image via smoothfitness.com

The above infographic pretty much took the words right out of my mouth. Check out those numbers! AND those are for correct serving sizes- you know no one follows those, especially not on Turkey Day, where your plate is so overflowing that the dog gains weight just by following you around with his mouth wide open. You can see just how much exercise it takes to burn off each thing you put on your plate.

Knowledge is power. The least you can do is stick to proper serving sizes so you know exactly what the damage is. From there, a few simple changes can lighten it up even further.

Let’s start at the top:

Turkey
Serving: 6 ounces for 340 calories
What it looks like: a deck of cards
Lighten it up: White meat has less saturated fat, but dark meat isn’t necessarily terrible for you. It actually contains vitamins A, K, B6, B12, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, minerals as selenium, phosphorus and zinc than white meat. To avoid unnecessary fat and calories, just skip the skin. If you are cooking, don’t deep fry- you’re soaking it in extra fat and the oven will save you a call to the fire department.

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Let’s take a moment to be grateful for what we have.

It is important to remind yourself of what is truly important to fully appreciate everything that you have. When you take away everything that can be taken away – the material, the money, the gadgets- when it really comes down to it, the only thing that you truly have is your health. Without, you have nothing.

We are pretty terrible to ourselves. We spend so much time doing terrible things to our health, filling our bodies with junk food, chemicals, smoke, alcohol, and defeating thoughts, blaming our bodies or the way they function for why we don’t feel good about ourselves. Your body is fine. It does exactly what you ask of it. It’s your mind that needs your focus.

We spend so much time putting our bodies down, mostly for the way they look and often for the way they perform. It’s unfair. We’ve all only got one body and they do amazing things for us every second of the day in spite of how much time we spend putting it down.

In this happy holiday season where we make an effort to show gratitude for the things we hold dear, take some time today, and learn to take some time every day, to thank your body and your health for everything it does for you. It’s all you have.

Be thankful for your legs, fast or slow, they get you exactly where you need to go.

Be thankful for your arms, jiggly or firm, they can wrap around your loved ones to show them how much they mean to you- including yourself.

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Sometimes it takes getting back to the basics for something to really make sense.

You hear from fitness pros all the time that you need to “make exercise a lifelong habit.” And doesn’t that sound wonderful? One day, you wake up naturally at 5:00 am, and before you know it your shoes are tied and you are at class ready to sweat. You have little to no memory of how you got there – you just did it. Instinctively. Like covering your mouth when you sneeze. It has become a habit just like your foot hitting the brake when you see a red light.

But, does anyone really do this? How can something as complicated and broad as working out become a habit? And how long until it (finally!) happens for you?

Let’s look a little deeper into what a habit actually is and how you can use this knowledge to make sure exercise becomes second nature.

What is a habit?

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines habits as:

1. an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary
2. the prevailing disposition or character of a person’s thoughts and feelings
3. a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior
4. a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance

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We are right at the cusp of everyone’s favorite and simultaneously most feared time of year: the holidays.

While it’s a happy time that most look forward to, it is also full of stress, distraction and temptation. Everywhere you look, for the next 3 months, there will be nothing but parties, drinking, baked goods and junk as far as the eye can see.

These distractions are usually enough to cause most people to throw their workouts out the window, eat whatever is in arm’s reach (Half a candy cane you found in your purse? You know you’ve done it) and plan to pick things back up in the New Year. Well, this thinking, my friends, is what has kept your new Year’s resolution “to lose weight” the same for years. You can, however, come out of the holiday season still able to fit into pants without an elastic waistband. You can easily say no to tempting goodies and food pushers while still managing to keep a consistent exercise routine AND enjoy all the holidays have to offer. How? With a little planning, a lot of resolve and few simple tips:

Take time to relax. It’s the holidays, so enjoy yourself! Stress is harmful to your health, so be sure to find ways to unwind (exercise is great for that, by the way.)

Learn to say no. You will be invited to a million functions, parties and get togethers. Each one, without fail, will be fraught with poor choices waiting to be chosen. Don’t feel like you have to say yes to each one. Prioritize your nights to avoid overextending yourself and spending too many late nights drinking and eating, and too many mornings hitting the snooze button.

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13 Alternatives Kids Will Love

— By Liza Barnes, Health Educator

Forget haunted houses, the walking dead, or vampire bats. If there’s one thing that scares me about Halloween, it’s the candy. Packed full of artificial colors and flavors, chemical additives, and high fructose corn syrup, Halloween candy makes my skin crawl more than being blindfolded and sticking my hand into a bowl full of cold spaghetti! As a kid, I loved candy, of course. As a mom, I wish it didn’t exist. But I believe that depriving my daughter of the Halloween experience, candy included, would cause more harm than a couple of days of gluttony.Fortunately, I’ve recently discovered that there’s a whole new world of treats out there that will satisfy both of us. It’s still candy, but it’s not made of junk. If you’re going to be treating trick-or-treaters with candy this Halloween, consider stocking your plastic pumpkin pail with some of these healthier selections. Far from handing out apples or toothbrushes, these crowd pleasers are the real thing!

Barbara’s Snackimals Animal Cookies are far beyond traditional animal crackers, which usually contain trans fats and very little flavor. These crunchy cookies are even made with organic ingredients and come in Chocolate Chip, Snickerdoodle, Vanilla and Oatmeal varieties. They’re about $.89 per bag, and available at most natural food groceries and online atwww.WorldPantry.com.
CLIF Kid Organic ZBars are low in fat, made with whole oats, and fortified with 12 essential vitamins and minerals. They are free of hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and artificial flavors or colors. And they come in 7 delicious flavors: Apple Cinnamon, Chocolate Brownie, Blueberry, Chocolate Chip, Honey Graham, Peanut Butter and, just in time for Halloween, Spooky S’Mores. Trader Joe’s sells them for $.69 each, and they’re often available online for even less.
Endangered Species Dark Chocolate Halloween Treats are individually wrapped, single-serving chocolate squares—perfect if you want to pass out something delicious and environmentally responsible. They’re available at natural foods stores and online atwww.chocolatebar.com ($6.72 for 24 pieces).
FruitaBü Organic Smoooshed Fruit Rolls look and taste like all-too-familiar junk food, but are made from real organic fruit, with no artificial additives or added sugar. You can buy them in natural food stores and many supermarkets, or online (www.StretchIslandFruit.com).
Ginger Chews by the Ginger People certainly taste good, so you can’t go wrong with flavors like Original Ginger, Spicy Apple Ginger, Peanut Ginger and Hot Coffee Ginger. The Original flavor is available in the bulk bins at Whole Foods for around $5.19 per pound, which gets you about 70 chews. Other flavors are available online at www.GingerPeople.com and packaged in the candy aisle of natural foods stories, including Trader Joe’s.
Let’s Do…Organic Gummi Bears are made with organic ingredients and contain no gelatin, gluten, high-fructose corn syrup or artificial additives. All that’s left is delicious flavor! These come in boxes containing four individually-wrapped bags and are available in four varieties: Super Sour, Fruity, Classic, and Jelly. A box costs about $2.99. Buy them online atwww.EdwardAndSons.com.
Pure Fun Organic Candy makes yummy hard candies and lollypops that are free of pesticides, artificial flavors, synthetic colors, and gluten. They come in several kid-friendly flavors, like Tangy Tangerine, Loony Lemon, and Giddy Green Apple. They’re available at Whole Foods ($4.99 for a bag of 18 candies), or online atwww.PureFun.ca.
Stretch Island Original Fruit Leathers are sweet and chewy strips of real, dried fruit that will satisfy a kid’s sweet tooth and count as half a serving of fruit! Stretch Island is one of many brands of fruit leather that you can buy online (www.stretch-island.com), in natural food stores and at many supermarkets for about $.35 to $.50 each.
Sunspire Dark Chocolate Earth Balls are small but delicious chocolate morsels. They’re sweetened with whole grain malted barley and corn, which cuts the sugar content by 33%. They’re available in bulk bins at natural foods stories (including Whole Foods) for about $12.99 per pound (that’s about 80 individually wrapped balls).
Wolfgang’s Sweet Dark Chocolate Covered Blueberries and Raspberries are for the child gourmet! These mouthwatering morsels are made with real berries and dark chocolate, so they supply tons of antioxidants along with their fabulous flavor. They’re available at natural foods stores like Whole Foods for $5.99 for a box of 10-14 individually-wrapped pieces.
Yummy Earth Organic Lollipops and Candy Dropscome in flavors like Pomegranate Pucker and Wet Face Watermelon. Free of gluten, nuts and corn syrup, these candies are also certified organic and kosher. They’re available at Whole Foods and other natural foods stores, and online at www.YummyEarth.com. Lollipops are about $3.50 for 15, and drops are about $2.59 for 25.
Last Minute Treats: If you can’t get your hands on any of these treats before the porch lights go on, don’t forget about good old standbys like individual packages of nuts or raisins, which you can pick up at any supermarket. If you have your heart set on candy, stick to dark chocolate (which should not contain any milk), or candies with the shortest ingredients lists.

When you hand out these candies at your door this Halloween, you can feel a little better knowing that you’re doing your part. If you have kids, and they’re willing, you can even swap their junk for the good stuff. For my four-year-old, I buy an assortment of healthier treats, set up a store where she can shop for them, and let her pay for her purchases with her trick-or-treating loot. It may be a bit of a trick, but in exchange she gets a far better treat. She still eats more sugar than I’d like on Halloween—after all, natural or not, candy is still candy—but it’s healthier than the conventional choices.

This article has been reviewed and approved by SparkPeople healthy eating expert, Tanya Jolliffe.

You can’t get away from pumpkins this time of year, from jack-o-lanterns to pies to cookies and lattes. But have you ever tried eating one? I mean honest to goodness, just baking one up and eating it? If not, you’re missing out on not only one of the most delicious ways to enjoy this gourd, but the healthiest.

Most pumpkin-flavored edibles this time of year fall more into the dessert category than a healthy vegetable side dish. But just like squash, the flesh of a pumpkin is very sweet and knocks quite nutrition punch. One cup of pumpkin contains only 49 calories, 3g of fiber, 2g protein, a shocking 245% of your daily recommended value of Vitamin A and 19% of the Vitamin C and 8% of the iron you need in a day. The medium decorative pumpkins, almost too small to carve, but the right size to draw on, bake up the best. Here’s how:

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Becky Todd

My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 and then my mother in 2003 and 2012  (both survivors).  When my Mom was diagnosed the first time, I learned all I could about the disease and attended all of her appointments and chemo sessions.  I got to know the doctors and the process never knowing that several years later I would need that information for myself.  I started getting mammograms in my early 30’s given the strong family history.

I had a mammogram in March 2009 that showed microcalcifications which are small specks of mineral deposits which 90% of the time mean nothing.  I was told to come back in 6 months for a recheck, but something told me to dig deeper.  I scheduled a biopsy and was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in June 2009.  I had 2 lumpectomy’s (the first didn’t have clear margins) as well as had my sentinel lymph nodes removed which showed trace amounts of cancer as well.  I had extensive lymphatic space invasion which basically means the cancer had broken out and was on its way to my lymph nodes.  A PET scan showed no other spots of cancer which was good news.

All of this meant the cancer was particularly aggressive, so we chose an aggressive treatment which included 16 dose dense chemotherapy sessions spanning 4 months with 3 different drugs (Adriamycin, Cytoxin & Taxol).  Once that was complete I did 6 weeks of radiation 5 days per week.  I have been on Tamoxifen now for about 2 years to help reduce the chance of recurrence.

I worked about ¾ time through the whole ordeal somehow managing to sell and integrate a company into GE.  I tried to keep up with our friends and family and not sit at home being “sick”.  I look back and wonder where the strength comes from when women are faced with seemingly insurmountable odds.  My favorite quote from Eleanor Roosevelt is “A woman is like a tea bag, you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.”

Back in 2009, my husband traveled for work about 75% of the time.  When I was diagnosed, he told his employer he was grounded and would not leave me.  He was at every appointment and every chemotherapy session doing everything he could to take care of me.  We were incredibly blessed by friends who brought us food each week for the entire 4 months I was doing chemo.  I was too tired to cook and my Husband was trying to work full time, keep up on the house, take care of me and himself.

One of the most frustrating things about recovery is that I am not the same as I was before.  I used to work out 7 days per week and was really fit and I thought healthy.  It has taken me more time to get back in shape than I expected.  I have injured myself a few times over the past year trying to jump back in to exercise as if no time had passed and no health issues ensued.  I feel like I am finally on the right track to getting back in shape, but will probably never be quite what I was before.  This is my new normal and I am accepting that and just glad to be on the right track.

The thing I tell people is to stay on top of their health and always be educated and know their bodies.  If I had waited the 6 months for a recheck, the outcome would have been different due to the nature of the cancer.  I try to eat well, exercise, get enough sleep and generally just relax.  It is important for women to stay on top of their mammograms, yearly check-ups and be in tune with their bodies.

Becky Todd, Oct 2012

They say there is no goal too big, but you can definitely have a goal that is too broad- and most people do. If your goal isn’t correctly developed  you are setting yourself up for failure before you’ve even begun. Remember all the “I’m going to lose weight this year” New Years Resolutions? There’s a reason you have the same one each year. Goals are meant to motivate, inspire, hold you accountable and track progress. Not all goals do, however, just the S.M.A.R.T. ones.
Say your goal is to lose 50 pounds. That’s great, and while this is an admirable goal, it’s not a very S.M.A.R.T goal. A S.M.A.R.T. goal is something you want to achieve, and you have a plan of attack to get there. Is your goal S.M.A.R.T.? Put it to the test:
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Words are powerful. Mantras can be a powerful tool to focus your energy, your efforts and your thoughts into pushing beyond what you sometimes tell yourself are your limits. Committing to a healthy lifestyle is easy, but sticking to it is a true test of your inner resolve. Motivation wanes; it’s the nature of the beast. It can easy to forget what all this hard work is for when you want what’s in front of your face right that second. Sometimes, you’d rather hit the snooze button than workout. Sometimes, that drive-thru calls to you louder than the healthy dinner you already had planned. Sometimes you Just. Don’t. Feel. Like. It.
My mantra? “Do the next right thing.” It works for everything, and puts me in a positive mind frame to move forward instead of dwelling on a past decision. It doesn’t foster feelings of guilt. It acknowledges that something happened, good or bad, and encourages me to move forward in a positive way.  How do you handle any situation? By doing the next right thing.
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Not everyone is a morning person. No shame in that. But if early morning is the only time you have to workout, you gotta make it happen. Repetition is key to forming a new habit, so if you wake up on the first morning and don’t feel like getting up, that’s not license to go back to bed because it didn’t work. No one springs from bed at the crack of dawn, fresh as a daisy, ready to get sweaty. Yet, millions of people do it everyday. Here’s how you can be one of those people.

  • Go to bed at the same time each night, and wake up at the same time each morning, even if it is not a workout day. Adults need 6-8 hours of sleep a night, so plan accordingly. This is the best way to reset your internal clock in the least amount of time.
  • Set an alarm. That’s a no brainer. But if you are a habitual snooze button hitter, turn it on loud and put it on the other side of the room so you have to actually get up to turn it off. If you are out of bed you are less likely to crawl back in. There are also some smartphone apps that make you solve a math problem before it will turn off so can’t turn it off in a sleepy haze. Anyone that shares your bed is just going to have to deal.
  • Turn the lights on. If you are waking up before dawn, you may be tempted to keep the lighting low, but turning on the lights will wake you up faster than a cup of coffee.

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