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  • 5 Things No One Ever Tells You About Working Out

    By Jessica Smith, for SparkPeople

    Exercising isn't always pretty-the sweat, the matted down hair, the locker rooms-but it's definitely worthwhile! Whether you are just starting out or returning after a long break, there are a few things no one ever really tells you about exercise. Even you regular gym bunnies might learn a thing or two from this list-oh how I wish someone had told me these when I started working out!

    When you can expect them, and know what to do about them, you'll have fewer barriers and hiccups along your exercise journey.

    You are going to need a good laundry strategy.
    Exercise means working up a good sweat, which is great for your body and mind (and according to some, your skin). This means you'll end up with some pretty dirty laundry, too. You may find that the laundry routine you are accustomed to just doesn't cut it for your sweaty duds. Here are a couple of laundry tips that have saved me-and my often expensive technical workout duds-over the years:

    • Don't
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  • 7 Reasons You Can Feel Good About Eating Chocolate

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

    Chances are good that you'll encounter chocolate at some point today. Chocolate has earned a bad rap as a guilty pleasure, but this superfood has some pretty amazing health benefits. We think you should feel good about eating chocolate--the dark variety, in moderate portions. Here's why:

    1. Chocolate contains more than 300 chemicals, including phenyethylamine, an amphetamine-like substance that simulates the feeling of falling in love. Is there any more appropriate day than today to eat a treat that makes you feel like you're in love?

    2. If you're feeling a bit glum, chocolate can boost your spirits and dull your pain, thanks to b-endorphin, a naturally occurring chemical similar to opium.

    3. That dark chocolate morsel is protecting your heart, too. Polyphenols, which are among the antioxidants found in chocolate, have been linked to a decreased risk of coronary heart disease--the #1 Read More »from 7 Reasons You Can Feel Good About Eating Chocolate
  • Improve Your Mood Without Food

    By Leanne Beattie, for SparkPeople

    It's another crazy day at work. The phone is ringing off the hook, yet another co-worker needs your attention, and your boss is anxious for the report that was due yesterday. So you do what anyone would do in this situation-you grab some chocolate or a bag of chips to help you deal with the stress. But then, instead of feeling better, you just feel guilty on top of it all.

    If people only ate when they were genuinely hungry, most of us would never have weight problems. Unfortunately, emotions drive us to eat more often than actual hunger pangs. Whether we feel stress, boredom, loneliness, anger or sadness, we often turn to food to feel better. And while that may work in the short term, soothing yourself with high-calorie, high-fat goodies usually makes you feel worse in the long run-the emotions will still be there, along with ten or twenty extra pounds.

    Instead of reaching for food the next time high emotions hit, try these coping ideas. In the

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  • 5 Ways to Love Your Body

    By Carrie Myers Smith, for SparkPeople

    While many of us have an easy time showering other people with love, we find that Cupid has yet to hit us with the "body love" arrow. Don't wait for Cupid! Begin today to start appreciating, accepting and yes, even loving your body.

    Stop picking yourself apart
    Let's face it: No matter how close-to-perfection body you have (and just what is the perfect body anyway?), chances are, there is something you would change about it if you could. Even celebrities and models who have been stamped with the media's "perfect body" rating have parts they dislike - their feet, their hands, their ears - and they don't necessarily have high self-esteem either! Rather than pick your body apart, look at your body as a whole (and read the next point…)

    Consider the marvelous functions of your body
    There are millions of microscopic functions that go on in our bodies every day, and you don't even have to think about them. They just happen! Unfortunately, it often

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  • Why Strength Training is a Must for Everyone

    By Jen Mueller, for SparkPeople

    Think you're too old to start a strength training program? Well think again! Strength training is just what your body needs to fight the loss of muscle, bone mass and strength that comes with age.

    Everyone, no matter how young or old, should be doing some kind of regular strength training. This could be at the gym, or at home using very little equipment. Resistance bands and balls, small hand weights, water and even your own body weight can be used as resistance when designing a strength training program.

    So what's the point? If you've never participated in a strength training program, why start now? Here are some very important reasons strength training makes a difference in your quality of life:

    • Improves your ability to do everyday activities: The stronger your muscles, the easier it is to get groceries out of the car, get a package off of the top cabinet shelf, push the lawnmower…..the list goes on and on!
    • Improves your balance and
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  • Stop and Chew Your Dinner

    By Liza Barnes, for SparkPeople

    In this era of fast-paced everything, even the act of eating a meal has become something we can do on the run. Breakfast comes in bars, lunch can be eaten while speeding down the highway, and dinner is merely an accompaniment to the evening news, squeezed in between other pressing activities. Invariably, when eating plays second string to everything else, every meal becomes "fast food," as in eaten-very-fast food. If you find yourself wolfing down your meals in a hurry, you're actually shortchanging yourself in more ways than you might think.

    It turns out there's a reason food tastes so good. You're supposed to enjoy it-slow down and savor it, not just get it to your stomach as quickly as possible. Chewing your food thoroughly is actually the first step in the complex process of digestion, and if you glaze over it, just chewing the minimum amount of times necessary to get the food down your esophagus, you're actually compromising this process. And it's

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  • Are You a Workaholic?

    By Jennipher Walters, for SparkPeople

    We live in a culture that's always on the go. We are constantly plugged in to the Internet and are accessible to everyone all the time. We eat in our cars, rushing from must-dos to have-tos. We get in to the office early. We stay late. We take care of our families. We do our chores. We check our email from home and while we're on vacation. We wish that there were more hours in a day, and we cut back on sleep to make the most of the hours we do have.

    Sound familiar? For many of us, multitasking is a way of life. But there's a fine line between being busy and being overworked. Or worse yet, being a workaholic. Working too much can have negative effects on your physical and mental health, including slowing your weight-loss efforts or even causing you to gain weight. But it's a problem that the entire nation is being faced with. According to WebMD, 44% of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress, and an estimated 75% to 90% of all

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  • 7 Simple Stress-Busters

    By Zach Van Hart, for SparkPeople

    Stress happens. No matter how organized you are, how good your systems are, or how friendly your work and living environments are, stress can find a way to poke its ugly head in from time to time. What can you do? Turn to a convenient Stress Buster - a small, simple activity that clears your head and calms you down. When you feel a stress attack coming on, it's the perfect time to turn to one of these busters and kick that stress out the door.

    Here are 7 of our favorite Stress Busters, but feel free to develop your own:

    1. Take a walk
    Want a break from the office? Does your house feel like an insane asylum? Slip out the door and let your feet take you somewhere. Not only will walking give you the opportunity to clear your head and take a break from that hectic situation, but it's great aerobic exercise, too.

    2. Call a friend
    We all have someone whose voice alone perks us up. Give them a buzz, even for a few minutes. Whether with a joke or a funny

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  • 7 Things that Separate Weight-Loss Winners and Losers

    By Megan Coatley, for SparkPeople

    As you've probably figured out, winning at weight loss is about making long-lasting, life-altering change. Just like any sport or skill, you might start out a little rocky. Choosing healthy foods, trying different workouts, and finding the strategies that work for you will take a little practice. As you find your stride, those habits will get easier and you'll start knocking down more barriers that try to get in your way. Your momentum will start to build and you'll be ticking away at your weight loss goals one by one. Soon enough, you'll reach a fantastic tipping point when you feel a shift in the energy and really enter "the zone"-the stadium starts to flutter, the crowd starts to cheer! And you are winning at weight loss!

    Whether you're focusing on your diet or hitting the gym, the commitment to long-term weight loss takes the mindset and mental stamina of a champion. You've got to have a supportive team and a great playbook to get on a winning

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  • 6 Ways to Make Your Resolutions Last Past January

    By Jen Mueller, for SparkPeople

    You started the New Year full of motivation and enthusiasm. You decided that this is going to be your year to make lasting changes and improve the quality of your life. Now that we're almost a month in, perhaps your motivation has started to wane and a little doubt has crept in. Does this mean that you're doomed to repeat the failed resolutions of the past? Definitely not! Take a few simple steps to ensure that your resolutions last from January to June to December-and for the rest of your life. Here's how.

    Make your goals SMART: specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and timely. If you're goals are vague (instead of specific) or don't have a deadline (timely), then failing to reach them might not be your fault-it's the fault of your goals. Revisit and revise to make your goals SMART. For example, a goal to "Walk a 5K this year" is a good idea, but isn't very specific. When do you want to walk the 5K? How are you going to progress up to this

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