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Exercise Motivation: 6 Tips You’ve Never Heard Of

The most popular day to exercise is “tomorrow.”

To pump up your motivation, we know the classic tips: find a workout partner so you’re accountable, make your intentions known so you feel social pressure, set a deadline like running a 5K or your 20th reunion. Now, it’s not to say that these tips don’t work. They do. It’s just that we’ve heard them before.

So how about six tips you’ve never heard of? For all of us whose favorite curls are the cheese kind, here are six ways to get a running start.

Tip #1: Remember a good exercise experience.
A brand-new, 2014 study found that you can use memory to enhance motivation. Study participants who described a positive exercise memory were not only more motivated to exercise, they actually exercised more over the next week than those who weren’t prompted to remember. So stash your medal from the 5K when you ran your personal record with your exercise clothes, pack your power walking playlist with songs from the wedding where you danced all night, or tape a picture of the view from the summit of your favorite hike next to your boots. The good memories may pave the way to a good sweat.

Tip #2: Don’t aim to “exercise;” instead, play a sport.
A 2005 study found that when participants were asked about reasons for playing a sport, they thought of intrinsic reasons, like enjoyment and challenge. Reasons to “exercise,” however, were extrinsic and focused on things like appearance, weight, and stress management.

Psychology 101 will tell you that intrinsic motivation makes you more likely to start and stick with a new habit. So sign up for softball, join the masters’ swim team, play ultimate Frisbee, or simply tweak your mindset: your Saturday afternoon bike ride suddenly becomes the sport of cycling.

Tip #3: Don’t work out next to the fittest person at the gym.
A creative 2007 study examined how your fellow gym-goers affect your workout. Researchers hung out around the lateral pull-down machine at a college gym. When a woman started using it, a super-fit female confederate started using the next machine over. Half the time, she wore a tank top and shorts. The other half of the time, she wore pants with extra thigh padding and a baggy sweatshirt. In a third control condition, the confederate didn’t work out at all.

What happened? Women working out next to the tank top used their machine for a shorter amount of time than the other two conditions. And, when researchers later approached and asked women to take a short survey, they reported lower body satisfaction. By contrast, women working out next to the baggy sweatshirt exercised longer and didn’t suffer the same hit to body image.

What does this mean for women? Run on a treadmill behind a 19-year-old in size 0 booty shorts and you’ll probably leave sooner and feel bad about yourself. Run on a treadmill behind an average-looking person and you’ll likely leave after a good workout with your body image intact.

Tip #4: Don’t motivate yourself by thinking about your muffin top or flabby abs.
Yes, you heard that right. Both men and women often motivate themselves to exercise by thinking about their appearance. But it turns out this approach backfires.

A 2014 study found that frequent exercise goes along with a positive body image, which was defined as appreciating one’s body, focusing on how it feels, and being satisfied with what it can do. Makes sense so far. But, for gym bunnies whose main goal was just to look hot, all three components of positive body image weakened no matter how much they exercised. The take home? Consider changing your focus to something other than your thighs or tummy.

Tip #5: Customize your workout in little ways.
The power of small choices was demonstrated in a brand new 2014 study where participants who chose the sequence of their exercises did more sets and reps than those who were given a predetermined sequence. So don’t just slavishly follow the order on your lifting log or go down the line of weight machines. Think about what you want to do and you just may find yourself doing more.

Tip #6: Stop thinking of yourself as lazy.
Think of yourself as someone who exercises, or someone who is healthy, or whatever exercise-friendly identity you’d like to adopt. The human psyche goes to great lengths, sometimes unconsciously, to be consistent with one’s identity. So thinking of yourself as a harried, stressed-out person creates a self-fulfilling prophecy with little room for exercise. But thinking of yourself as a really busy healthy person might create just the tweak your mindset needs.

So even if you’re someone who thinks running late counts as exercise, try out your favorite of these six tips. We’ll be on our way to being healthier before we can lift another cheese curl.

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Losing Weight May Require Some Serious Fun

If you are aiming to lose weight by revving up your exercise routine, it may be wise to think of your workouts not as exercise, but as playtime. An unconventional new study suggests that people’s attitudes toward physical activity can influence what they eat afterward and, ultimately, whether they drop pounds.

For some time, scientists have been puzzled — and exercisers frustrated — by the general ineffectiveness of exercise as a weight-loss strategy. According to multiple studies and anecdotes, most people who start exercising do not lose as much weight as would be expected, given their increased energy expenditure. Some people add pounds despite burning hundreds of calories during workouts.

Past studies of this phenomenon have found that exercise can increase the body’s production of appetite hormones, making some people feel ravenous after even a light workout and prone to consume more calories than they expended. But that finding, while intriguing, doesn’t fully explain the wide variability in people’s post-exercise eating habits.

So, for the new study, published in the journal Marketing Letters, French and American researchers turned to psychology and the possible effect that calling exercise by any other name might have on people’s subsequent diets.

In that pursuit, the researchers first recruited 56 healthy, adult women, the majority of them overweight. The women were given maps detailing the same one-mile outdoor course and told that they would spend the next half-hour walking there, with lunch to follow.

Half of the women were told that their walk was meant to be exercise, and they were encouraged to view it as such, monitoring their exertion throughout. The other women were told that their 30-minute outing would be a walk purely for pleasure; they would be listening to music through headphones and rating the sound quality, but mostly the researchers wanted them to enjoy themselves.

When the women returned from walking, the researchers asked each to estimate her mileage, mood and calorie expenditure.

Those women who’d been formally exercising reported feeling more fatigued and grumpy than the other women, although the two groups’ estimates of mileage and calories burned were almost identical. More telling, when the women sat down to a pasta lunch, with water or sugary soda to drink, and applesauce or chocolate pudding for dessert, the women in the exercise group loaded up on the soda and pudding, consuming significantly more calories from these sweets than the women who’d thought that they were walking for pleasure.

A follow-up experiment by the researchers, published as part of the same study, reinforces and broadens those findings. For it, the researchers directed a new set of volunteers, some of them men, to walk the same one-mile loop. Once again, half were told to consider this session as exercise. The others were told that they would be sightseeing and should have fun. The two groups covered the same average distance. But afterward, allowed to fill a plastic bag at will with M&M’s as a thank-you, the volunteers from the exercise group poured in twice as much candy as the other walkers.

Finally, to examine whether real-world exercisers behave similarly to those in the contrived experiments, the researchers visited the finish line of a marathon relay race, where 231 entrants aged 16 to 67 had just completed laps of five to 10 kilometers. They asked the runners whether they had enjoyed their race experience and offered them the choice of a gooey chocolate bar or healthier cereal bar in consideration of their time and help. In general, those runners who said that their race had been difficult or unsatisfying picked the chocolate; those who said that they had fun gravitated toward the healthier choice.

In aggregate, these three experiments underscore that how we frame physical activity affects how we eat afterward, said Carolina O.C. Werle, an associate professor of marketing at the Grenoble School of Management in France, who led the study. The same exertion, spun as “fun” instead of “exercise,” prompts less gorging on high-calorie foods, she said.

Just how, physiologically, our feelings about physical activity influence our food intake is not yet known, she said, and likely to be bogglingly complex, involving hormones, genetics, and the neurological circuitry of appetite and reward processing. But in the simplest terms, Dr. Werle said, this new data shows that most of us require recompense of some kind for working out. That reward can take the form of subjective enjoyment. If exercise is fun, no additional gratification is needed. If not, there’s chocolate pudding.

The good news is that our attitudes toward exercise are malleable. “We can frame our workouts in different ways,” Dr. Werle said, “by focusing on whatever we consider fun about it, such as listening to our favorite music or chatting with a friend” during a group walk.

“The more fun we have,” she concluded, “the less we’ll feel the need to compensate for the effort” with food.

Original article from The New York Times

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Expert Tips For More Mindful Eating

Unless you’re a competitive eater, there’s really no reason to scarf down your meals. After all, doing the opposite — that is, slowing down — is likely better for your waistline, according to a new review of studies.

The review, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, included 22 different studies that examined food consumption through computerized feedback, human instructions, food texture and utensils used in eating. The results showed that eating slower is linked with statistically significant weight loss.

But how do we slow down when we chow down? Nutrition experts shared their best tips.

1. Take A Seat

Many people eat on the go, meaning they stand while they grab a meal. Whether it’s at your desk, walking down the street or standing around your kitchen counter, “The Biggest Loser” nutritionist and HuffPost blogger Cheryl Forberg, R.D., says this is a clear sign that they’re rushing through a meal to get to something or somewhere else. To stop speed-eating, sit down at a table.

2. Unitask

Many of us veg out in front of the TV, mindlessly shoveling food into our mouths. But as we already know, we’re no good at multitasking, so stop reading the paper or watching reruns while you eat. Focusing on what you’re putting into your mouth can help you slow down and really pay attention to the task at hand. “Enjoy it, savor it and your mindfulness will replace inhaling your meal with a relaxed pace, more enjoyment and better digestion,” Forberg tells HuffPost.

3. Switch Things Up

Having trouble channeling mindful eating? Maybe it’s time to get a little weird. Nutritionist Rochelle Sirota, R.D., C.D.N., recommends adopting some different techniques to help distracted diners slow down and focus. She suggests eating with the nondominant hand, using chopsticks or even setting down the utensil between bites. Eating in an unusual way can help bring back the focus and break quick-eating habits.

4. Socialize

If you’re looking for an excuse to host dinner parties on the regular, here’s your chance. According to Joy Bauer, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., nutritionist and founder of Nourish Snacks, eating with others can help fast eaters slow their pace by engaging in conversation. “The more you chat, the slower you eat,” she tells HuffPost.

5. Chew More

Chewing more can both bring the focus back to speed and help taper eating pace, simply because it takes longer to swallow each bite. That’s why nutritionist Julie Upton, M.S., R.D., CSSD and blogger for The Huffington Post, recommends trying to chew for 15 to 20 seconds before swallowing. Leaning toward foods that actually require more chewing — like veggies, fresh fruits and lean proteins, rather than softer casseroles, mashed potatoes, applesauce or ice cream — can also help speed eaters slow down.

6. Avoid Extreme Hunger

Any time we get too hungry, we tend to scarf down our meals without a second thought. But how can we tell the difference between hungry and too hungry? Upton advises paying attention to your body. If you feel hungry, start planning what to eat, but if your stomach is growling and you have hunger pains, you’ve let your hunger go too far. Train yourself to start keeping track and listening to what your body’s saying.

7. Eat Shelled Snacks

Shelled snacks — like peanuts, pistachios and soybeans — slow down eating because it takes time to remove the actual nut or bean from its encasing. They also may provide visual cues that let munchers know when to stop snacking. One study conducted by researchers at Eastern Illinois University found that participants consumed fewer calories from pistachios when they ate shelled ones versus unshelled. That means that shelled snacks kill two birds with one stone, helping eaters consume less and know when to stop.

8. Water Is Your BFF

Water can help you slow your munching in more than one way. Bauer suggests setting down your fork and taking small sips between each bite to stayed focused and regulate speed. Forberg recommends gulping down a glass before you even begin. “This really does help you fill up a bit,” she says. “When we don’t feel as starved at mealtime, we eat more slowly.”

9. Time Yourself

Since time is the problem, why not tackle it directly? Bauer recommends setting a timer to help slow down your eating speed. Ideally, it should take at least 20 minutes to finish a meal, and using a kitchen timer can help retrain rushers until they’ve slowed down.

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10 Things You Don’t Know About Melanoma

You may have heard of melanoma, but chances are also good that you don’t know everything you need to stay safe –it’s a tricky disease. Whether you run, walk or play outside, this is good to know to keep you healthy! Given that it’s Skin Cancer Awareness Month, what better time to brush up on your knowledge? Many people associate melanoma with moles that go bad, especially in fair-skinned people who don’t use sunscreen, but it’s not quite that simple.

To learn more about who’s at risk for melanoma and the surprising ways it can manifest, we spoke with Dr. Angela J. Lamb, M.D., assistant professor of Dermatology of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Read on for 10 things you probably didn’t know about melanoma.

It’s one of the most common cancers in young adults.
Melanoma may be the least common skin cancer, but according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), it’s the most common form of cancer for young adults ages 25 to 29 and the second most common cancer for people aged 15 to 29. Experts believe this is a result of tanning bed use, says Lamb.

It affects people of all skin tones.
It’s true that people with more pigment in their skin have a much lower risk of skin cancer because they have more protection from the sun, but that doesn’t give them a free pass to skip sunscreen. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas — the most common types of skin cancer and those most strongly linked to sun exposure — rarely happen in people of color, and melanoma is also rare, but when it does happen, it’s mostly on palms and soles, says Lamb.

“I don’t tweak my recommendations based on what the patient looks like,” says Lamb. “I tell everybody ‘wear sunscreen every day like it’s your job, make it a daily regimen like brushing your teeth.’” She also tries to drive home sunscreen’s anti-aging benefits for people who may not be sold on the cancer-prevention angle alone. In case you missed it: A 2013 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine proved that daily sunscreen use helps prevent premature aging caused by sun exposure, including wrinkles and dark spots. Score!

It may not develop in an existing mole.
“This idea that bad moles turn into melanoma, some pathologists believe that and some don’t,” she says. “There are some who believe that you can have a bunch of moles and those will be fine, but you can get a melanoma in some other place.”

It can happen in people with few or no moles.
Yes, melanoma symptoms include a change in the shape, size or color of a mole and the more moles you have, the greater your risk for melanoma. But even people who don’t have a lot of moles are at risk for melanoma, says Lamb.

It may not be a mole at all.
Melanomas can also look like a bruise that doesn’t heal or a dark streak under a fingernail or toenail, she says. Bob Marley was diagnosed with melanoma under one of his toenails in July 1977. He reportedly ignored advice to amputate the toe and the cancer spread to his lungs and brain, and he died in May 1981 at age 36.

Melanoma can also appear in your eyes, but it’s exceptionally rare. “If people are having blurry vision in one eye or pressure behind one eye, they should probably get screened for ocular melanoma,” says Lamb. The symptoms usually aren’t in both eyes, and regular screenings aren’t necessary because it is so rare.

It can appear in areas not exposed to the sun.
Like between your fingers and toes, and on your underarms, butt and genitals. Learn how to do a skin cancer self-exam and read up on the six spots your doc should check for skin cancer.

It’s booming in older adults, too.
Melanoma is also on the rise in Baby Boomers, who didn’t have access to modern sunscreens in childhood. “Those folks were growing up during the time where people would literally lay out with reflectors and baby oil,” says Lamb. For people in their 50s and 60s who had a lot of sun exposure when they were younger, a melanoma diagnosis is the manifestation of genetic mutations to their melanocytes, cells that produce the skin pigment melanin, she says.

It’s the deadliest form of skin cancer…
While basal and squamous cell carcinomas are more common than melanoma, they have higher survival rates. According to the AAD, one American dies from melanoma every hour. In 2014, it’s estimated that more than 9,700 deaths in the United States will be attributed to melanoma.

…but it’s highly treatable when caught early
“The earlier you catch a melanoma, the better the survival,” says Lamb. “It’s directly correlated.” The five-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes (stage III melanoma) is 98 percent, according to the AAD. Lamb says we may be seeing higher numbers of melanoma cases because doctors are better able to diagnose stage 0 melanoma, or melanoma in situ, where there are visible changes on the skin’s surface but cancer has only developed within the epidermis. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends yearly skin cancer exams, which can help catch melanoma as early as possible.

It doesn’t only strike sun-worshippers or tanning bed users.
People with a family history of melanoma can be more prone to it than the rest of the population. Reports have shown that having a first-degree relative with melanoma — that is, a parent, brother or sister — can increase your lifetime risk by 10 to 15 percent, says Lamb. That’s why it’s so important to know your specific skin cancer history. “Skin cancer tends to get lumped together,” she says. “You need to know if your grandmother at 80 had a basal removed or if your brother at 50 had a melanoma removed — that’s a big difference.”

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9 Habits Of People With A Healthy Relationship To Exercise

Much like the precarious line between thinking carefully about food and obsessing over it, exercise is also a highly beneficial component of a healthy lifestyle that can easily become problematic.

Especially among people with a history of eating disorders, a healthy relationship to exercise is “just as pertinent as having a healthy relationship with food,” says Marjorie Nolan Cohn, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics and an American College of Sports Medicine certified Health Fitness Specialist. These days, we hear almost as much about the health risks of excessive exercise as we do lack of physical activity.

“One end of it is avoidance of exercise, versus the other extreme, which is too much exercise,” says Jennifer E. Carter, Ph.D., the director of sport psychology and the Ohio State University Sports Medicine Center. “Balanced exercise finds the middle ground.”

Some of us need an extra push to get off the couch, or some reigning in once in a while. For others, finding the balance between too much and too little physical activity comes easily. Below are a few things these people do differently.

1. People with a healthy relationship to exercise know the difference between a good burn and true pain.

“You hear so much about the whole ‘no pain, no gain’ attitude,” says Cohn. “I think we really have to redefine what pain is.” Yes, you want to feel like you worked hard, you want some fatigue, you might even relish your second-day soreness. But feeling discomfort in joints, or feeling so exhausted you just want to drop at the end of the day is not normal. Pain can be serious, and pushing through could cause worse injury. People with a health relationship to exercise know when to say when.

2. They take rest days.

And when they are in pain or are exhausted, they know it’s time to skip a sweat session. “It’s the same as that chocolate cake,” says Cohn. “It’s delicious, you want to have another piece, but you know it’s not good for you, and you need to stop eating now.” No matter how much you love working out, there is such a thing as too much exercise, and the people with the healthiest relationships to exercise enjoy their off days. Carter recommends taking at least one a week.

3. They don’t exercise to eat, they eat to exercise.

Exercising purely to “influence weight or shape”, says Carter, can be a slippery slope into obsession and disorder. For a healthy athlete or exerciser, food is fuel, not the enemy. Our bodies require a bare minimum amount of calories simply to survive, and we need to provide extra energy for physical activity. Rather than exercising “to allow themselves to eat,” says Carter, people with a healthy relationship to exercise eat to allow themselves to exercise. Eating whatever you want just because you exercised today doesn’t cut it either, even if you just want to maintain weight. Of course we’d never say the occasional brownie was completely off limits, but ‘occasional’ doesn’t mean every dinner warrants a dessert!

4. They can go with the flow.

Many experts recommend scheduling exercise into your day like you would any other appointment to help you stick with your fitness plan. But there also needs to be some flexibility in the scheduling. One sign it’s become too restrictive is if straying from the usual routine causes extreme upset. Take traveling. Someone with a healthy relationship to exercise won’t panic if her day-to-day routine is a little off. Someone with an unhealthy relationship to exercise might skip out on important events or exciting moments or wake up drastically early to fit in a workout. “The exercise becomes number one,” says Carter.

On those days where a regular workout gets bumped from the schedule, Cohn helps clients keep things in perspective by focusing on other ways in which they are physically active. Even walking just a few more steps a day — whether it’s by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or commuting by foot — is still physical, and can help ease anxiety over skipping a sweat session.

5. They know what they like.

“Balanced or healthy exercise is exercise that you like, not exercise that you dislike,” says Carter. “If you’re doing something that you hate, you’re not going to keep doing it.” That might mean running marathons for some and practicing Bikram yoga for others, but what’s important is that you don’t feel like you’re torturing yourself — and that you don’t feel obligated to try every single fitness fad.

The same principle applies to exercise intensity, says Carter. Some people love high intensity workouts like CrossFit, and others will simply find moderate intensity movement more tolerable, she says.

6. But they still mix things up.

“Doing the elliptical every day at the same intensity level is just a repetitive motion,” says Cohn, not one you’re going to see huge results from. People with the healthiest relationships to exercise balance their workout routines with a mixture of activities, whether that’s high and low impact, cardio and strength training, or arm days and leg days. And it doesn’t require pricey sessions with a personal trainer or a degree in exercise science to add a little more balance to your regular routine. Simply reading the directions on a machine at the gym you’ve never tried before, for example, can be surprisingly helpful.

7. They do it on their terms.
Along with finding a fitness plan they enjoy, people with a healthy relationship to exercise also work out when and where they like. Yes, there are big benefits to a morning workout, like fewer cravings and greater energy, but it comes down to personal preference, says Carter. “Some people like to exercise in the morning, some people hate mornings,” she says. “You don’t have to force it.”

8. They seek support.

Everyone has their off days, even people with a healthy relationship to exercise. Whether it’s a lack of motivation to stick to healthy exercise or a compulsion to overdo it, Carter says one of the most effective safety nets is having a workout buddy. “It’s harder to do the compulsive thing when you’ve got someone with you to encourage something a little more moderate, and it’s a great motivator for [others],” she says. Of course, if exercise — or lack of it — is truly interfering with someone’s health, it may be safer to consult a dietitian, a physician or a mental health professional, “or a mixture of all three,” says Carter.

9. They do it for the mental benefits.

“We know so much about the mental health benefits of exercise,” says Carter, and yet many unbalanced exercisers only consider breaking a sweat helpful for altering weight or shape. For many, exercise is an effective coping method for stress, anxiety and depression, and healthy exercisers harness these powers for good.

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