SPARK_COACH_JEN's SparkPeople Blog SPARK_COACH_JEN's Blog on SparkPeople, home of free diet plans and a healthy living community Find my blogs at! <BR> In case you haven't heard, SparkPeople has launched a brand new blog-style website called <a href="" target="_blank"><b></b></a> . Instead of adding new blog entries here on my SparkPage, I'll be blogging there from now on, along with our other Coaches and experts! <BR> <BR> To learn more about what the dailySpark is all about, <a href=>check out this article</a> for a full exp... Tue, 19 Aug 2008 10:45:25 EST California bans trans fats in restaurants This story has been in the news a lot recently, and I've seen some discussion about it on the Message Boards. So I thought we could get a conversation going about it here! <BR> <BR> A few weeks ago, California passed legislation that bans restaurants and other retail food establishments from using oil, margarine and shorting containing trans fats in the foods they sell. Although there are some other cities in the U.S. that have similar laws, this is the first state-wide legislation of its ... Wed, 6 Aug 2008 06:43:13 EST Fitness protects brain in Alzheimer's patients Need yet another reason to be physically active? Here's one: A new study shows that people in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease who are more physically fit, had less shrinkage in areas of the brain that are important for memory. <BR> <BR> Previous studies have shown that exercise slows age-related changes in the brain for healthy people. But this study shows that even people who are already in the early stages of Alzheimer's can still benefit from regular exercise. It's never too l... Wed, 30 Jul 2008 07:02:24 EST Curbing food waste I'm sure we're all guilty of it from time to time: buying items at the supermarket that we never end up using and eventually end up in the trash. I know I'm to blame. Usually I have the best intentions, thinking I'll use something as an ingredient in a recipe I never end up making, or buy a snack that looks good at the time but I never end up eating. Whenever I do go through my periodic "purge" of the refrigerator and cabinets, I always feel guilt over the foods I end up throwing away. ... Wed, 23 Jul 2008 06:41:55 EST Turn off TV during meals or kids may get fat You've probably heard this suggestion on our site before, but here's a new study that reinforces the idea: Watching TV during mealtime can lead to overeating. This study demonstrates that it not only applies to adults, but to our kids as well. <BR> <BR> A study from the University of Toronto found that kids who watched TV while eating lunch took in 228 calories more than those who ate without the television on. <BR> <BR> Why would this be? One theory is that eating while watching TV ov... Wed, 16 Jul 2008 06:43:09 EST Keep a food diary, lose twice as much weight Have you ever questioned whether using the nutrition tracker on SP really influences your weight loss? A new study says, yep, it sure does! <BR> <BR> A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine followed almost 1,700 obese and overweight people as they started a diet and exercise program. The average weight loss over 20 weeks was about 13 pounds. But the more people recorded the foods they were eating, the more they lost. Those who kept no food records lost about 9 po... Wed, 9 Jul 2008 07:15:27 EST Overindulgence in Small Packages 100-calorie and single-serve "snack packs" are pretty popular these days, as people try to limit consumption of some of their favorite treats like cookies, crackers and chips. But do these little packs really help control portions as much as we think? A new study says maybe not. <BR> <BR> A study in the Journal of Consumer Research says smaller packages can actually lead consumers to eat more because they are less aware of how much they are really eating. In the study, one group of subj... Wed, 2 Jul 2008 06:48:04 EST Big, Well-Balanced Breakfast Aids in Weight Loss Our program preaches it all the time: "Start your day off with a good breakfast and in the long run it will help with your weight loss." Now there's new research that supports the idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. <BR> <BR> This study found that starting your day with a large meal containing both carbohydrates and lean protein, and even a small piece of chocolate, can help lessen cravings and hunger the rest of the day, which can lead to significant weight loss. I... Wed, 25 Jun 2008 06:57:21 EST Get up, stand up! New research from the University of Missouri shows that spending too much time sitting down can slow both your fat and cholesterol metabolism and simulate disease-producing processes. <BR> <BR> In a series of studies, the authors found that being sedentary for hours (like at your desk during the work day) can shut off enzymes in the blood vessels of muscles responsible for fat-burning. But don't get discouraged! By standing up you can help reengage those enzymes, helping you maintain a h... Wed, 18 Jun 2008 06:39:39 EST For heart-health, sprints match endurance training I have to start this entry by saying that the results of this study probably won't change my exercise habits. I'll always be one of those crazy people who likes to train for marathons. <em>41</em> <BR> <BR> A new study in the American Journal of Physiology- Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, provides some good news for those people struggling to fit long workouts into their daily routine. According to the study, people who engage in brief, high-intensity exercise get th... Wed, 11 Jun 2008 07:03:00 EST Trying to get rid of chubby cells? Fat chance We've known for a long time that people gain and lose weight by increasing or decreasing the size of their fat cells. You can't change the number of fat cells you have. In fact, a new study finds that you're stuck with the number of fat cells you have acquired by about age 20. <BR> <BR> Researchers say that obese people can have twice as many fat cells as someone in the "normal" weight range for their size. This study also found that obesity in adulthood is at least partly determined by ... Wed, 4 Jun 2008 07:08:58 EST Women Worry More About Weight than Disease A recent study shows that women are more concerned about diet/weight (56%) and eating right (36%) than cancer (23%) heart health (20%) and diabetes (18%). Could it be that women are more worried about outer appearance than physical health, or maybe it's just that we know if we take care of ourselves, a reduced risk for these diseases will naturally follow? <BR> <BR> Most women in this study liked who they are as a person (great news!) but only 40% said they were happy with their physical ... Wed, 28 May 2008 07:01:34 EST Pole-Walking Offers Low-Pain Workout Ever heard of Nordic (pole) walking? It started in Europe and is now catching on across the world as an excellent form of exercise, especially as you get older. Adding poles to a walking routine decreases the impact to the ankles, knee and hips, while increasing the calorie burn at the same time. In fact, you can burn up to 30 to 50 percent more calories by using the poles, as using them can lead to 90 percent involvement of your muscular system- meaning almost your entire body is being us... Wed, 14 May 2008 07:03:52 EST Many Moms Unwilling to Have Younger Daughters Get HPV Vaccine HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that is the primary cause of cervical cancer. In 2006, Gardasil was the first vaccine approved for this disease. The current recommendation from the CDC is that 11 and 12-year old girls be vaccinated, since most girls this age are not sexually active and therefore have not been exposed to the HPV virus. <BR> <BR> But a new study suggests that many parents aren't willing to follow these recommendations. In fact, only 49% intended to vaccinate their c... Wed, 7 May 2008 06:56:46 EST Disordered eating is widespread among U.S. women A new survey of women between the ages of 25 and 45 found that 75% eat, think and behave abnormally around food. These results weren't limited to a specific ethnic or racial group, applying to most women in general. <BR> <BR> The study also found that 31% of these women had used vomiting, laxatives, diuretics or diet pills and some point in their lives to lose weight. Among these women, more than 50% did so at least a few times a week. <BR> <BR> Here are some other interesting results... Wed, 30 Apr 2008 06:54:56 EST The happiest Americans are the oldest New research shows that happiest Americans are the oldest, and older Americans tend to be more socially active than you might think. It makes sense then that they'd be happier, since being social can help keep the blues away. <BR> <BR> The study's author says that older people have learned to be more content with what they have, even though they tend to have more aches and pains than younger adults. In general, the odds of being happier increased 5 percent with every 10 years of age. <BR... Thu, 24 Apr 2008 06:34:35 EST Stand up and stretch for added health benefits Are you one of those people who sits behind a desk all day and is always looking for ways to sneak in a little extra activity? If so, that's a good thing and could impact your weight and metabolism. <BR> <BR> Australian researchers measured the activity levels of their subjects and found that taking breaks (of less than 5 minutes) from sedentary activity positively correlated with lower waist circumference and triglyceride levels. These breaks don't mean that you have to do strenuous activ... Wed, 16 Apr 2008 07:14:57 EST Dining Pals Can Make or Break Your Diet Have you ever noticed that when you go out to dinner with a friend, you tend to eat more or less depending on how much they eat? Do you notice that you order something healthier if they go for the grilled chicken salad vs. the bacon cheeseburger? Although I hate to admit that I feel pressure based on what others eat, I know my choices are somewhat influenced by them. If I want to order that chocolate cake for dessert, I feel a lot better if someone is doing it with me. And I tend to feel ... Wed, 9 Apr 2008 06:28:57 EST Bulging belly now could mean dementia later This story was all over the news last week, so maybe you heard about it. <BR> <BR> We've known for a long time that those people who have an "apple" shape (meaning you tend to store fat around your midsection) are at an increased risk of certain diseases like heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Now a new study published in the journal Neurology reports that people who were both obese and had a large belly were three times more likely to be diagnosed with dementia in later years than those... Wed, 2 Apr 2008 06:52:33 EST FDA Considers Limiting Sodium The Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to set limits on the amount of sodium that would be permitted in different types of foods, such as breads. The American Heart Association is asking for a 50% reduction in the amount of salt in packaged and processed foods. Currently, the average American consumes 50% more sodium in their diet than is recommended. <BR> <BR> It could be a year before the FDA decides about this, but many companies are already starting to offer lower so... Wed, 26 Mar 2008 06:17:37 EST Fewer steps per day send disease markers up A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that when daily physical activity levels decline, the effect on your health can be felt pretty quickly. This activity would be things like taking the elevator instead of the stairs, parking closer to the store instead of further away, or other small things (outside of exercise) that reduce the number of steps taken each day. Researchers found that within 2 weeks of reducing their activity level, participants blood sugar l... Wed, 19 Mar 2008 07:14:36 EST Stop when you're full? You must be French. In a recent study published in the Journal of Obesity, researchers asked two groups of participants to fill out a survey that answered the question: "How do you know when you're finished eating dinner?" One group was from Paris, and the other group was from Chicago. The difference in responses was surprising. <BR> <BR> You've probably heard of the book "French Women Don't Get Fat", which explores the reasons why the rates of obesity and heart disease are lower among French women compared ... Wed, 12 Mar 2008 06:54:26 EST The cure for exhaustion? More exercise. Researchers at the University of Georgia found that regular, low intensity exercise can help boost energy levels in those suffering from fatigue. The reasons for fatigue are varied. Sometimes it's attributed to a medical condition, but one in four people suffer from fatigue that isn't related to another medical problem. <BR> <BR> What's really interesting is that the group of participants who did low intensity exercise seemed to have the best results. Three groups were studied- the firs... Wed, 5 Mar 2008 07:07:30 EST Whole grains help deflate belly rolls A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows the benefits of whole grains in a healthy diet. In a study of obese adults at risk for heart disease, those who cut calories and increased their intake of whole grains lost more belly fat and lowered their blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which is linked to heart attacks and stroke. Those in the study who cut calories but ate mostly refined grains (like white bread) lost weight, but lost less belly fat and sa... Wed, 27 Feb 2008 07:32:34 EST Putting Very Little Weight in Calorie Counting Methods Exercise physiologists say that one of the biggest exaggerations when it comes to exercise is the number of calories people estimate they are burning. I see this a LOT on the Message Boards. The purpose of this blog entry isn't to discourage you, but rather to help you become more educated about your estimations and help you see why you might not have lost 5 lbs this week even though that's what you expected. <BR> <BR> Two individuals of the same age, gender, height, weight and even the ... Wed, 20 Feb 2008 07:28:40 EST Sugar Substitutes May Contribute to Weight Gain A new study of the effects of artificial sweeteners on rats has produced some surprising results. One group of rats was given yogurt that contained saccharin (an artificial sweetener) and the other was given yogurt sweetened with sugar. The group that got the saccharin gained more weight and ate more food than the other. <BR> <BR> Researchers theorize that when sweetness is not followed by a lot of calories, the body's digestive system gets confused, and the metabolism does not gear up a... Wed, 13 Feb 2008 06:43:56 EST Weight Easier Gained Than Lost When Exercise is Inconsistent A new study from the American College of Sports Medicine looked at runners and how changes in activity levels affected their weight loss. Researchers found that weight gain among those who decreased their running distances was more than the weight lost by those who increased their running distance by the same amount. <BR> <BR> For those who stopped exercising, gained weight, and decided to start again, they couldn't just pick up where they left off and expect the weight to come off. Thos... Wed, 6 Feb 2008 07:58:43 EST Common Weight Loss Mistakes This week's topic is a little different than most. Usually I try to talk about something that's been in the news lately, but today we're going to talk about the common mistakes a lot of people make when they decide they want to start losing weight. Since the first of the year I've seen these things come up time and time again on the Message Boards. This isn't meant to pick on anyone- we've all made mistakes like these, thinking we're doing something great for our health when really we aren... Wed, 30 Jan 2008 08:38:38 EST Finding smart buys at the health food store Health food stores are all the rage these days. But as I walk down the aisles at my local Wild Oats, I can easily find a lot of junk- which sometimes tries to pass itself off as healthy. Don't get me wrong, these places often have healthy foods I can't get anywhere else, and that's why I shop there. But just like any other store, you need to read labels to make sure you're making good choices. Just because a health food store sells chocolate cake or Haggen Dazs does not mean those foods a... Wed, 23 Jan 2008 06:44:28 EST FDA Says Food From Cloned Animals Safe It's a controversial topic that's been in the news very recently, so I thought this might be a good place to discuss it. <BR> <BR> The FDA has decided that meat and milk from cloned animals is just as safe as that from animals bred the "traditional" way. This doesn't mean that you'll be seeing many these products on the shelves next week. It's expensive to clone an animal, so you'd likely see meat from the cloned animal's offspring on the store shelves instead, and that could take years.... Wed, 16 Jan 2008 08:07:17 EST Small Lifestyle Changes Can Boost Longevity A new British study of men and women ages 45-79 found that they lived an average of 14 years longer if they practiced four specific lifestyle behaviors (vs. those who did not). These behaviors were not smoking, physical activity, moderate alcohol consumption and eating five servings of fruits and veggies each day. <BR> <BR> Although more studies need to be done on other age groups, these results suggest something SparkPeople members have known for a long time- behaviors like this can improv... Wed, 9 Jan 2008 07:21:11 EST Do we really need 8 glasses of water per day? This is a question that comes up frequently on the Message Boards, so I thought it would be good to discuss it here. You might be surprised to know that there is no scientific evidence that you need 8 glasses of water per day. The source of this "myth" may be a 1945 article from the National Research Council, part of the National Academy of Sciences, which noted that a "suitable allowance" of water for adults is 2.5 liters a day, although much of that is already contained in the food we eat... Thu, 3 Jan 2008 12:57:11 EST Fat, Carbs and the Science of Conception As many people who have children or are trying to conceive know, getting pregnant isn't always as easy people think. Speaking from personal experience, I assumed that because I was in good health it would be pretty easy for me to conceive. But that wasn't the case, and it isn't for a lot a women. A new book out looks at the role of diet, exercise and weight control in fertility- and there are some interesting findings that might help if you're trying to have a baby. <BR> <BR> More than ... Wed, 26 Dec 2007 08:17:59 EST Can junk food ever really be good for you? Companies will do anything to sell a product these days, including trying to pass off junk food as "healthy". New snack products have been coming out over the past year that claim to have real servings of fruits and veggies in them. Some examples include Flat Earth crisps from Frito-Lay and Nabisco Garden Harvest chips. The idea is that you can get a yummy snack that goes towards your quota of fruits and veggies- all at the same time! <BR> <BR> But nutrition experts say these claims may... Wed, 19 Dec 2007 12:23:44 EST Fitness, Not Fatness Predicts a Longer Life A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that if you're overweight but fit, you are more likely to outlive someone who's a normal weight but unfit. In the study people who were fit were 50% less likely to die than unfit people, regardless of weight. Fit people also had less of the risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure or high cholesterol. <BR> <BR> The study concludes that perhaps there is too much focus on body weight and not enough focus o... Tue, 11 Dec 2007 13:50:47 EST Coach Jen's 2007 Holiday Gift Picks Hi Everyone! <BR> <BR> I've put together a short list of health-related, family-friendly gifts that might "spark" some ideas when you're out shopping this holiday season! <BR> <BR> <BR> <b>For the chef in the family:</b> <BR> <BR> Deceptively Delicious- I heard about this cookbook when Jessica Seinfeld (the author) was on Oprah, so I decided to order it. I am always looking for healthy meals to cook for my 1-year old. Although a lot of the recipes are things I probably wouldn't make f... Tue, 4 Dec 2007 13:36:11 EST Moderate Exercise Might Be Healthier Than Intense Workouts Does a harder workout always mean it's better? Not necessarily, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. <BR> <BR> Participants in the study were divided into four exercise groups: high amount/high intensity; low amount/high intensity; low amount/moderate intensity; and a control group that did no exercise. The volunteers started with a two- to three-month "ramp-up" period and then continued their exercise programs for six months. <BR> <BR> The study foun... Wed, 28 Nov 2007 07:10:02 EST People walk 1 mile more if wearing a pedometer Studies have found that if people wear a pedometer, they end up walking an average of a mile more throughout the day (vs. those who didn't wear one)- even if they can't see how many steps are being logged. Participants set a daily step goal and kept a diary of their progress. The goal and diary seemed to be key: those in the study who didn't set a goal and didn't log their progress didn't increase their activity. <BR> <BR> This reinforces something we talk about a lot on SparkPeople- the ... Wed, 21 Nov 2007 06:36:00 EST What the world eats Coach Nicole sent me the link to this awhile ago, and I thought it was totally fascinating and wanted to share. <BR> <BR> It's amazing to me the differences in how much money is spent, what kinds of foods people eat (and how much they eat), and how that varies so much from country to country. Can you imagine only spending $1.23 per week to feed your family like the picture from Chad? <BR> <BR> Were there any pictures you thought were interesting or surprising? If so, why? Thu, 15 Nov 2007 12:38:47 EST Stretching may offer extended benefits A new study from the October issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise shows that stretching helps with more than just flexibility and range of motion. Participants also increased strength, muscular endurance, and jumping. Although they stretched for 40 minutes, 3 times a week (which is a lot), smaller amounts of stretching should have benefits too. <BR> <BR> There's still debate as to when to stretch- before exercise (always after a warm up), after exercise or both. But no matte... Wed, 14 Nov 2007 11:51:53 EST