Denise Crew/Fitness MagazineBy A.J. Hanley
We've uncovered insider advice on what you need to know about absolutely everything -- for flatter abs, less stress, unforgettable sex, and more.
Related: The Naked Truth: How Women Really Feel About Their Bodies
Your Best Diet
1. The Secret to... Picking the Right Diet for You
Look for your favorite foods. "An obvious but often overlooked point is that the best diet is one you'll stick to -- not a hyped-to-the-hilt plan or the strategy that helped your sister drop 10 pounds. If you adore fruit or pasta, for example, a high-protein regimen is a recipe for failure. Remember that a diet is a way of life rather than a quick fix -- and it's hard to live with a plan that keeps you away from the things you love."
--Lisa Sanders, MD, an assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine and author of The Perfect Fit Diet: How to Lose Weight, Keep It Off, and Still Have the Foods You Love (St. Martin's Press, 2006)
2. The Secret to... Curbing a Sugar Craving
Don't beat it -- eat it! "Your urge may be biological or psychological, but either way, deprivation only feeds it. Give yourself permission to eat the particular sweet you crave and it will lose some of its power over you. Fight the temptation to overeat by buying only single-serving packages (Oreos, for example), or take a reasonably sized portion out of the bag or box and give away the rest immediately."
--Susan McQuillan, RD, author of Breaking the Bonds of Food Addiction (Penguin, 2004)
Related: Diet Rules You Can Break Tonight
Your Best Body
3. The Secret to... Your Flattest Abs Ever
Keep the contraction constant while doing crunches. "When you lower your back and head to the floor between each move, you rely on your hip flexors or upper back, rather than your abs, to bring your body back up. Making the movement small and tight keeps abdominal muscles active, which maximizes the burn -- and your results."
--David Kirsch, founder of the Madison Square Club in New York City and author of The Ultimate New York Body Plan (McGraw-Hill, 2004)
4. The Secret to... Strong Legs and a Toned Butt
Get a leg up. "Lift one foot an inch or two off the floor as you do your deadlifts, dumbbell shoulder presses, or biceps curls; switch legs before you begin the next set. This helps train and strengthen the leg's smaller, deeper stabilizing muscles, which will make legs look more sculpted. You'll also burn more calories than you would working both legs simultaneously."
--Chris Uy, fitness manager at The Sports Club/LA in New York City
Related: 7 Waist-Slimming Ab Exercises
5. The Secret to... Firming Up Really Fast
Be unrealistic. "Pretend to be a celebrity with a big event coming up in three weeks. Commit to an intensive program that combines six days a week of cardio and/or strength training with healthy eating. A 21-day period is doable, and it's enough time to see an increase in definition and endurance and for muscle memory to set in. So even though you've officially 'completed' your program, you'll be inspired to keep going."
--Kacy Duke, celebrity trainer based in New York City
6. The Secret to... Preventing Workout Injuries
Train the way you need your body to move in life. "Constantly doing basic exercises the same way -- lunges and squats, for instance -- creates muscle imbalances that can lead to injury. To counter this, it's crucial to engage muscles you use on an everyday basis in your fitness routine -- even if it's just during your warm-up. As you rise from a squat, lift a ball over your head and then lower it slightly with arms straight, as you might if you were putting a case of soda on a high shelf. When you do lateral side lunges, pick up an exercise ball from the outside of one foot and lower it to the ground on the other."
--Alden Mills, former U.S. Navy SEAL officer and creator of BodyRev, a functional fitness weight system
Related: Heal Better: Smart Workout Pain Solutions
A Healthy Outlook
7. The Secret to... Solving a Problem
Lie down. Psychologist Darren M. Lipnicki found that people come up with solutions to puzzles faster when supine. Your body may produce less noradrenaline, a hormone that can raise anxiety and interfere with creative thinking.
--Study from the Australian National University
8. The Secret to... Having Amazing Sex
Love your "private parts." "In a study of 2,500 women, we found that the more women felt positive about how they looked and smelled, the more sexually satisfied they were. Want to boost your below-the-belt confidence? Get to know how you look and feel down there. Genitals come in all different sizes, shapes, and colors. Don't assume that yours should have the airbrushed look of a Playboy spread."
--Laura Berman, PhD, director of the Berman Center, a women's sexual health and research facility in Chicago and author of The Passion Prescription: 10 Weeks to Your Best Sex Ever (Hyperion, 2006)
Related: The FITNESS Get It On Guide
A Healthy You
9. The Secret to... Reaching Any Health Goal
Write a letter to a loved one. "List every excuse you can think of for not taking care of yourself. Then explain why these unhealthy habits may mean you won't be around for this person in the future. Rather than sending the note, keep it nearby to read when your motivation wanes. In addition to making you accountable for your actions, it will remind you that the changes you're making will prolong your life and the amount of time you'll be able to spend with friends and family."
--Michael George, Los Angeles-based trainer and author of Body Express Makeover (Simon and Schuster, 2005)
10. The Secret to... Heading Off a Hangover
Set your alarm for an hour before you need to get up. "Then take 800 milligrams of ibuprofen and go back to bed. Though twice the over-the-counter dose, it's a safe amount to take occasionally (provided you don't have kidney disease or ulcers). The drug targets inflammation, which can cause hangover symptoms like head and body aches. Spending that hour in bed -- even if you don't fall back asleep -- gives the drug time to work and allows you to start your day refreshed instead of flagging."
--David J. Clayton, MD, coauthor of The Healthy Guide to Unhealthy Living (Simon & Schuster, 2006)
Related: 9 Tips to Reach Your Fitness Goals This Year
11. The Secret to... Recovering from a Health Crisis
Focus on the positive. "Whether you're on the mend from a broken leg or in remission from cancer, it's actually physiologically helpful to consider what you've gained from the experience. Did you discover a strength you didn't know you had? Find out which of your friends could be counted on in a crunch -- and which ones aren't as reliable as you thought? While an optimistic outlook isn't a cure-all, studies show that people with one have greater resistance to disease, recover more quickly from illness, and live longer. If you have trouble seeing the upside now, surround yourself with people who do. Then try this exercise: On a piece of paper, draw two columns. Write down all your pessimistic thoughts on your health on the left and balance each with a positive statement on the right. Tear away the negative column and hang the optimistic list on your fridge to glance at throughout the day."
--Larry Dossey, MD, author of The Extraordinary Healing Power of Ordinary Things (Harmony Books, 2006)
12. The Secret to... a Healthy Pregnancy
Give your gums the star treatment. It could benefit your entire body. A recent study found that young people, especially those in their 20s, are likely to get periodontal disease in their back teeth, which can be associated with pregnancy-related problems as well as heart disease. Brush and floss your back teeth carefully and have them regularly cleaned and checked by a dentist. You also may want to soak up a little sun (safely, of course). New research found that people with higher blood levels of vitamin D may be less likely to develop gum disease.
--Research from the School of Dentistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Boston University's Goldman School of Dental Medicine
Related: 5 Pregnancy Mistakes Even Smart Women Make
13. The Secret to... Not Fainting When Having a Blood Test
Tense your muscles. "Simultaneously contracting the muscles in your arms, legs, torso, and neck can apply enough external pressure to blood-vessel walls to prevent the drop in blood pressure that causes fainting. Do this exercise in sets of five, five times a day (hold each contraction for 10 seconds), so you can become familiar enough with the technique to apply it at the doctor's office."
--Mark Watling, MD, coauthor of Overcoming Medical Phobias (New Harbinger Publications, 2006)
14. The Secret to... Curing Sinus Trouble
Toss your pillow. Your bedding may be harboring millions of fungi. Aspergillus fumigatus, the species found most commonly in pillows, can worsen asthma, particularly in adults who've had it for many years, and cause allergic sinusitis in those with allergic tendencies. When you buy a new pillow, consider one with feathers, as more fungi were found in the synthetic variety.
--Study from the University of Manchester in England
More from FITNESS Magazine:
5 Secrets of Happy People
What's Your Skin's Real Age?
What Your Hair Says About Your Health
12 Get-Healthy Success Stories to Motivate You
15 Tips Doctors Follow for Their Own Health
Denise Crew/Fitness MagazineBy A.J. Hanley