On Air Now
No Program

Results 1 - 20 of 76 next >

Your Driving Record: Insurance Companies’ Crystal Ball

You look at your driving record and see speeding tickets, an accident, maybe a DUI, and chalk everything up to dumb mistakes or bad luck behind the wheel.

But insurance companies see clues about how you manage your life — and even about when you’ll die.

“Motor vehicle records give insight into how folks behave,” says Karen Phelan, senior director of life Insurance for LexisNexis Risk Solutions, a data analytics company in Atlanta.

Driving records have long played a big role when comparing car insurance rates. But predictive analytics is offering new insight using driving history.

» MORE: How much car insurance rates rise after an accident or violation

Using driving records to price life insurance

LexisNexis uses motor vehicle records and other publicly available data in its software tool for evaluating life insurance applicants. The tool’s algorithm produces a score based on the data for each applicant. Life insurance companies can use the scores to help price policies.

When combined with information about medications that applicants take — which can be purchased from prescription-data providers — the tool’s results can eliminate the need for life insurance medical exams in many cases, Phelan says. That means you can apply for life insurance and get coverage quickly, without giving a blood or urine sample.

“When you’re assessing an individual for life insurance in their 20s, 30s, 40s or even 50s, they might not have a lot of relevant medical history,” Phelan says.

Driving records can fill in the blanks before lifestyle habits have had a chance to impact health.

» MORE: How to clear your driving record to save on car insurance

Moving violations and correlations

LexisNexis and RGA Reinsurance Co. found that driving records can help predict someone’s risk of dying at any point from any cause, not just from car accidents. The researchers examined 7.4 million motor vehicle records from 2006 to 2010 and cross-referenced those with death records from 2007 to 2010. About 73,000 of the drivers died within the study period.

“We see all violations having relevance,” Phelan says. “Sometimes it’s not the violations themselves, but [having] a high number of them.”

Some of the findings within the study period:

  • People with serious violations, such as a DUI, reckless driving or speeding 30 mph or more above the limit, had a 71% higher death rate than people of the same age with clean driving records or only minor violations.
  • For women, one serious violation doubled the death rate. For men, one serious violation increased the death rate by 61%.
  • People with two to five violations of any kind had a 24% higher death rate.
  • Six or more violations of any kind on a driving record boosted the death rate by 79%.
  • The trends were consistent for all ages.

A similar study published in 2016 by global reinsurer Hannover Re found that DUIs were a stronger predictor of higher death rates (from any cause) than any other traffic violation. Next up were driver license suspensions or revocations, followed by reckless or negligent driving, speeding and car accidents. The extra death risk linked to speeding tickets depended on how much drivers exceeded the speed limits.

Life insurers have expanded their use of driving records in the last five years, and some insurers now use them to evaluate applicants regardless of age or the coverage amount, Phelan says. Ten years ago, insurers typically checked motor vehicle records only for people buying large policies.

» MORE: When to file a car insurance claim, and when not to

Your driving record and home insurance

Allstate, meanwhile, is using driving records to help price home insurance. The company began doing so in 2011 in Oklahoma with the introduction of a policy called House & Home, which included changes in coverage as well as pricing. The product is available in 37 states.

Home insurance prices are based mostly on a home’s reconstruction cost and location. Allstate started looking at driving records to learn about homeowners’ behavior, says Laurie Pellouchoud, vice president of product operations in Allstate’s home insurance unit.

Behavior is important: Poor home maintenance or careless security can lead to damage and home insurance claims. Insurers don’t have to explain why certain behavior leads to claims. They only have to show a correlation between the variables and claims.

TransUnion provides insurers with court record data to help price home insurance. A 2016 study by the credit bureau recommended that insurers consider both traffic and criminal violations for all household members because of the strong tie between violations and home insurance claims.

Mark McElroy, executive vice president of TransUnion’s insurance business unit, says that among traffic violations, serious things like speeding 20 mph over the limit and DUIs are the most powerful predictors that someone will make a home insurance claim.

“But there is predictive value in minor violations like parking infractions as well,” he says.

Most home insurers don’t use driving or court records for pricing yet, says George Hosfield, senior director of home insurance for LexisNexis Risk Solutions. Getting the data costs money. For many home insurers, the predictions that can come from driving records aren’t powerful enough to justify the cost, he says.

McElroy says home insurers are seeking more sophisticated data and pricing techniques to get a competitive edge. “We believe this will continue and even accelerate over the years to come.”

Barbara Marquand is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: bmarquand@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @barbaramarquand.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by USA Today.

Panther of the Week: Jamel Artis

Jamel Artis put on a performance for the ages in a week most Pitt fans would like to forget

Pitt went 0-2 this past week, but Jamel Artis had a performance few will forget. It’s unfortunate that the senior guard’s top performance came in such a dismal week for the hoops team. The week started with a tremendous comeback, that fell short, against the ranked Louisville Cardinals. It ended with a thud, at home, against Miami. Through it all, Artis shined, giving him the Panther of the Week honors.

Let’s just start with the low point of the season, which saw Pitt lose to Miami, AT HOME, by 26 points! In a game that saw no Ryan Luther and Michael Young battling a face injury, Artis tried his best to keep Pitt in the game, but fell short. The senior finished the game most would like to forget with a team high 15 points. He also chipped in two boards and two assists.

While that game is one that everyone wants to forget, Artis had one fans will remember for a long, long time against Louisville. The Panthers finished the contest with a 85-80 loss to the Cardinals. The game saw Pitt fall behind early, by over 20 points, but then everyone witnessed Artis’ refusal to let Pitt go away. He finished with 43 points, three rebounds and two assists. 32 of his points came in a wild second half.

The Baltimore, MD native was draining threes from NBA range and with defenders in his face and Louisville had to feel like they were in a horror movie for a little while. They had to be wondering why Pitt wouldn’t die until the final seconds. Artis shot 68% from the floor and that included seven treys.

Unfortunately most will remember this for the dismal performance against the Hurricanes and they should, but it should not let us forget Artis’ performance earlier in the week. The team needs Young to rebound from his injury and they must have find someone to step up for Luther’s absence. If that doesn’t happen, it won’t matter what Artis does.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author@BrunoPittsburgh

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.

You might also like {{displayTitle}} READ

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.

The Best Ways to Use Leftover Hummus (Besides Scraping the Container With Your Finger)

Who doesn’t love coating a pita chip with a glob of hummus at snack time? Yeah, thought so. But what do you do when you reach for the container to find there’s only a tablespoon or two left? Before a single tear runs down your cheek, think of it this way: You’re on your way to the start of a great recipe. From salad dressing to pasta sauce, these are the best ways to use the last remains of hummus. (TBH, these recipes are so good you may want to stock up on the spread anyway just to make them all.)

Not in the mood to read a recipe? Smear that extra hummus on a burger or sandwich (extra points for grilled cheese), or use it as “sauce” for a flatbread pizza with veggies and feta.

1. Hummus Dressing Photo: Delish Knowledge What’s the secret ingredient behind this thick, creamy dressing? Hummus, of course. Blend the dip with dill (for freshness) and a glug of zingy lemon juice, then pour it over salads and roasted veggies alike. 2. Hummus-Crusted Chicken Smear the dip over a chicken breast for dinner tonight and you’ll wonder why you ever used a flour-and-egg mixture. Garlicky hummus creates a thin crust on the meat, and when spooned over a baking dish of veggies, pools into a light sauce after its trip in the oven. 3. Greek Tot-Nachos Reimagine nachos with gobs of hummus instead of salsa and swap in tater tots for chips. This cozy skillet is perfect for winter eating sports season. 4. Hummus Pasta Sauce Photo: Quite Good Food We’d really like hummus pasta sauce to be the *next big thing.* The velvety sauce coats each noodle (or zoodle) strand just as well as alfredo sauce—only this creamy blend won’t make you too full for seconds. And isn’t that really what it’s all about? 5. Vegan Queso Hummus Photo: Fuduzzi OK, so you need 10 ounces of hummus for this recipe, but we couldn’t help ourselves: It’s vegan queso, y’all. If you need us, we’ll be spooning this over chips, pretending we’re 13 again at the movie theater. 6. Hummus Chicken Salad Ditch the mayo and spoon extra hummus into your chicken salad mixture. Not only does it add tons of flavor, the fat from chickpeas is much better for you than that white stuff. 7. Mediterranean Lentil Dip “Two pulses are better than one” is what this chickpea and lentil dip would say if it could talk. Super filling and way more exciting than boring ol’ bean dip, this hearty spread deserves to be smeared on thick slices of bread instead of wimpy crackers.

Should You Refinance Your Home in 2017?

Deciding whether or not to refinance your mortgage is complicated in the best of times. But with the unknown looming in 2017, the question is even messier than usual.

Many experts and economists are predicting rising interest rates this year. Kiplinger, for instance, predicts that the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage will rise to 4.6% this year. That’s still a fairly low rate compared with other points in history. But rising rates may have homeowners like you wondering if they should refinance sooner rather than later.

If you’re currently paying higher-than-average interest on your mortgage, you may want to consider refinancing this year before the interest rates rise. Of course, you’ll also need to factor in your credit since that’ll determine the rate you’re offered when you go to re-fi (more on this in a minute). You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com. They’re updated every two weeks, and checking your scores won’t harm them in any way.

Here are some questions to ask to determine whether or not to refinance your mortgage this year:

1. What Interest Rate Will I Qualify For?

It’s important to figure out what interest rate you’re likely to qualify for. One way to do this is to check out a mortgage rate calculator, which will take some basic information and give you a likely APR for your mortgage.

The only way to find out for sure how much a mortgage will cost you, though, is to shop around. Check out different online mortgage lenders, as well as traditional bricks-and-mortar options. Remember, if you apply to refinance your mortgage with several lenders within a few days’ time, it’ll only count as one hard inquiry on your credit report.

What should you do if your credit score is on the low side? Consider taking some time to boost your credit score, especially if you can do it relatively quickly by paying down credit card debt. However, you’ll need to weigh the benefit of having a better credit score when you refinance against the possibility that interest rates will balloon before you can refinance. (Have bad credit? Here’s what to know if you’re thinking about refinancing anyway.)

2. How Much Will Refinancing Cost?

As with buying a home, there are usually closing costs involved when you refinance. Some lenders offer no closing cost refinances, which can save you a bundle up front. However, loans without closing costs may charge a higher interest rate. And even so-called “no closing cost” refinances may have some fees due at closing.

Generally, though, closing costs on a refinance will be similar to closing costs when buying a home. You’ll need to pay credit fees, appraisal fees, escrow and title fees, and other fees imposed by your lender. Overall, you can estimate closing costs to be about 1.5% of the total loan principal.

If you’ve got enough equity in your home, you may be able to roll closing costs into the overall principal amount. But you’ll still wind up paying these fees one way or another.

3. When Will I Break Even?

Calculating when you’ll break even is the essential piece to deciding whether or not you’ll refinance. Since you have to either pay up front or roll refinancing costs into your loan, you need to know how long it’ll take to get that money back.

To calculate your break-even point, you need to first find out how much money per month the refinance will save you. Then, calculate how much it will cost. Divide the total cost by the savings per month, and you’ll see how many months it will take to break even.

For example, say you expect to pay $3,000 to refinance your $200,000 mortgage. You’ll save $175 per month when you refinance. So your break-even point is about 17 months. Once you’ve paid on the refinanced mortgage for 18 months, you’ll be saving money overall.

4. How Long Do I Plan to Stay in My Home?

Generally, refinancing your home is a winning proposition any time you stay in your home longer than your break-even period. In the above example, you’ll come out on top if you own your home for at least 18 months after you refinance.

Of course, the longer you own the home after your break-even month, the more money you’ll save because of your refinance.

If you’re not reasonably sure you’ll own your home through your break-even month, refinancing won’t be worth your while. But if you think you’ll stay in your home, refinancing could save you a lot of money over the long haul.

 

Related Articles

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

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

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

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

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

No. 23 Pitt wrestling dominates weekend duals to move to 7-2

The Pitt wrestling team returned to duals action for the first time in more than a month after beating West Virginia in December. The Panthers had three opponents as part of their hosted 'Pitt Duals' event on Saturday and won all three easily.

Pitt first shut out Franklin and Marshall, 46-0, before defeating Davidson (45-0) and Bloomsburg (32-6). Both Davidson and Franklin and Marshall were on the Pitt Duals slate last year and while the Panthers easily beat Davidson, they had more trouble with Franklin and Marshall, winning 'only' 25-12.

One minor note is that it was good to get Dom Forys back. Forys, a top ten ranked wrestler at 133 pounds, missed the team's last dual against West Virginia with an injury. He returned to win all three of his matches.

The only Pitt defeats on the day that the team suffered were losses by Taleb Rahmani at 157 pounds and Donovan McAfee at 184 pounds (both in the Bloomsburg dual). Both of those wrestlers had one other match and successfully won (Rahmani also won a third via forfeit, so he was 2-1 on the day).

Ranked wrestlers Dom Forys (No. 7), TeShan Campbell (No. 13), and Ryan Solomon (No. 20) all had easy days, finishing a perfect 9-0. Every bout except for a forfeit and Solomon's 2-0 win against Bloomsburg was a technical fall win or a pin.

The most interesting thing on a day full of easy wins was that Mikey Racciato didn't wrestle. Not sure if it was an injury issue but hopefully he's back in time for the next meet. That next one, by the way, is an important one - it's a road trip to Virginia Tech next weekend for the first ACC dual of the season.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

5 Credit Cards That Help You Earn Hotel Elite Status

If you’re a frequent traveler, then having elite status at hotels can be pretty valuable. It will allow you to check into your room early or check out late. Status can get you upgraded to a bigger room with a nicer view. It can even award you with free breakfast or a complimentary drink in the evening. Having elite status with hotels can dramatically enhance your overall travel experience.

The only problem is that earning elite status with most hotel chains can be difficult. Many require you to stay for weeks before you will earn low level status. Unless you travel a lot for business, this can be pretty unattainable.

This is where your credit card can help. Some credit cards that earn hotel points will automatically award you elite status, just for being a cardholder. Other cards allow you to earn status when you spend a certain amount each year with your card. Here are five cards that will help you earn hotel elite status.

1. Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve

When you sign up for the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card you will automatically receive Hilton HHonors Gold status. This will give you things like a 25% bonus on the base HHonors points you can earn, the fifth night free when you book five or more nights, and late checkout. You will then have the chance to earn diamond status when you spend $40,000 or more per year with your card.

The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card also will award you with two free weekend nights after you sign up and spend $2,500 within the first four months. You will also receive 10x HHonors points when you use your card at Hilton hotels, 5x points on airlines and car rentals, and 3x points on everything else. Plus, each year that you spend $10,000 on your card and pay the $95 annual fee, you will receive a free weekend night as a thank you.

2. Hyatt Credit Card

When you sign up for the Hyatt credit card you will automatically receive platinum status with Hyatt hotels. This will give you 15% bonus points, free premium Wi-Fi, and room upgrades when available.

After you sign up and spend $2,000 within the first three months you will receive a bonus of two free nights. Plus, if you add an authorized user to your account and they make a purchase in the same three-month period, you will receive 5,000 bonus Hyatt points. You will then earn 3x points when you use your card at Hyatt hotels, 2x points at restaurants and on airfare and car rentals booked with the airline or car rental agency, and 1x points on all other purchases. Each year on your anniversary, you will receive one free night that can be used at any category 1-4 Hyatt hotel, after you pay the $75 annual fee.

3. IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card

As an IHG Rewards Club Select cardholder you will automatically receive IHG platinum elite status. This will allow you to check into your room early, earn 50% more points and receive an upgraded room.

When you sign up for this card, you will receive 60,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 within the first three months. You will earn an additional 5,000 points when you add an authorized user and they make a purchase in that three-month period. When you use your card at IHG hotels you will earn 5x points. Spending done with the card at restaurants, gas stations, and grocery stores will earn 2x points, and all other purchases will earn 1x points. Each anniversary you will receive one free night. There is no annual fee the first year, but it will be $49 each subsequent year.

4. Marriott Rewards Premier Card

You will receive 15 elite nights each year that you are a Marriott Rewards Premier cardholder. This is enough to receive silver status, giving you an additional 20% in points when using your card. You will also receive one additional elite night for every $3,000 spent on your card. If you reach 50 nights, you will earn gold elite status.

When you sign up for the Marriott Rewards Premier card you will receive 80,000 Marriott points after spending $3,000 within the first three months. You will earn an additional 7,500 points when you add an authorized user and they make a purchase in the same three-month period. When you use your card at Marriott and Starwood properties you will earn 5x points. Booking airfare directly with the airlines or car rentals booked with the rental agency will earn 2x points. Any other purchase will receive 1x points. Each year on your card anniversary, you will receive a free night at any category 1-5 hotel. The annual fee on this card is $85.

5. The Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum card is easily the most expensive card on the list with an annual fee of $450. However, it also offers you the most bang for your buck. As a cardholder you will not only receive Hilton HHonors gold status, but you will also earn Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status. With Starwood Gold, you will receive a 50% bonus on the points that you earn. You will also receive an enhanced room and a welcome gift, which could include bonus points, complimentary internet access or a free drink.

When you sign up for the Platinum Card from American Express you will receive 40,000 Membership Reward points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. You can earn 5x points when you use your card to book flights directly through the airlines or through American Express Travel. Any other purchase you make with the card will earn 1x points. This card also comes with several other valuable benefits. You will receive an annual $200 airline fee credit to use on incidental fees. You will also have complimentary access to over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide. If you would like Global Entry or TSA Pre✓, you will receive up to a $100 statement credit to cover the expense.

Remember, before applying for any credit card, it’s a good idea to check your credit scores so you’ll have a better idea of whether you’ll qualify. Many rewards cards require excellent credit. You can check your two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, at Credit.com.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

 

Related Articles

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

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

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

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

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

Kevin Stallings comments after brutal Miami loss

I don't typically 'do' basketball press conferences. Generally after football games, I'll try to check in on what Pat Narduzzi has to say, win or lose, but there's just way too many basketball games to care that much.

But being so curious how Pitt basketball coach Kevin Stallings would address the brutal loss to Miami on Saturday, I tuned in afterwards.

First, Stallings said what most of us thought in watching the game. "I certainly tip my cap to Mike Young because he shouldn't even have been playing," Stallings said.

Young, apparently, was a game day decision and the team didn't even find out they'd have him until late this morning. Late in the week, in fact, Stallings expected to have Ryan Luther but not Young, but it actually worked out the opposite way since Luther suffered an injury in practice on Friday. After that, Stallings figured the team would be without both until they learned of Young being able to play this morning. Finally, on that front, Stallings also confirmed Luther would be out for at least a couple of weeks.

You don't need me to tell you that's a problem for Pitt regarding the depth. Young will likely be available going forward, but Stallings said he would continue to wear the make since he has an orbital bone fracture.

One interesting thing that he said was that they would likely try a different mask. Earlier in the press conference, Stallings talked briefly about it being difficult to play in those things (in terms of being able to see and breathe, so it sounds as if Pitt is going to try a different mask for him to make him more comfortable. But it has to be custom-fitted and ordered, so they couldn't get it by today. Even if he is able to play, though, obviously he's going to be limited.

Stallings explained the mask deal a bit more. "That one he used today, I've had other players that have had to use that. In order to see down, you have to tilt your head to look down because you can't see below your eyes," he said. "The one he'll have, hopefully by Tuesday, will be clear and he'll have a better peripheral vision."

Stallings continued to praise Young and said that on Friday, he looked like he'd been in a ring against Mike Tyson with his eye barely open. Despite that, Young insisted he wanted to play. As I said earlier, he deserves a lot of credit for suiting up and trying to help the team out. Pitt was very shorthanded with Luther out and for Young to give it a go really impressed me a lot, despite the poor game he had.

The Pitt coach also talked about the lineup going forward without Luther. Would freshman Corey Manigault be the one to come in and pick up the slack?

"We might have to play small," Stallings said. He didn't elaborate on that since he went back to talking a little about the Luther injury, but I thought that was interesting. It was just a brief answer, but it certainly sounds like Pitt is hesitant to fill Luther's spot with another big. Assuming Pitt does go smaller, that probably means more of Justice Kithcart out there.

I thought that was an interesting answer because Pitt hasn't gotten much from those guys at all. Kithcart hasn't had a field goal in his last five games and Wilson hasn't had one since six games ago again Omaha. There's Jonathan Milligan as a potential option, too, but the long and short of it is that there isn't any easy fix to finding a replacement for Luther's minutes.

My guess is that Pitt continues to stretch their starting lineup as much as possible and simply get other guys off the bench to play a few minutes. If someone like Milligan gives them a few buckets, perhaps they play a bit more. This is going to be a lot of feeling their way around, I imagine, as the games go on. There's just not one solid option you can point to and say unequivocally that 'he's the guy.'

So, what did Stallings think about the game?

Particularly, I wanted to know what he thought of the team's effort. Stallings was first asked a question if he had anything specific to say about his team's effort. His response?

"No. No."

He later elaborated a little more.

"Today we felt like, obviously, was a day that we needed to win," Stallings said. "But I'm not going to come here and throw anybody under the bus."

Stallings continued. "I don't know if they did the best they could under the circumstances but I think they think they did the best they could under the circumstances. Do we need to get better? Yeah, we need to get better. Do we have some holes? Yeah, we have some holes. Have we had those holes all season long? Yes we have. But when you have holes and you have two guys that can bail you out sometimes like Jamel and Mike do then you can sometimes cover those holes."

Listening to Stallings speak there, he really just sounded like a guy that knew Pitt was walking such a thin rope. The depth, as we've stated, is not there. And while Pitt can be a good team at full strength just because of the starters, Stallings has known this team is inches from being significantly worse than they are when everyone is healthy.

It's also evident that without being too hard on the guys that he felt they could have given a better effort today. There's not really any other way to read into that quote. Effort, I felt, was a problem today and without saying it specifically, Stallings seemed to indirectly concede that he thinks it may have been, too.

Finally, Stallings talked a little about the roster deficiencies and sort of indirectly hinted about possibly not having enough talent. The coach continued, "If we've got guys injured, we've got to play the guys that we have. If the guys that we have aren't good enough to win, then we're not good enough to win."

No surprises here, but again, it's not hard to read between the lines. Stallings is short on talent (at least developed talent) and he knows it.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Effortless: Miami steamrolls Pitt in ugly 72-46 loss

In a game the basketball team virtually had to have, the Panthers were not only beaten, but routed, by Miami, falling 72-46 at home on Saturday.

That score isn't a typo, nor is the name of the opponent. Pitt lost to a decidedly average Miami team. At home. By nearly 30 points.

I really hate writing overly long articles and, generally, it's understood that anything beyond 1,000 words that's not a longform article on an important topic is considered rambling. Yeah, so this is going to be a lot of rambling because I know full well I'm clearing that 1,000-word limit today.

Pitt was missing Ryan Luther, who not only didn't play, but will be out for a few weeks with a foot injury sustained in practice this week. They might as well have been missing Michael Young, too. Young played most of the game, but clearly was nowhere close to 100% with an ugly eye injury that forced him to wear a mask. He was completely out of his element and had no positive impact at all, missing all ten of his field goals and scoring only two points. It was clear he wasn't really healthy enough to play and likely the only reason he did was because the team was just so short-handed without Luther off the bench.

Before I get to some of the things that annoyed me about this game, I wanted to touch on Young. No, he didn't play well. And if you asked him, I'm sure he'd say he was horrible. He looked visibly frustrated a few times during the game. But I really commend him for stepping up to not only play but play as much as he did. He was out there as much as the other starters today and knew how badly the team was shorthanded. I'm about to get really critical of what Pitt did today but to do so without recognizing the effort Young gave in a really difficult circumstance would be wholly unfair. If anyone deserves a bit of a pass today, it's him.

Now, to the rest.

Recapping stats is sort of pointless here, so I'm not going to bother. Here's the box score for those that want it, though.

I had a really big problem with how Pitt played today but it goes far beyond the actual result of a loss. For Pitt to lose to a decent Miami team on the road playing shorthanded would perhaps be disappointing but not entirely unexpected. To lose in the manner they did today, given the circumstances, is nothing short of unacceptable.

For starters, the game was not even close. Losing by 26 points to anybody is ugly. Losing by that many to a decent but not unbeatable Miami team is absolutely horrendous. And considering the game was at home, the loss is even more of a problem.

Speaking of home, that deserves some attention, too. The crowd today was completely lifeless and at times, it felt much more like a neutral-court game than a home game. I'm not the guy that's going to get on the crowd for that, though. It's hard to cheer in such a lopsided game. But I think it's important from a context standpoint in that it shows that the fanbase, as a whole, is much more apathetic when it comes to Pitt basketball these days. Tickets are readily available and I continue to get several notifications via email about buying tickets, etc. If Pitt continues on a downward path this season, imagine how difficult selling tickets will be next year when the team loses four starters and will, for all intents and purposes, be starting over?

Just food for thought. Back to the game.

Part of the problem for me is that this was a very beatable opponent. Miami shot pretty well from the field but was even sloppier than Pitt with 18 turnovers. Even with the decent shooting night, a lot of teams having decent games would have been able to beat the Hurricanes with that many gaffes. And again, this is a team that won by almost 30 points. I have to imagine these are the games that winning coaches sort of despise on some level. After all, how do you tell your team that taking care of the ball is all that important if they can be so haphazard out there and still blow their opponent out?

The game was tailor-made for Pitt. As I said, Miami is hardly a terrible team. But you figure that playing with your backs against the wall at home in a game you need, you'd see a bit more in terms of effort - shorthanded or not. This was a nice rebound situation for Pitt and a win here could have gotten them back on track after a slow start to the conference season.

Finally, consider that this also a game Pitt desperately needed. As I wrote in the preview for the gamethread, with such a challenging schedule, this was really a game Pitt needed to win. There wasn't much reason to not show up in this game - particularly after giving the game against Notre Dame away, coming out wholly unprepared against Syracuse, and getting blown out of the water in the first 20 minutes against Louisville to come back and make it a respectable finish. Is it an absolute killer in terms of the NCAAs? Nope. But it also means finding another win on the schedule, which is full of very difficult opponents.

Those three games, too, sort of underscore the problem I have with the team. There simply has been zero real effort in the first halves against Syracuse, Louisville, and now, Miami. And while it was disappointing to be shorthanded today, as I said on Twitter earlier today, this is hardly a one-game thing. It's the third straight time that Pitt has not only started off slowly, but looked entirely overmatched in the first half of games. That's not acceptable by any measure.

I still struggle with how much of this goes to Kevin Stallings since this isn't his roster. But what I don't struggle with is the idea that the team needs to give more effort and stop making so many boneheaded plays. And regardless of the guys on the court, that's part of Stallings' job. What's the answer to get more effort and better starts for Pitt? Lineup tinkering? New practice tactics? Beats me. But again, that's the job of Stallings - to coach the guys he has and it's up to him to figure it out.

I was also unimpressed with the offensive gameplan, whatever it may have been. As I said in the comments section of a recent post, Pitt's offense has largely been dominant due to having the two top scoring guys in the ACC. What I wondered at the time of my comment was just how much credit Stallings can receive since I figured they would score just as much on a Jamie Dixon team that was so thin. The offensive game plan without one of those guys (as we saw today and earlier against Duquesne) is generally pretty bad. There just isn't enough quality movement.

Let me explain.

A lot of times in basketball terms, people will suggest things like there's not enough ball movement in an offense. Ball movement facilities everything and is particularly important when you don't have stars that can easily break down defenders on a 1-1 level and get into the paint and/or take over games. When you have that, ball movement is generally less of an issue. But it's not just ball movement that teams need. Pitt, for example, moves the ball around enough for my tastes. What they don't have is quality movement without the ball - guys cutting and breaking free of their defender, looking to get open and actually do something.

Back in middle school basketball when all of us were getting our first taste of what it was like to play basketball on an actual team, we were just kids following the coaches instruction running the silly 'Replace' offense. They say cut, you cut. Often kids would cut and not be looking at the ball at all. Pitt's offense isn't that bad, of course, but my point is that you can move around a lot and really not do much of anything to get open for a quality shot. It seemed like there was a lot of that going on today. And in one case when Artis did cut freely to the basket and was open by a good two feet, he was blatantly missed by Chris Jones, who had the ball.

Just really bad basketball, folks.

Some of Pitt's problems have been in shooting the ball. They had another horrible shooting day and sometimes the ball just doesn't go in. But much of it is also on playing just bad basketball and not being a sound team. Pitt, for example, was outrebounded by 14 today. Things like rebounding are largely based on effort. And in a game that required all hands on deck and guys doing whatever they could to win, to be beaten that badly on the boards is a really bad look.

For the first time this year, I think some sense of panic will set in with a lot of fans. I wasn't there before since Pitt played Notre Dame and Virginia pretty well while putting together a great second half against Louisville. But there are too many alarms with this team right now and when you throw an injured Luther into the mix, it's hard to have much optimism at all around this team after a game like this.

Pitt has plenty of time to turn it around and as they showed against some of the better teams they've faced this year, when they're on, they're a pretty good team. But with many more showings like today, things could get ugly in a hurry.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

How to Handle Debt & Maintain Your Mental Health

It’s no secret that most people feel lousy when they’re in financial trouble, and one of the biggest financial stressors seems to be debt. When you’re in debt, simple tasks like going to your mailbox, where you anticipate finding an avalanche of bills or overdue notices, can bring on stress. If you relate to this feeling, you aren’t alone. According to a Time article, there are a plethora of Americans in an excessive amount of debt. In fact, the Federal Reserve reported at the end of 2015 that, on average, an American between the ages of 18 and 64 has $4,717 in credit card debt.

So aside from being a burden on our wallets, what does this debt do to us?

“Financial issues are a common source of stress,” Dr. Jay Winner, director of the Stress Reduction Program for Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara, California, said. “Additionally, when someone has extensive debt, there is a tendency to work excessive hours. This deviation from a healthy work-life balance leaves people less resilient to other stressors in their lives.”

How Debt Stress Impacts You

Chronic stress is linked to a wide variety of mental health ailments. Dr. Robert Williams, a psychiatrist in Phoenix, explained that long-term stress physically affects the brain through the well-known “fight or flight” mechanism, which occurs during times of perceived danger, such as those experienced when a threat to financial well-being occurs. Williams explained that when the deep limbic system, or primitive brain, is less active, there is generally a positive, more hopeful state of mind. When it is heated up, or overactive from too much stimulation in the form of perceived threats, negativity can take over.

In addition to an overactive limbic system, Williams said some people are born with a thin cerebral cortex. Emotional stability is a manifestation of the cerebral cortex, and studies suggest a relationship between depression and a thinning cerebral cortex. Dr. Williams said the combination of an overactive limbic system and a thinning cerebral cortex could lead to severe depression. Long-term stress from things like too much debt can cause anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation or focus, feelings of being overwhelmed, irritability or anger, sadness or depression, even thoughts of suicide.

Coping With Debt Stress

If you are stressed because of a financial situation, here are some suggestions from Dr. Winner that may help you cope.

  • Be mindful. Focus on doing one thing at a time with your full attention.
  • Learn a relaxation exercise. Learning to relax for a specified period of time will help you learn to relax through the day and reduce stress.
  • Do not resist the stress. There are not much in the way of health risks from short-term stress; so if you’re too stressed now, don’t stress about being stressed. Just learn some strategies so the stress does not become excessive in the long term.
  • Learn patience. This is important because the emotion most strongly associated with heart disease is anger and hostility.
  • Decrease the frustration of failure. Instead of thinking you are worthless when things go wrong, realize progress comes from learning from our mistakes. Ask, “What can I learn from this?”
  • Keep things in perspective. One way to keep things in perspective is to think of your health, family, friends etc.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat nutritiously and mindfully, enjoying the taste and aroma of your food. Get regular exercise.
  • Have some technology-free time. If you can spend some of that time out in nature, that’s all the better.
  • Talk with someone. If you’re overwhelmed by stress and basic techniques are not helping, discuss this with a physician or mental health professional.

Paying Off Your Debts

Getting out of debt is one sure-fire way to help reduce your stress levels. Of course this is easier said than done, so consider taking small steps toward this larger goal. To start, gather all the information about your debts, including who you owe what amounts to and any interest rates or fees that are applicable to each of the debts. From there, consider what options you have. Can you consolidate your debts? Move the debt to a balance transfer credit card and eliminate interest charges for a while? You may even decide to seek the advice of a professional debt counselor to help you find the right path.

Whatever you do, take a deep breath and keep moving forward. Not only will paying off these debts help your stress, but it will help improve your credit scores. (You can see how paying down your debts are affecting your credit by checking out two of your free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

Related Articles

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

''How I Became a Runner at Age 48''

Robin (KASHMIR) has been a member of SparkPeople since 2006. She has lost 95 pounds and is training for her first marathon. Robin Before Robin After What made you decide to start running? I noticed my evening walks were getting longer. As my weight went down, the walks had to last longer in order for me to burn a good amount of calories. One evening, I was feeling particularly peppy and figured I’d give running a try—and it was hard! I managed to run half a block the first time I tried. It felt good! After my first run, I knew I could do it again. How do you keep your runs fun and interesting? I love running outside! One of my favorite places to run is a nature trail located about a mile away from my home. I also enjoy running through the neighborhood and taking in my surroundings. For the first year, I always ran alone, but this year I decided to run in the Portland Marathon. I joined our local marathon training group, and now run once a week with other people. I’m always looking for new places to run, so I started running in some local races too. Next up—trail running! Were you intimidated to start running? How did you overcome that? I was very intimidated. I convinced myself that I would never be able to run—or at least that I couldn’t run further than a 100-yard dash! After my first attempt at running, I decided to give it a try every once in a while along the nature trail. The trail has quarter mile markers set in the asphalt, so when I would feel like running, my starting point was one of those markers. I slowed down when my heart rate got too high and would then walk some more. As I continued doing this, I realized I was going a little farther each time. I finally set a goal for myself to do what I’d been convinced my entire life was the impossible: run from one quarter mile marker to the next. Once I accomplished that, I was totally blown away! At almost 48 years old I did what I couldn’t do at age 14. Any tips for someone just beginning to run? The most important advice I can give is to go slow—slower than you think you should. Don’t worry about running fast. For the first year, focus on building your distance. By not running faster than your body is able to maintain, you will build your endurance and stamina, you will strengthen your heart, you will teach your body to use oxygen efficiently, and you won’t put as much stress on your bones and muscles. When you run fast, you can’t run as far. Also eat a little something before you start to run and refuel after your run. And, don’t forget to hydrate! Besides weight loss, what other improvements have you noticed? Since I started running, my body fat has dropped from 30% to 17-20%. My lung capacity is amazing now, and when I had a recent VO2 test done, my running coach's response to the results was, "Wow. Wow. Wow." My balance is better, and I feel younger today at almost 50 than I did in my 20s. I’ve also been informed by several people lately that I’ve become a female Benjamin Button. I’m aging backward. What are some of your running goals and accomplishments? My main goal is to complete the Portland Marathon. My current mileage accomplishment is 15 miles. It totally blows me away that I was able to do that! After the marathon, I would like to find some trail runs because I think that would be super fun! Anything else you'd like to add? Every time I tie on my running shoes, I amaze myself with how far I’ve come and what I find my body is capable of doing!Article Source: id=1573

Results 1 - 20 of 76 next >

CLICK HERE FOR A FULL SCREEN CHAT

Carmin Video