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How to Tame Wedding Planning Stress

Written on August 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm , by

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

So you’ve joined the ranks of your friends on Facebook and are planning a wedding, too? Congrats! But we know the planning can at times wreak havoc on your mental health, so check out this post from our buddies at SparkPeople…

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It’s a gross understatement to say that planning a wedding is stressful. With all of the coordination, timing and numerous things to prepare for (not to mention family politics!), it’s no wonder that nice, normal people turn into grumpy grooms and bridezillas. However, you don’t have to become a stressed-out stereotype on your big day. In fact, it is possible to plan a wedding and keep your healthy cool—no matter the situation.

The Stressor: You and Your Fiancé Want Different Types of Weddings

One of the biggest wedding stressors occurs when you and your fiancé have very different ideas of what your special day should be like. Traditional and in a church? A tropical destination wedding? The options are limitless and stress can be high from the get-go, if the soon-to-be-wed couple can’t agree on what kind of ceremony to have.

How to de-stress: Before you plan any wedding details, sit down with your fiancé and make a list of the top three things that are important to each of you as far as the ceremony and reception are concerned. Then, calmly and patiently compare lists to see where you can compromise. If he wants a small wedding but you want a big one, you can always hold a small ceremony and then a big after-party. Marriage is all about give and take!

The Stressor: Overbearing Family Members or Friends
Almost every bride and groom deals with at least one or two overbearing (yet well-meaning) family members or friends while planning a wedding. Whether it’s a future in-law, your own parents, or even a bossy friend, everyone seems to have an opinion.

How to de-stress: Remember that this is your wedding—not everyone else’s. It may be hard to tell your loved ones “no”, but if you want your wedding day to be truly special and unique, you must stand your ground. Politely and firmly state your decisions with the support of your partner. Think of it as if others are trying to derail or sabotage your diet—it’s really none of their business!

The Stressor: Fear that Your Dress Won’t Fit
Of course you want to feel confident and healthy on your wedding day…but stress only hurts your weight-loss efforts.

How to de-stress: First, make sure that you aren’t being unrealistic about your body image on the big day. Your wedding weight-loss goals must be realistic, especially since planning takes a lot of time and you may not have as much time as you think to exercise and cook healthfully. Second, be sure to drink enough water, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and get that beauty rest. These three things will really give you that wedding-day glow. Lastly, visualize yourself walking down the aisle with confidence on the big day. Picturing yourself in a positive light helps squash stress and can give you the energy to plan, plan, plan!

Keep Reading: How to tame stress from the budget, guest list, and more!

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10 Fun Ways to Burn Calories at the Beach

Written on August 5, 2011 at 3:54 pm , by

spark-beach

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

There are tons of fun, active ways you can torch calories and get a workout during a beach escape, without even realizing it. Check it out:

1. Building a sandcastle: 100 calories/hour
Indulge the kid in you! If you dig sand and carry it, and place your castle further away from the water, you’ll make multiple trips to and from your castle/water using your legs, core and arm strength to heave full buckets. That’ll burn 2-3 x the calories and give you an “interval” type workout. Boost the burn: Add some isometric holds or try a few biceps curls when your buckets are full or sand or water to work your muscles!

2. Playing Frisbee: 175 calories/hour
Frisbee is a fun activity that engages your shoulders and arms while improving hand-eye coordination. Boost the burn: Add some running or jump up to catch the Frisbee. For a real challenge, try tossing the Frisbee with your non-dominant hand. That’ll get your partner running like crazy to catch it, assuming your aim isn’t as good as your dominant hand.

3. Boogie boarding: 200-250 calories/hour
Boogie boarding uses your whole body, much like swimming does, but unlike surfing or paddle boarding, you don’t need as much skill, coordination or balance to do it. Plus it’s FUN and it gets your heart rate up high enough to count as a cardio workout. Boost the burn: Keep on kicking with your arms and legs as long as possible. Stays moving instead of letting waves passively pull you, and you’ll blast even more fat.

4. Jumping waves: 300 calories/hour
Perhaps one of the most fun things about the beach, jumping in the waves uses all the major muscles of your lower body, helping you build explosive speed and power. Plus, that water acts as additional resistance for an ever greater calorie burn and toning factor than jumping on land. Boost the burn: In addition to jumping when the waves come, mix in a little water jogging and you’ll burn 400-500 calories per hour!

5. Beach volleyball: 500 calories/hour
Beach volleyball calls on your hips and legs for running and jumping and your upper body for striking the ball — it also builds team spirit among all participants. Boost the burn: The fewer people on your team, the better your workout. When you have to cover more of the court, you’ll be running around and working up a sweat—but having fun while doing it!

*Calories burned estimates based on a 150-pound female.

CONT: 5 More Fun Ways to Burn Calories at the Beach


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Weekend-Proof Your Workout

Written on July 28, 2011 at 11:30 am , by

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

Follow the seven tips below to make exercise a priority all week long—not just during the work week!

7  Tips for Fitting in Weekend Workouts

  1. Turn workout time into play time. Think working out on the weekend has to be at the gym? Think again! The weekend is the perfect time to take your workout outdoors for a hike, a bootcamp at the park, or a bike ride at a nearby trail. If the weather in your area is less than ideal, gather some buds for an indoor basketball game, a workout DVD or even a visit to that indoor rock climbing wall.
  2. Schedule some “me” time. The best part about weekdays is that our schedule is consistent and more or less on autopilot. Make your weekend more like a weekday by setting a schedule for Saturday and Sunday. Not every second has to be laid out (where’s the fun in that?), but schedule an hour or two that’s just for you. Use the time to be active doing something you really enjoy like Zumba, running or Spinning class, followed by some relaxation time.
  3. Make housework a workout. Most of us have to do at least a few chores over the weekend, so if you’re short on time, transform your housework into a workout! Put on some tunes and see how quickly you can do more physical chores like vacuuming, scrubbing the bathtub, mopping the floors, mowing the grass or washing the windows.
  4. Try something new. Take advantage of your more flexible two-day schedule by trying something new or going somewhere different for your usual workouts. Whether it’s a new group fitness class , running at a new park or even joining a game of softball with some pals from work, trying something new can work your muscles and brain in new ways.
  5. Set a goal (or two). The best way to achieve any goal starts with setting one! If you really want to be more active on the weekends, set a goal to do so. It can be as simple as saying you want to walk every Saturday for a month. Don’t forget to reward yourself when you succeed.
  6. Grab a buddy. We all know how important it is to have support when trying to lose weight and get healthy. So be sure to include your friends and loved ones in your weekend workout plans. Ask a bud to try that new trail with you or turn your usual movie date night into something more active like bowling. Not only will you be burning calories, you’ll be making way more memories than just sitting around watching television.
  7. Fuel your body right. It’s hard to want to work out if you’re not fueling your body for success. Studies show that people tend to make poorer food choices—and eat more—on the weekends. Sure, the occasional late night out, cocktail or order of chicken wings won’t really hurt you, but if these weekend habits become the norm—or turn into a weekend splurge-fest—they could get in the way of your fitness goals. Who really feels like working out after eating too much, sleeping too little or drinking one too many? Make it a priority to get adequate sleep, drink plenty of water and eat healthy meals and snacks.

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10 Tips for a Healthier Weekend

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5 (Almost) No-Cook Summer Recipes

Written on July 25, 2011 at 11:37 am , by

Photo Courtesy of SparkPeople

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

Too hot out to cook? We’re with you! That’s why we got the scoop on five of SparkPeople’s favorite summertime recipes. Just click on the name of each to get the full recipe. Enjoy!

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Mango-Avocado Salad with Lime-Cilantro Dressing

(PICTURED) This salad combines many favorite foods: avocado, almonds, beets, mango, onions, and carrots. Topped with a lime-cilantro dressing, it’s irresistible! This is great for company. Serve it alongside grilled fish or chicken, omitting the tofu.

  • Calories: 383.8
  • Total Fat: 23.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
  • Sodium: 112.3 mg
  • Total Carbs: 43.6 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 11.7 g
  • Protein: 20.7 g

Crunchy, Creamy Broccoli-Raisin Salad

Broccoli salad is a summertime party staple. This version is healthier–no bacon, no mayo but plenty of flavor from almonds and raisins!

  • Calories: 363.9
  • Total Fat: 9.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
  • Sodium: 281.2 mg
  • Total Carbs: 58.9 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 16.3 g
  • Protein: 18.7 g

Lemon-Tahini Slaw with Dill

This slaw has all the creaminess you crave, with a boost of protein and a tangy flavor from the tahini, which pairs well with the fresh herbs.

  • Calories: 136.4
  • Total Fat: 8.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
  • Sodium: 189.9 mg
  • Total Carbs: 13.8 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 5.1 g
  • Protein: 4.8 g

Zucchini “Pasta” with Tomatoes and Basil “Cream”

This “pasta” dish is so light and yet rich–you’ll never guess the “cream” is made from sunflower seeds. The white beans add buttery flavor and protein. Make this when the garden overflows with tomatoes, basil and zucchini.

  • Calories: 211.4
  • Total Fat: 5.1 g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
  • Sodium: 56.0 mg
  • Total Carbs: 34.6 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 13.3 g
  • Protein: 12.5 g

Cauliflower Sushi “Rice” Salad

Cauliflower “rice” is light yet filling–perfect for summer. Think of it as deconstructed sushi and consider topping it with kimchi and pickled ginger and garlic.

  • Calories: 412.3
  • Total Fat: 22.5 g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
  • Sodium: 261.1 mg
  • Total Carbs: 46.3 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 15.4 g
  • Protein: 13.4 g

Continued: (Almost) No-Cook Summer Recipes

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What is your favorite no-cook summer meal? Will you try any of these?

Boost Your Swimsuit Confidence

Written on July 1, 2011 at 12:10 pm , by

Swimsuit Cover Up Girl

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

Summer might be in full-swing, but we know how daunting bathing suit season can still be. Follow these easy ideas so that you can feel more comfortable baring it all on the beach:

  1. Shop for the bathing suit that fits your body well. Swimsuit technology has dramatically improved, allowing you to accentuate your most likable features and minimize those you are the most self-conscious about. There are loads of two-piece suits available which let you purchase a different size for your top and bottom. If you are lucky enough to have a bathing suit specialty shop in your area, skip the department store and head there. The sales personnel will be well trained in helping you find the best fitting and most pleasing suit.
  2. Buy a suit you love, not just one you think makes you “look thinner.” Rather than black, pick a color or pattern that makes you happy, and shows off your eyes and skin color.
  3. Choose a cover-up that fits beautifully. Hiding behind a big tank will make you feel frumpy and actually make you look larger. There are wonderful wraps, swim skirts and dresses that you will enjoy wearing.
  4. Have fun with accessories. Purchase fabulous sunglasses and a colorful floppy hat to shield you from the sun’s rays. These will draw attention to your face, not your body. If you love fun jewelry, don’t be afraid to wear it to the beach or pool. Inexpensive colorful, waterproof watches are all over the stores these days.
  5. Pay attention to your grooming. A great summer haircut, manicures, pedicures, leg waxing, faux tans, and waterproof make-up will make you feel better and put together.

Don’t let worries of how you look in a swimsuit spoil your summer fun. We are at our best when we are engaged in experiences that make us happy. Feel the warmth of the sun (but don’t forget your sunscreen!), bask in the coolness of the ocean or pool, relax in the comfort of family and friends around you, and be grateful that the lazy days of summer have finally come around again!

Read more from Spark People’s Certified Wellness Coach, Ellen G. Goldman!

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A Beginner’s Guide to Fruit and Vegetable Gardening

Written on May 12, 2011 at 9:15 am , by

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

People take an interest in gardening for a variety of reasons—higher quality produce, exercise in the great outdoors, or saving money. Whether you hope to discover your green thumb or save a little green, growing your own fruits and vegetables can be an advantageous pastime. Here’s the quick process to get started!

Step #1: Gather Your Gear
You should gather several gardening tools before you get your nails dirty. I cannot stress enough the importance of quality tools. Speaking from experience, it is worth the investment to buy high-quality items, as broken or insufficient tools are not only frustrating but cost you more money and time in the long run. Proper tools provide more comfort and efficiency, which means less work for you!

Step #2: Choose Where Your Garden Will Grow
There are three common types of gardens, all of which have their own pros and cons: traditional (in-ground), container, and raised beds. Once you’ve picked out the sunny spot where your garden will reside, it’s time to decide on one (or a combination) of these three garden types, depending on your needs.

Step #3: Prepare Your Soil
Next, check your soil. Poor-quality soil can seriously hurt a gardener’s best efforts. What characterizes good soil? A high-quality soil for gardening will be…

Continue Reading: A Beginner’s Guide to Fruit and Vegetable Gardening

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The Benefits of Growing Your Own Food

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10 Signs a Fitness Product is Just a Gimmick

Written on May 5, 2011 at 11:15 am , by

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

Want to avoid a scam? Check out the latest advice from SparkPeople!

Fitness infomercials promise a lot: dramatic weight-loss, big results, a six pack in 30 days! But unfortunately, most of them do not deliver on those promises. When those ads are so intriguing and believable, how do you know which new products deliver and which ones leave much to be desired?

To separate the real fitness tools from the get-fit-quick scams, just ask yourself the 10 questions below. If you answer, “yes” even one of them, save your money: It probably won’t give you the results it promises.

10 Must-Ask Questions before You Buy Another Exercise Product

1. Does it sound too good to be true?
If it does, it probably is. The people behind these products and ads really are marketing geniuses. In a matter of seconds, they harness your attention. Within minutes, you believe that you can have the body of a fitness model in just minutes a day, too. Here’s another trick: When calculating how many calories a new product burns, many companies will test their product on a very large, muscular man to get an inflated number, which skews the calorie burn for most people.

2. Does it target just one body part?
The truth is that “spot reduction” doesn’t work.  If the Booty Blaster on TV promises that you’ll lose inches off your rear, it’s lying! There is no way to slim down, lose water weight or trim inches from a specific area of the body just by working that body part. If you have body fat that is hiding your muscles, only a calorie-controlled diet combined with a sound exercise program (that also burns calories via cardio) will solve the problem. The same goes for abs machines that promise to give you a six-pack or whittle away your love handles . Sure, you can make your abs stronger with strengthening and toning exercises (which is awesome!), but you won’t go from a size 12 to a size 2 overnight.

3. Does it fail to mention diet or nutrition?
Nutrition is such an integral part of losing inches, building muscle and dropping weight. If a product or fitness program doesn’t address the nutrition side of the weight-loss equation (i.e. a reduced-calorie diet), then you can pretty much guarantee that it’s a gimmick exaggerating its results. All the exercise in the world will not change your body if your diet isn’t also in line with your goals.

4. Is it really that different?
What is most interesting about infomercials is that the products and programs for sale seem so new and revolutionary! The marketing on them really gets you pumped up! But step back and ask yourself if the gizmo, DVD or training plan really is special or if it’s just being marketed as something exciting.

5. Are the dramatic results what interest me?
If you answer yes to this question, run away from the phone. Do not “act now” and order the product. If you’re desperate to lose weight and the claims of rapid weight loss or dramatic results are persuading you to pick up that phone to order, take a deep breath and remind yourself that buying the product itself won’t help you lose weight. Using it regularly, along with a healthy diet and sound fitness program will. And if the product or program doesn’t interest you at all, then it’s probably not a smart buy, no matter how effective it appears to be. For example, if you have two left feet and would never be caught dead on a dance floor, ordering a set of hip-hop dance DVDs probably won’t work for you—even if it has worked for others.

Continued: The Other 5 Questions to Ask Yourself before Buying


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What Your Bad Habits Say About You

Written on April 7, 2011 at 9:30 am , by

A note from FITNESS: We are proud to partner with SparkPeople to provide our readers with even more helpful content.

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Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

How does your personality affect your ability to live a healthier lifestyle? Perhaps you have your diet under control, but exercise in fits and starts, unable to maintain consistency. Or perhaps you are exceedingly disciplined in working out regularly, but are too impatient to keep the food journal that would help you rein in your habitual overeating. Analyzing your personality—appreciating your strengths while honestly acknowledging and balancing your weaknesses—may give you the self-knowledge you need to get and stay fit.

You can’t really change your basic personality, nor do you need to. A particular personality trait is two-sided—useful in some situations, not so helpful in others. By analyzing how your innate traits affect your health and well-being, you can come up with strategies to channel your tendencies—so they’re always strengths, never weaknesses.

Here are some personality traits that might make a difference, and then check out Spark for tips to help you use them to meet your health and fitness goals:  

Are you an extrovert or an introvert? While it’s perfectly natural to lean one way or the other, it’s probably helpful to look for ways to balance your dominant tendency.

Are you a careful planner or an impulsive improviser? Both have their virtues. The planner faithfully counts calories and miles walked, while the improviser doesn’t stress out when an unexpected menu change at his favorite restaurant requires adaptability.

Are you intuitive or analytical? Both approaches can likely lead to success. Being honest about which way you lean will help you find the middle road that’s effective.

Keep Reading: Decipher how your different styles affect your habits…


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