Blog Posts by Sarah McColl, Shine staff

  • 5 ways to track what you're eating on the go

    Lose It!
    This is one of those apps people are just crazy about, and not just because it's free. It's got a sleek, simple interface with a huge database of food and exercises to track, with the kind of charts and graphs that make you feel like you're really getting somewhere. If you're the type that likes to buddy up, Lose It! combines a food journal with the buddy system: you can share your exercise goals and weight-loss successes with your friends to help stay motivated and keep each other on track. It's only on iPhone for now, but the developers are working on an Android version.

    Calorie Tracker by LIVESTRONG
    With an Android, Blackberry, or iPhone, you can use this app to determine a daily calorie target based on your personal goals, and then search the giant LIVESTRONG database to keep track of your meals throughout the day. Want to keep track of that whole calories-in, calories out equation? You can also track workouts and be presented with a dazzling chart of your progress.


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  • Two gut-level questions to ask that will change the way you spend

    Martha Beck's wise and funny column is one of the things I look forward to most in O Magazine. She is the rare bird to admit that the business of life-improvement is non-linear. Instead, it's messy, and filled with asides, tangents, and mistakes. So I was intrigued at the simplicity in her most recent column, all about two questions to ask that can guarantee a richer life.

    Do I love it? Do I need it?

    Beck sets forth a "matrix" of spending in which we spend the most on items that get a yes to both questions: Yes, I love it and I need it. For example, it's money well-spent when you find the perfect black wrap dress you've searched your whole life for that goes from the office to your date night with ease. You need it and you love it.

    From there, the rubric goes like this: we should spend the least on the items we need but don't love (toilet paper), we shouldn't spend a dollar on things we don't need or love (another pair of candlesticks for the dining room), and any leftover money can

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  • 10 practical tips for cultivating patience

    You might not be given to astrological meanings as much as I am, but one thing I know: Aries are not particularly patient, and I'm living proof. Whether you can't stand waiting in line or get hot-headed in an argument (my particular bugaboo), patience is the kind of virtue we'd all do well to cultivate. Here, ten ways to keep from flipping a lid at your next staff meeting.

    1. Identify your triggers. What sends you over the edge? Is it bad traffic, your annoying co-workers, or how slowly your kids move in the morning when you're trying to get out the door? Note what the main irritants are to your daily sense of zen and focus on cultivating your patience in those areas in particular.

    2. Take a deep breath. You're in the heat of the moment with your identified irritant and you feel your blood starting to boil. Acknowledge your reaction and slow it down by taking a deep breath and a slow exhale.

    3. Count to 10. Now, we're going to slow down your reaction even more. Count to ten in your

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  • What's on your summer soundtrack?

    Whether you're driving across country, staying home, or working out, you're going to need some kickin' tunes this summer. Studies show that listening to any kind of music--whether you like country or punk--can boost your mood, and our own very unscientific research shows that there's nothing like an awesome song to make scrubbing the bathroom or pushing through that last mile almost enjoyable. We've taken the liberty of putting together a super upbeat summer soundtrack to get you smiling. But there's always room for improvement. Tell us what you're listening to at all your summer parties and sunny day workouts.

    1. "Roam," The B-52's
    2. "Mustang Sally," The Commitments
    3. "Wouldn't It Be Nice," The Beach Boys
    4. "Vacation," The Go-Go's
    5. "Honey in the Sun," Camera Obscura
    6. "Hot Child in the City," Joan Jett
    7. "Deceptacon," Le Tigre
    8. "Pleasant Valley Sunday," The Monkees
    9. "I Think I Need a New Heart," The Magnetic Fields
    10. "I Hear a Symphony," The Supremes
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  • Take a healthy, green road trip

    No, a "healthy, green road trip" isn't an oxymoron. With a little planning and forethought, it turns out it's not impossible to bypass fast food and plan the most energy-efficient route. We've got some ideas to make your vacay a little healthier for you and the planet.

    Pack a mini-kitchen
    You'll be equipped for anything with reusable water bottles, a mini-cooler, ice packs, a can opener, wet wipes, dish towels, and flatware. Bring along lightweight melamine plates or eco-friendly disposables.

    Wear sunscreen!
    Just because you're in the car, doesn't mean you're immune to the sun's rays. Plan to drive during the middle of the day so that your activity breaks fall in the morning or early evening when the sun is less powerful. And still wear sunscreen! Get Consumer Reports' top picks.

    Join the Better World Club
    An auto club for the modern era, Better World offers the usual roadside assistance and towing and maps, but also helps route trips with energy-efficient itineraries or via scenic

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  • What's so wrong with just being ourselves?

    The celebration of Bastille Day last week inspired the usual rash of articles on how to be more like a French woman with even the New York Times chiming in with advice on how to age like the Frenchies. This came on the heels of my reading a passage in The Happiness Project about the sadness of being one's self. The whole thing got me thinking: what's so wrong with just being you?

    The French, as we've been told repeatedly, know how to dress, eat, and age better than we do. The Italians know how to seduce, the Danes know how to be happy. And it's not just cultural emulation. We want Jennifer Aniston's legs, and Cher's house. We want to know what Gwyneth Paltrow eats and how Christina Hendricks stays so freakin' gorgeous. Why don't we just want to be ourselves?

    Author Gretchen Rubin argues that there is a certain sadness to being ourselves. In just being us, we resign to live only one life and work within our own limitations. Being ourselves means admitting we will never be an acrobat,

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  • 1 rotisserie chicken, 7 super simple summer recipes

    Two important things happen during the summer months to affect our usual dinner routine. First, we're loathe to undo the hard work of our air-conditioner by turning on the oven. Second, and equally important, who wants to get out of the hammock, return from the beach, or stop playing croquet just cause our stomach's grumbling? But, ah, the grocery store roast chicken is a lazy girl's BFF and just the thing for a summer dinner makeover. Swoop in, pick up a chicken for less than $6, and with a few pantry staples you've got dinner for four in a flash. Easy as pie. Mmm...chicken pot pie. (We'll save that for the colder months).

    The Classic: Carve up chicken in six or eight pieces. Serve with a simple green salad, whole wheat couscous, and sliced peaches and nectarines.

    Down-home Style: Shred chicken meat, and toss with your favorite barbecue sauce. Serve on split, toasted buns. Dish up cole slaw or baked potato chips alongside.

    Fiesta Ready
    : Shred chicken and stuff inside taco shells with

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  • How to be a tourist in your own town

    Isn't it amazing how we go out of town and really take a place by storm? We visit museums, dance all night, and snag a resy at the local hot spot. Yet when we're at home, we stick to our usual routines, hitting-up our old standbys or staying on the couch. It's time to make the most of where you live. In honor of the always popular summer staycation, we've got a dozen ideas to turn you into a tourist in your own town.

    1. List your favorite vacation activities
    Do you like to see a local sports team? Go shopping? Sit and people watch at a sidewalk cafe? Let what you love to do on vacation inform how you're going to explore your own home turf. Bonus points: maybe what you love to do on vacation should find its way into your life more often, just for the fun of it.

    2. Check out a local guide book
    You've got the inside scoop, no doubt, but a travel guide focusing on your town might offer up suggestions you've overlooked, forgotten, or didn't even know about.

    3. Get off your personal beaten

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  • Small talk won't make you happy but deep conversations could

    A study published in Psychological Science reveals that Jack Handey might have discovered a key to happiness with his "Deep Thoughts." Researchers at the University of Arizona recorded participants' conversations for four days and found the happiest subjects had twice as many substantive conversations (ones that get beyond the weather to touch on religion, current affairs, or the meaning of life) and one third as much small talk as the unhappiest participants. So should we be spending less time comparing exercise routines and more time talking about foreign policy?

    These findings struck me as particularly interesting given a conversation I'd had with a friend that stuck with me. He works in an industrial park straight out of Office Space, and despite majoring in philosophy in college and being a pretty deep thinker, he prides himself on having chatty relationships with everyone at work from the receptionist to the cashiers in the cafeteria. These are conversations that skim the

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  • 5 ways to change your perspective

    Yesterday I attended a Quaker meeting in deep-shaded woods. After a stressful week of work and the usual personal woes, it was there on a wooden bench surrounded by the cacophony of forest sounds that the truly important things hit me like a ton of bricks. The knowledge of what really matters is inside all of us all the time, of course, but sometimes the buzzing of daily life drowns these truisms out. It's a luxury to step out of your routine long enough to get some perspective on it, but you don't have to take a trip out of town. Changing your perspective is often a matter of just looking at your life from a different angle. Here are five ideas how to do it:

    1. Go outside. There's a community garden a block away from my house. I'm usually rushing by it on my way hither and yon, but when I take even 10 minutes to step inside and sit in the shade of the gazebo, I can feel my lungs fill with green air and my shoulders unfurl. A hike in the woods is great, but for the everyday, how about

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