SparkPeople Guest Blogger

Rise and Shine: 8 Stretches You Should Do Each Morning

One of the best ways to start your day in a healthy way is to take a moment to ground your thoughts by stretching and intentionally breathing.  It's amazing what you can accomplish in less than seven minutes to set your day on the right path.  
 
When you stretch deeply, you should always be warm.  So performing this series after a morning workout or after a hot shower is optimal. If you do it right out of bed, make sure you stretch more gently.  

Here are eight stretches to add to your morning routine to feel strong, flexible and grounded. These exercises cover all your major muscle groups and can be followed any time of day, including after your workouts.

Posted 4/11/2014  5:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 24 comments   220,503 views

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How to Keep Your House Clean in 15 Minutes a Day!

If you hate having a designated cleaning day, but love having a clean house, it can seem that the only solution is to hire a cleaning service. But that can be expensive, and many people who hire others to do the dirty work for them often end up cleaning before the cleaning staff arrives anyway! You can avoid spending an entire day cleaning the house if you break the housekeeping chores up into about 20-minute segments each day of the week. This will let you maintain a pretty clean house much of the time without having to spend your entire Saturday scrubbing.
 
Here we've broken up most of the cleaning necessities into shorter sessions you can fit into each day of the week—with one cleaning-free day off to enjoy your spic and span house!

Posted 4/7/2014  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 27 comments   76,055 views

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Kim Changed Her Eating Habits and Made a Commitment to Exercise to Drop 95 Pounds!

Name: Kim Phelan
Username: KIMPY225
Amount of weight lost: 95 pounds
Hometown: Richboro, PA
Occupation: Clerical
Age: 28
 
While growing up, Kim played many different sports including soccer, softball and volleyball. In high school, she weighed 140 pounds. At the time, she felt overweight because most of the girls she knew weighed 120 pounds or less. When Kim started college, she weighed 155 pounds. Over the years, she kept gaining more and more weight until she reached 250 pounds. By that point she had stopped playing sports and stayed inside most of the time because she felt out of breath constantly and hated the way she looked. Unfortunately, she also didn't like herself enough to do anything about it.

Once Kim's doctor warned her that she had high blood pressure, which put her at risk for having a stroke, she knew she had to do something about her weight. Kim decided to do whatever it took to lose weight and be a healthier person. Learn how she accomplished so much more in the process.

Posted 4/6/2014  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 29 comments   16,714 views

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Declutter Your Home in 30 Days

Clutter can get out of control in a hurry. Odds and ends get stashed in a junk drawer to remain for eternity. Mud rooms become places where muddy shoes land and never leave. Nightstands breed glasses of water and hand lotion and books. And bookshelves, well, they become catchalls for way more than novels.

So you want to declutter and maybe donate a few things to charity or gear up for a garage sale, but where on earth do you start? The thought of decluttering the entire house is understandably overwhelming. But we've got a process to help you break this massive task into manageable pieces: a 30-day plan to less clutter.

Depending on the severity of your personal clutter, some tasks may be best suited for longer weekend projects or divided into smaller tasks (such as a garage clean-up). But some are smaller and easy to fit into any day. No matter how long it takes you, each item on the list will have you one step closer to a cleaner house and a lighter outlook on life.

Posted 4/5/2014  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 24 comments   109,102 views

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Justyna Lost 65 Pounds with a Little Help from Her SparkFriends

Name: Justyna Lawrence
Username: Justyna7
Amount of weight lost: 65 pounds
Hometown: Richmond, Ontario, Canada
Occupation: Bed and Breakfast Owner
Age: 53

Justyna experienced gestational diabetes with her first pregnancy which was complicated by an undiagnosed eating disorder (Bulimia) as well as being an emotional eater. Once her baby arrived she realized she needed to admit her eating was out of control and sought help. Overeater's Anonymous and their 12 steps helped Justyna realize the "dragon" in her life was real. In Alcoholics Anonymous, people learn to slay the dragon but in Overeater's Anonymous, participants have to learn how to walk the dragon three times a day.

Justyna got counseling to help her deal with her demons. She battled with yo-yo dieting through two more pregnancies after which she experienced a steady weight increase that was resulting in a ten pound weight gain every year. At her top weight of 264 pounds, walking was like walking on shards of glass. At 46 years of age, she wasn't the best candidate for knee replacements and found herself spending most of her days in an electric lift chair in a bedroom.

Posted 3/30/2014  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 32 comments   12,016 views

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3 Ways to Get Back on Track During an Off Day

We’ve all been there. We had a few fabulous days of eating healthy and exercising and then—BANG—all of a sudden life happens. A late night out with friends, a last-minute business trip, a sick child at home. You’ve either missed your designated time for fitness or you simply don’t have the energy to prepare a healthy meal. Either way, you’ve hit a wall and are having an off day. Sometimes it can take several days before you find yourself inspired enough to give your nutrition and exercise program another shot. It’s the vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting at its best, but it can be stopped.
 
As an expert of sport and exercise psychology, one of my objectives is to help my clients work through the off days we all inevitably experience from time to time. Here are three techniques you can use right now to not only get switched back on during an off day, but also to limit the amount of off days you have altogether. The end result is that you’ll give yourself the greatest opportunity to follow through on your daily goals and achieve your personal best mind, body and overall spirit. 

Posted 3/27/2014  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 14 comments   22,474 views

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Three Contact Lens Habits To Break

Not all time-saving tactics are created equal: Many people cut corners when it comes to caring for their contacts—and some of these behaviors could trigger infections or worse. Glenda Secor, OD, spokesperson for the American Optometric Association, opens your eyes to three common unsightly practices.
 
Bad Habit #1: Wearing your lenses to bed
The Risk: High

Unless you have contacts that are FDA approved for overnight wear—likeAcuvue Oasys and Air Optix—take them out before dozing off. Otherwise, you could contract an eye infection or experience irritation, says Secor. Unlike extended-wear lenses, daywear contacts are made out of a less-flexible plastic and don't let as much oxygen into your eyes. 

Posted 3/25/2014  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 2 comments   7,017 views

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Amber Lost 100+ Pounds and Found Confidence in Herself

Name: Amber                  
Username: EELS4PEELS
Amount of weight lost: 125ish
Hometown: Savannah, GA
Occupation: AR Administrator
Age: 24
 
Amber was happy with life before her weight loss, just not her physical appearance. Being obese nearly all her life prevented her from seeing what else her life could be. That was until reality smacked her in the face several times. Her first self-esteem crushing experience came while visiting an amusement park when she was removed from a ride for being too large. Another was when no one would dance with her during her senior year Homecoming party. But the most important realization came from watching her mother's health deteriorate and understanding how much of it was related to obesity. Amber hated seeing her mother in so much pain and did not want to be in the same position. 

A new year brings new resolve and that is exactly what happened for Amber in 2011. She decided to take action instead of continuing to sit around and feel sorry for herself. She ripped a piece of paper out of a journal and wrote a list of things that she resolved were going to happen during the year. Her list consisted of key goals like losing weight, making new friends, spending more money on herself and learning to love herself. Although she knew she had a lot of work to do, her mind was made up and once she discovered SparkPeople.com, she was on her way. 

Posted 3/23/2014  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 18 comments   15,867 views

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The Problem with Praise

I remember the day so clearly. It was the week after the new SimCity video game was released last year and my 13-year-old, Peter, had been pushing the limits of his allotted 30 minutes of screen time. We'd been arguing about his gaming addiction, particularly after I woke up at 1 a.m. and found him tapping away in the dark, mapping out his futuristic metropolis. There had also been heated exchanges about watching too much TV, the breaking of a third school-owned laptop, and his insistence that not finishing his homework in time for hockey practice was somehow Mom and Dad's fault. So imagine my surprise when, in this vortex of wrongness, I caught him doing something right. He was sitting at the dining table, concentrating on a class assignment. His brother, Henrik, 10, and sister, Luisa, 8, were chasing each other around the room, shrieking and laughing. "Guys," said Peter calmly. "Can you be quiet?" More shrieks. More laughter. "Please," he said, his voice on the edge of a growl. Henrik lurched toward Luisa. She screeched at the top of her little lungs. "Stop it! " Peter yelled. "I want to pound you right now and I'm trying really hard not to!" Okay, he wasn't offering to shovel our neighbor's sidewalk or join a bike-a-thon fundraiser for cancer research. So if it seems strange that this moment made my heart swell with pride, it's partly because there have been way too many times when Peter hasn't been able to control his temper.
 
Not blowing up at his siblings was a great leap forward for him—and certainly something worth acknowledging. The question was, how? Pouring on the compliments didn't seem right—I'd basically be comparing Peter to his siblings and implying he behaved better than they did. And I believe that kids today receive too much praise. Many parents believe the best way to boost self-esteem is by applauding, cheering and fussing over their children's awesomeness. But there's a downside to that rah-rah mentality. Knee-jerk remarks like "Great job" and "Way to go" don't convey to kids what they actually did right. Such pat phrases focus on an end result, not the hard work behind it. And nonstop platitudes can create a hunger for external approval. So I decided to say nothing. But I felt I'd missed an opportunity to bond with Peter over something positive, especially at a time when it seemed all I did was criticize him—for not making the bed, not putting the milk back in the fridge, not thanking us for driving him to visit a friend.

Hoping to break the cycle of negativity, I asked for guidance from parenting experts, who shared these pointers on the right way to sing your kids' praises. 

Posted 3/18/2014  12:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 4 comments   6,952 views

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HIIT Workout: An Hour's Worth of Cardio in 20 Minutes!

These days, high intensity interval training is hot. More and more exercise researchers are discovering that steady state cardio still does a body good—but pushing your body during shorter bursts of high intensity effort can achieve similar—if not better—results in less time. Sure you have to work harder but I prefer to think of it as working smarter, taking a 60-minute indoor cycling class, for example, and getting all of the same health and fitness benefits in just 20 minutes. Who’s not up for that?

Posted 3/18/2014  5:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 2 comments   37,646 views

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How Amanda Lost 105 Pounds the Healthy Way

Name: Amanda
Username: POOKASLUAGH
Amount of weight lost: 105 lbs
Hometown: San Antonio, TX
Occupation: Stay at home mom
Age: 34
 
Amanda gained weight while dealing with years of medications and illness. Although she would eat healthy portion sizes and exercised regularly, she kept getting sick and kept gaining weight. The larger she got, the more shame she felt because of her size. She avoided photos and going to public places. She found it especially difficult to face people she had known before her illness, when she was more than a hundred pounds lighter. Amanda's body hurt all the time and she was extremely depressed.
 
Once she had fully healed from her illness, Amanda admits that she only tried halfheartedly to lose weight. She was angry, depressed and overwhelmed, and didn't really want to face the long journey ahead of her. Many people dealing with illness find themselves in the exact same situation. Learn how a dream and a slow and steady approach helped Amanda reclaim her life and her health.

Posted 3/16/2014  12:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 28 comments   28,502 views

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The Best Dogs for Kids

In the animal welfare movement, some advocates are replacing the word "mutt" with "blends" or "mixed breeds." "All come with positives and negatives," says Diana M. Knight, VMD, at South Orange Animal Hospital in South Orange, New Jersey. "And many people believe that mutts are hardier because of their lower incidence of genetic disease. What it comes down to when finding the perfect pet for your family is your lifestyle."

Golden Retrievers

Golden retrievers are laid back and tolerant of tail and ear pulling by small children. "As with any dog, children should be supervised by an adult," says Dr. Knight. "These dogs need active families. Otherwise, they will get into mischief." 

Posted 3/11/2014  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 5 comments   6,044 views

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Kimberly Dropped 100 Pounds and Took Control of Her Health by Making Small Changes

Name: Kimberly Pinney
Username: KIMBERLY0916
Amount of weight lost: 100 pounds
Hometown: Logan, OH
Occupation: Student
Age: 38
 
Kimberly Pinney transformed her life and her body by making one small healthy choice at a time until they turned into habits that helped her lose 100 pounds and take control of three serious medical conditions: bipolar disorder, IBS and fibromyalgia.

Posted 3/9/2014  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 55 comments   25,471 views

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9 Health Confessions from Moms

Family Circle polled hundreds of women across the country on everything from how often they have sex to how much they work out. Here, we uncovered the honest truth—and found a few celebrities who share the same secrets!
 
Sure, smoking is bad for you. But one in six American women still light up. Are you one of them?
 
89% > Nope. 
8%   > Yes, I smoke more than I'd like to admit. 
3%   > Yes, once or twice a year. 

Kate Hudson's been snapped on vacation holding a cigarette, but even a once-in-a-while drag is too much. "Smoke contains toxins and the greater your exposure is, the worse your lung cancer risk is," explains Susan Blum, MD, author of The Immune System Recovery Plan. "Plus, the cadmium in cigarettes may disrupt your thyroid function." Quitting can be tougher than getting your son to take out the garbage without being asked in the middle of winter. But it's possible! Consider a method you haven't tried before, like a prescription (Zyban, an antidepressant, helps reduce nicotine cravings), OTC aids (including the NicoDerm CQ patch or Nicorette gum and lozenges) or even alternative therapies (such as hypnosis and acupuncture). 

Posted 3/4/2014  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 0 comments   6,023 views

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Love Motivated Donde to Change Her Lifestyle (and Drop 56 Pounds)!

Name: Donde Moore
Username: DawnDMoore40
Amount of weight lost: 56
Hometown: Marquette Heights, IL
Occupation: Assistant Manager
Age: 43
 
Donde Moore found the support she needed at SparkPeople to lose 56 pounds before her wedding. She longed to be a beautiful bride and achieved her goal by carefully tracking her food and exercising at home. She still uses the free resources at SparkPeople to maintain her weight without breaking her budget.

Posted 3/2/2014  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 8 comments   10,744 views

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