Take the 2013 All You Ultimate Health Challenge and improve yourself—inside and out— in just 12 weeks.
Get a head-to-toe checkup: Feeling fatigued even after a good night's sleep? Schedule a physical just to make sure there isn't a nutrient deficiency
or health condition to blame, such as anemia, thyroid issue or diabetes.
Seek out sunshine: Open your curtains in the morning. Sleep doctors say this simple action can lift your energy level. How? When you expose yourself to the sun's bright rays, your body's pineal gland stops secreting the sleepy-time hormone melatonin, so you begin to feel more alert.
Work in a walk: Go for a quick stroll to get your heart pumping. Tight on time? Experts say even just 10 minutes a day of aerobic exercise can help. If you need a reminder, set an alarm on your phone or computer. When it buzzes or dings, it's time to get up and get moving.
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Make a effort to schedule sweat time: Decide when you'll work out and note the dates on your agenda or calendar on your wall, phone or computer. Next, download
a free fitness app, like MyFitFitness, DailyBurn Tracker or iFit to track your activity. Such a program is an easy, convenient way to keep your fitness goals in check by tracking calories
Form a workout group: When you exercise with others you're more likely to stick with your fitness program, studies show. The camaraderie and accountability of, say, a walking club can keep you motivated. Don't have time for that? Round up other moms sitting on the sidelines at a youth soccer game for a few laps around the field whole the kids are playing.
Squeeze in exercise on the go: Use the time you spend waiting or standing every day to do a few easy moves. You'll burn more calories and tone up faster. Try some squats while brushing your teeth or tone your arms while sitting at the desk.
Write a list: Consider all the ways your life will improve once you kick this particular habit. Write them down, then post the list where
you will see it—on your bathroom mirror, say, or your car's dashboard. Read it at least once daily (especially when your willpower
is wavering) to remind yourself why you want to stop and the good things that will come your way once you do. For example,
nixing nicotine can reduce your risk of heart disease in a matter of weeks If you're a mom, consider adding a note about what
quitting might mean to your child.
Secure a sponsor: Find someone who has been successful at breaking the same habit. Lean on that person for support and advice when you feel like you might cave. Holding yourself accountable to even just one other person makes it more likely that you'll stay strong when faced with temptation, experts say. Your inspiration could be a next-door neighbor or a member of an online weight-loss group such as the one at sparkpeople.
Be a patient with yourself: Behavior patterns are always hard to change so expect to relapse at least once—and be gentle with yourself when that occurs. Instead of dwelling on the setback, accept your mistake and move on. Start fresh right away. Remember, slipping up doesn't mean you can't achieve your goal. It's probably just going to take time.
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Reconsider your carbs: Look at the bread, rice and in your pantry. Are they all "white foods," made with refined flour? If so, they're lacking the
all-important fiber that makes grains so protective against diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other ailments. On your next
shopping trip, make a point of purchasing whole-grain foods, like brown rice and 100 percent while-wheat bread and pasta.
Read the labels to be sure each serving contains at least 3 grams of fiber. Every day, make it your goal to have six servings.
Options include a slice of bread, 1/2 cup of pasta or rice, and 1 cup of cereal.
Cut back on red meat: Beef contains a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol. Make meals with chicken, turkey or fish, and prepare at least one dinner a week where you do skip meat. Meatless dished such as vegetarian chili packs in a lot of figure-friendly protein with better quality calories.
Stock up on produce: Fruits and vegetables are full of plant compounds that protect against all kinds of illness including cancer and heart disease. Enjoy at least five servings from different color groups.
Holler when you need help: It’s hard to be happy when you’re feeling overburdened. So reach out and ask for the assistance you need—maybe it’s getting
more volunteers to pitch in for the PTA fund-raiser or a few family members to clean up the dishes after dinner–rather than
quietly seething about everything that’s falling on your shoulders. The extra help is likely to alleviate some of your stress
and lift your spirits.
See every day as a special occasion: Dab on a little perfume you reserve for nights out. Or, better yet, wear your grandmother’s pearls with a T-shirt and jeans. Pulling out items you typically set aside for holidays or birthdays can make you feel sunnier on cloudy days, since such cherishes items help you recall mood-boosting memories.
Pile on praise: Leave yourself positive messages (a sticky note you put on your mirror or computer or an hourly alert you set on your smartphone). Maybe it’s “You’re doing great” or “You’re a wonderful mom.” When we hear something repeatedly, we internalize its meaning, and that can shape how we feel about ourselves, psychologists say. Seeing the upbeat messages that you’ve written and saying them aloud can help you believe them.
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Stick it to anxiety: Get some dot stickers at an office supply store and place them on strategic spots, like your phone, watch, travel mug and
steering wheel. Every time you see a dot, do some breathing (in for 8 counts, out for 8 counts). Use you diaphragm—your belly
should go out as you inhale an din as you exhale. Breathing is the easiest stress reducer, experts say. Slow, deep breaths
actually reduce the body’s production of anxiety-inducing hormones.
Practice saying "I'll get back to you": Shouldering excess responsibility is a huge source of stress for women. One way to lighten that load is to avoid getting roped into chairing an extra committee or chaperoning on more field trip because you couldn’t think of a plausible excuse. Simply saying “I’ll get back to you” gives you time to think about whether your can—or even wan to—take on a commitment, and to come up with a good excuse if you don’t.
Fit in some fun: Actually penciling in this time on your agenda o calendar helps ensure you’ll take that break from obligations to recharge. (Need inspiration? January is National Hobby Month. What new pastime would you like to try?)
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Put portions into perspective: Because we’re so used to seeing the massive amounts of food we get in restaurants, we need to adjust our perception of what
a recommended portion it. Practice measuring out individual servings (like ½ cup of cooked rice or a single portion of cereal
according to the package label) or weighing them (try a 3-ouce piece of fish or chicken). Put the foods on a place or in a
bowl to observe how they look.
See yourself slim: Post a motivating photo of yourself (from a time when you were close to your desired shape) on the fridge. Or take out those jeans you aspire to fit into and hang them up somewhere outside your closet, so you’ll see them whenever you pass by.
Eat more slowly: It takes about 20 minutes to feel full, so when you eat more slowly, it gives your body a chance to receive the signals from your brain that you have eaten enough. Taking your time can help prevent you from ingesting extra calories. A University of Rhode Island study found that when college students were told to eat quickly, they downed 646 calories in 9 minutes, but when they slowed down and savored their meals, they at 579 calories in 29 minutes.
Consume more calcium: Your bones need calcium and vitamin D for optimal strength. Experts suggest getting 1,000 milligrams of calcium (1,200 if
you’re older than 50) and 800 to 1,000 international units of vitamin D (a nutrient that helps the body better absorb calcium)
either from food or supplements every day. Try spooning up to two daily servings of low-fat dairy foods—three if you’re older
than 50—or noshing on calcium packed spinach or other dark leafy greens.
Work out your bones: Losing bone density is an inevitable part of aging, but regular exercise can help slow it down. Exercise with weights can increase bone mass by up to 2 percent by exerting stress on the body, which responds by adding more bone in the strained area. Do weight-bearing aerobic workouts three to five times a week and strength-training exercises two or three times per week.
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Suss out your silent saboteurs: You can’t necessarily feel it when your blood pressure, cholesterol of blood sugar is high. (One in three adults have hypertension
but only 80 percent of them are aware of it, the American Heart Association says). However, those three stealth markers are
what contribute to most heart attacks and strokes. See your physician to get baseline checks and to gauge where you are each
Cut back on trans fats: Considered the worst kind of fat you can consume, trans fat—created when oils are made solid—are found mainly in fried fast foods and commercially made baked goods, like packaged cookies and cakes. Calorie for calorie, trans fats appear to increase the risk of heart disease more than any other micronutrient, according to a review in The New England Journal of Medicine. Carefully scan food labels to steer clear—the fats frequently are listed as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.”
Stop smoking: Smoking is the No. 1 preventable cause of disease, disability and death. Consider bridge therapies including nicotine-replacement gums, lozenges and patches, as well as medications. Also check out becomeanex.org, when you can formulate a personal quit plan and tap into an online community for support. To speak with a smoking cessation counselor, dial the National Cancer Institute’s smoking quit line, 877-448-7848, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time.
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Turn in by 10 p.m.: Although it might be tempting to stay up later, 10 is the time your body is naturally primed for bed. Why? Some experts say
you get the deepest sleep between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., as your body’s levels of the hormone melatonin peak around midnight.
That window of time is also when your body goes into cleanup mode, removing all the toxins that have accumulated in your system
during the day. By pushing yourself to stay up later, you’ll take longer to drift off and feel more lethargic in the morning.
In fact, if you’re still up past 10 p.m., your body apples the energy it normally uses for detoxifying your system to mental
activity—including thinking about all you have to do the next day—which makes it harder to fall asleep.
Curb the caffeine: Skipping the double espresso after dinner might be a no-brainer. But if you’re particularly sensitive to caffeine’s stimulating effects, you ought to make the switch to decaf during the afternoon—by 2 p.m. Remember that you can get a caffeine buzz from soft drinks, energy drinks and chocolate—not just coffee. Some medications contain the stimulant too.
Take a tech time-out: Light emanating from your smartphone, television or computer monitor can suppress your body’s secretion of melatonin, making it harder for you to fall asleep. Instead, wind down by listening to soothing music or doing gentle yoga for 15 minutes.
Shore up your social network: Having good friends to lean on—and remain socially engaged with—keeps our minds active and our moods light. Because depression,
stress and anxiety can take a toll on the brain, the benefits of friendship ultimately can make it healthier. Put forward
the effort to meet your pals for lunch and fit in that girls’ night out.
Polish of produce: According to a study in Neurology, people older than 65 who consume more than two servings of vegetables each day have a 40-percent-less cognitive decline than those who eat fewer servings or none at all. Also, it’s a good idea to incorporate more Mediterranean-diet staples into your regimen, such as fatty fish (salmon, tuna), olive and other vegetable oils, nuts and whole grains. Such foods are rich in polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats, the building blocks of healthy brain cells.
Get off the couch: According to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, aerobic exercise actually increases the size of the anterior hippocampus, leading to improvements in memory function. So squeeze in some exercise whenever you can.
Challenge your mind: Keeping your brain active, particularly by learning new things, builds cognitive reserve. The more robust your brain is, the better it will be able to cope with disease-related damages as you age.
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Slather on sunscreen: Dermatologists will tell you it’s not just poolside summer sun that damages skin. Age spots, wrinkles and cancer result from
a lifetime of sun exposure during everyday activities, like walking your dog and driving a car. That’s why you should make
using sunscreen an every-morning, year-round habit. Chose a formula with a physical blocker, like titanium dioxide or zinc
oxide, that guards against all light wavelengths. Chemical sunscreens (which contain avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene and
similar compounds) provide protection from a narrower range of ultraviolet light. Choose an SPF 30 formula. Also remember:
Don’t skimp. Apply a shot glass-worth of broad-spectrum sunscreen from head to toe daily. Reapply midday if you’re going to
Avoid using soap: Soaps have a high pH, which can irritate skin, as well as harsh detergents, like sodium lauryl sulfate, that can strip away protective oils. Non-soap cleansers, however, are formulated to be closer to the skin’s natural pH and gentler since they contain little to no sodium lauryl sulfate. Not sure how to spot a winning formula. Look for soap-free or no-soap formulation on the label.
Sleep on the other side: Routinely snoozing on one side of your face can create creases in your skin, called sleep lines. To ward off such wrinkles, periodically flip over and give your preferred side a rest. Another tip to help keep your skin smooth: Make sure you’re slumbering on soft materials. Satin, silk and cotton jersey have more give to reduce facial creasing, experts say.
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