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Plan Today, Succeed Tomorrow

Athletes do it. Chess players do it. Novelists, successful scientists and even salespeople do it. These days, everyone who wants to make big things happen is planning ahead in order to succeed. What about you? When it comes to planning ahead to reach your goals, are you falling in line or falling behind? Thinking ahead can help you achieve your goals and, even more importantly, bounce back faster when you’re met with unexpected failures or setbacks.   What can you do today to make sure your health and fitness goals are met tomorrow? Maybe you need to pack a lunch to avoid that daily fast food fix, stock your pantry with healthy snacks so you have something to munch on, make a new bedtime routine so you get all the shut-eye you need, or sleep in your workout clothes so you’ll have no excuse to miss a morning workout.   Thinking "two steps ahead" means utilizing the present to make it easier to achieve your goals in the future. What are you waiting for? Here’s how to do it now, before you waste a few more minutes or lose your motivation altogether.   Think about Your Actions Take some time to envision yourself reaching your long-term goal, whether it's losing 40 pounds, running a 5K, or reducing your cholesterol. All of these big goals can (and should!) be broken down into specific behaviors that will increase your health and wellness. Losing 40 pounds may involve reducing and tracking your calories while also starting a consistent fitness program. Running a 5K starts with your first step, then requires a plan to slowly build endurance over several weeks. And reducing your cholesterol can happen when you make heart-smart food choices and increase your daily activity.   Taking it a step further, each of these action steps requires a plan or "mini goal" if you're going to achieve it.  Maybe you'll aim for a specific number of exercise minutes per week, servings of fruits and vegetables per day, or miles per month. Achieving these goals is easier when you start thinking ahead and formulating a process that fits into your schedule. When you spell out exactly what you’re working on, it will be so much easier to track progress toward your mini-goals and stay on course toward your bigger goals.   Head Off Potential Hurdles: Prepare Your Plan B You’ve planned to exercise three times a week and you're sticking with your program really well. Your workout wardrobe is freshly laundered. You’ve commandeered a babysitter during your evening runs. Best of all, you've scheduled your exercise sessions like appointments in your calendar. You're doing great.   But all of a sudden, a giant work project is dropped in your lap and you realize you’ll need to work from home every night this week to meet the deadline. Sound familiar?   Whether it's a nasty flu virus, a change in your partner’s work schedule, or a car in the shop, there will always be obnoxious and unexpected hurdles that can spring up and ruin your best laid plans. You can either wait for them to derail you or you can think ahead about all the possible scenarios that might get in the way of your goals—and plan how to tackle them in advance.   As soon as you’ve set mini goals for the week and put your commitments on the calendar, the next thing you should focus on is finding room for flexibility. Maybe you can pencil in a morning workout on the weekend as a backup plan, or make a list of healthy take-out options in case you find yourself in a dinnertime crunch. And if you have trouble resisting those donuts in the office break room, you’d better be sure to pack nutritious and delicious mid-morning snacks in your bag. Having a plan B in place before you need it means you're thinking strategically and will be more likely to stay on track.   Commit...and Don’t Quit Committing to any lifestyle change takes time and continued effort. If you’re having trouble implementing your strategic plan (and plan B's), here are some strategies that will help you sidestep obstacles that may arise.

  • Make your commitments public so that everyone around you knows the goals you’re working toward. If your boss, partner and friends have all heard you profess your plan, they’ll be more likely to support you (or at least they’ll know what you’re up to)--and you'll be more likely to stick with it to save face.  
  • Engage your friends and family in some friendly fitness activities. Get your colleagues involved in an exercise challenge, start a walking club after work, or put together a neighborhood gardening group. If you can encourage others to join your wellness quest, you’ll be more likely to remember your commitments. Plus, you may even plant the seeds for others’ health and fitness success.  
  • Keep track of your achievements. Sometimes, when you’re working hard to fit healthy habits into your schedule, it can feel like the rest of the world is against you. Seeing the progress you make toward your own goals will help you notice change and stay true to your healthy self—even in the event that you mess up. Log your workouts online, track your calories and H2O intake, and draw smiley faces on your calendar when you finish each yoga class. Keeping track will remind you how far you've come, which can help you keep the faith when life gets in the way of your best intentions.
Make Friends with Failure Even after you’ve set benchmarks for success, put a halt on potential hurdles, and prepared a plan B, you can still be sure that the road to health and fitness won’t always be smooth and straight. A storm will sweep in overnight and ruin your morning run. That family road trip will be wrought with tempting treats at truck stops. Though these problems may seem counterproductive, getting familiar with failure can be helpful in its own way. When you experience a succession of small setbacks or changes in course, it helps you hone your skills at dealing with issues that are outside of your control. Even the greatest athletes and strategic planners in the world fail—sometimes badly and sometimes publicly. But those who are great don't let failure define them or stop them. They set goals, plan ahead to avoid or minimize mishaps, and get back up and keep going when things don't go according to plan. They roll with the punches—and you can, too!Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/motivation_articles.asp?id=1735

5 Mind Games You Need to Stop Playing

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!Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/motivation_articles.asp?id=1676

Finding Inspiration In Your Biggest Temptations

Getting motivated--and staying motivated--can be difficult, and when temptations abound, it seems like the world is conspiring to keep you indoors, on the couch and stuck in your unhealthy life. Instead of viewing temptations as roadblocks, think of them as motivators--the devil on your shoulder, if you will. Their presence in your life should be just what you need to keep you from losing momentum, standing still or taking a break from your healthy journey. If you stop, they'll get you; if you stay one step ahead, you'll always come out on top. Temptations are like misunderstood Muses. They give you the chance to be creative while reaching your goals. Temptation No. 1: Sleeping in or hitting the snooze alarm. Inspiration: Taking care of your body. Get your eight hours a night. If you're consistently sleeping through your alarm or hitting the snooze bar more than twice, consider changing your sleep schedule. Try to head to bed earlier--even just 15 or 30 minutes can make a difference. To help you stay healthy and manage your weight, you need adequate sleep. Sleep loss affects the levels of certain hormones, which can in turn affect your metabolic processes and adversely affect your health. Sleep experts say most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for optimum performance, health and safety. When we don’t get adequate sleep, we accumulate a sleep debt that can be difficult to "pay back" if it becomes too big. The resulting sleep deprivation has been linked to health problems such as obesity and high blood pressure, negative mood and behavior, decreased productivity, and safety issues in the home, on the job, and on the road. Sleep loss also can cause a lack of desire to achieve goals because you feel fatigued and "run down." Sleep is also important in developing lean muscle tissue. When you work out, you are actually tearing your muscles – sleep and proper nutrients help rebuild the muscle so that you get stronger. Temptation No. 2: Grabbing takeout or stopping at a drive-thru. Inspiration: Making smart choices. Ideally, you should drive by the drive-thru and cook healthful meals at home every night. However, not all takeout is created equal, and you can find some healthful options at chain restaurants and even your neighborhood deli. See this temptation as a challenge to be creative and bring home a healthful meal when you're in a hurry. Plan ahead if you can, build a meal around vegetables and choose small portions to keep your takeout from taking away your self-control. (Find hundreds of tips and strategies to help you make smart, healthy choices when you're away from home here.) Follow the same rules at a restaurant that you would at home: Choose whole grains when possible, fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit, and opt for lean cuts of meat and low-calorie preparations. Baked potatoes, side salads, fruit cups and milk are ubiquitous at fast food restaurants these days. See this as an opportunity to stare French fries in the face--and win! Temptation No. 3: Grazing on junk food all night long. Inspiration: Getting to the root of a problem. Before you start chastising yourself for blowing your calorie budget after a good day of healthy, mindful eating, think about why you are snacking. Mindless munching is usually anything but. Are you thirsty? Many hunger pangs are actually just thirst in disguise. Drink a glass of water and wait 20 minutes. If your hunger subsides, you weren't really hungry after all. What did you eat for dinner? If you tried to save calories or reduce your carb intake by having a green salad or just a plate of veggies, it's no wonder you're hungry. Your body needs a bit of variety to stay happy. Protein takes longer to digest and helps keep you fuller longer. Toss some grilled chicken chunks, a small can of tuna or a half-cup of beans on your salad tomorrow night to give it some staying power. In the meantime, reach for a small servings of whole-grain crackers with a tablespoon of nut butter. The combo of fat, protein and carbs will tide you over until morning. Are you stressed or upset about something? Instead of reaching for the chocolate bar or the chips, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Eating your feelings leaves you feeling worse than when you started. Go for a walk, get out of the kitchen, remove trigger foods from the house--whatever it takes. To get a handle on emotional eating, you first need to understand it. Learn more about this common food problem, which is the cause of 75% of overeating, according to experts. Once you know your food weaknesses, you'll be prepared to confront those evening cravings instead of surrendering to them. Temptation No. 4: Vegging out on the couch. Inspiration: Taking time for you. You get home from work and gaze longingly at the sofa. You had a long day, and a bit of rest sounds much better than socializing or spending time with others. You just want to be alone with your feet up, mind empty and the TV on. Devote a chunk of time each week or each day to yourself. Maybe it's 15 minutes, or maybe it's two hours. Put yourself first as often as you need to. Instead of punishing yourself for being lazy, use this "me" time in a productive way. Do a crossword puzzle, read a book, watch a movie, call a friend, pick up knitting, or cuddle with your child or partner. Anticipate this respite from the hustle and bustle of your life and plan for it. Watch your favorite TV show, paint your nails, ask your partner to give you a foot rub. Reward yourself for being motivated, sticking with your healthy lifestyle plan and working out regularly. A bit of time spent doing nothing can help carry you through the rest of your hectic and action-packed life. (Read our Rest & Relaxation articles for more tips.) Temptation No. 5: Skipping your workout. Inspiration: Changing up your workout. You know how great you feel when you finish a workout: refreshed, revived and rejuvenated. You feel strong, confident and happy. So why would you want to skip exercise? Quite often, the reason is boredom. Does your workout schedule run on repeat? Do you do the same thing at the same time and in the same place every day? Now that you've made fitness a part of your life, try shaking up your routine from time to time. Instead of walking laps around the park in your neighborhood, try taking a new route. Instead of doing the same-old pushups and crunches, check out SparkPeople's free library of exercise demos. If you belong to a gym, trade the Stairmaster for the elliptical or the treadmill for the stationary bike. Tired of your DVDs? Trade with a friend or head to the library. Take a new class: Zumba, cardio dance, Pilates, yoga or Spinning are fun ones to try. Ask a trainer at your gym or a fit friend for suggestions. Speaking of which, one of the best ways to shake up your workout is to enlist a friend to blast calories with you. You can catch up on each other's lives while you firm up. When temptations step in your path, don't cower. Confront them and enlist them as your allies. Soon you'll be stronger and more determined and will have traveled a little farther in your healthy living journey.Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/motivation_articles.asp?id=1356

Is Weight-Loss Hurting Your Relationship?

Weight loss is tricky business, especially when you're in a relationship. After all, many people fall in love because they share common interests, such as watching the same sitcoms every Thursday night, going out for rich Italian food or playing video games together. However, what happens when one person in the relationship swaps his or her Thursday night TV-watching for group cycling? Or decides that ordering roasted chicken and steamed veggies is a better option than creamy fettuccine alfredo? Or that the Wii Fit is actually more fun than Super Mario Brothers? I smell relationship trouble a-brewin'. Losing weight and adapting to a healthy lifestyle requires a lot of change—change that your partner may not be ready for. In fact, according to some recent SparkPeople polls, 34 percent of respondents said that their spouse, partner or significant other sabotages their weight-loss efforts more than anyone else in their lives, and 43 percent said they their significant other negatively influences their eating habits. On the flip side, 24 percent say that they would be bothered if their partner gained weight, and 55 percent said they might be bothered, depending on how much weight he or she gained. Overall, it's easy to see that weight can play a heavy role in your relationship If you feel like your relationship may be under strain because of your weight-loss efforts, there are some general warning signs to look for. Typically, these types of actions are rooted in something larger than the direct issues, so it's important to understand them fully to know where your partner's or your feelings are coming from. In general, the "why" of a behavior comes from deep-seated emotion of which you or your partner may not even be aware. For just that reason, we've added an "emotional why" section to each warning sign exploring the emotion that might be behind these behaviors. Because we know how important support is to reaching your goals, we've included some action tips on how to improve whatever situation you may be facing. This way, you can find a way to maintain your healthy lifestyle without sacrificing the health of your relationship. 5 Signs Weight Loss is Hurting Your Relationship (and What to Do about It) 1. Your partner makes negative statements about you changing. SparkPeople member SULYLE admits that weight loss has affected her marriage. At 5 feet 6 inches, she's 13 pounds from her goal weight of 140 pounds (that's a BMI of 22.6, considered a "healthy" range for her height). Still, she says that she gets comments from her husband and his family that she's "skinny" and needs to stop losing weight. She's from the Dominican Republic, where curvier women are considered beautiful, but she doesn't feel attractive at her current size. SULYLE's story isn't that unusual. Your significant other may make other negative comments about your own weight loss or changing body because it signals change. And change is scary for your other half. The emotional why: Fear is behind this type of behavior. SULYLE's partner is afraid of losing her and life as he knows it. While she may be ready to change, he may be afraid and reluctant to take the first step, and he may be insecure that she will leave him, so he comments negatively about her changing body in hopes that things will go back to the way they once were. What to do: Create new rituals together so that your loved one is involved with your new lifestyle. You don't have to give up Friday date night. Try dinner at a restaurant with healthier options, or when you go to the movies, order a smaller size of popcorn (no butter) and a diet soda. See if he or she will walk around the block with you (take the kids if you have them) to catch up after dinner. Be sure to include your partner in as many ways as you can, and reassure them that you love them for who they are. If the behavior becomes overwhelmingly negative, do not be afraid to talk to your partner about how those comments make you feel. After all, a relationship is a two-way street and open communication helps prevent a head-on collision. 2. Your partner makes you feel guilty. Does your partner make you feel guilty about the success you've had with weight loss? Does he or she complain that you're not around as much or give you the guilt trip when you skip cuddle time or dessert to hit the gym? Whether your partner makes you feel guilty on purpose, or you just feel guilty for taking time for yourself, it's not a good feeling to have, and it can be detrimental to a relationship if it goes on too long. SparkPeople member THREADIE-LISA had a similar issue with her fiancé when it came to her gym membership. She says that he would grumble to his friends about how much time she spent at the gym or "jokingly" say that she spent more time with the elliptical than with him. The emotional why: Nostalgia. Your partner loves you and wants to spend time with you. He or she may miss what used to be rituals in your household and relationship. These comments may also reflect some of the fear of change mentioned above. What to do: Compromise. THREADIE-LISA ended up quitting the gym for financial reasons but has kept up with her exercise by using workout videos at home. "We are both happier, and I am more fit and less stressed for time. So, in the end his complaining helped!" she says. Don't be afraid to compromise when you can! However, remember that you deserve to be healthy and happy. If your loved one is putting a guilt trip on you, encourage him or her to join you. Couples workouts allow you to spend time together and exercise at the same time. And if it's just you feeling bad, then remind yourself that being fit is what you worked for and you deserve to feel good about your accomplishments. 3. Your partner tries to sabotage you. Sabotaging behavior can run the gamut, from your partner picking up your "favorite" fast-food burger on the way home (even though she knows you're trying to cut back) to begging you to sleep in when you have a date with that Spinning bike at 6 a.m. One very common example is having a partner who brings junk food into the house and then eats it in front of you, especially if the junk food is your favorite and one you have trouble avoiding. The emotional why: Jealousy and fear. Although it may not seem like it, your partner may actually be very jealous of your progress and is sabotaging your efforts to keep you exactly as you are. He or she may be afraid that if you lose weight, you'll get more attention from the opposite sex and possibly leave the relationship for someone else. What to do: Reaffirm your partner that you're still the same loving person you were before. Then read this entire SparkPeople article on how you can defend yourself from saboteurs, and follow the fantastic tips! 4. Your partner starts gaining weight as you're losing weight. If you've noticed that your partner has gained a few pounds during the time you've lost weight, this could be cause for concern. Your partner may be upset with your weight-loss success and may be rebelling against you—consciously or not-- by eating more, higher-calorie food. If this is the case, tread lightly. This will probably be a very touchy subject for your partner. He or she may also be eating emotionally for comfort as a way to deal with the deep-rooted emotions (fear, anger, jealousy) about your positive changes. The emotional why: Resistance and guilt. Your partner is probably feeling resistant to change and guilty about his or her own body and unhealthful habits. They may even be worried that as you get healthier, you won't love him or her as much anymore. SparkPeople member Amy says that her husband has been "self destructing" and views all of her positive changes as threatening to him. In fact, she says that she's been sleeping in an extra bedroom for the last few weeks because of his constant resistance to the positive changes she's trying to make in her life. What to do: If you're in a situation as Amy is, talk to your partner openly and regularly. Your partner may be very, very sensitive about this issue, so you may not want to bring the weight gain up directly, but rather ask how he or she is feeling during this time of change. Reassure your partner that you're still the same person and still love them. And invite them to join in some of your small changes or start something as simple as a SparkStreak! And if it's more serious than that or your attempts are ignored, consider getting a relationship counselor involved. 5. You look down at your partner. If you're a few pounds into your weight-loss journey and overhauled your lifelong habits, yet can't understand why your partner hasn't done the same, then honestly ask yourself: Do you look down on your partner? Do you feel like the changes you've made are going to create lasting friction between the two of you? Whether you indicate these feelings to your partner (directly or indirectly) or keep them to yourself, he or she can probably sense how you're feeling. Everyone wants their partner to be proud to be with them. When you stop being proud of your other half, it can really hurt your relationship. The emotional why: Pride and fear. Right now, you may be very proud of yourself for your changes—and you should be! But it's important to respect everyone's journey and realize that you can't force someone else to change. You may also find yourself being harsher on your loved one because he or she may remind you of where you started (a place where you don't want to return). What to do: You may not agree with all of the choices your partner makes, but try to be as understanding as possible. Remember how hard it was for you to change in the beginning? Remember how you had to decide to do it for yourself, not for someone else? Revisit that time in your past and treat your partner how you would have liked to be treated then. Recognize the reasons for your emotions. You don't have to encourage unhealthy habits, but try to be as understanding and encouraging as possible. If you're faced with many of the issues above, don't despair. A relationship may get rocky from your new dedication to a healthy lifestyle, especially in the beginning of your weight-loss journey, but many say that getting in shape and eating right actually helps their relationship in the end. Take SparkPeople member XCSARAH, who said that her weight loss has both hurt her relationship and improved it. Even though she says that she sometimes gets annoyed when her husband wants to do something that cuts into her workout time or gets frustrated when he eats an entire bag of chips in front of her, getting healthier has improved their relationship. "Any annoyances that have come from this journey have certainly been outdone by the benefits," she says. Now that's an inspiring and encouraging statement to anyone who is struggling with weight-related relationship issues. At the end of the day, your significant other should be one of the biggest and most supportive allies you have in getting healthy. However, you can't expect others to change over night. Getting healthy and losing weight is an incredibly personal journey, and it can't be started by telling someone what to do; it has to start with the person wanting to change. So be as nice and supportive to your partner as you'd like them to be to you. Follow the tips above and recognize what's really behind you and your partner's actions to continue on your weight-loss journey and keep your relationship strong. After all, leading by example is one of the most powerful ways to influence others in a positive way!Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/motivation_articles.asp?id=1187

6 Questions Everyone Should Ask While Searching for a Therapist

Finding a new therapist can feel like going on a series of bad first dates, especially if the mental health care professionals you try out to start are nowhere near a good fit. During my journey, I turned to friends who had similar experiences, and I learned that I wasn't the only one who was struggling to find a match for mental health maintenance. So don't feel bad or give up if you haven't found your doctor yet. As a 30-year-old woman, it took me over two years to find "The One."

1. Are they tech savvy?

Ok, so this is still up for debate in a lot of psychiatric circles, as some professionals claim that texting with your shrink can negatively impact professional boundaries. But these days, quick-hit communication is part of life. Personally, I have terrible social anxiety and hate phone calls outside of a work setting, so having to actually call my doctor would just increase my anxiety, which isn't exactly the point of communicating with a therapist. For me—and most other millennials—our primary means of communication is via text or email. So if you're addicted to Snapchat and your doctor is from the Stone Age, it's probably not going to fly.

2. Does their expertise match with my needs?

For me, finding a doctor who was "culturally competent" was a must. This meant that when a black girl walked in their office, they wouldn't treat me like some far-out creature. Other folks I've talked with were adamant that the therapist they selected focused on PTSD. Not everyone in the field is equipped to deal with trauma... which can actually lead to more trauma.

3. Are they the right fit emotionally?

After two years of searching—and a number of encounters with therapists who couldn't really identify with my issues—I finally found a therapist I was optimistic about. But once I actually found them, getting to therapy induced an entire new set of new anxieties. Would they think I was unstable and toss me away into an asylum if I was upfront and honest about all of my irrational fears? Any therapist worth their salt will make you feel comfortable and let you know it's OK to open up.

You might also like {{displayTitle}} READ 4. Where can I find a good one?

When I moved to a new city not long ago, I didn't have the slightest idea of where I could find a new shrink. I obviously turned to Google, but the search term "Portland psychiatrist" returns a whopping 536,000 results, which only increased my feeling of being overwhelmed. After several unsuccessful attempts of going directly through my insurance provider assistance program, I eventually turned to Psychology Today, where I was able to narrow down my search and actually filter physicians based on their areas of expertise.

5. Can I afford this… and what are my options if I can't?

Although I am now #Blessed to have insurance, the psychiatrist I found is not in network. I chose someone out of network, because the in-network providers just weren't compatible, and I had already exhausted all my options. Prices I encountered ranged from $500-$800 dollars a session out-of-pocket before I finally found a physician who was a fraction of that cost but also open to a sliding scale.

Many health providers and organizations will evaluate your financial situation and work with you at a rate you can afford, or at the very least provide access to resources if you think you won't be able to cover the cost. To start with you can check out these 81 awesome mental health resources for when therapy is just too expensive.

6. What are their politics?

I am black Femme, extremely liberal, and believe in intersectionality, so many of my politics define my identity. Many of the people I spoke with preferred someone of the same gender, race, or even generation due to the fact that often our belief system is a factor in our recovery process.

As I navigate white supremacy and microaggressions on a daily basis, I needed someone who could empathize with or at least recognize what I was experiencing. Where I live now isn't very diverse, so when I began my search, I knew I would encounter a lot of white health are professionals. It didn't strike me as a problem at first, but as I began to meet with them, the sessions began to do more harm than good, as I had to sit through additional microaggressions or stop and educate the person who was supposed to be helping me. This soon became the most challenging part of the entire search.

That was until a friend told me she came up with a system that required meeting with the potential doctor candidate with a list of her own qualifications to measure their ability to identify with her culture and politics. If you add this phase of interviewing to the search process, you can uncover whether or not there is any chemistry to build a relationship through therapy.

These are suggestions are based on the author's personal experience, and what works for your needs may vary.

What's Healthier Than Following Fitness Gurus on Social Media? Unfollowing Them.

Prior to deleting practically half my Instagram feed. When I first began following social media fitness stars, I felt like I’d discovered a whole new world. I’d been trying to slim down, and although I knew the basics of working out and eating well—I’d grown up playing sports and have always maintained a fairly healthy diet—I found that I had trouble staying motivated. But I felt genuinely inspired by the drive and success of all the lean, toned people offering workout advice and healthy recipes on every social media platform from Pinterest and Twitter to Facebook to Instagram.

I loved the creativity of the workouts and recipes I was seeing, and I started following lots (and I mean lots) of fitness accounts. I loved seeing a photo of a woman my age wearing a pair of spandex shorts and a sports bra—sans shirt, all the better to show off her chiseled abs—paired with the caption, "Strong is the new sexy. Get your workout in today." I wanted to feel comfortable working out in just a bra and spandex, and I thought that if I worked out hard the way she did, I’d be able to.

These influencers exponentially expanded my workout horizons. I’d see a video of some hyper-jacked female athlete busting out ring dips in the middle of a CrossFit workout and think, "That looks fun. I can do that." Scrolling a little farther down, I’d see a yogi effortlessly flip herself upside down into a handstand against a wall, then break out into upside-down wall push-ups. I told myself I could do that too. They made it look so easy and fun. Marathon running and powerlifting too? Sure. If they could do it, so could I.

I was sold on doing all of these workouts, despite the fact that I’d never done CrossFit, disliked yoga, have never been able to run long distances to save my soul, and hadn’t actually lifted truly heavy weights since high school. But all that didn’t matter; I had become motivated to look like these social media fitness mavens, and I was going to make it happen.

Until I couldn’t make it happen. I found that I couldn’t do more than one ring dip without my arms collapsing under me. Handstand wall push-ups? I’d never even been able to do a somersault—I’d always had an irrational fear of breaking my neck. Marathon running? That lasted five minutes until I decided to go back to doing my good ol’ treadmill sprints. Powerlifting? Yeah, no. A fractured spine from a couple years back guaranteed that effort wasn’t going to be successful. Suddenly, much of my newfound motivation was gone. It was hard to accept myself as I was. I vowed to be like these fitness gurus one day... it was just going to take hard work and time.

My Instagram feed had become a cesspool of kale salads, bulging quad muscles, protein powders, sunset yoga poses... I felt like I was suffocating.

I soon found myself absolutely surrounded by #fitspo. I couldn’t look at Pinterest without seeing hundreds of ripped bodies doing backbends and deadlifts, telling me not to expect a change if I didn’t make one. I couldn’t scroll through Facebook looking for the funny birthday video my friend posted without coming across a dozen workout videos and perfect bodies first.

And Instagram... dear Lord, my Instagram feed had become a cesspool of kale salads, bulging quad muscles, protein powders, sunset yoga poses... I felt like I was suffocating.

I fell into a back-and-forth, love-hate relationship with my social media accounts. I felt motivated and then unmotivated. I’d go for a run and think, "Man, I just ran three miles. For someone who doesn’t run long distance, I did well." But as soon as I was proud of myself, I’d check my social media and see a photo of some perfect-looking woman running down a beach, followed by the caption, "Just finished my 12-mile morning run. What are you doing to better yourself today?" There went my motivation, zapped right down the drain.

Change came one day when I’d decided to skip my workout. I’d done a killer HIIT and weights workout the day before, and my body was screaming at me to rest. But then on my Instagram feed, I came across a video of a yoked fitness guru slamming weights around angrily. "Sore is just an excuse," read the caption. "How many excuses have you made today? Get off your ass and move!" Suddenly, I wasn’t motivated anymore. I was pissed.

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I was tired of comparing myself to other people—people I didn’t even know, who didn’t have the same lifestyle as me, who simply weren’t me. In that moment, I decided I was done. There was a slight moment of panic—What would happen if I really needed the tips and advice?—but then I remembered all of the times I felt put down by social media fitness stars, and I went through with it: I unfollowed every single fitness guru I’d been devoting my time to.

As of January 2017, there were more than 10 million #fitspiration hashtags on Instagram. And the shorter, more often used #fitspo hashtag? More than 37 million. The social media world is inundated with fitness speak and signifiers: inspirational quotes, toned bodies, freaking acai bowls.

Frankly, I think that consuming this much "fitspo" is killing our motivation and health. Yes, being surrounded by inspiration might seem like a great way to help us get ourselves in gear, but it’s easy to become consumed by it. A recent study demonstrated that Instagram #fitspo-style images had overall negative effects on the viewer’s body image. Another study tested 130 undergraduate students and found that while fitspiration images did motivate the students to exercise and eat healthy, the images ultimately led to increased negative mood and body dissatisfaction. Basically, social media platforms are portals for comparison, and if we compare ourselves to people we don’t know, who are nothing like us, and whose primary hobby is fitness, we’re bound to feel bad about ourselves.

Out for a run and feeling healthy, not perfect.

In the months that followed my mass unfollowing, I felt genuinely happier. Choosing not to compare myself to others on social media really brought back my motivation and self-esteem. I could feel great about reaching a new personal record during my shoulder workout, and not have to worry about feeling less awesome than some super-ripped fitness expert. I realized that following fitness accounts on social media hadn’t made me healthier… in fact, I think they made unhealthier.

I spent way too much time criticizing my own body and not enough time being proud of myself for working toward a better, healthier me. I wasn’t taking into account that fitness gurus and I live totally different lifestyles, and that I like mine just the way it is. I tend to eat healthy foods, but sometimes I also like to go out with my friends, knock back a few too many Moscow mules, and recover the next day with taquitos. Yeah, I don’t have the lifestyle that a fitness guru does... because I don’t want it. I try to find a balance between eating healthy and enjoying life.

I may not be able to do headstand push-ups, but I can track my treadmill sprint and plank-holding progress and feel good about it. CrossFit simply isn’t for me, which means I won’t have the body of a CrossFitter. But that’s OK.

If you do choose to follow social media fitness gurus, it’s important—and healthy—to take a step back and remember that your fitness journey is yours and yours alone. Your body and mind will both thank you.

Amanda Ogle is a freelance writer and editor covering travel, entertainment, food and drink, lifestyle and more. She is based in North Texas and has written for American Way, Texas Highways, Virtuoso Life, D magazine and more.

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