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  • 8 Ways to Become a Morning Person

    By Stepfanie Romine, co-author of "The SparkPeopleCookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight"

    I spent most of my early and mid 20s working the second shift at newspapers. I loved working as a copy editor, and I loved the hours, too. My shifts began at 4 p.m. and ended at midnight, which meant I could stay up late, sleep until noon, and still have time to run errands and go to the gym (a rare occurrence then) before work.

    Eventually I joined the 9-to-6 crowd, and it was tough. I did not like mornings.

    Fast-forward to last fall, when my yoga studio announced it was adding traditional sunrise morning practice to the schedule during the week. Though I now love my morning practice and wouldn't return to evening sessions, it was not an easy transition. I am not a morning person by nature, but I have become one by necessity.

    Life is more likely to interfere when I schedule yoga practices at night. I'm too tired, too stressed, too busy. I have time to formulate all kinds of excuses. But when

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  • How Committed Are You to Weight Loss?

    By Tanya Jolliffe, for SparkPeople

    For some of us, visualizing
    a goal is easy. For others, goal setting comes more naturally. Thomas Edison visualized the light bulb long before he succeeded in its invention.

    Visualizing and goal setting are important steps to success, especially when it comes to weight loss. Preparing for a journey that lasts a lifetime also helps keep everything in perspective. Using available tools, reading articles and connecting with others for support, keeps us going when we want to give up. Even with all this, the journey is still long, hard, and frustrating.

    Sometimes all the resources and accountability in the world can't make up for one of the most important keys to success - commitment to your weight loss and health goals. You can have the vision, a plan, resource tools, and support but without heart-felt commitment to ignite the passion to go the distance, success may be fleeting.

    Here is a scale to help you rate your commitment to reaching your weight loss

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  • 5 Minutes to Less Stress

    By Stepfanie Romine, for SparkPeople

    Are you feeling tense? Do you suffer from back pain or stiffness? Whether you're an experienced yogi or a fitness newbie, whether you can touch your toes or are very inflexible, this 5-minute yoga-inspired stretching routine can help you unwind anytime of day or night.

    You don't need any equipment, and, as long as you have a floor you can kneel on, you don't even need a yoga mat. Since it's just five minutes, you can even do this in your regular clothes.

    Child's pose: Starting in a kneeling position.

    Keep your knees together but separate the feet and allow your bottom to rest on the floor. Roll your calves away from your thighs (use your hands) to help you get comfortable.

    For a deeper stretch:
    Sit back on your heels, shins together, tops of the feet pressing onto the mat. (Place a rolled-up towel between your heels and hips to ease this stretch.)

    From here, start to lower to the floor. Your belly will rest on or between your thighs, and your Read More »from 5 Minutes to Less Stress
  • Are Detox Diets Safe?

    By Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian for SparkPeople

    Spring is right around the corner, and as I glance around my home, I see that a thorough cleaning is in order. Dust bunnies are multiplying under my bed, spider webs are glistening on my chandelier, and a layer of dust has settled on all places too difficult to comfortably reach.

    As I strategically plan my upcoming cleaning project, I start to wonder if my body is also in need of a cleaning, so to speak.

    Like many of you, I tend to go into hibernation mode during the winter months. With less daylight hours and physical work to do outside, along with an influx of sugary treats and comfort foods, my body has been insulated by an added layer of fat. I'm surely not alone in feeling this way, judging from the number of questions we field on the site about detox diets this time of year.

    While the idea of cleaning out harmful toxins in your body or removing body fat quickly may sound tempting and even beneficial, is a detox

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  • When Your Sweet Tooth Strikes, What Do You Reach For?

    By Nicole Nichols, Managing Editor and Fitness Expert at SparkPeople

    Most days, right around 3 or 4 o'clock, they spring up out of nowhere. Others are surprised by them at night, usually in the few hours before bed. They come without warning and you can't really explain why they're there. Sugar cravings-they drive you nuts! Why must they appear, temping you at every turn, persuading you to give up on this whole "healthy lifestyle" thing?

    I definitely have a strong preference for sweet foods. When they were handing out that gene that makes people think some desserts are "too sweet" or "too rich," I must have been sleeping (or off somewhere eating dessert), because no food is ever too sweet for me! Sometimes I give in, but other times, I find ways to squelch it without turning to sugary junk foods.

    So what do I reach for when sugar cravings strike?

    When I crave sweets, I usually want:
    • Twizzlers (only strawberry, no exceptions)

    • Ice cream (premium, really high-calorie stuff)

    Read More »from When Your Sweet Tooth Strikes, What Do You Reach For?
  • How to Train for a Mud Run

    By Jen Mueller, for SparkPeople

    Mud runs are a fun way to challenge yourself and get a great workout at the same time. But how do you train for an event like this? Although events like Tough Mudder are strenuous and require much more advanced training due to their distance alone, the typical mud run of a few miles is something that the average person can complete, often with minimal preparation. (Of course completing a mud race is very different from competing in it. The more you train and the fitter you are, the faster your race time will be and the more comfortable and fun the experience will be overall.)

    • First and foremost, consider the distance. All obstacles aside, can you run and/or walk the distance of the race safely at your fitness level? Ensure that you train for the distance of the race. This should be your No. 1 priority. If it's a 5K distance, plan for at least 5-8 weeks of training. (SparkPeople's free 5K Your Way training plans can help.) But running aside, I can
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  • How Good Manners Can Help You Slim Down

    By Stepfanie Romine, for SparkPeople

    Mind your manners, your mother reminded you at the dinner table each night. She was concerned about etiquette, but her affinity for proper decorum also created healthy habits. Good manners can help you make a good impression if you're ever invited to a state dinner, but they'll also help you with your weight-loss efforts.

    Here's how:

    Eat at the table.
    Past generations ate dinner as a family at a table every night, and, it should be noted, they were also remarkably thinner and more active.

    Many of us use our dining room table as a dumping ground for keys, coats and clutter (mea culpa) or restrict it to special occasions. Clear the junk, pull out real plates, and have a seat with your family. With no outside distractions, you can focus on eating and spending time with loved ones.

    Eating in front of the TV has been linked to weight gain and mindless eating. Commit to eating at a proper table and you might find that you're more cognizant of what's Read More »from How Good Manners Can Help You Slim Down
  • The Surprising Benefits of Nut Butter

    By Melinda Hershey, for SparkPeople

    Nut butters have become popular in the health world in recent years-and for good reason! Nut butter is a great source of healthy fats, which are important for regulating your energy, mood, and even your weight. However, some nut butters also deliver a more unexpected benefit: They're great for your bones! Let's take a look at two of the most popular nut butters--almond butter and peanut butter. Between the two, which one should you choose for better bone health?

    The Winner: Almond Butter!

    Almond butter wins by a landslide in this one. Compared with peanut butter, it contains morecalcium, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus, which are all important minerals for building and maintaining strong bones. Check out the comparison below (per two tablespoons of both almond and peanut butter):

    Mineral Almond Butter Peanut Butter
    Calcium 86.4 mg (8% DV) 13.8 mg (1% DV)
    Magnesium 97 mg (24%
    Read More »from The Surprising Benefits of Nut Butter
  • 100 Reasons to Work Out Today

    By Nicole Nichols, Managing Editor and Fitness Expert at SparkPeople

    We all have those days that we don't want to work out even though we know we should.

    When you need a little motivation, look no further.

    Here are 100 reasons you shouldn't skip your workout today.

    Print or save this post so you'll have easy access to it on the days you need it most.

    100 Reasons to Exercise Now

    1. Because it makes you feel confident
    2. Because it helps you get stronger
    3. Because exercise helps combat depression
    4. Because you'll feel proud of yourself
    5. Because you have goals you want to reach
    6. Because you'll feel bad if you don't
    7. Because you want to move forward, not backward
    8. Because it burns more calories than not working out
    9. Because it improves your heart health
    10. Because you want a great butt
    11. Because it prevents diabetes
    12. Because you want to be a good example to your kids
    13. Because you want to feel good in your clothes
    14. Because it reduces your risk of cancer
    15. Because your body was
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  • 11 Hidden Signs You Might Have a Thyroid Problem

    By Tanya Jolliffe, for SparkPeople

    If you are a Dancing with the Stars fan, you are likely familiar with co-host Brooke Burke-Charvet's recent surgery to remove her thyroid cancer. Unfortunately, Brooke's history with thyroid issues is not unique; an estimated 27 million Americans (including myself) are living with a thyroid condition. Fortunately, thyroid conditions are treatable; however, they can be tricky to diagnose since the symptoms tend to be subtle and can easily be mistaken for symptoms of other health issues. Here are some of the most common red flags to watch out for.

    First things first: What is the thyroid?
    The thyroid gland is one of several endocrine glands in the body. This butterfly-shaped gland is in the neck just below the larynx (voice box). Your thyroid gland makes hormones that help control the function of many of your body's organs, including your heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin.

    What is thyroid disease?
    There are a variety of diseases and conditions that

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