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Clean Eating 101: Healthier Eating Made Easy


Are you curious about the term clean eating? Have you ever wondered what it is exactly or whether it might benefit you?
 
In my experience as a "clean eater," this way of eating can be a fabulous way to improve your health.
 
Clean eating in the most simple terms means eating real food—foods that are whole (unprocessed) and in their most natural state. In other words, people who subscribe to clean eating try to avoid foods altered or processed by humans or manufacturers.
 
That being said, there are many different approaches to eating clean, and none of them are wrong. Everyone from carnivores to vegans can eat clean and it doesn’t have to be complicated. While some people put lots of strict dieting rules around their "clean" diets, that's not the case for everyone. Eating clean really can be delicious, fulfilling, filling and simple! Here's how.
Posted 5/22/2014  5:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 19 comments   131,386 views
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The Top 5 Myths about Women and Strength Training


Have you ever heard a woman say, "I can't lift weights. I don't want to get bulky." Or how about, "I don't want to gain muscle. I just want to tone the muscle I already have."

These are just a couple of the common responses I hear when I suggest strength training to women who are interested in getting in better shape.  Sadly, there are many myths that women believe about muscles and strength training.
Although we've seen a bit of a paradigm shift happening the past few years in which more women are making their way into the weight room, there are still just a few myths that won't die, and I'm going to bust them now.
Posted 4/29/2014  5:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 10 comments   32,213 views
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Getting Started with Strength Training in 5 Easy Steps


You know that strength training (also called resistance training) is good for your body. It can help you maintain and build muscle mass, rev your metabolism, make you a better recreational athlete, strengthen your bones and reshape your body. But unlike cardio, where you usually just pick an activity you enjoy and get out there and do it, strength training can be a lot more complicated to a novice. Most people don't just walk into a weight room, stare at the sea of weights, and know how to begin.

If you've never lifted weights before (or it's been a long time since you have), it can be intimidating to know how to start. There are so many weights, machines, classes and options. Which ones are right for you and your goals?
 
While the idea of strength training can be complex, hopefully these basics will point you in the right direction so you feel comfortable starting a training program.
Posted 4/8/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 3 comments   33,357 views
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Which Is More Important: Cardio or Strength Training?


This is a loaded question! If you ask 10 different trainers, you'd get 10 different answers. One trainer's answer is likely to be based on what they've seen help clients get the best results or their own personal preference for one type of exercise over the other.
 
There isn't a ton of research on this topic, but we know that people who do both cardio and strength training tend to have better outcomes in terms of weight loss, fitness and even improved blood sugar levels. These two modes of exercise each do very different things. If the issue is time, my answer would be to find a way to fit in both, whether each workout is a little shorter (and maybe more intense) to maximize your time, or you are doing both but doing each thing occasionally (such as just once a week each). Anything you can do will help. Another solution to fitting in both cardio and strength training is to seek out workouts that combine both efficiently. There are many workout DVDs (including SparkPeople's best-selling titles), fitness classes (including CrossFit) and workout options (including kettlebell training) that give you the best of both worlds. Circuit training, which involves lifting weights in a circuit of exercises without resting in between, is another good way to add an aerobic component to your strength-training workouts
 
Now let's look a little deeper at each exercise component and the role they might individually play in your fitness and weight-loss plan.
Posted 4/2/2014  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 6 comments   32,042 views
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Why Fruits & Vegetables Are So Good for You


The 2010 U.S. dietary guidelines recommend that all Americans eat more fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet. Government guidelines aside, you surely grew up with your mom telling you to eat your vegetables. Or maybe you even hear it now from your doctor.  
 
When you're new to adopting a healthy diet, you may wonder: What's so good about fruits and vegetables anyway? What kind of benefits will I see if I eat more?  Here are four good reasons to be like Bugs Bunny and chomp away on more fresh produce.
Posted 3/9/2014  12:00:00 PM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 2 comments   9,555 views
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13+ Budget-Friendly Ways to Work Out at Home


I remember the days when I had time to drive to the gym for a workout multiple times a week.  Now as a busy mother of four, those days long gone! However, that doesn't mean my fitness level has to suffer.  I'm still able to squeeze in a good workout in the morning before the rest of my family wakes up.  By investing in a few key pieces of equipment, I've been able to create quality, low-cost workouts without ever leaving the house—and you can, too! 
Posted 3/7/2014  12:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 2 comments   30,143 views
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Essential Weight-Loss Tools


While it's true that all you really need to lose weight are good information and determination, there are plenty of helpful tools that will make the path to health and fitness a little easier and a lot more fun. I've gathered a list of the kinds of things that have helped me in my own weight-loss journey. You'll need different tools at different stages, but these are great when you're just getting started.
Posted 1/9/2014  6:00:00 AM By: Megan Patrick : 17 comments   21,282 views
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6 Surefire Ways to Make Your Resolution a Reality


There's no time like January to start fresh! It may be the dead of winter, but everyone's spirits are up and our willpower is in full force. We are ready and committed to make a change.
 
As a fitness instructor, I love this time of year. The energy in the gym is contagious and the classes are packed! And as a SparkPeople employee, it's a great time, too. So many new people find us and join our site to reach their goals!
 
But as you probably know, this New Year motivation fades quickly. It's easy to give up on your goals when you don't have a plan, don't have support, or don't have a realistic way to keep yourself motivated. Let's vow to make this year different. Let's commit ourselves to just one simple goal to keep our focus. You might not be able to do everything on your giant list of goals, but you can be successful with one or two things when you have a good plan in place.

SparkPeople has a lot of fun, simple and effective challenges that are the perfect way to get started and stay motivated. I would recommend choosing ONE program listed below to focus your efforts, but if you're feeling extra motivated, try a couple! Don't worry: You can join in the fun any time, even if you can't commit to everything you'd like to do at once. These are all great ways to hit the ground running in January!  
Posted 1/7/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 4 comments   37,537 views
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Your Fittest Year Starts Right Here!


If you're resolving to lose weight, get fit or tone up in 2014, then I have some news for you. It's going to take hard work, willpower, dedication, and some sweat (but not necessarily blood or tears). But you can make it easier—even fun—by joining SparkPeople's 4-week January Jumpstart Challenge, which includes an easy-to-follow workout plan, built-in support, and motivational prizes!

I created the January Jumpstart Challenge to motivate and inspire you to get off to a strong start in the new year. This "bootcamp" style plan isn't highly intense, but it does involve a commitment to daily exercise so you can get real results in just four weeks—talk about a great way to start the year!
Posted 1/2/2014  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 63 comments   65,761 views
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5 Things No One Ever Tells You about Working Out


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.
Posted 1/7/2013  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 84 comments   133,514 views
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4 Signs You Won't Reach Your Fitness Goals


With the New Year just around the corner, exercise is on a lot of people's minds. So many of us are bound and determined to reach new fitness goals, hit the gym with vigor, and change our bodies once and for all.
 
Does this sound a lot like last year? What happens between January and December that causes so many people to fail, only to set the same fitness resolutions year after year?
 
No one wants to fail.  When you start a fitness program, the hope is that all of your hard work (and sweat) will carry you to the finish line.  A lot of people can start a fitness program, but very few can stick with it for the long-term. Why?
 
In my experience as a trainer and health coach, the excuses we use to miss a workout aren't the real reasons people fail. You don't have to be a fortune teller to predict who will be going strong next December and who will be starting over again. Most often, I can tell whether someone will succeed or fail based on four simple signs.
Posted 12/31/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 21 comments   22,931 views
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6 Essentials for Your Home Workouts


If you’ve seen enough infomercials in your time, it’s easy to get convinced that you need to buy the latest and greatest in exercise gadgets or gizmos in order to reach your fitness goals.
 
The truth is, there’s no need to spend a ton of money on fancy equipment or even a gym membership to get in a good workout. In fact, many great workout routines don’t need any equipment at all. But if you are looking to invest in a few pieces to help you get fit in 2013, there are a few, inexpensive items I’d recommend.
 
As a personal trainer, I actually train all of my clients at home using these six essential items (and they’re each cost less than $20).
Posted 12/24/2012  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 15 comments   26,174 views
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How to Injure Yourself at the Gym


Although I’ve been a fitness coach for years, I will admit that I don’t always practice what I preach.  I don’t stretch quite as much as I should, and as a result, I’ve sustained frustrating injuries that could easily have been avoided. 
 
Whether you’re new to exercise or a workout veteran, we all make workout mistakes from time to time.  While some can be harmless—where the only consequence is burning fewer calories—others can lead to serious problems. Here are four common fitness mistakes that can lead to serious injury if you don't catch them early. 
Posted 11/5/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 13 comments   25,622 views
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You Asked: Are There Any Risks to Becoming a Vegetarian?


Great question. It's more often that we hear the possible health benefits of a vegetarian diet touted than we ever hear people talking about it possibly being unhealthy. But generally speaking, research shows that a well-planned vegetarian diet can be extremely healthy. Plant-based foods are naturally low in fat (and most often feature heart-healthy fats), are free of cholesterol, and are high in fiber, phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. In fact, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has reported that vegan and vegetarian diets can significantly reduce one's risk of contracting heart disease, colon and lung cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, obesity, and a number of other debilitating conditions.
Posted 6/3/2012  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 6 comments   3,630 views
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One Healthy Change Leads to Another


Whether you hope to lose weight, improve your diet, get active—or a combination of all three—sometimes it's just getting started that is the hardest part. Giving up bad habits and implementing new ones can be overwhelming. It's a big reason why so many people just keep doing the same things instead of changing their lifestyles.  They think they have to change everything overnight to be successful. And since changing everything is going to be so difficult, they might as well not even try.
 
Well what if I told you that you could do just one thing and see noticeable improvements? That taking one step—making ONE healthy change—could change your outlook and set you on the path to better health? I doubt you'd say "that's too hard." More likely, you'd say, "Let's do this!"
Posted 6/1/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 31 comments   15,800 views
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