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    y Megan Patrick, Staff Writer

    Losing weight and maintaining healthy habits are both challenging, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't also be rewarding. Besides the intrinsic benefits that come from feeling better and reaching new goals, rewarding yourself for your healthy efforts will reinforce your new habits and inspire you to continue your journey.

    There are lots of effective and motivating ways to reward yourself (both large and small), but first you need to come up with a system. One easy solution is to tie rewards to SparkPoints or fitness minutes rather than weight loss alone. Start by choosing a target that is challenging but not unreachable. For example, give yourself a reward if you reach 600 fitness minutes in a month or each time you earn 500 SparkPoints.

    Before I discovered SparkPeople, I created my own reward system that had two components: one to reward healthy behaviors, which are the only things you can truly control, and another to mark weight-loss progress. It's very similar to earning SparkPoints, which you can add up by doing healthy tasks such as tracking your food, exercising or utilizing the supportive Community. But if you have some specific behaviors that SparkPoints don't cover, you can use this list for ideas and customize it however you wish to fit your own goals.

    My Healthy Choices Reward System
    1 star for going to the gym
    1 star for going to the gym three times in one week
    1 star for walking at least 30 minutes
    1 star for walking outside in temperatures below 20 or above 80
    1 star for drinking at least six cups of water per day
    2 stars for drinking eight or more cups of water per day
    2 stars for staying below my daily carb range
    1 star for meeting my daily calorie goal
    2 stars for not weighing myself more than once a week
    100 stars = I got a reward from my list

    To mark my weight-loss progress, I bought an old-fashioned silver charm bracelet and added a new charm for every 10 pounds I lost. I chose charms with symbolic meaning to remind me of my journey and all my hard work. For example, because walking helped me drop the first 10 pounds, I chose a silver sneaker. When I got halfway to my goal weight, I chose a tiny pair of scissors.

    50 Non-Food Reward Ideas
    Almost anything can work as a reward as long as it fits into your budget and doesn't undermine your efforts. Food does undermine your efforts, so always choose ways to reward yourself that don't involve eating. What works as a reward should be inspiring to you; otherwise, it won't compel you to stick to your program. Here are 50 ideas to get you started (arranged from least expensive or time-consuming to most):

    Give yourself permission to take a nap.
    Visit the library or bookstore all by yourself.
    Have a guilt-free home spa afternoon.
    Sleep in!
    Take a selfie to celebrate your progress.
    Spend an hour away from your phone or computer.
    Eat lunch outside or at least away from your desk.
    Clean out your closet and donate all your too-big clothes to charity.
    Post your progress on social media (or SparkPeople) so your friends can celebrate with you.
    Take a bubble bath.
    Drive to a beautiful neighborhood or park to walk instead of taking your usual walking route.
    Use smiley face or star stickers to note milestones on a wall calendar hung in a prominent place.
    Make your own ribbon or trophy.
    Make or buy a refrigerator magnet with a motivational quote.
    Take a vacation day from work to do whatever you want!
    Unwind with a movie of your choice.
    Plan a night out with your friends.
    Buy a lottery ticket.
    Subscribe to a fitness or healthy cooking magazine.
    Get a new driver's license photo. (Don't lie about your weight.)
    Download a new fitness app for your phone.
    Buy a new workout song.
    Get yourself a bottle of fancy shower gel or lotion.
    Pick up a new plant for your garden.
    Invest in some moisture-wicking workout socks.
    Get fitted for a new sports bra.
    Try a new shade of nail polish.
    Get some new shades for outdoor exercise.
    Come home with a bouquet of flowers.
    Try a fresh hair color.
    Buy a small personal blender for smoothies and protein shakes.
    Order a pair of high-end wireless headphones.
    Invest is a fitness tracker to motivate you even more.
    Sign up for a charity walk or running event.
    Splurge on some nice yoga pants.
    Go for a mani/pedi.
    Treat yourself to a massage!
    Take a cooking class to up your game.
    Get a new hairstyle.
    Get fitted for workout shoes at a running store.
    Go for a flashy piercing or tattoo!
    Start a charm bracelet.
    Get your rings resized to fit your smaller fingers.
    Plan a weekend getaway with your significant other.
    Adopt a dog so you'll always have a walking buddy.
    Hire someone to clean your house so you have more time to hit the gym.
    Try a fun exercise class like Zumba or pole fitness.
    Book a session with a personal trainer.
    Schedule a professional portrait shoot.
    Two words: Dream vacation!

    There are countless ways to reward yourself, and while it may seem trivial, research shows that rewards that are personal to us do in fact help us stay motivated and establish long-term habits. It's worth the time to come up with a system and a list of rewards for your own milestones!

    17 days ago
    By Megan Coatley, Behavior Expert

    Motivation is like cold hard cash: You can never have too much! And when you’re trying to lose weight (for the umpteenth time for many of us) you know that you need a wealth of motivational strategies you can count on. But, with so many motivational tips and tricks to sift through, why are we so often losing our motivation rather than reaping the rewards?

    One reason is that some of the most popular motivation strategies people use are mind games—games that don't really work for the long term. At first glance, they all seem helpful, but most are actually bound to fail. Instead of playing Russian roulette when you’re choosing a weight-loss strategy, read on to find out how you can beat the odds and pick a winner.

    Mind Game #1: Going for the Gold
    You have your perfect weight and pants size in mind. With a big, bold goal to aspire to, you start biking to work, cooking lighter, packing your lunch, skipping that morning latte, and taking the stairs. Then, three busy, butt-busting weeks later…the scale hasn’t really budged and you’re trying on the same size in the dressing room. Deflated, you start snacking a bit here and slacking a bit there, and your dream of a whittled waistline slowly fades from view.

    Motivation Makeover: Going for the gold is a great way to start your weight-loss plan; setting a long-term goal can help you to keep an eye on where you’re headed. But it’s also important to remember that your goal weight is far from the only benefit of incorporating healthy eating and exercise—and it could be a long ways off. Taking note of smaller, more subtle changes (more energy, better sleep, lower cholesterol, better mood, etc.) can help you stay motivated, even if the pounds aren’t coming off as quickly as you’d hoped. Setting some shorter-term goals (1 pound, 5 pounds)—especially ones that aren't based on the scale (like getting to the gym 5 days a week) can also help you stay on track.

    Mind Game #2: Starting Out Super Strong
    It’s Sunday evening and you realize that you spent the weekend indulging on brews, barbeques, and binges. A twinge of guilt has you psyched to start speeding down the road to wellness first thing Monday. So you restock your pantry with healthy eats, download a hardcore training app to your phone, and plan out the next month's food and workouts. You figure that going full throttle is the way to reach your weight-loss goals as quickly as possible. And why not? You're excited for it! But two weeks into your overhaul, your muscles are so sore you have trouble rolling out of bed, you’re sick of salads and you’re already thinking about throwing in the towel.

    Motivation Makeover: Maintaining motivation is like running a marathon. Instead of starting at full speed and running out of steam, it is better to focus on simply putting one foot in front of the other. Set small, achievable goals so that you can build momentum and feel successful in the beginning, and pat yourself on the back when you conquer each one. No matter how long it takes to reach the finish line, you’ll be reaping the rewards for years to come.

    Mind Game #3: Taking the Road Less Traveled
    There will always be a new diet or exercise program that promise fast progress and fantastic results. Reading about the latest food fad or watching a perky personal trainer push sweat-drenched clients through an infomercial workout can definitely spark your motivation. Who wouldn’t want to try an effective 4-minute workout or slim down fast with a celebrity-backed diet supplement? Deep down, we all know the truth: People are getting paid for those advertisements and whatever motivation you’ve mustered up during the commercial break will fade fast if you don’t get those "as seen on TV" results that were so motivating to you. Trying every new fad that comes on the market may leave you broke and brokenhearted.

    Motivation Makeover: If you want a plan that works long term, stick with the tried and true. Keep your eating close to the earth with whole fruits, veggies, grains and lean meats. Get up and moving with whatever activity suits your style and schedule. Remind yourself that following through with real nutrition and fitness habits is a process: It takes the proper planning and commitment that can’t be found in a book, a box or a bottle.

    Mind Game #4: Flying Under the Radar
    You’re already feeling self-conscious about losing weight, so you certainly don’t want your friends and family making more of a fuss. Besides, you’re confident that you can do this all on your own! So what if your plan to be stealth has you skipping out on lunch with friends and sneaking veggies to parties in your purse? Going it alone may seem like a good idea, but it is actually counterproductive. Soon enough, you’ll be feeling lonely and left out, and that’s no way to maintain success in the long run.

    Motivation Makeover: Call in the recruits! Whether it’s a neighbor down the street, a fellow play group parent or a Facebook friend, get someone to join you on your weight-loss journey. Studies in behavior science show that changes that you make in the public eye have a much better chance of sticking in the real world. Plus, sharing your weight-loss goals with friends opens you up for great personal payouts like counsel, camaraderie, and accountability from the people who know you best. SparkPeople Community, anyone?

    Mind Game #5: Staring Down the Scale
    There’s a scale in your bathroom and one next to your treadmill. You check in twice a day and diligently track your weight on a chart on the fridge. Still, even though you’re eating well and exercising, some days the numbers just don’t show it! Seeing real, objective results can be super motivating but being tethered to the scale often becomes a burden. Even though you know that body weight fluctuates throughout each day and hydration (or lack thereof) is usually responsible, unpredictable digits can be deceiving and downright disheartening. If you find yourself frowning at your feet during morning weigh-ins, then your scale is likely sapping your mojo.

    Motivation Makeover: Stick that scale in the closet and find inspiration in other numbers (besides your weight). Track specific behaviors to gauge your progress; how many push-ups you can do in a minute, how many miles you walk or bike each week, how many flights of stairs you take each day at work. Keep tabs on a variety of positive results and you won’t be left wanting for fitness focus.

    Making use of motivational mind games can really boost your fitness morale. But sometimes, techniques that seem perfectly logical can end up leading you astray. Mastering your own motivation doesn’t have to be a crap shoot. Bet on the time-tested strategies above to get your mind right and you’ll be sure to cash in on long-term wellness!

    17 days ago
    emoticon to the....JOURNALING...HEALTH and FITNESS TEAM

    You will LOVE THIS TEAM! It's amazingly positive and supportive. The members here are always willing to lend a hand, an ear, or a shoulder. They have done it for me and they will do the same for you!! We are here to support and encourage you on your journey to success. All the best to you on reaching your goals.

    It's great to have you on board. Come and join us on the Forums for some fun and challenges.

    18 days ago
    How to Journal in 10 Simple Steps

    If you don’t have time to read this whole guide, stick with #1 and you’ll do just fine!

    1. Keep it Simple

    Journal writing at its core is simple. You get some paper and a pen, you write a few pages about what’s going on. You do it again tomorrow. And the next day.

    We humans are a curious bunch — we make things needlessly complicated. So if you feel yourself getting mired in whether or not you’re doing it right, what kind of journal to use, when you “should” write, or if the color of your pen will affect the outcome, take a breath and get back to basics.

    Words, on a page. It’s really that simple.

    2. Keep it Private

    Don’t share your journal and shelve it out of reach. Your journaling privacy is essential to the process. Your journal is a safe place for you to explore whatever is on your mind without worrying about how it will affect anyone else. If you fear it will be read, you’ll censor yourself and the benefits of journaling will be lost.

    Also, sharing your journal opens it up for debate and criticism, neither of which are appropriate for this medium. It’s nobody’s business but yours.

    When you’re not writing, keep your journal out of sight. It’ll at least keep the honest people out.

    3. Do it Frequently

    Writing frequently supports the habit part of journaling. It allows you to witness the ebb and flow of your life. It gives you perspective that you won’t always feel this way — after all, you didn’t feel this way yesterday.

    Daily journaling provides the most benefits and the best results. If you only write when you “need to,” you will forever be in crisis management. Your journal will be filled with dire consequences and high stakes. And you’ll continue to live in reactionary mode.

    The beauty of frequent journaling is that it helps you grow as a person, helps you recognize patterns in your life, and helps you gain perspective and control over your environment.

    On the other hand, just do your best. If you can’t make time for journaling every day, do it as often as you can. A couple times a week is better than not at all. And if you miss some time, just get back to it without beating yourself up.

    Journaling should support you and make you feel good. It’s not another Task to be checked off your Action Item List or fodder for self-flagellation when you “fail.”

    Feeling strapped for time? I hear ya! Even a short journaling session is beneficial if you do it regularly. Free up some time and then try one of these 20 ways to find 20 minutes for journaling. If 20 minutes is beyond you, check out The Lazy Guide to Journaling in 10 Minutes or Less or just stick to one line a day.

    4. Banish the Grammar Police

    Surprisingly, one of the top reasons people cite for not journaling is that they can’t spell or their grammar ain’t perfect. Since you’re journaling for you (see #2 above), it doesn’t really matter if you dangle your participles or misspell “conjunctivitis.” Journaling is not grade school and nobody’s going to hit your knuckles with a ruler.

    If you’re especially concerned about this, don’t re-read your entries for awhile. You’ll have less opportunity to judge what you’ve written.

    5. Write What You Know

    Facing the blank page can be overwhelming at first. Listen to this podcast for a fun pep talk from me: Podcast #1: Get Started Journaling

    When starting your journal, just date the entry and note your location. Start by describing your surroundings if you need to get warmed up. Write a little bit about your day. What’s on your mind? Think of your journal like an old friend you’re sitting down to coffee with. Just answer, “What’s up? What’s new? What’s going on?”

    If you’re feeling stuck a journal prompt can help jump start your journal writing. Get juicy journal prompts prompts via email when you subscribe to my free weekly newsletter.

    And if you’re afraid you’re doing it wrong, I assure you: You are already fabulous!

    6. Find the Best Time and Place

    You may instinctively know the best time to journal (hint: it’s when you’ll actually do it!). Look for a natural lull in your day that you can finagle into journaling time. Experiment with morning journaling vs. writing just before bed and see which works best for you.

    Find a comfy place to journal where you won’t be interrupted. When journal writing at home, it’s essential that the few minutes you designate be honored by family, friends, housemates and pets. Lock the dog in the bathroom or get out of the house if you need to and write at a café or the library.

    This is your time, and you may need to defend it protectively!

    7. Write for quantity, not quality

    Don’t get caught up in how “good” your journal writing is. Nobody cares. Just get it done.

    Set goals based on effort — say, 3 pages or 20 minutes of journaling. Then even if you’re convinced your journaling is terrible, you’re still successful because you got it done.

    Writing quickly for a set period of time is also a way to keep your inner critic at bay, and to banish any negative voices telling you that what you’re doing is stupid or that you can’t write. Just get the words down and don’t worry about how good they are.

    The power and beauty of journaling lies in the process, not the product.

    8. Try writing by hand

    Journaling by hand in a paper notebook moves a different part of your brain than typing does. And before you argue that you can write faster on the computer, journaling is not about speed, efficiency, or volume. It’s about dedicating a few minutes each day to honor yourself, your thoughts and your feelings. Writing by hand helps you get in touch with all of that better than a keyboard.

    So slow down and savor the process. It builds your brain synapses to hold thoughts in your head long enough to write them down. Journaling by hand will make you smarter. (Did I mention it will also make you better looking?)

    In my journal tour video I illustrate the pros and cons of notebooks I’ve used through the years. Now I’m faithful to Blueline Notebooks but it took me 20 years to find my life partner.

    Still convinced that you need to journal on the computer? Listen to Podcast #2: Paper vs. Electronic Journals before you decide against journal writing by hand.

    9. Keep the stakes low

    Don’t make any grand announcements before you start journaling. Set yourself up for success by keeping the stakes low. You don’t need to proclaim to everyone in your life that you’re now a Writer. Don’t promise yourself you’ll write for one hour every day for rest of your life. Don’t expect yourself to churn out the Deepest and Moist Poignant Journal Ever.

    Just get a $1 composition book at the drug store and write 3 pages, as many days this week as you have time for. End of story.

    The higher we make the stakes, the more intimidating the process becomes. And the less likely we are to do it, or feel satisfied with the results.

    Are there words on that page? Yes? Then bam! — instant success.

    Wasn’t that easy?

    10. Enjoy yourself!

    Remember that journaling should be enjoyable (most of the time). If you take the task too seriously or put too much pressure on yourself, journaling will become a burden instead of a gift. Keep a spirit of play, and infuse your journal with a little humor. Adding art, creativity, color or heart to your journal keeps the process fresh and inviting.

    You’ll likely feel awkward and self-conscious when you first start journaling. That’s totally fine — you’re allowed. Most people are a little awkward and self-conscious when they begin something new, unless they’re a freak of nature. It’s okay to poke fun at yourself, or to keep the prose light-hearted.

    Banish the image of the Diarist hunched over the table with furrowed brow, contemplating the existential dilemma du jour. Instead, feel free to detail your dinner experiment that made Julia Child roll over in her grave.

    Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to life as a dedicated journaler in no time!

    Happy journaling!

    18 days ago
  • v SHARON10002
    Thanks for reading my blog about Letting Your Voice Be Heard- Together We Can Make A Difference.

    Please pass the word about my blog to other team members, and your Spark friends, and let's see if we can make the differences we all want here on SP. We may only be one, but together we're stronger! I really need your help in spreading the word as it's too big a job for one person to do.

    Also, make sure you go to the link and leave a message on the site forum where it will be seen and noted.
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    905 days ago
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