Jen Mueller (SPARK_COACH_JEN)

SparkPeople Community Director and Fitness Coach

Jen Mueller left her first career in corporate finance to earn a master's degree in health education. She is a busy mom of three and holds a number of fitness certifications (including ACE's Health Coach and Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist). She is passionate about helping people reach their health and fitness goals. In her spare time, Jen loves training for marathons (crazy, huh?) and spending time with her family. Jen enjoys blogging about raising healthy children and how small behavior changes can impact health and quality of life.


Read More of Jen's Blogs:

Most Americans Think Their Diets are Healthy

If you've recently started tracking calories and watching portion sizes, chances are you've been surprised that your morning cereal is really three servings instead of just one. Or that the salad from your favorite restaurant you thought was a healthy option really isn't. It's easy to convince yourself that your diet is fairly healthy until you really start measuring and tracking your food throughout the day. That's why I'm not totally surprised by a new survey that says most Americans consider their diets to be at least "somewhat" healthy.

Posted 5/23/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 174 comments   40,858 views

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Do You Have 'Quick Fix' Dieters In Your Life?

When it comes to losing weight and living a healthy lifestyle, everyone has to do what works best for them.  I can give all kinds of reasons why a balanced diet and regular exercise is the way to go.  But in the end, everyone has to find a style of eating and activity that they can live with for the rest of their lives.  It’s not my place to judge whether or not someone is right or wrong if they choose to go about weight loss in a different way.

Posted 5/16/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 81 comments   13,822 views

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How Full is Your Glass?

Most of the time, I’m running around like a crazy lady all day long.  I’ve got work to do, errands to run, kids to take care of, chores at home, etc.  I’m sure a lot (if not most) of you can relate.  I bring a lot of it on myself because I’m the type of person who likes to get everything done -- right now.  For a long time, I considered my busy routine to be a drag.  I was easily overwhelmed, stressed out, and felt like I never had time for me.  And to be quite honest, those feelings made me sad. 
 
More recently, I’ve taken a step back to look at my life from a different perspective.  Instead of getting so bogged down in all of the day-to-day details, I’m trying to adapt to the chaos and appreciate all of the good things in my life.  I’m trying to see my life for what it is so that I can start taking small steps to make it better.  Instead of wishing things were different, I’m putting together a plan for change. 

Posted 5/15/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 88 comments   34,367 views

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Should You Keep your Weight Loss Plan a Secret?

Most people who decide to make a lifestyle change will tell at least a few others about their intentions.  All of a sudden you’re buying more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and you’ve dusted off those gym shoes to go for a walk a few times a week.  Something is up, but how many people do you tell?  Do you tell anyone at all, or just let them figure it out for themselves?  New research shows that sharing your goals could negatively affect your behavior and success. 

Posted 5/9/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 194 comments   33,748 views

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Poll: Would You Trade One Year for the Perfect Body?

Let's face it: Losing weight can be hard work. It requires patience, dedication, and the drive to make permanent healthy changes in your life. It's not always fun to head to the gym instead of watching your favorite show on T.V., or turning down the French fries at dinner and opting for a side of veggies instead. Those who make healthy choices are able to look at the bigger picture and know that these choices aren't always easy, but will leave them better off in the long run. Knowing that it is hard work, would you be willing to trade time to get the body you've always wanted? A new survey says some women are willing to make that trade.

Posted 4/24/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 271 comments   41,838 views

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Poll: Are Negative Usernames Helpful or Self-Defeating?

The idea for this blog came from a member, and when I saw it I knew it was something I wanted to talk about. It's something I wonder about all the time as I read blog comments on The SparkPeople Blog, answer questions on SparkPeople and interact with the Community. Here was her suggestion:

Posted 4/17/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 869 comments   29,420 views

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How Much Exercise Do You REALLY Need to Lose Weight?

New guidelines issued from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) state that 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week might not be enough. In 2001, ACSM recommended that overweight and obese adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week to improve their health. 200 to 300 minutes per week was recommended for long-term weight loss. But will this amount of exercise really help you lose weight and keep it off?

Posted 4/10/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 1195 comments   957,839 views

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The Single Best Exercise for Weight Loss

Often people will ask me to share the best exercises for weight loss. They want to know what kind of cardio activity is going to help them lose weight faster than anything else. Even if they don't enjoy it, they are willing to try whatever is going to help them reach their goals more quickly. My response is always the same. So are you ready to hear what the magic exercise is? What's going to help you lose weight keep it off long-term, and get fit?

Posted 4/5/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 307 comments   642,039 views

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Find Out How Many Calories You Burn After Exercise

We’ve always heard that the positive benefits of physical activity continue long after your workout session is over.  More energy, less stress and those “feel good” endorphins are some of the immediate effects.  But what about the mysterious “afterburn” that a lot of people talk about?  Do you really continue burning more calories after the workout, or is it really just during the workout that matters?  A new study finds that it’s possible to burn more calories throughout the day--in fact, up to 14 hours later.
 
The study, published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, took 10 healthy males and examined their energy expenditure under two different sets of conditions.  “During the first session, participants were mostly inactive, but they stood and stretched for two minutes every hour. They could also perform everyday tasks, such as washing their hands and brushing their teeth, as needed. During the second session, participants followed the same routine, but then cycled vigorously for 45 minutes.”
 
Researchers found that participants burned 190 additional calories while at rest throughout the day after vigorous exercise (defined in the study as a 73% max heart rate), compared to when they did no activity.  The increased calorie burn lasted for over 14 hours--and continued even into the first few hours of sleeping.  This is the first study to use a metabolic chamber (a highly controlled environment) to estimate calorie burned after vigorous physical activity.  
 
The number of calories each person burns during--and after--a workout will vary.  It depends on many factors:  gender, age, genetics, type of workout, etc.  But it’s something to keep in mind as you weigh the benefits of exercise, and whether or not the time and effort is worthwhile.  I think exercise is a key component of any healthy lifestyle, regardless of how much exercise you can do or how intense it is.  Previous studies have also shown that your body's metabolism stays revved after a workout and that generally, the more intense the workout is, the greater the post-workout "afterburn" will be. This study just gives one more reason to get off of the couch and get moving--no matter how much or how little time you have!
 
What do you think?

Posted 3/29/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 80 comments   192,116 views

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Poll: Whom Do You Trust for Nutrition Information?

I've noticed a popular trend this year among friends who have children.  A common New Year's Resolution I heard other moms talking about was to feeding their families fewer processed foods.  This has been one of my goals for quite some time, but I know from experience that it's not very easy.  One reason it can be difficult to feed your kids healthier foods is that you get different recommendations about the "right" and "wrong" things to eat depending on where you look.  Your doctor says one thing. The doctor on TV says another. SparkPeople's dietitians recommend certain strategies. And those tips might conflict with what your best friend has tried successfully.
 
According to a new national survey, moms will be making changes to their food-buying decisions over the next year, and looking to more non-traditional sources for advice.  When it comes to food and nutrition, "Moms place higher priority on the opinions of bloggers and peers than that of experts like doctors and dietitians," according to the survey results. This stood out to me; it seems we trust one another more than the people we've been told to trust as "experts" all these years. So who do you trust more?

Posted 3/25/2013  4:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 24 comments   10,333 views

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You Asked: How Should I Train for a Mud Run?

Last summer, I surprised a few family members by asking if they wanted to form a team to do a mud run.  I’m not known as adventurous—or as someone who likes to get dirty—but mud races were becoming so popular among runners (and non-runners alike) that I was ready to step out of my comfort zone and try something new.  To my delight, the race was lots of fun and definitely something I’d do again in the future. 
  
Mud runs have exploded in popularity over the past few years.  One example is the Warrior Dash, which started as one run in 2009 with 2,000 participants.  In 2012, 65 Warrior Dash events were held across the world, involving more than 1 million participants.  Today, you have no shortage of mud-related "obstacle" races from which to choose. Each race is different, so it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting into before you sign up. 

Posted 3/11/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 58 comments   60,453 views

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5 Foods I Never Feed My Children

One of my biggest priorities as a mom is providing my kids with a healthy diet.  Sometimes I'm met with success (they love vegetables), but other times it's a little more difficult ("Eww!  What is this?!?"). I try to expose them to a wide variety of healthy foods, so that eating this way becomes a normal part of the rest of their lives.  My kids are 6, 4 and 1, and even though I control most of what they eat at this age, I still shake my head at some of the food that's served when I'm not around.  My kindergartner can't go to a Girl Scout meeting, sporting event or even morning snack at school without adults serving her junk food.  So when I'm given the opportunity to bring something, I see it as a chance to show kids that healthy food can taste good.
 
Sometimes I get flak from other parents (including my own) because I don't let my kids order whatever they want at a restaurant or limit the foods I bring into our home.  I don't think I'm denying my children the joys of childhood by not serving them many common "kid foods."  If substituting vegetables for French fries or telling them they can't have the corndog on the menu is the worst thing I do as a mom, I think I'm on the right track.   
 
At the same time, I realize that putting some foods off-limits often makes them the "forbidden fruit," and they can become the food my kids want most.  Just like adults, completely denying yourself the foods you enjoy makes you more likely to binge on them later.  I don't want my child to go crazy at a friend's house because their mom serves chocolate milk and I only serve plain.  My kids get treats and snacks they like, but there are certain foods they will just never get from me.  Recently, I read an article about the top foods nutrition experts won't feed their kids, which inspired me to write this blog.  Wondering what foods are on the "off limits" list for this personal trainer's kids?

Posted 2/25/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 126 comments   44,428 views

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Eating Habits of ''The Biggest Loser'': Inspirational or Bad Example?

"The Biggest Loser" is a television show that's gained increasing popularity over the last few years. Contestants lose astounding amounts of weight in a relatively short period of time, inspiring others who watch the show to try and follow in their footsteps. The contestants are forced to dramatically overhaul their eating habits. But are the methods they use healthy? Do they help them establish habits they can maintain long term?

Posted 2/13/2013  7:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 1011 comments   41,162 views

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7 Fitness Accessories for Safety and Visibility

One of my favorite times of day to run is in the early morning before the rest of the world wakes up.  It’s quiet and gives me time to think before the craziness of my day begins.  I prefer to run when the sun is already up, but at certain times of the year, that becomes more difficult.  When I do head out in the dark, my first priority is safety.  Although I never assume that cars can see me, I try to make myself as visible as possible.
 
I hear of too many runners, walkers and bikers out with no lights, no identification, wearing dark colors and expecting that everything will be fine and that cars will gladly move out of their way.  Accidents happen all the time, but you can reduce the chances they will happen to you.  Here are some of the products I recommend to help you stay safe and visible when exercising in the dark.

Posted 2/11/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 15 comments   12,949 views

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6 Ways to Make Your Resolutions Last Past January

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.

Posted 1/28/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 14 comments   9,145 views

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