The kids are asleep. You're sitting on the couch with a glass of wine and you realize you've worked out, made a serious dent in your to-do list, and are feeling rather proud of yourself. This is no dream. We've sourced the latest science and wisdom from the pros to make it this year's reality. By Holly Corbett, REDBOOK.
Be a sugar detective
Want to lose almost 3.5 pounds by the end of the year without doing much at all? Take a peak at the ingredient lists of your favorite "healthy foods" which may be ladened with sneaky sugar. Case in point: A container of yogurt can pack 24 to 30 grams of sugar, and the RDA for a 1600-calorie diet is only 22 grams, or six teaspoons. Whole grains have no sugar, but often otherwise healthy cereals like granola have between 15 and 20 grams. Cut two teaspoons a day, and you'll keep yourself from eating a five-pound bag of sugar in 2013.
Love your body more - with a little vote of support
"It's not uncommon for women to have body image issues, but it might help you to remember that your partner loves you the way you are," says Cheryl Sloane, co-owner of G Boutique. "We have men who come shopping for holidays, and they always err on the side of getting something too small as opposed to too large - such as buying a size small in lingerie for a wife who's a size 14." Rather than worry about your cellulite when you're between the sheets, remind yourself that your partner actually loves your junk in the trunk.
Related: 50 Simple Little Ways to Feel Sexy
Consider sitting the new smoking
Planting your butt in a chair for six or more hours a day ups your odds of cancer, heart disease, and early death. With new research finding that as much as 77 percent of our workdays are spent seated and chained to our computers (not to mention the time spent camped on our couches watching Mad Men on Netflix), sitting is becoming a serious health epidemic. Even regular exercisers aren't off the hook: Working out for an hour a day can't fully negate the health damage of a (mostly) sedentary lifestyle. The good news is that the latest research from the Centers for Disease Control finds that cutting down on your sitting time by a mere hour per day is enough to boost blood flow and metabolism, burn calories, and even increase energy.
Swear off fake baking
Even though most of us wouldn't spend a day at the beach without sunscreen, skin cancer rates have skyrocketed, according to the American Cancer Society. The highest rise is among women under 39, and people over 65. "This may be because many young women are now using tanning beds, which emit carcinogens," says Vilma Cokkinides, Ph.D, Strategic Director of Risk Factor Surveillance for the American Cancer Society. Indoor tanners are 74 percent more likely to get melanoma than those who have never fake baked before, partially because tanning beds use mostly UVA rays, the deeper penetrating type that not only breaks down collagen tissues to speed up the aging process, but also weakens your immune system so you may be less able to fight off cancer.
Reduce stress by overcoming procrastination
The longer you hold on to a to-do, the more energy that gets sucked up by that task. Choose one thing that you have been avoiding each day and then just do it. "Commit to tackling one task - such as calling the phone company to correct an error in the bill or cleaning off your desk - first thing, says Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, clinical psychologist based in Chicago and author of A Happy You. "Get it over with and enjoy the relief - and sense of accomplishment - you feel." Don't you feel lighter already?
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Floss regularly to protect your fertility
Even if you brush twice a day, there may be dangerous bacteria growing inside your mouth if you fail to floss regularly. Not only could that lead to periodontitis (an advanced form of gum disease with symptoms such as bleeding when you brush and gum pain), but studies find that it could also make it tougher for you to have a baby: Women of childbearing age with gum disease took an average of just over seven months to become pregnant - two months longer than the average of five months that it took women without gum disease to conceive, discovered researchers in Western Australia. For best results, floss before you brush - rather than after - to swipe away any food that's stuck between your teeth and prevent bacteria from growing.
Fit in 15 minutes of exercise in the morning
Start your day with a brisk walk around your neighborhood. Getting moving as soon as you wake up helps form a fitness habit, and it's the little moves like these that you make throughout the day that help keep your weight in check. Bonus: A little alone-time first thing in the morning gives you a chance to take stock of the upcoming day, and to clock valuable time away from your desk, to-do lists, and the many demands constantly placed upon you.
Find the right food balance
Rather than counting calories, make sure that everything you eat has at least one or two servings of whole grains, protein, and healthy fats. "If you snack on 200 calories of carbs, it will spike your blood sugar and trigger your appetite," says Ashley Koff, RD, co-author of Mom Energy: A Simple Plan to Live Fully Charged. "Conversely, if you eliminate carbohydrates in favor of foods containing only protein and fat, you won't get sufficient energy. It's important to balance our food choices in order to get all the nutrients that we need." Try scrambling eggs in olive oil and eating them on a slice of whole-grain toast for a healthy carb-protein-fat breakfast combo.
Related: 25 Lazy Ways to Stay Skinny
Pledge to use all of your vacation days
If you're like most Americans, you've probably thrown away those wonderful free days off: Americans got a measly 14 vacation days last year and took only 10, compared to our French or Spanish counterparts who used all 30 of the vacation days given to them, according to Expedia's Vacation Deprivation survey. Need a reason to take a mental health day, or make it long weekend? Working too long without a break can elevate levels of chronic stress enough to actually speed up the aging process, finds a study in Biological Psychiatry. Moreover, women who don't take regular vacations are up to three times more likely to be depressed than those who take more time off, discovered researchers from the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin. A few days at a bed and breakfast without the kids might be just what the doctor ordered.
Overcome negativity by remembering the positive
It's all too easy to get caught in a circular rut of negative thinking and overlook all the good stuff in your life. "We tend to be really good at identifying what we don't like in our lives, such as what is going wrong and what you or others should do," says Dr. Lombardo. "To break that mindset, focus on ten things you love in your life right now." An exercise as simple as writing down ten people, things, or experiences for which you are grateful can make all the difference. "This will boost your happiness, reduce your stress, and help you be more resilient to whatever life throws at you," adds Dr. Lombardo.
Ditch desktop dining
Last night's sweet-and-sour chicken may make for tasty leftovers and save you money on lunch, but please, eat it outside. A study by the University of Arizona found the average desktop has 100 times more bacteria than a kitchen table and 400 times more than the average toilet seat. This may be because you clean your toilet and kitchen more than you clean your workspace. Only 36 percent of Americans clean their work areas - desktop, keyboard, mouse - weekly, finds a survey by the American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods' Home Food Safety program. Keep moistened antibacterial wipes at your desk, and try to take a few minutes to eat lunch outside the office - the break will likely boost your productivity, too.
Focus on fat loss, not weight loss
Carrying around excess fat, more so than extra weight, ups your risk of stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Moreover, if your new year's resolution is dropping lots of pounds quickly, you're apt to lose water weight and muscle, neither of which boasts the same long-term benefits as building muscle and losing fat, says Paul "PJ" James, a certified personal trainer and author of Take It Off, Keep It Off. That's because even though muscle weighs more than fat, it's more compact, and boosts your metabolism to help burn calories all day long. Resistance or weight-baring exercises can help you drop fat faster by improving hormonal tone and building muscle.
Practice meditation to be more efficient
You may want to stop bragging about your ability to make dinner, take a business call, and do your hair at the same time. An eight-week study of the effects of a meditation course on multitasking found that being mindful, slowing down and concentrating on one thing at a time resulted in staying on task longer. Participants were also able to see more tasks through to completion. "Everyone can meditate," says Sarah McLean, author of Soul Centered: Transform Your Life in 8 Weeks With Meditation. "Any activity can become a meditative experience if you're really present in the moment and engage your senses." Simply taking a moment to be mindful of what's happening - rather than thinking about the next thing on your to-do list - can make you more effective in the here and now.
More from REDBOOK:
25 Things That Will Keep You Young
What Vitamins Do You Really Need?
13 Love Resolutions to Make for 2013
- How to Make a Truce With Food
The Best Celeb Hairstyles for Every Length
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