The SparkPeople Blog

20 Meat-Free Recipes That Won’t Leave You Feeling Hungry

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
3/19/2019  12:00:00 AM   :  23 comments   :  28,740 views

According to a recent poll, around 5 percent of Americans are vegetarian and 3 percent are vegan. But you don’t have to fall into one of those categories to enjoy the benefits of the occasional meatless meal. Including more plant-based foods in your diet can help to reduce your cholesterol and saturated fat intake, improve heart health, elevate energy levels and reduce the risk of certain types of cancers. Plus, studies show that plant-based diets are more conducive to weight loss, as meatless meals usually contain fewer calories.

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Spark Spotlight: Jen (JENNMT)

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
3/18/2019  12:00:00 AM   :  41 comments   :  4,195 views

At SparkPeople, we love helping people accomplish big goals—but we believe it's equally important to celebrate the small successes along the way. Each week in the Spark Spotlight, we'll check in with a featured member about his or her proudest moments, biggest challenges and advice for others on living, thinking and feeling healthier. We hope these quick snapshots will help motivate you to keep moving steadily toward your own goals, week by week.
 
This Week's Spotlight: Jen (JENNMT)
Age: 49
Location: Silver Bow County, Montana 
 
Small Success of the Week
 
Jen is celebrating her first month of using SparkPeople with the loss of 11.4 pounds and 15.5 inches! 

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The Missing Link: Routine

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By: , – Justin Ochoa, Personal Trainer
3/15/2019  12:00:00 AM   :  45 comments   :  4,292 views

Every month in "The Missing Link," personal trainer and gym owner Justin Ochoa breaks down essential elements that you might be overlooking in your own journey to health. In his years in the industry, he's noticed glaring omissions, omissions which often play a crucial role in the pursuit of success. Your routine should be well-rounded, effective and fun, and Justin has the expertise and experience to ensure that you're covering all your bases in the pursuit of your goals.
 
What is a routine, anyway? By definition, a routine is "a regular course of procedure; habitual or mechanical performance of an established procedure". Anything you do consistently in your life can be part of your routine, for better or worse. Your routine is what you do every morning when you wake up; it's what how you prepare yourself for the next day, week or month; and it's how you manage money, relationships, exercise, nutrition and many other factors in your life.
 
The importance of having a routine for your eating, fitness, sleep and/or work has been studied over time and the research is clearly in favor of developing healthy habits in your life. With benefits ranging from freeing up your mind for more creative thinking and decreasing stress to improving sleep, if your life is lacking some order, you're missing out on benefits that can improve your daily living. Of the many health benefits, there are three that stand out among the crowd: time efficiency, the opportunity to instill good habits and the confidence boost.

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When Exercise Burnout Sets In, Here's How to Get Motivated Again

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
3/13/2019  12:00:00 AM   :  35 comments   :  11,119 views

Whether you've been a regular exerciser for three weeks or three years, motivation levels tend to ebb and flow. You go through periods where it feels empowering to get off the couch and head to the gym because you're seeing fitness gains and feeling strong; then there are other times when it's a challenge to drag yourself out of bed and working out feels like a chore. It's normal to have those lazy days here and there, but what if low motivation becomes a pattern you can't seem to shake?

If you're fairly new to exercise and feelings of burnout are tempting you to quit, consider first whether or not you're doing too much too soon. If your workouts are too frequent or too long, they can leave you feeling physically drained. No one likes feeling run down all the time, and regularly experiencing this can allow thoughts of quitting to start infiltrating your brain. Also consider whether or not you enjoy the activities you're doing. If you don't, you're not likely to stick with them long-term. Don't be afraid to try new things until you find activities that you like and seem to be a good fit.

If you've been a regular exerciser for years, feelings of burnout can be more difficult to understand. You likely know your limits and have found things you enjoy doing, which is why you've stuck with them for so long in the first place. It can be difficult and even frustrating to pinpoint what has changed and why, suddenly, your workout just isn't working for you.

Extinguish the Burnout Before It Burns You


When JAXNSAM came to the SparkPeople Community to ask for help with her exercise motivation issues, she was met with a variety of suggestions to help her get back on the right track.

"For almost 30 years I have worked out faithfully [for] five to six days a week. I have done a variety of things: walking, weights, kickboxing. PIYO, T25, yoga. Within the last two weeks, I am forcing myself to work out and I hate it. I switch things up, I try new workouts and [the feelings remain.] I want to take a short [three to five day] break, [but] then the guilt sets in. What do you do?"

Try something new. "What's something you've absolutely never done that you might want to try? A person is never too old to do anything," suggests SparkPeople member ARCHIMDESII.  "If you have bad joints like me, you [can] modify the exercises where needed. In order to get your fitness mojo back, you need to find an activity to be passionate about. You should look forward to exercising, not dread it. If you're dreading it, you're burned out."

Consider working toward a new goal if you still enjoy your current exercise routine. For instance, if you like walking or running, train for a 5K in your area. MLAN613 believes setting a new goal can add purpose to your workouts. "If you enjoy strength training, [consider working] toward a body building competition. If you enjoy yoga, [could you] become a certified instructor?" she asks.   

Take a break. "This has happened to me before, [and] you're not going to like the answer," says KYRELYSE. "When I was completely burned out and exhausted and went from loving to hating the gym, I made a scary decision: I stopped exercising. I would go on short walks just to keep myself busy, but I needed time off from structured exercise. I took off a whole two months, but you may need more or less time off. It's personal. Trust me, I'm back in a much healthier mindset with exercise than ever before, and my workouts have gotten better, too."

If you aren't comfortable taking a complete break from all activity, find other activities you enjoy doing that might not be considered traditional exercise. LULUBELLE65 has some go-to activities she suggests, such as going for a walk or putting on some music and dancing around the living room. "Try to find active things you enjoy or that need to be done, such as shoveling snow.  Don't beat yourself up over not working out, [and instead just] figure out what it is that you want to do," she says.

BECCABOO27 says she takes breaks every once in a while. "Do something different that you enjoy, whether it be a hobby or whatever. Work on the guilt issue—guilt never gets anyone anywhere, except miserable," she advises.

Remind yourself how far you've come. "I talk sternly to myself, reminding me that it took over six months to lose all that weight," says ALUKOWSKY. "Do I really want to go back there again? I tell myself that I would be letting down all those people—husband, co-workers, sisters, parents, SparkFriends—who have supported me during my journey and are proud of my accomplishment. Stepping on the scale and seeing that the needle has moved in the wrong direction also helps. Once I start doing exercise again, it doesn't take long to re-establish the habit, as long as the lapse hasn't been too long."

Even if it feels like you're going through a rough patch, that doesn't mean you're destined to end up back at square one. Remember all of the hard work that got to you to this place and be prepared to re-focus and keep working toward your goals.
   

5 Signs You Could Be Experiencing Burnout


It can be challenging to recognize the symptoms of burnout, especially if you tend to ignore the signals your body is giving you. You might assume you've been extra lazy lately or reprimand yourself for not just pushing through. But what if something bigger is going on? Learn to identify the signs of burnout so that you can make changes to help you feel better, both physically and mentally.
  1. You're experiencing excessive fatigue. If you've been neglecting incorporating rest into your routine, you might find that physical or mental exhaustion starts setting in. Your performance can suffer and motivation dips when it's a struggle to complete the workout and energy is still lacking after you're done. Try taking a few days of rest or light activity, such as a gentle yoga class or a walk around the block. If it seems to help, focus on incorporating a mix of higher intensity, lower intensity and rest days into your routine regularly.
  2. You're easily distracted. Now is the time you've scheduled to work out, but instead you find a million other things to keep you busy. "I can't work out right now because that kitchen cabinet has to be reorganized!" Sound familiar? If you find yourself stalling instead of getting started, take a look at why you keep putting it off. Perhaps you need to find something new that gets you excited about working out again.
  3. You're not sleeping well. A regular exercise routine can help you sleep better, but too much exercise can make sleep a challenge. If you feel like eight to nine hours a night is never enough, or the quality of your sleep is not what it used to be, you might be pushing yourself too hard. Adequate rest and recovery are important for proper shut-eye.
  4. You're a crabby pants. When your routine isn't giving you the good feelings it once was, it can leave you feeling short-tempered and irritated. Think back to a time when exercise was the boost you needed to get through the day on a high note. What has changed since then and how can you help those good feelings return?
  5. You aren't seeing progress. Everyone needs a positive sign now and then that they are headed in the right direction. Improved muscle definition, increased strength, better cardio endurance or weight loss are all ways to know you are getting healthier and doing something good for your body. When you don't see changes, it's easy to get down about your sweat sessions. Evaluate your routine to figure out if your plateau is a case of not pushing yourself enough, not changing things up regularly or something else altogether.
Most of the time you can avoid burnout by listening to your body and the little voice in your head telling you it's time for a change. It's important to be flexible and explore your options so that when that dip in motivation does inevitably occur, you can easily make adjustments and keep moving forward toward your goals.

Have you experienced exercise burnout? How did you handle it?

What You Need to Know About Safe and Successful Microwave Cooking

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
3/12/2019  12:00:00 AM   :  70 comments   :  43,242 views

Although most chefs and nutrition experts aren't big proponents of "nuking" food, there are inevitably those times when busy schedules, tight timelines and extreme cases of "hangriness" make the quickness and convenience of the microwave far more appealing than the traditional oven or stovetop. And for those preparing food in the workplace, a microwave is often their only option.


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Spark Spotlight: Nico (NICO_2023)

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
3/11/2019  12:00:00 AM   :  43 comments   :  5,376 views

At SparkPeople, we love helping people accomplish big goals—but we believe it's equally important to celebrate the small successes along the way. Each week in the Spark Spotlight, we'll check in with a featured member about his or her proudest moments, biggest challenges and advice for others on living, thinking and feeling healthier. We hope these quick snapshots will help motivate you to keep moving steadily toward your own goals, week by week.
 
This Week's Spotlight: Nico (NICO_2023)
Age: 20
Location: Laconia, Indiana
 
Small Success of the Week
 
Nico is very proud of being able to resist the urge to overeat recently. This was a huge accomplishment and is definitely something to be celebrated! 

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