrient breakdowns or calories.
Recently, I’ve been feeling extra hungry. (No, I’m not pregnant. Why does everyone always say that?) I’ll eat breakfast and then a couple hours later feel ravenous. Or I’ll eat my midday snack and be counting down the hours until lunchtime (is 11 too early?). This led me to wonder: Do you eat on a schedule or when you're hungry?? Read More ›
Last week, I was catching up on my emails newsletters, one of which I get from Shape magazine. Within it, a short slideshow of celebrity couples who work out together caught my eye. (Who knows whether these photos were capturing actual workouts or simply "active" time the couples were spending together—there is a difference!—but I digress.) While the famous duos captured on film varied in location, age and level of stardom, the activities they all did together were very similar—lots of running, walking and hiking.
This led me to wonder: Do you ever work out with your significant other or is that just something celebrities do? Read More ›
There are a number of reasons that I love this time of year in my area. The flowers are blooming, I can take the kids outside to play and it doesn't get dark at 6 p.m. Another thing I love is that our local farmers markets open. There are a few good ones in my area, and I enjoy going to check out all of the fresh baked goods, produce, and other yummy foods they offer. It makes me happy to think my kids can learn the real taste of fresh foods and get excited about eating berries for dessert versus a Twinkie or Ho-Ho. (Don't get me wrong- I LOVE a good ho-ho, but just try to limit them as much as possible.)
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A dozen years ago, when I was visiting my grandmother at her home in Michigan, my aunt forewarned me. An avid quilter, my grandmother lost track of time when she was at the sewing machine. "You'll be in her sewing room for hours without realizing it," my aunt said.
Surely she took breaks during the day, I thought. Nope. She just kept sewing. I was too timid to say anything, and I didn't want to complain. By 3 p.m. one day, I realized we had been quilting for six hours straight. My stomach was not happy.
"Gramma," I said meekly."I'm hungry. May I have a snack?" She looked at the clock.
"Oh, my gosh," she said. "We forgot to eat lunch."
We rushed down to the kitchen and had a snack, then made an early dinner soon after. That night I called my mom and told her about my day.
"Gramma and I didn't eat lunch," I said.
My mom laughed. That story is now famous in my family--the time Gramma held Stepfanie hostage in her sewing room/sweatshop (It was summertime!) and didn't feed her all day long. Of course, the story has been embellished a bit as it weaved its way through the family grapevine, but it's always recounted with love.
That same Gramma is the one who lost 35 pounds a couple of years ago. Diagnosed with hypoglycemia, she now relies on small meals and snacks to keep her blood sugar regulated. Though she was raised in the "three square meals and no eating between them" generation, Gramma Willie now is a reformed--and healthy--snacker. Our family jokes that she won't be starving any of the younger grandkids these days. She stashes healthy snacks in the sewing room for herself and any grandkids who might be visiting and making a quilt alongside her.
That story, and my own eating habits made me wonder if other people also changed their minds about snacking.
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I often blog about music and share some of my favorite workout songs with our readers. I don't think I need to explain how or why music affects our emotions, energy levels and motivation. Most of us have experienced the power of music firsthand in everyday life and during countless workouts.
Nowadays, most workout DVDs offer a "no music" option on their menus. I used to think that was weird until I saw several comments from blog readers who say that they prefer the quiet when exercising. And last week, when my iPod was stolen out of my car (my mistake for leaving it there!), I had no choice but to go without my trusty tunes for several days—and counting.
This led me to wonder: Is music a must for your workouts? Read More ›
Earlier this week I had the opportunity to finally catch up on some of my reading. If you were to see my office, my shelves are lined with books covering all aspects of health and fitness, with running being my primary focus. But I also subscribe to many fitness publications including the American College of Sports Medicine Health and Fitness Journal.
In the March/April 2010 issue there was a very interesting article raising the question as to whether or not health/fitness and clinical exercise professionals should be licensed. And par for the course, this got me thinking.
I am not aware of any allied medical professional not required to be licensed by the state in which they practice. This goes for Registered Nurses, Licensed Vocational Nurses, Physical Therapists and Registered Dietitians just to name a few. Licensing is a safeguard for the community and for the profession. It requires the taking and passing of a comprehensive exam at the end of his/her studies. Once he/she receives his/ her license to practice, there is usually a yearly or bi-yearly re-licensing fee, along with proof of Continuing Education Units (CEUs) earned between the time of renewals. Not receiving the proper CEUs may lead to a revocation of one's license.
With so many of us turning to personal trainers to help us meet our fitness goals, how do we know if the qualifications our trainer received is appropriate for our needs? When we place our trust in those who will direct us on the proper path to reclaiming our health and fitness, it is important that we have full disclosure of their qualifications.
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Both California and New York City have led the way with health-promoting laws that require certain chain restaurants to post calorie counts (and other nutrition information) on their menu boards. And coming soon, thanks to the recent passage of the healthcare bill, chain restaurants will have to follow suit nationwide.
Here in Ohio, I have yet to see calorie counts posted on menu boards, but I admit that I am scarcely in a restaurant that actually has a menu on the wall (I prefer "sit down" restaurants or simply cooking at home). I was in Panera the other day and noticed calorie counts posted with three new smoothies they offered and much to my surprise, they had fewer calories than I would have guessed.
Whether these nutritional facts really make a difference has been up for debate. Some research shows that they do not promote changes in ordering behavior, especially in low-income areas where people want more (food, calories) for their money. More recently, I read about a newer study that showed calorie counts on menus do affect people's choices for the better, although the demographic researched (Starbucks patrons) was quite different than the aforementioned study (fast food goers in poor neighborhoods).
This led me to wonder: Have posted nutrition facts on a menu board affected your order? Read More ›
Whenever I spend time with friends, the gathering almost always revolves around eating. "Want to meet for dinner?" "How about coming over and we'll order a pizza?" It's rare that my friends and I do something together where food is not involved. I find it pretty easy to stay on track with a healthy diet when I'm eating at home. But when I get around other people, if they are ordering dessert I feel more of a reason to do it, too. If they finish their food, it gives me more of a reason to clean my plate even if I'm not hungry. Even though it's not direct peer pressure, social eating has a strong influence on the choices many of us make.
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