Month: February 2016

Weight Loss Plateau? Oh, No! 5 Tips to Get the Scale Moving

Feet on Scale Image 1 (2)

 

When you’re watching what you eat, exercising regularly, and doing all of the things that are supposed to promote weight loss, but the scale won’t seem to move, you may have reached what fitness experts call a weight loss plateau.

This frustrating phenomenon can demotivate even the most disciplined person, because when we feel like nothing we try matters, it’s natural to stop caring about what we do. What’s the point of all the work if you have nothing to show for it, right?

But before you throw in the towel, head for the couch, and grab the Ben & Jerry’s, you might try some of the techniques recommended to move past a weight loss plateau. With a little patience and determination, there are ways to move past this annoying phase of weight loss limbo — and working out consistently is still good for your health, regardless of what the scale says.

Read about 5 ways to move past a weight loss plateau below:

 

1. Strength Training to Boost Metabolism—

Lifting weights, using weight machines, resistance bands and other forms of exercise that get you out of your comfort zone are great ways to build muscle mass, and muscle mass burns more calories.

This means that even in a state of rest, your body will be using more calories than before, and this might be just the push you need to get the scale moving again.

If you’re already incorporating strength training into your workout, consider increasing the weight and or/reps you’ve been doing. You may have fallen into a weightlifting routine rut that no longer stresses muscle fibers enough to build mass, holding you steady at your current weight.

 

2. Check Your Chewing—

If you don’t keep a food diary, this might be a good time to start. Information is the first step in solving most problems, and if you’re going to get your weight loss program back on track, you’ll need to know exactly what’s going on.

It’s very common for people to forget what they’ve eaten in a day, or to discount the little things, but the little things add up. Record every liquid, snack, dressing and bite that goes into your mouth for a week to see if you might be forgetting about some sneaky saboteur somewhere in your daily diet.

Also: If you’ve lost a decent amount of weight, your daily caloric requirements might have lessened with your body fat content, so you may need to adjust accordingly.

 

3. What You Eat Matters—

While you’re recording your diet, pay attention to the types of foods you prefer, because even though caloric intake versus what you burn in a day is the most important factor for weight loss, there are foods you can eat to speed up the process.

Refined sugars and simple carbs, for example, are highly conducive to weight gain and don’t offer the body much in the way of nutrition. But healthier choices like whole grains and vegetables will fill you up with less calories, thanks to their high fiber content.

Also consider increasing your daily protein intake, as this is needed to build the metabolism-boosting muscle mentioned above, and will keep you feeling satisfied for a longer time than carbohydrates.

 

4. Many Mini-Meals—

Because jobs and life can make it difficult to eat often, most people have the standard 3 squares a day with occasional snacks in-between. But if you’re experiencing a weight loss plateau, a great way to “shock” your system back into losing weight is to switch to 6 mini-meals a day.

It requires more forethought and planning, and you’ll need to make sure your required caloric intake stays the same, but this method of eating has helped many lose weight.

Another benefit of multiple small meals throughout the day is that it curbs appetite, as the body receives small amounts of food before hunger has time to set in.

 

5. Change or Challenge Your Routine—

Sometimes we get set in our comfortable exercise regimens, as we hop on our favorite cardio machine, or do the same type of exercise for every workout. While this can be comforting psychologically, the body can also lapse into a comfort zone that slows fitness progress.

The answer to this, of course, is to mix it up. If you consistently do a certain form of cardio, for example, try a different type. If you are a leisurely trail or treadmill jogger, consider adding sprints to push the metabolism into high-gear.

Or take a completely different approach, slow down and try a more relaxing, enjoyable form of exercise, like yoga, hiking or swimming. Sometimes change of any kind can shake the body out of a plateau and back into progress.

 

Be sure to get enough sleep, stay hydrated, keep stress levels low, and be patient with yourself. Everyone experiences occasional setbacks and slowdowns with their weight loss programs, so try some of the tips above and stick with it: you’ll be back on track in no time!

 

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More than Moles: Some Shocking, Surprising Signs of Skin Cancer

Sunscreen Boy Image 2 (2)

 

Most of the news reports about skin cancer will warn people to keep a close watch on moles for changes. But did you know that there are actually many types of skin cancer that don’t present as moles at all? Skin cancers can also look like a red spot, a blemish, a bump, or a small patch of crusty, dry skin, for example.

The most important warning sign for cancer actually has nothing to do with moles; it has to do with healing. If you have anything unusual appear on your skin that doesn’t seem to heal, having it inspected by a dermatologist is highly recommended.

Below are descriptions of some common types of skin cancer, what to look for to catch them early, and treatment options:

 

1. Actinic Keratosis—

Technically, these rough, flesh-colored, pink or red bumps are considered a form of pre-cancer, and are most common on the face and ears, or any other place that receives a lot of sun exposure.

The small, crusty lesions can feel itchy or hurt when touched, and even though they don’t always turn into cancer, most doctors will choose to remove them.

Cryosurgery is the fastest, least painful and most common form of removal, using a highly focused spray of liquid nitrogen or liquid carbon dioxide to freeze off the offending tissue.

For some, cryosurgery spots will form immediately into small scabs that heal within 1-2 weeks, and others may develop a blister first (that will soon scab over and heal).

 

2. Basal Cell Carcinoma—

Formed from the basal (bottom) layer of the epidermis, basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, and fortunately, rarely spreads to other parts of the body. It can cause damage to surrounding areas, however, making it important to remove it as early as possible.

This type of skin cancer doesn’t grow inside of existing moles like melanoma, and will instead look like a patch of dry, red, scaly or crusty skin. Basal cell carcinoma may also present as a shiny bump or flesh-colored mole with light pigment.

Because of the varied ways this type of cancer can look, it’s important to remember that if anything forms on the skin and doesn’t heal, have it checked out.

When caught early, basal cell carcinomas will be confirmed through biopsy, and may be removed via cryosurgery during a quick office visit. If they are larger or deeper, they may need to be excised from the skin until all cancerous layers are eliminated.

 

3. Squamous Cell Carcinoma—

This type of cancer will often be larger than basal cell carcinoma, darker in color, have a bump under the skin, or domed, wart-like appearance. The edges of a squamous cell carcinoma will be irregular and may ulcerate to bleed or form a crust.

Because they arise from the top layer of cells, these skin cancers are often noticed more quickly than others, which is good because they can spread to organs if untreated.

Squamous cell carcinoma is generally cut out and stitched up in-office like larger basal cell carcinomas, and some doctors will use desiccation during surgery, applying an electric current to kill cancer cells and lessen bleeding.

 

4. Melanoma—

Melanoma forms in pigment-producing cells, which is why it often shows up in moles, prompting the warnings to check for irregular borders or sudden expansion of existing spots. This type of cancer can come in many different colors, often presenting with multiple hues in the same area.

Like all cancers, the growth rate of melanoma can be slow or rapid, but because the potential to spread throughout the body is higher in the case of melanoma, this is considered the most dangerous and life-threatening form of skin cancer.

Melanomas should be removed immediately, with blood work done to ensure cancer cells haven’t spread to other areas of the body. If caught early, melanoma generally won’t require topical or systemic chemotherapy.

 

Having red or blonde hair, pale skin, excessive levels of early sun exposure, tanning bed use, and a past history of severe sunburns are some of the factors that increase the risk of developing skin cancer. But it is recommended that everyone avoid direct sunlight during peak hours (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), use sun-blocking clothing, hats and eyewear, and apply sunscreen to unprotected skin.

Considering that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, and that by age 65 almost half of our country’s population will develop some form of it, it’s extremely important to recognize the potential signs. As the most dangerous version, melanoma is most often discussed, but there are many other forms of skin cancer. Use the tips above to recognize and remove anything suspicious so you can keep your skin healthy and cancer-free.

Why Water is Wonderful: The Beautiful Benefits of Hydration

Wonderful Water Image 1 (2)

 

Fitness experts often talk about recovery drinks and the best beverages to help our bodies perform to the max. We discuss the potential healing properties our sugary sports drinks have to offer, and ponder which one is best. To electrolyte or not to electrolyte? That is the question.

But in a world full of protein shakes, coconut water, vitamin-infused rainbow-colored liquids and other thirst-quenching choices, we often neglect to include enough of the best form of hydration nature has to offer: good old-fashioned water.

You remember water, right? That liquid that makes up 50-60% of our bodies? Yes, we know we’re supposed to be drinking a minimum of 8 glasses per day, but many of us still substitute caffeinated beverages, forgetting they have a diuretic effect, or choose liquids loaded with sugar we don’t need.

To remember why it’s important to choose the clear, chemical-free stuff for the majority of our daily drinking, below is a list of the health benefits proper hydration with water has to offer:

 

1. Delightful Detoxification—

Consider skipping the latest juice cleanse, and instead make it a point to drink extra water every day if you’d like to detoxify your system. Call it a water cleanse, if you’d like.

Even juice and other natural foods must be run through the kidneys, and in order for the kidneys to be efficient body-cleansing machines, they need plenty of water to remove waste, toxins, excess nutrients, sodium and electrolytes. And the cleaner your system is, the fresher you’ll feel.

 

2. Better Joint and Bone Function—

Staying hydrated lessens the shock on bones and joints by lubricating and protecting them from unnecessary shock.

When you drink enough water, it can actually cushion your spinal cord, brain and eyes from damage during jarring or rough exercise, so don’t forget to put on your “water helmet” for safety before you start any activity. (Source: University of Nebraska.)

 

3. Muscle Maintenance—

According to the European Hydration Institute, approximately 70-75% of our muscles are made up of water, and if we want them to perform well, we need to give them lots of it.

Many of us remember the protein known for building muscle mass, but forget the most important part of all: the water that keeps muscles working smoothly.

Electrolyte-filled drinks are fine and do hydrate the body, but contain sugar, chemicals and food dyes that tax the kidneys. So unless you’re working out for extremely long periods of time, water is the best choice.

 

4. Improved Digestion—

Talk to any gastroenterologist and she or he will tell you that the number one cause of poor digestion and/or constipation is dehydration.

If you’re not digesting your food well by allowing water to break down the nutrients for absorption into the bloodstream, your body can’t process what it needs to stay healthy.

And if you’re constipated, you’re holding onto toxins for longer than the body would like, essentially poisoning your system.

Extra water will help move everything through the intestines as intended, making you feel better and look less bloated.

 

5. Body Temperature Regulation—

Your body has a set temperature it will try to maintain at all times, but it can’t do this without enough water.

When we get too hot during warm weather or a workout, the body maintains homeostasis (i.e. regulation) by making us sweat. The sweat then cools our skin by evaporating, lowering core temperature back to desired levels.

So what happens when we don’t have enough extra water inside to produce sweat? We overheat, of course, which can range from uncomfortable to downright dangerous. So drink up to cool down if you’re going to get hot!

 

6. Water Makes You Smarter—

As with every other organ in the body, the brain requires enough water to function well. Consistently hydrated water drinkers are more alert because their brain cells are receiving the oxygen they need, thanks to the other bodily systems running at their full potential.

Without adequate water, we can experience brain fog, memory problems and processing impairment, making it important for everyone, exercising or not, to remember to drink water all day long.

 

7. A Super Strong System—

Water is mandatory for proper cardiac function, and dehydration can lower blood pressure to dangerous levels. Because the circulatory system delivers oxygen to the entire body, it is extremely important for heart health to drink enough water to stay hydrated.

Water also lubricates the lymphatic parts of the circulatory system, allowing the body to better fight off illness and contagious viruses, making the immune system of water drinkers stronger than the dehydrated weaklings among us.

In addition to all of the above health benefits, water can help us maintain or even lose weight in a more efficient manner, by moving broken down fat out of the body faster, and keeping all of the metabolism-regulating bodily functions running at top speed.

 

If you’ve fallen into the trap of drinking sports drinks, soda or other beverages that contain unneeded extra calories or additives, try adding more water to your diet to gradually eliminate the liquids. Your body will thank you by feeling, looking and performing better than ever.

That’s Entertainment: How to Design a Spectacular Swimming Pool and Patio

Infinity Pool (2)

 

If you’re planning to create the backyard pool and patio of your dreams, there are many things to consider before you get started. A swimming pool is an investment in your future enjoyment as well as a valuable property value-increasing addition to your home, so you’ll want to make sure you design a perfect pool and patio area.

The first thing to consider is what you’d like from your future pool, because your main motivations and reasons for wanting a pool will guide you in the design process. Whether you’re seeking a great form of exercise, family bonding time, a place to entertain friends, or a soothing oasis for relaxation, there’s a pool for you; you just need to figure out which one it is.

Below are 5 considerations to help anyone designing a swimming pool decide exactly what they need.

 

1. Size Matters—

The first thing to figure out before you plan anything else is the size of pool you’re seeking.

Too big, and you might eat up space for landscaping, seating and other design elements needed to make your poolside area a favorite hangout.

Too small, and you might not have a pool large enough to suit your needs, wasting time and money.

Many experts recommend doing a “hose layout” to determine your future pool size by using gardening hoses to create an outline in your backyard of where you’re visualizing a pool, and the shape that might work best.

 

2. Privacy Matters—

Most people don’t want the neighbors staring into the backyard while they walk around in bathing suits, making privacy an important aspect of designing any pool.

The most common solution to this issue is fencing, which creates both a physical and visual barrier between pool users and outsiders. Also: If current fencing is too low, it can be made higher.

Landscaping such as evergreen trees and bushes in colder climates, or bamboo and other tall, dense flora in warmer climates can also be a great way to create a feeling of solitude with a softer feel.

Most importantly, leave room in your pool design for plantings or fence-building if privacy is a concern.

 

3. Swimming Pool Shape—

Most people try to choose a pool shape that complements the design of their house.

For example, a very rustic, Tuscan-style home wouldn’t mesh with an extremely simple, modern pool, and a contemporary house might look unusual with a highly-landscaped and busier pool design.

Function also plays a factor in this part of the planning process, as someone seeking exercise laps will need a larger pool. If lacking the space, an endless swimming pool is a good alternate option, as it is smaller yet still provides exercise via air jets to swim against.

 

4. Swimming Pool Type—

Natural/free form design has grown in popularity, offering homeowners a stunning pool that looks like a lagoon or pond while being completely swimmer-friendly and clean. This effect is achieved by surrounding an organically-shaped pool with landscaping like trees, bushes, flowers and rocks to hide the edges, creating a peaceful, pastoral oasis.

Modern design is another option, with infinity pools becoming a top trend for their strikingly simple style. With no wall around the edge, these pools appear limitless by allowing water to flow off the end (into drain systems), creating an “infinite” view reminiscent of floating in the ocean.

Other common pool shapes are geometric forms like simple squares, circles, ovals, or Roman-style rectangular pools with rounded edges, and L-shaped pools. Customization and choice of pool shape depends largely on the size and profile of your backyard.

 

5. Design Elements—

This is the part of pool planning that truly allows the designer to give the pool an original feel, offering different elements that set the mood and enhance the entire concept.

The area inside the pool can be made from fiberglass, concrete or vinyl material, but classic, mosaic, or glass tiles are a beautiful, eye-catching option that add personality.

The patio area around the pool is another design option, with stamped concrete becoming a popular choice, along with concrete pavers in different colors and textures to add visual interest.

Pool lighting, both inside and around the pool is another element to consider, with traditional, LED fiber optic and solar lighting available. There are even dimmers that can be installed to control intensity of lighting.

Water features that flow into the pool, such as waterfalls and fountains are also beautiful ways to personalize a swimming pool, and add a relaxing running water sound to the backyard.

 

Pool design has come a long way, and what was once a simple choice between limited options is now an opportunity to turn your backyard into a work of art that enhances your home and life. Use the helpful tips above to design a fabulous swimming pool and patio area you can enjoy for many years to come.

Super Storage for Small Spaces: 8 Unique Organization Ideas

Organized Closet (2)

 

Organizing a small space can encourage creativity, as it can be hard to function in a messy environment, forcing the crowded to figure out unique storage solutions. When your home is very small, you quickly realize everything has to have a place, and every square foot must be utilized to the maximum potential.

Recently, the tiny house trend has been making the news, as people tired of struggling to pay mortgages on full-sized homes decide to downsize in a big way. By building miniature homes with minimal supplies, homeowners pay as they build, ending construction with no monthly mortgage hanging over their heads.

Tiny House (2)

The trade-off for the financial freedom of the small house movement, of course, is loss of space, but by creatively using every storage option available, owners of tiny homes have proven that humans can live comfortably in a much smaller area than previously imagined. Studio apartment occupants have used storage tricks for small spaces for years, but mini-homes have taken it to the extreme, inspiring many to live simpler lives.

Whether you live in a studio apartment or a large, spacious home, organization is always important. Clutter is the enemy of productivity, and nobody wants to live in a chaotic setting where they can’t find the things they want when necessary.

To spark your organizational creativity, listed below are 8 of the most efficient and original ideas being used today for keeping small places feeling roomier and well-ordered.

 

1. Unclutter to Organize—

The first step to creating more space in any home is to eliminate anything not often used or needed.

This can be difficult, forcing people to make tough choices when it seems safe to keep things “just in case,” but will be worth it when the organization job is automatically easier. Because guess what? When you have less of everything to organize, organizing everything is less work.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start small by clearing out the garage, or even only a closet at a time: You don’t have to take on the whole house at once.

If you haven’t used it in a year or don’t absolutely need it, consider donating your pointlessly stored goods to a local thrift store or charity. This will make you feel good inside, knowing your unused belongings may help another, and take away the feeling that you’re throwing your belongings away.

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2. Find the Right Furniture—

If you have large, overstuffed furniture, or more than you need for your family, consider selling or donating what you don’t use to automatically open up your home.

Consider sleek, compact designs for chairs and couches, and don’t buy a large kitchen table if you don’t need it. Pay attention to arrangement and allow rooms to flow when placing furniture, rather than blocking walkways and sightlines.

When buying furniture, always find pieces that combine function with fashion, especially if this involves hidden storage.

For example, buy a coffee table with multiple levels to add additional places for books or magazines, or substitute it with a trunk or ottoman that opens to offer storage inside.

Find an entertainment center with cabinets built in, rather than settling for a one-purpose television stand.

Consider side tables that combine light and shelving, benches with seats that lift to reveal storage, and rolling carts for extra kitchen counter space.

 

3. Sleep Sleekly—

Murphy beds are built into the wall to be pulled down for sleep and pushed back up during daytime, and have long been a staple of the bedroom size-impaired.

Bunk beds are commonly used to sleep multiple kids in one room, and a loft bed (i.e. bunk beds minus the bottom bed) can open up an extra play zone or a desk/computer area for anyone.

Also consider downsizing full, queen and king-sized beds to twin-sized for single sleepers whenever possible. A large bed is a luxury, but when space is an issue, sometimes a smaller bed can create extra room you’ll appreciate more.

 

4. Repurposed Spaces—

Sometimes when a home is built, there may be “dead” or closed-off areas not being utilized that can be opened up and given new life.

An example of this might be the area underneath a staircase, which can often be opened up or rebuilt to create a closet, mudroom with coat hangers, an office area, or even a place for a pet to hang out.

Closets can also be converted into secret work stations by removing the hanging bar and installing a shelf to serve as a laptop desk and office, allowing one to simply close the door to hide the paper clutter when desired. These converted closets also make great crafting or utility rooms.

Under Stair Storage (2)

 

5. Look Upward—

Installing wall-mounted shelving and cabinets in closets, bedrooms, above toilets, and onto garage walls are all examples of using the non-floor parts of a home to keep things neat.

Mounting a flat screen on a wall can completely eliminate a bulky entertainment center or television stand, and tall, narrow bookshelves can create vertical storage floor-to-ceiling without taking up too much valuable ground.

Pots and pans can be hung from walls or the ceiling in kitchens, rather than filling up limited cabinet capacity, microwaves can be mounted to save counter space, and door-hanging organizers can open up a crowded pantry.

In the garage, multi-levels of shelving can be pushed to the sides to create places for storage totes to sit neatly, and bikes can be hung for floor space.

 

6. Table Tricks—

One of the largest space-eaters in any kitchen is the table—if you have room for one. Because of this, many small home-dwellers will opt to extend a counter or build a slender shelf into the wall to pull bar stools up to for meals, rather than dine at a traditional table.

A table that folds up can be mounted to the wall to be lowered for use and raised back up to clear the way when not needed.

A small table with wheels can also be rolled out and then pushed to the side for extra counter space when not in use.

 

7. Below the Bed—

The area under most beds is a dusty, disorganized mess, which wastes what could be an excellent place to keep not-often-used items, such as out-of-season clothing, extra blankets, or exercise equipment stored close to the edges for easy reach.

Long, clear plastic storage totes with rollers underneath are available specifically for this purpose, and bags sold using vacuumed air removal to flatten them will store clothes beautifully in tight, flat spots such as this.

Buying a bed frame with pull-out drawers built in underneath the mattress is also an excellent way to make use of the square footage the bed was already going to take up.

 

8. Get Creative—

Just because something was made for a certain purpose doesn’t mean you can’t use it in a new way.

If you have a lot of make-up, hair products, jewelry or other bathroom or bedroom small item clutter, it’s okay to hang a shoe rack to contain it all. Feel free to buy one to use for shoe organization, while you’re at it.

Some have solved the small item clutter issue by installing a narrow shelf all the way around a room to give little knickknacks, candles and other decorative items a place to shine without eating up counter and table space.

The areas on top of kitchen and bathroom cabinets that often go unused can also be utilized with attractive baskets or bins filled with whatever you’d like.

You can also screw hooks underneath kitchen cabinets to create useful coffee mug hanging areas for more storage, and use robe or jacket hangers on walls and door backs whenever possible.

 

Remember, the sky’s the limit when it comes to figuring out how to make more room in your life and create order. Hopefully some of the interesting and innovative ideas listed above for increasing storage in small spaces has inspired you to find new ways to organize and clear the clutter from your home, no matter what the size of your living space.

Cheap Eats: 10 Top Tips to Make Marvelous Meals with Less Money

Potatoes (2)

 

Groceries are becoming more expensive every year, with no relief in sight, making it more important than ever to stretch every dollar. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s estimated average cost to feed a family of 4 runs between $146 to $289 per week, so if you’d like to stick to the lower end of that average, you’ll have to learn to be a smart shopper and find ways to be frugal.

Below are 10 tips to make meals your family will love while spending less money at the grocery store:

 

1. Timing Matters—

Studies have shown that because stores start sales mid-week, this is the best time to grocery shop for items marked down because of impending expiration dates.

Food close to expiry that can be frozen will save your family big bucks if you have freezer space in which to store it.

 

2. Frozen is Frugal—

Frozen vegetables will often have more vitamins than fresh vegetables because they are fresh when frozen, and haven’t journeyed from their original destination to sit losing nutrition in a produce section.

Meat can also be bought in bulk, separated into smaller portions, and then frozen to save money.

 

3. Buy Dry—

There are many dry goods that offer nutritious meal options with endless seasoning possibilities that can make meals delicious as well as affordable.

Rice is a great high-fiber grain that fills people up for less, and is gluten-free for those who are intolerant.

Beans bought dry, rather than canned, are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Beans also create a complete protein when combined with rice, allowing diners to skip expensive meat dishes.

 

4. You Say Potato, I Say Big Savings—

Potatoes are consistently one of the cheapest fresh foods offered, and the most versatile. A big bag of these vitamin C and potassium rich vegetables can be made into healthy baked potatoes and fries, or mashed with butter, garlic, sour cream and anything else you’d like to add.

Side dishes, casseroles, crock pot soups and stews can all benefit from these spuds, and fill up the hungriest growing children in a nutritious way. So skip the processed foods full of preservatives and get back to these basic staples.

 

5. Don’t Obey the List—

While making a shopping list can help us save money by eliminating gasoline-wasting trips to the store for 1 or 2 items, don’t be afraid to skip the non-necessities written down if the price isn’t right.

Try to find these foods cheaper later if a price is higher than you’re used to seeing. You tend to know the prices of items you regularly purchase, so if it seems expensive, your instinct is probably correct.

 

6. Price Match, Please—

Many stores now offer price matching, which means that if you have a flyer with a cheaper price on any item they carry, they will match that price to keep your business (money) in-store.

The bigger grocery chains are known for starting this program, but many other grocery stores are also offering price matching in order to stay competitive. It never hurts to ask, right?

 

7. Sale Stock Ups—

When foods you’re sure your family will eat with longer expiration dates go on sale, stock up on them to save money later.

If you have a decent-sized or extra freezer, this is a great way to save money on meat and other frozen goods when they go down in price as well.

 

8. Slow Cook the Savings—

The secret weapon of creative cooks on a budget is the slow cooker. Offering a high improvisation factor, a crock pot can be a great way to use up the vegetables or other leftovers in your refrigerator before they go bad to stretch food even further.

A bigger batch of stew or soup means ingredients can be bought in bulk, saving money, and there will be plenty of leftovers to cover lunches, too.

 

9. Online is Fine—

If you’re an impulsive shopper and tend to come home with multiple items that weren’t on the list, you might consider grocery shopping online.

This may sound strange, but actually many larger chains are exploring this option and offering free shipping after a certain amount.

Obviously, you will still have to go to the store to purchase perishables like produce and meat or frozen foods, but if you buy all the dry goods online, you’ll at least lessen the time spent near potentially tempting impulse items.

 

10. Minimize Monetary Contact—

The less you shop, the less you’ll spend in a week, so resolve to only shop on one day and stay away from the stores unless absolutely necessary.

Shopping solo is also highly recommended, because having more people to grab impulse items around is a quick way to fill up a shopping cart with things you don’t need.

Plus, if you’re alone you can concentrate better, and maybe you’ll actually remember those coupons you keep forgetting to use.

 

Shopping on a tight budget can be a challenge, but with a good grocery plan involving the useful tips above, you can save money and feed your family affordable meals that still taste expensively delicious.

Fitting in Fitness: 5 Top Tips to Take Time for Post-Baby Exercise

Jogging Woman (2)

 

Once you’ve adjusted to life with your new baby, if you’re like most women, your next goal will likely involve trying to reclaim your pre-pregnancy wardrobe. But you now have a little cutie in your life who makes it harder to find the time to work out. Long gone are the leisurely “I’ll get to it later” days, because with an infant to care for, things put off until later are less likely get done at all.

So how can a new mom find the time for exercise? Don’t worry; with some planning and dedication, it can be done. Below are 5 top tips from fitness experts to help new moms fit in regular workouts and get back into shape.

 

1. Assess the Schedule—

It’s time to take a long look at your weekly schedule, and try to find any blank spots into which you might fit a workout. Most of us feel busier than we actually are, with chunks of time during our days we forget about, so figure out where every hour is going.

If you can find 1 hour a day, 5 days a week, no matter where they may happen, grab them for your fitness time and don’t let go.

Also: Get a daily planner with an hourly breakdown, and write the workouts into their designated time slots. This will help you remember your exercise plans, as well as giving you a sense of satisfaction when you check them off as “Done!” afterward.

 

2. Solicit Support—

If you prefer running or gym workouts and need babysitting, sit down and have a talk about your fitness scheduling needs with your significant other, babysitter, family members such as grandparents, or even a friend who also has kids and might be willing to swap babysitting.

Don’t discount the accountability power of a workout buddy, either. Working toward your fitness goals together with a friend can help both of you stay better motivated.

By discussing your fitness goals with others and setting up concrete plans to fit in exercise, you will be more motivated to stick with it, which is how we get results.

 

3. Get Exercise When You Can—

There will be days when the universe seems to be conspiring against your goals, and the best laid plans will fall to pieces, like so many cellulite dimples. This is when you have to stand up to the universe, say, “You can’t stop me,” and take whatever you can get.

This may mean that when the babysitter you had scheduled for a reasonable hour is sick, you work out very early in the morning before your significant other goes to work, or you find another form of exercise to replace the planned trip to the gym, such as a long walk or workout DVD.

Whatever you do, don’t give up—at least find a way to work some movement into your day, even if it’s only 20 minutes.

 

4. Make Fitness a Priority—

Yes, it’s more fun sometimes to browse social media sites for hours, but if you want those pre-baby clothes back, consistent exercise is going to have to happen, and clicking a mouse doesn’t burn many calories.

This means showing television time and the Internet who’s the boss by turning them off and sticking to your workout schedule.

Social media can become quite addictive, so if this is an issue for you, try going cold turkey for a week of online hiatus, or consider only using the Internet on the weekends.

Some people may even need to have a trusted friend change the passwords to any social media accounts they can’t stay away from to completely take away the option and break the addiction.

 

5. Don’t Play the Guilt Game—

“If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”

This is a funny saying, but it’s also absolutely true. In order to take good care of everyone else, your family needs you to be feeling good inside and out, and exercise is definitely a way to achieve this.

Remember that by finding time for fitness, you aren’t being selfish; you’re making sure you’re healthy and able to function at maximum capacity in order to be the best mother you can be.

Every workout is an investment in your good health, and that’s an investment in your family’s future, so don’t feel guilty: feel proud of yourself.

 

If you’re having trouble finding the time to work out, don’t forget that taking a stroller walk with your baby or doing workout DVDs at home both count as exercise, and that many yoga classes will allow moms to incorporate their babies into workouts to keep them entertained. Many gyms also offer daycare, so explore that option if you’re having trouble finding childcare support at home.

No matter what, you can get back into a healthy regime post-baby that will allow you to stay fit and feel great!

Belly Bulge, Be Gone! 6 Top Exercise Tips to Tone Abdominal Muscles

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Belly bulge is a troubling problem for many people, making us self-conscious and uncomfortable in our clothing with form-fitting waistlines that can feel too-tight. Considering that abdominal fat can surround the internal organs, contributing to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, breast cancer and heart disease, flattening the stomach is more than a vanity issue: it’s a valid health concern.

Fortunately there are many tips from fitness experts and exercises recommended to help tone the midsection. Below are 6 top things everyone can do to reduce belly fat and strengthen the abdominal muscles.

 

1. Get Your Heart Going—

The number one step shown to reduce extra pounds around the middle is regular, consistent cardiovascular exercise. Doing 30 to 60 minutes of cardio per day has been shown to cause weight loss, and that includes the tummy area. (Source: Harvard Medical School.)

Brisk walking counts as cardio, so shrinking your waistline could be as simple as working a 30 minute walk into your lunch break, or watching a television show while you treadmill every day after work.

Consistency is the key, so find your favorite type of cardio and stick with it to see results.

 

2. Carve Out a Spot—

According to the Mayo Clinic, exercises involving “abdominal hollowing” movements are especially helpful for building core muscles and strengthening the deeper stomach muscles.

This exercise (often called Cat-Cow Pose in yoga) is performed on the hands and knees, by inhaling with a relaxed belly. Next, the abdominal muscles are pulled in on an exhale while lifting the navel up as close to the spine as possible.

When this exercise is performed a minimum of 10 times daily (especially when combined with daily cardio), it will eventually tighten the midsection from within, slimming and toning the stomach area.

 

3. Become a Biker—

While riding the stationary bicycle is a great way to get cardio for weight loss, this particular bike exercise known for tightening the core muscles is done on the back, with the legs in the air.

When lying on your back, keep the arms behind the head to support neck muscles, and try to touch the each elbow to the opposite knee as you air pedal to increase the cellulite burning and abdominal toning properties of this classic exercise.

  

4. Mix It Up—

Fitness trainers recommend doing a variety of abdominal exercises to work the assorted muscles because only working one section can actually cause that muscle group to bulge out, creating the opposite of the smoothing effect you’re seeking.

So if you’re only doing crunches, for example, consider adding other variations like knee raises, side twists, plank and abdominal machine reps, or using the exercise ball to force different core sections to join in on the fun.

 

5. Lift Weights to Lose Weight—

If you have a belly bulge, you have weight on your body to lose—you already know this. And one of the best ways to increase weight loss results is to build muscle, because resting muscle burns more calories than resting fat, speeding up metabolism.

Consider adding some form of strength training such as weight machines or weightlifting to your weekly workout a few days a week. This extra muscle mass might be just the thing your body needs to burn off that belly fat for good.

 

6. Flutter to Fitness—

A popular core-strengthening exercise is the scissor-style exercise mat move referred to as doing “flutter kicks.”

Flutter kicks are done by lying on the back with arms at the sides, with the heels raised 6 inches off the ground. Engage the abdominal muscles and hold them tight while moving the legs up and down in the air. Be careful to keep the back and neck muscles relaxed, and focus on only using the stomach.

When done consistently, flutter kicks are another excellent belly fat buster because they strengthen abdominal muscles from the inside out.

 

In addition to adding extra exercise, don’t forget about the fat-fighting friend we have in water. Water assists with digestion and reduces bloating and constipation, both of which can contribute to a bigger-looking belly. Water also clears the body of toxins, and the cleaner our system, the faster we lose weight, so be sure to drink at least 8-10 glasses a day.

By using the fitness trainer tried-and-tested tips above, anyone can eliminate annoying tummy fat and build a flatter, firmer stomach. Get started today, and kiss that belly bulge bye-bye!

Backsplash Brainstorm: Incredible, Inspiring Ideas for a Killer Kitchen

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A lot of messy activities happen in the kitchen, making a backsplash a great idea for any cooking area. In addition to protecting walls where the culinary commotion occurs, a backsplash can also be a great way to add interest, charm and style to the room. No matter what you’re hoping to achieve, there are endless colors, textures and materials you can use to get the look you want.

While there’s nothing wrong with an elegant tile backsplash, there are other innovative options to consider as well. Below are some of the latest and greatest original backsplash ideas, and some cool classic styles to get your creative juices flowing.

 

1. Ceramic Subway Tiles—

Completely on-trend, these white tiles are most commonly combined with white grout for a clean, contemporary look.

With their modern-yet-vintage vibe, subway tiles are a great way to create a neutral or monochromatic feel, or brighten up a darker kitchen.

 

2. Glass Tiles—

Glass tiles have a watery flow and reflect light beautifully, working well with any style of décor to give the room an oceanic, soothing tranquility.

If you’d like to open up a kitchen, the clear luminescence of glass tiles (or one large, solid sheet of painted glass, if you prefer to skip the grout) can make a small room feel bigger, and look beautiful.

 

3. River Rocks or Pebbles—

If you’re a fan of rustic design and like to incorporate nature into your home, using small, smooth rocks as a backsplash can make your kitchen walls reminiscent of a relaxing retreat.

Garden stones in natural colors, brightly-colored rocks, or even seashells can be used, with grout gently smoothed between to make the surface waterproof as well as pretty.

 

4. Tin Tiles—

Formerly spotted adding character to ceilings, decorative tin has become a popular way to lend eccentric charm and vintage appeal to kitchen walls, with the benefit of a reflective surface to brighten shadowy under-cabinet areas.

Tin tiles come in sheets of embellished metal to be cut and placed in large pieces, or individual tiles if preferred, and silver, bronze or classic copper are popular color choices.

Be sure to treat tin backsplashes with a waterproofing coat of polyurethane to prevent rust.

 

5. Brick Wall Tiles—

The same thin tiles made from brick to cover other walls (often used to create an exposed-brick effect) can make great backsplash tiles in a kitchen when used with grout and sealant to eliminate the porous surface.

This backsplash looks exceptional with Tuscan design, adding an old-fashioned, classic feel, but can also complement a rustic modern design with its raw simplicity.

 

6. Chalkboard Backsplash—

Chalkboard paint is a popular option for anyone, but works especially well for those with kids, busy lifestyles, or a penchant for creative expression.

Chalkboard paint is already a waterproof sealant, so all it needs is a quick wipe-down when messy. And bonus: You can write down your recipe for dinner or grocery list without having to leave the kitchen.

 

7. Mosaic Magic—

If you are artistic, or have an artist in the family willing to help, broken pieces of tile, glass, ceramics, glass beads, and anything else you choose can be glued to the wall in a beautiful design or pattern.

Grout is used to fill in the areas between the works of art, with a sealant applied to protect the masterpiece at the end. Mosaic design is a great way to add character to a flat, boring room, but also works well will eclectic design.

 

8. Stainless Steel Tiles—

Especially if you have a very modern kitchen, stainless steel tiles are a smart and timeless option, with their metallic sheen that matches any wall paint color or countertop.

Like decorative tin, stainless steel tiles can make a room feel brighter and bigger by reflecting light—and be sure to get a polished version of this metal for easy cleaning.

 

9. Marvelously Magnetic—

By using white dry erase board, you can actually make the area behind your kitchen counters into a place to hold magnetic lists, picture frames and anything else magnetic you love.

Hardware stores often sell large dry erase boards, and will cut them into your required shape and size, so measure twice and bring your calculations with you to try this unique DIY backsplash idea.

 

As you can see, tile, metal and magnets are some fun ideas to get you started, but the sky is the limit when it comes to covering the backsplash area of your kitchen. Don’t forget that favorite artworks, photos, maps and wallpapers can also adorn walls to give you any vision you can dream up. Use the ideas above to get your imagination moving, and have fun with it.

A Better Brain, Body and Beyond: 6 Beautiful Benefits of Yoga

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It’s well known that yoga increases flexibility and strength in a gentle way accessible to those at any fitness level. But yoga fans will tell you it also offers mental and spiritual benefits that go beyond mere muscle tone and elasticity. Some even believe that yoga slows aging by keeping the body cleaner, running more smoothly, and reducing our physical deterioration on the cellular level.

If you’re considering starting a yoga practice, remember that even if you’re in great shape, it’s a completely different form of exercise than what you’re probably used to doing, so take it slow and listen to your body. If it hurts, stop, because yoga isn’t a “no pain, no gain” type of workout. You’re supposed to feel relaxed and limber at the end of class, not like limping home in defeat.

Below are 6 benefits to adding yoga to your regular workout regimen:

 

1. See Ya, Stress—

One of the first things people notice when they start a regular yoga routine is the sense of calm and tranquility it brings them, almost instantly. Something about stretching muscles and the slow, controlled movements brings a peace to the workout rarely found in other exercises.

One study showed that women who did yoga at least once a week for over 2 years released 41% less of a protein triggered by stress that makes people feel moody and tired. (Source: Psychosomatic Medicine.)

Because yoga forces us to focus intently on our body and position, it creates an automatic sense of mindfulness as we meditate and remain in the moment for the duration of each pose, naturally eliminating stress and tension.

 

2. Balance Bonus—

As we get older, balance can become compromised by medications or loss of muscle tone. Yoga can correct this issue by strengthening the balance muscles through repetitive practice, because we all know: practice makes better.

Tree pose, where each leg is individually held up at the knee for a count (without lowering the other leg for support or wobbling) and yoga poses that build core strength can really help those with inner ear or dizziness issues.

 

3. Stretching to Sleep—

Studies have shown that people with sleep issues who do yoga regularly before bed sleep better, longer, and fall asleep faster than those who don’t. (Source: Brigham and Women’s Hospital.)

This improved sleep is attributed to the more relaxed mental state generally found in those who do regular yoga.

Other research has shown that as little as 3 sessions per week can help people sleep better overall—so if insomnia is an issue for you, consider spending some quality time on your yoga mat to hopefully get more quality time in your bed.

 

4. Better Breathing—

Yoga can help those with asthma, allergies and other respiratory issues, thanks to the sinus-clearing deep breathing exercises that tend to accompany the poses.

Reducing anxiety plays a role in breathing problems, and the calming effects of yoga seem to help patients with asthma control tension and relax so they can breathe more easily without medication.

Deep breathing also oxygenates the body which is great for brain function, and helps every other part of the body perform better as well.

 

5. Brain Booster—

By relaxing the mind, yoga increases mental clarity and concentration, and psychologically improves emotional well-being and attitude.

Breathing through one nostril at a time is a common yoga meditation practice that has been shown in studies to increase electrical activity in the brain, boosting cognitive abilities and intellectual performance.

 

6. Terrific Toning—

Even more than strength training and free weights, yoga can target muscle groups by using the body’s own weight to balance, firm and tone. Poses requiring the exerciser to hold them for long periods of time are especially strengthening.

The back is one of the areas most helped by yoga, as the backbone supports everything, and yoga promotes good alignment by decompressing the spine and building up surrounding muscles. This can be very helpful for those who sit for a living and have back pain issues.

 

Remember that yoga is not a competitive sport: everyone is at their own level, with strengths and weaknesses, just like yourself. The goal is to achieve progress at a comfortable rate so you will be more likely to stick with it and see results. If you push too hard too soon, you might put yourself off this excellent form of exercise for good, losing all of the benefits listed above.

So hang in there and be consistent, because the more you practice, the more you’ll learn to love yoga, and all of the wonderful things it has to offer your body and soul.