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  • 5 Secrets to Winter Health and Energy

    By Ellen G. Goldman, for SparkPeople

    My monthly weight loss support group sat around looking rather dismal at the first meeting following an unexpected autumn snowstorm. Winter was arriving sooner than anticipated, and my group voiced worrying thoughts about how they'd stay happy, healthy and energized-and continue losing weight-through the colder months.

    Unless you live in an area that has a warm climate all year long, there is a good chance that you also face some health concerns and challenges during the winter months. The abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables during the warmer months make eating healthy easy and delicious. In the heat of the summer, we just don't want to eat hot, heavy foods or turn on the oven to bake cookies or cakes. When winter rolls around, comfort foods, many of which are high in calories and fat, tend to come calling for us. Not to mention the myriad of food-centric holidays and festivities that take place from Halloween through Valentine's Day! Couple

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  • Is Weight Loss Stressing You Out?

    By Dean Anderson, for SparkPeople

    There's no doubt about it: trying to lose weight can be a stressful thing! There's nothing like trying to stick to a "simple" weight loss plan for bringing you face-to-face with the frustrating complexities of human nature and the limits of our rationality and will power. And even when we do manage to do what we know we should, often our bodies seem to operate according to a different kind of math-where a 3,500-calorie deficit doesn't always equal one pound of weight lost.

    The unfortunate part is that this constant stress can make losing weight more difficult than it needs to be. Research shows that chronic stress can affect your metabolism, promoting fat storage, and increasing cravings for sugary, high-fat "comfort foods.

    There are lots of things you can do to manage this stress, ranging from yoga and meditation to a hot bath or a pleasant walk in the park. In this article, however, we'll focus on how certain (very common) expectations about

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  • 11 Things Children Can Teach You About Weight Loss

    By Mike Kramer, for SparkPeople

    The answers to weight loss success aren't in the bookstore. You won't find them in the latest government research labs. Forget about talk radio, late night TV, or a magazine rack full of scantily clad, impossibly thin cover models.

    You'll uncover information and data there, for sure. You'll find plenty of opinions, ideas and "proven techniques" too. But the REAL answers - the stuff you can use every day - can be found anytime at your local playground.

    Everything you need to know about fitness and weight loss, you can learn from kids.

    Have you ever watched a child completely engrossed in a project? They have the magical ability to be serious about what they're doing without taking it too seriously. You can do the same with your weight loss. You can live every day with more focus, and every week with more motivation.

    Here's what every child knows that you may have forgotten. See if you can apply some of these lessons to your daily program:

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  • A Better Way to Get Vitamin C (Besides Orange Juice!)

    By Melinda Hershey, for SparkPeople

    With cold and flu season in full swing, most of us are trying to do all we can to avoid catching one of the nasty viruses floating around. Some swear by vitamin C-rich orange juice for warding off disease. Although the evidence about vitamin C's illness-fighting powers is conflicting, there's no doubt that it's still a good nutrient to consume. Since the body does not produce vitamin C, you must obtain it from outside sources to create and repair skin cells and fight off the effects of damaging free radicals. If you eat your veggies, though, it's not hard to reach your daily quota, since all fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C to some degree. That's right; orange juice isn't your only option for getting this important nutrient! Which type of produce will deliver the highest amount of vitamin C per serving: Red bell peppers, broccoli, kiwi, or oranges?

    The Winner: Red Bell Pepper!

    One serving of red bell pepper delivers a whopping 190 mg of

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  • Fun Family Fitness Ideas

    By Joe Downie, for SparkPeople

    Have you thought about how great it would be to include your family in your pursuit to exercise more regularly? Family exercise will improve the health of your loved ones, make exercise more fun, and at the same time develop stronger connections between all of you. With a little creativity, you can find a way to make it work for everyone.

    How to Start
    First, decide what level of participation your family is ready for. If your entire family is committed 100%, you could go as far as setting up a Family Olympics. If it's a struggle to get your family to do anything together, starting out small might be the better option.

    You may simply focus on educating each them about the benefits of exercise-in a smart way.

    Bombarding them with stats each morning as they come down to breakfast might not be the best option. Put up a healthy living bulletin board in your kitchen (or use the fridge door) with articles and other resources that will help get your point

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  • How to Be Your Own Cheerleader

    By Erin Whitehead, for SparkPeople

    It can be tough to stay motivated when it comes to weight-loss and fitness goals. Why else do so many people make the same New Year's resolutions year after year? If motivation flits in and out of your life, don't worry-there are ways to make it a constant companion rather than a fickle friend.

    One of those ways is to have a solid network of friends and family that knows about your goals and supports you in all that you want to accomplish. But what if your network is in another state, on another coast, or even in another country? Or what if your loved ones just aren't supportive as you'd like them to be? The good news is that with a little know-how, you can put together a support system that will work for you-or become your own cheerleader!

    12 Ways to Stay Motivated On Your Own

    1. Give yourself a pep talk. Remember Jessica, the self-affirming Internet sensation ? Sure, her self-pep talk is silly and cute, but she's wise beyond her years and that
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  • Smarter Ways to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

    By Bryn Mooth, for SparkPeople

    If you're watching your calorie intake, the most problematic part of your anatomy may be your sweet tooth. Our bodies are hard-wired for an attraction to sweet foods since sweetness signals that we're taking in the calories (energy) needed for survival. The problem arises, of course, when we're not burning those calories. But we can take steps to moderate those sweet cravings and choose the right foods to satisfy them. Here are some tips to show your sweet tooth who's boss:

    Don't deprive yourself. Allowing yourself a small serving of dessert or an afternoon snack can help you stay on track and prevent full-blown sugar binges. Savor your treat, and then even it out with a little extra exercise. Moderation and balance are the keys here!

    Eat whole foods. If you're hankering for a cookie, then eat a cookie-but make it a good one. Don't reach for sweets that are artificially low in calories, sugar or fat like diet cola or ''lite'' yogurt. It's better to have

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  • The No-Excuses Appeal of Fruits and Veggies

    By Laura Bofinger, for SparkPeople

    By now you know the importance of getting at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Perhaps you are still not convinced? Use the excuse-buster list below when you find yourself reasoning your way out of reaching for the good stuff. Excuses are easy to make, but with a little exploration, you'll find that you can reach your healthy-habit goals quicker.

    Excuse 1: Buying fruits and vegetables can be costly and they spoil too quickly.


    • Buy them in-season and fresh. The y will be cheaper AND at their peak of flavor. Consider that you are getting nutrient-dense foods that your body craves, full of vitamins and minerals. They are certainly better buys than chips, cookies, and soda, which we normally buy regardless of cost.
    • Buy both ripe and unripe items (for example, yellow and green bananas). That way you have some for immediate eating the first few days while the others are ripening.
    • Keep fruits and vegetables on the top
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  • Top 10 Strategies for Goal-Setting Success

    By Mike Kramer, for SparkPeople

    Do you have a lot of goals, but are unsure of how to start reaching them? Get on the right track with these 10 tips!

    1. Start Small
    Quite possibly the biggest mistake people make is pushing the accelerator too soon. You can't lose 20 pounds in a week. But you can lose one. Taking small bites and chewing slowly have as much to do with goal achievement as they do with your mom's dinner table scolding.

    2. Get It On Paper
    Whether setting your first goals, tracking daily progress, or sharing your deepest thoughts with a journal, writing things down crystallizes your ideas, exposes underlying fears, and paints an accurate picture of real life.

    3. Focus On Everyday Habits
    The building blocks of a healthy lifestyle are forged in the smallest of actions you take every day and every week. Healthy choices can become as natural as brushing your teeth or locking the front door. Build one habit, one action at a time.

    4. Always See Your Goal

    Goals need attention.

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  • 15 Natural Mood Lifters

    By Ellen G. Goldman, for SparkPeople

    According to common sense, feelings are what cause our behavior. When we are sad, we cry. When we are angry, we rant and rave. However, a large and growing body of research shows that feelings often follow our behavioral choices. In other words, if we force ourselves to smile, we feel happier. And if we pretend to be excited, upbeat and energized, we begin to actually feel that way. This again proves that we are more in control of our moods than just the circumstances around us.

    Here are a few more natural mood lifters you can try.

    1. Eat often and eat light. When you eat at regular intervals throughout the day you will prevent dips in your blood sugar that can negatively affect your mood. Plan your meals and snacks to prevent yourself from getting overly hungry, aiming for three to six eating episodes (total meals plus snacks) each day.

    2. Limit refined carbohydrates such as soda, candy, cookies, and white flour, which are concentrated
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