SparkPeople Guest Blogger

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   6,569 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   14,468 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   6,546 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   19,642 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 : 27 comments   22,660 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   5,708 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 : 52 comments   21,348 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   5,754 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   9,870 views

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A Cardio Workout That Anyone Can Do

The secret to getting started with exercise is simply doing what you can with what you have, today! There’s no need to join a gym or buy fancy equipment--you can start exercising right now with this full-length workout video that incorporates some simple every day items you probably already have around the house (like a sturdy chair and a broom). Join my mom, Debbie, and me for this get-up-and-go routine that can easily be done at home with little space and zero equipment.
 
Try this routine up to 3 non-consecutive days per week to spark your fitness habit!
 
And, if you enjoy this workout, please be sure to check out all of our beginner workouts on our website. Need something even more low-key to start with? Check out our seated chair workout series for more options. 

Posted 2/26/2014  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 15 comments   43,264 views

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14 Ways to Get Rid of Clutter

Post simple-to-ship castoffs, like that multispeed juice extractor you never use, online to reach the biggest audience of potential buyers. 

TIP: In-season clothes and accessories are easiest to sell. Also, don't try to list what's stained or torn -- discard them instead.

Clothes, Household Goods, Electronics

Skip McGrath, Web marketing expert and author of The Complete eBay Marketing System (skipmcgrath.com), suggests eBay for selling everything from popular brand names (Xbox, KitchenAid) to collectibles (silver tea sets, Barbie dolls). The site offers an auction format and fixed-price sales, which may be easier for first-timers who don't want to deal with the bidding process. Cost: McGrath estimates fees to be about 12.5 percent of your selling price, including PayPal charges. Fashion retail sites like poshmark.com let you download an app to conduct transactions from your tablet or smartphone. Cost: 20 percent of each sale, but listing and shipping items is fee-free. 

Posted 2/25/2014  6:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 1 comments   7,971 views

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Eboney Found Herself on Her Journey to Lose

Name: Eboney Lewis Haynes
Username: ebielou
Amount of weight lost: 122 pounds         
Hometown: Piedmont, Alabama
Occupation: Teacher
Age: 28
 
Ebony Haynes has transformed her entire life by taking control of her eating and fitness. After losing more than 100 pounds, she now helps others transition into healthy lifestyles by teaching Zumba and Pound classes and being a walking example of the power of perseverance.

Posted 2/23/2014  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 32 comments   12,284 views

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You Asked: Can Yoga Help Me Lose Weight?

Over the past decade alone, yoga has exploded into a multi-million dollar industry.  Nearly 21 million Americans actively participate in yoga, spending more than $10 billion a year on classes and products (including equipment, clothing, retreats and videos), with the majority of novice practitioners citing general wellness, stress management or weight loss as one of their primary motivations for taking up the practice.
 
However, the roots of yoga are spiritual, not physical, which is the way we think of yoga today. Body-focused yoga styles (that focus on toning, weight loss and physical transformations) are a modern, Western phenomenon. There's no doubt that the benefits yoga offers for the physical body appeals to Americans, even though yoga can be so much more than a physical fitness regimen.
 
So can yoga really help you lose weight? Is there any truth or science to claims that any set of yoga postures can boost your metabolism, help you slim down, or give you that coveted "yoga body"?

Posted 2/21/2014  5:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 29 comments   104,479 views

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Erika Lost 90 Pounds and Beat Depression

Name: Erika Schnure
Username: FATGIRLRUNN
Amount of weight lost: 90 lbs.
Hometown: Oak Park, IL
Occupation: Meeting Planner
Age: 28
 
What was life like before your weight loss? Just before I lost weight, I was in a very bad place personally. I had just lost my job, I was extremely depressed, and I ate for comfort during my days at home. I used a popular weight-loss program to lose 55 pounds in 2010, but once I lost my job and couldn’t pay for the food anymore, I gained every single pound back, and then some. This landed me at 230 pounds at 5 foot 6 inches tall. I was completely miserable. In just my mid-20s, I was on the verge of being categorized as having high blood pressure, and my cholesterol was very high. I had given up. I thought my weight was due to genetics, and there was nothing I could do about it, so why try to eat healthy? Why pay for a gym when working out wouldn't do anything?

What was your ''light bulb moment'' that made you get serious about losing the weight? After losing my job in DC, I ended up moving back in with my parents in the Chicago area for about a year. Shortly after I moved home, my mother, who was also obese at the time, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Obviously, I understood the genetic implications of such a diagnosis, and I knew I was in danger of the same problem. Moving home may have actually been the best thing for me, because living in the far suburbs meant that I could not just walk a few blocks to gorge on burritos and cheeseburgers at my neighborhood restaurants like I could in DC. The closest fast food restaurants were miles away and required a car trip. I realized that eating as poorly as I did was just not worth it. As I made that realization, I discovered that eating well was not only a lot cheaper and easier, it was much more delicious!

Tell us a bit about your weight-loss journey. 

Posted 2/16/2014  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 48 comments   26,191 views

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5 Motivating Goals That Result in Weight Loss (without Trying)

It’s no secret that the majority of people who start a new exercise program do so because they want to lose weight, which is a great reason (and motivator) to get fit.
That being said, if your only motivation to exercise is fat loss, you can easily find yourself frustrated and wanting to quit when progress temporarily hits a plateau (which it will).  That’s why setting goals beyond weight loss alone is essential if you're going to stick with a fitness or weight-loss program for the long haul. 

And consider this: Setting goals that don't focus on fat loss can actually help you reach your desired weight-loss goal. It's true! (Check out this SparkPeople success story of a woman who lost weight by resolving NOT to lose weight!)  For example, if you focus on getting stronger, you will likely gain lean muscle mass, which will speed up your metabolism and help you lose more weight.  Or maybe you choose to set a goal like walking with a friend several days a week, or taking your dog hiking every weekend. Those goals will keep you active and moving (which is the whole point) and don't hinge on what a scale says to keep you motivated. Over time, you'll be more consistent with exercise, burn even more calories and, of course, lose more unwanted fat. 

See?  You don’t have to be laser-focused on the scale to be successful in changing the scale.  Setting other goals can be even more motivating—and just as effective!
Here are five of my favorite types of goals that often lead to weight loss and better health (without focusing on the scale). 

Posted 2/12/2014  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 24 comments   32,672 views

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