Sunday, November 30, 2008

Stress Relief for Women: Spend Time with Your Girlfriends

I love the articles that I get from SparkPeople. Here is another terrific one, Hope you enjoy it.

Stress Relief for Women: Spend Time with Your Girlfriends
By: Stepfanie Romine : 11/29/2008 10:41:37 AM : 33 comments

Girlfriendology founder Debba Haupert made her debut as a guest blogger on the dailySpark in September. Now that girlfriend guru is back, with plenty of good advice culled from interviews and chats with her own girlfriends.

Are you stressed? Worried about the economic situation? Unsure of what the future holds?

Join the club. Unfortunately we’re all stressed, especially women. The American Psychological Association research study "Stress in America," reports that women are more fearful about the current financial situation than men. Women are reporting more physical and psychological symptoms, including sleep disturbance, headaches, mood swings and changes in appetite. In fact, more than one-third of women currently rank their stress level as "extreme."

Healthwise, stress can impact us in profoundly negative ways. We often react by partaking in unhealthy habits like overeating, drinking too much and smoking. Stress can elevate our blood pressure, affect our hearts, and impact our ability to sleep or concentrate. Emotionally it can make us anxious, fearful, depressed or paranoid. With the holidays here and all the traditional challenges they brings with them, now is a great time to find some stress relief.

How can women reduce stress? First, let’s look at how we process it. As women, we don’t have the male gene that causes a “fight or flight” response. We actually respond with a need to “tend and befriend.” We want to take care of our children and to be with our friends. (More on this in the book: “The Tending Instinct,” by psychologist Shelley E. Taylor.) Also, we are often the primary source of emotional support to children, men and other women – so if we’re stressed, it can impact everyone around us.

Unfortunately we individually can’t do much to stop the economic situation, but we can reduce our stress so we can take better care of ourselves and our families.

Here at Girlfriendology, the online community for women based on female friendship, we believe it is more important than ever for women to look out for ourselves and one another. Girlfriends make us healthier, happier, live longer, feel more beautiful and even reduce stress. These close social ties are therapeutic and healthy, especially in a time of high stress.

So, girlfriends – here are 10 ways women can reduce stress, with help from our female friends:

Volunteer with a friend. Animal shelter or senior center, church group or a neighborhood organization--volunteering together doubles the fun. And, knowing that you’re helping others takes your mind off your own stress and reminds you of all your blessings.

Simplify your lives--together. Take turns helping each other get organized. Help your girlfriend with household projects or have her join you in cleaning out your basement. Organize, declutter and to trust your girlfriend to help you make good choices in what to keep and what to donate or toss. Do a little at a time--no need to be stressed by the project!

Phone a friend--still is a great lifeline! Sure, we sometimes send a quick email or forward a funny joke, but it takes personal communication to really connect. People love the sound of their friend’s voice. Give her a call to catch up. Plan a phone date at a time that’s good for both of you. I have a monthly coffee phone dates with a long-distance girlfriend. We plan a time to talk on the weekend when the free minutes are rolling. A few minutes on the phone together can totally erase all our worries simply through a caring, fun conversation between girlfriends.

Start a girlfriend group. Gather friends and start a book club, running club, mommies group or gourmet club. Find a common interest and then meet up on a regular basis. Like a vacation, it’s something great to anticipate!

Make plans to do dinner or lunch. Food + girlfriends = fun! Try a new restaurant or share appetizers at your girlfriends’ for a happy hour with the girls. Take a wine tasting or cooking class together.

Take a yoga or Pilates class with a girlfriend. The exercise will help you physically, the girlfriend will help you emotionally – both wonderful outcomes for an hour of your time. Plus, you’re bound to find things to giggle about in class, which is worth the effort simply for the comic relief!

Try some animal therapy. Pets, like girlfriends, are also a proven source of stress relief. Put the two together and visit a dog park with a girlfriend. You’ll laugh at the dog antics, personalities and owners. Or, take a dog for a walk together. That combines exercise, animals and friendship--add a nice day and you’re set for a super stress-relieving session.

Be creative. Enjoy time together and forget about the stress in your lives by getting creative. Take a knitting class, plan a day to scrapbook, make cards, bead or try a new craft together. Crafting is also a wonderful way to get your mind thinking creatively which can lead to new solutions for your stressful life. There’s a reason women are so passionate about their pastimes--find your passion and some girlfriends who share that hobby with you and you’re on your way to happiness. And, you can make gifts for your girlfriends!

Plan some together time for pampering. Go shoe shopping, get haircuts or massages, or share a cup of tea--together. Allow yourself some time together to take care of your inner girlie-girl.

Get healthy together. The fact is: weight gain or unhealthy habits often accompany stress. Find an approach that works for both of you to get healthier. Get her to sign up for SparkPeople too and track your progress together. Hold each other accountable for eating right, exercising, encouraging each other and celebrating your successes. Stress diminishes when you’re healthy, happy, beautiful and with your girlfriend!

You see? Spending time with your girlfriends is an excellent way of reducing your stress and that of your friends. By taking this pre-emptive, proactive approach, you’ll both be healthier, calmer and even have happier holidays. Stress-relief by spending time with your girlfriends … it’s a great way to respond to whatever stresses you!

Girlfriendology is the online community for women based on inspiration, appreciation and celebration of female friendship.
Founded by Debba Haupert in 2006, Girlfriendology inspires women to make new female acquaintances, spend time with their girlfriends, and appreciate those friendships that are vital to women’s health and happiness. features inspiring women in semi-weekly podcasts, contests to share girlfriend stories and provides videos, shopping, reviews, blogs and more

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Stop Failure Before it Starts

14 Tips for Starting and Sticking With It
Stop Failure Before it Starts
-- By Julie Isphording, former Olympian
For some of us out there, if we could just convince ourselves that there is enough time in the day to exercise, we could be on track to a great fitness program. For others, we get started but quickly lose momentum and give up. To help get started and stay on track, here are a few tips:

Throw away the bathing suit you wore in high school… and the memory too. It’s normal to have a mental image of yourself when you last exercised like a fiend. But if that image is from high school, you could be in big trouble. Even if it’s from last year, forget it. Remember as little as possible of what you used to look like. Starting today, make new memories.

Prepare. We already know you don’t have the time, so write it down like an appointment every day. You wouldn’t cancel an appointment, why would you cancel on yourself? Aren’t you important too?

Start slowly. Do much less than what you’re capable of. Take a 20-minute walk if you’re returning to exercise. You might feel like it’s not enough, but it’s a good start.

Get the family involved. Run while your daughter rides her bike. Go to a local track and let the kids play their own games. Run with your spouse. Sign up for a local 10K. Walk with your son. Celebrate with a little something special after every activity.

Where are your friends? Four words, four reasons – motivation, inspiration, determination, conversation. Surround yourself with friends who think positive and live large.

Put the pain in perspective. When the going gets tough, remember that you have survived 600 carpools, 540 loads of laundry (this month), 41 baseball games, 230 dinners and one family vacation. What’s the big deal?

Allow yourself to slow down. You’re driving this bus! For the first time today, you are in control.

Sign up for a race. It’s a goal to strive for and adds a little meaning to your everyday workout.

Run/walk in public. Be proud of your accomplishment. Take in all the sites and be an inspiration to others.

Just show up. Go to the gym, class, or the park. Once you’re there, it’s hard to say no. 98% of life is showing up.

Eat. Follow a healthy eating pattern. If you limit your calorie intake, you will not have enough energy to work out and your metabolism will slow down.

Understand your energy cycle. There are peaks during our days. Even during the week. Try to complete your workout when you feel good about yourself.

Wallow in your greatness. You can exercise to become a better exerciser, or you can exercise to become a better mother, a better father, doctor, teacher, or a better friend – or you can exercise to become BETTER. Be proud of that accomplishment.

Have fun. Where’s your childlike spirit? When you can make workouts "playouts," you’ve got it made.
Don’t give up on yourself. After all, it’s never too late to be that healthy person you might have been.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Don't be a Dieting Loner

Get Others Involved
Don't be a Dieting Loner
-- By Mike Kramer, Staff Writer
Coaches, mentors, trainers, teammates, partners, fans. Even the greatest athletes in the world can’t do it alone.

People naturally perform better when others are on their side and helping out. Even in everyday nutrition and fitness, we’ve found that people who involve others and ask for help get much better results and stick to their programs longer than people who try to go the distance on their own.

Why is that? For starters, positive peer pressure can be one of the most powerful motivators around. It’s tougher to quit when someone else is counting on you. In fact, with a team that’s pulling for you, it’s less likely that you’ll want to quit.

When you involve others, you have access to more knowledge, more ideas, more enthusiasm, and more resources. Bicyclists and race car drivers are finding out that they need teammates looking out for them if they have any chance at all of winning. You can take advantage of the same benefits.

Finally, having other people help out just makes weight loss a heckuva lot more fun. Especially for social exercisers, trying to lose weight and exercise alone can leave you bored out of your mind.

Your weight loss goals are every bit as important as those of a world-class athlete. This is why SparkPeople emphasizes meeting and getting to know other members. We’ve seen the Spark that happens on the Message Boards, when members rally behind someone who’s struggling, or congratulate the latest success.

Business people draw on a team of accountants, lawyers, financial advisers, headhunters, board members, etc. Together, they form a team of specialists that open up possibilities to that businessperson and his/her business goals. You can build a similar team around your weight loss goals. People that can help with your journey are all around you. You can do this without making a lot of demands on anyone’s time. Some possible ways to build a strong team by only asking one thing of each person:

Ask a friend to check with you once a week to see how you’re doing.
Ask your significant other to be there when you need to unload.
Ask a co-worker to keep you upbeat.
Ask your kids to help you find active ways to have fun.
Ask your brother-in-law to pass along inspirational reading and interesting health news.
Ask your photographer sister to take "before" and "in-progress" pictures.
Better yet, why not ask someone to join your healthy lifestyle quest? Going through and succeeding with a new program with a friend or buddy can create a bond that carries over into other areas of your life.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

10 Tips for Starting a Wellness Program Today

10 Tips for Starting a Wellness Program Today
Easy Ways to Get Healthy
-- By Carrie Myers Smith, Health & Fitness Writer

It’s never too late to begin your journey in wellness! Here are 10 steps you can take today to get started.

1. Write out your goals and desires. What’s your wellness vision? Where do you envision yourself three to five years from now? Set three-month and weekly goals based on your wellness vision. Goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Action-based, Realistic and Time-oriented.

2. Ask what, when and how. Make a list of the hurdles that keep getting in your way of living a life of wellness. Then determine which ones are true obstacles – things that you need to work around or find solutions to. And the excuses – ‘nuf said!

3. Have a plan. Rarely, if ever, is any major task or project accomplished without a plan in place. Lay out a plan for accomplishing your goals, as well as solutions for overcoming the hurdles. This is your game plan – it should be flexible, but have fortitude, fun, but not “fluff.” And make it active. Include specific steps you will take to reach your goals.

4. Start a journal. Your goals, desires, barriers, obstacles, excuses, solutions and plan should all be a part of your journal. Make your journal yours. Set it up so it’s easy to use so that you will use it. Include space to just let your thoughts flow. Use it to let out your feelings, vent, rejoice, or celebrate. You’ll be amazed at how freeing it is!

5. Begin your journey where you’re standing now. Where are you right now, this moment, on your journey? Accept where you are and where you need to be and begin the steps necessary to bridge that gap. If, however, you find that old issues keep popping up, preventing you from reaching your goals, you may need to seek counseling. Sometimes the only way to move forward is to first go backward.

6. Take one step at a time. What happens when a builder forgets an important step in building a house? Or a chef leaves out an important ingredient in a recipe? Doesn’t work so well, does it? It’s the same thing with your life. You must take certain steps in order to reach a place of wellbeing—and make it fit your lifestyle.

7. Learn from your setbacks. Making mistakes and experiencing failure is all a part of being human and living. Rather than getting down on yourself, take that setback and turn it into something positive – something you can use to reach your goals. Sometimes life is indeed two steps forward, one step back!

8. Spend some time “cleaning house.” This is intended to be both literal and figurative. When our homes are a cluttered mess, it’s impossible to function well. Ditto for our schedules. Create a list of your activities and decide which ones aren’t contributing to your overall purpose in life. “De-fluff” that schedule and concentrate on those activities that bring meaning to your life, and ultimately to others!

9. Stop comparing yourself to others. We’re bombarded by images of “perfect” bodies every day. It’s easy to get caught up in all of it and feel as though we’ll never measure up – and chances are, we won’t. Let’s get real! These images are results of computer imagery, great lighting, professional make-up artists, self-starvation, plastic surgery and really good genes. Stop comparing yourself to a fantasy and just be the best you that you can be.

10. Reward yourself. It’s OK to feel good about yourself! And it’s OK, and beneficial, to reward yourself for your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem. A meal at your favorite restaurant, a date at the movies, a new outfit, a bubble bath… whatever you wouldn’t normally take the time to do, as long as it contributes to your wellbeing, is a great reward!

Thursday, November 13, 2008 I can't get this to upload as a video for you so just copy the lnk and paste into your browser. You will love this version of the creation story.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote with Your Fork

Vote with Your Fork
Make Every Day an Election Day
-- By Liza Barnes & Nicole Nichols, Health Educators
SparkPeople Sponsors help keep the site free!
One-quarter of Americans are obese. Sixty percent live a sedentary lifestyle. And this generation of kids is the first generation since 1900 that may have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. The health of America, the world’s richest nation, is failing. And what we eat (or don't eat) could be to blame. A bag of Cheetos is cheaper than a bag of apples; unhealthy processed foods are more prevalent (and less expensive) than whole foods; families eat dinner away from home more than ever before. When you hear stats like this, it's easy to feel discouraged. But changing our food landscape isn’t just advisable—it is essential.

If you’re unhappy with the way things are, consider how they got like this in the first place. McDonald’s doesn’t make cheap hamburgers because laws require them to. They make cheap hamburgers because people buy them. Clearly, both the problem and the solution are in our hands.

The decisions we make every day—what to eat, where to shop, how to commute—may seem small, but they send a clear message about what is important to us. If you think that change only comes from the top, and voting only happens at the polls, think again. Every time you buy food, clothing, fuel, or entertainment, you are, in essence, voting for the company that produced, packaged, and marketed it. Every time we spend money, the recipient of our dollars gets the message that we approve of their product and we want more of it. But the inverse is also true. Some cases in point:

You might not be old enough to remember Rosa Parks and the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, but you certainly learned about the success of that 11-month nonviolent protest. People carpooled, walked, and biked to send a powerful message that it was time for change. Every dime that wasn’t tossed into the bus company’s coffers was a vote against racial segregation. In the end, the U.S. Supreme court ruled that segregation was unconstitutional.

You surely aren’t old enough to remember the 1791 sugar boycott in England, but it’s another example of how small decisions can really add up. At the time, Britain’s largest import was slave-produced sugar, but there was a growing anti-slavery sentiment in the nation. When Parliament refused to abolish slavery, a boycott was organized. Sales of slave-produced sugar dropped significantly, while sales of Indian sugar, produced without slavery, rose exponentially. Women, who didn’t even have the right to vote, brought about awareness and change by simply buying a different “brand” of sugar.

Election Day happens every day. You have the opportunity to cast your vote and change the world at almost every turn—or at the very least, every meal. What would you vote for if everything was on a ballot: Lower rates of obesity? Healthy food that's affordable? Humanely raised meat? How about healthy school lunch menus, more accountability in the food industry, pedestrian and bike-friendly cities, or more community vegetable gardens?

Here are 11 simple ways that you can "vote with your fork" every time you shop, eat, or dine out.

Vote against dependence on oil. Choose alternative forms of transportation that use less gasoline and keep your body fit at the same time: walking, biking, scootering, bussing, and carpooling, combining trips, choosing to live closer to work, or, if possible, working from home.

Vote for lower health care costs. Most of our country's health problems stem from lifestyle diseases that are preventable. So let's all do our part to prevent them and cut everyone's health care costs. Feed yourself (and your kids) fresh, home-cooked meals more often. Exercise regularly. And don't smoke.

Vote against all disposable bags at the grocery store. Keep paper and plastic bags out of landfills by bringing your own shopping bags every time you shop.

Vote for healthy food choices at restaurants. When you do choose to eat fast food or dine out, choose the healthy options. This helps send a clear message that people want healthy meals, making it more likely that restaurants will keep these dishes on the menu—and add more like it.

Vote against unhealthy food choices. Have you ever noticed that chips, cookies, sweets and candy take up more space in the grocery store than healthy foods do? If you're tired of unhealthy foods tempting you at every turn, then turn them down yourself. Part of the reason these foods are so prevalent is that people do buy them. Send your message loud and clear by not supporting companies who don't seem to have the health of their consumers in mind.

Vote for locally grown produce. Your local farmers market offers seasonal food that's fresh, healthy, and eco-friendly. When you spend your food dollars at your local farmers market, you're voting for the farmer, his farming methods, the farmers market and your community. Buying local food casts a vote against conventionally grown produce that's imported or shipped thousands of miles to your supermarket even though it's already available close to home.

Vote against the inhumane treatment of animals. If it bothers you to think about the conditions where your meat, poultry, eggs and milk come from, then don't support it. Choose meatless meals more often, or spend your dollars on companies and local farmers who raise animals more humanely.

Vote for organically-grown food. If you believe in the health, environmental or nutritional benefits of organic food, then dedicate a portion of your food dollars to supporting it. You'll be voting against pesticides, the companies who develop and produce them, the industrial agribusinesses who use them, the effects they have on people and the environment. Sure organic is more expensive, but that's partly because demand is high and supply is low. When you buy organic, you tell farmers and retailers that organic matters to you—and that can change the selection and prices in your favor.

Vote against eating on the run. When you buy ingredients and cook at home, you're telling restaurants and eat-on-the-run food manufacturers that you don't agree with their cooking methods, ingredients, or fast food philosophy. There are so many benefits to eating meals at home, from saving money to bonding with your family to eating healthier. Plus how much can you really enjoy the experience of drinking soup from a container that fits in your car's cup holder? Let's bring food back where it belongs—the kitchen table.

Vote for smaller portions. We often see big portions as a good value, but are they really? If you can't finish it, the food goes to waste. If you do finish it, you're eating more than you should (and likely paying for it with health problems and medical care later). Buy smaller portion sizes when they're available to tell restaurants and manufacturers what you really think about burritos as big as your head.

Vote against food waste. Fast food, convenience foods, bottled beverages and single-use cups generate a lot of waste. When possible, choose foods that use less packaging, and bring your own reusable containers for leftovers, coffee and water. You'll be helping the environment and cutting food costs by spending less on packaging.

If you get frustrated at the current food environment, do something about it. Every dollar you spend, every food choice you make, and every meal you eat is an opportunity to vote for what you believe in. We can't change the way our food environment is structured overnight, but we can make a difference three times a day by voting with our forks.

Spreading the Spark! Get a Free Online Diet