Easy Calorie-Cutting Tricks

Counting calories can be about as much fun as figuring out your income tax return - and you can’t even look forward to a refund! Still, you probably know by now that watching what you eat is essential if you want to reach a healthy weight and stay there. Because our brains and metabolisms adjust as we slim down, recent research at Columbia University suggests that even dieters who hit their target need to cut 300-400 calories more a day to keep the pounds at bay.

But cutting calories doesn’t have to be torturous. Whether you’re trying to pare away poundage or maintain your svelte new self, try these no-gain, no-pain tips:

Snooze to lose

Researchers at Columbia University’s Institute of Nutrition found that sleep-deprived men and women gobbled 300 more calories per day than when they were well-rested. (Their binge of choice: ice cream!) “People eat their way through fatigue,” says Marjorie Nolan Cohn, a registered dietician in New York City and a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  If you can’t get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, Cohn suggests taking a brisk 15-minute walk and drinking ice water when you start to fade, and eating a smart snack.

Measure up

A study published in the British Medical Journal shows that consumers routinely underestimate what they’re eating and drinking by as much as 500 calories.  Cohn suggests you start any diet by keeping a food journal for at least 1-2 days (use a free app like LoseIt  for iPhone or Myfitnesspal for Android). Then take your usual servings and measure them to see how much you’re really eating; , check out their calories, and memorize what smaller portions should look like.  “It’s hard to cut back when you don’t know where you’re starting,” says Cohn, herself a successful dieter, weight-loss coach and author of The Belly Fat Fix.

Fill up on fiber

Faster than you can say “Mediterranean diet,” evidence keeps mounting that a lower-fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can tame your appetite, boost your health and even trim belly fat. And we’re not just talking greens; delicious fruits like pears, blackberries and raspberries pack even more fiber than broccoli!

Get a smart start

Your mom was right: Nearly 80 percent of successful dieters report eating breakfast every day, according to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  That’s a sensible strategy, says Cohn, since our hunger hormones surge at 8 A.M, noon and 6 P.M., with a mini-surge around 3 in the afternoon. Try to eat about an hour after you rise, she advises, preferably a breakfast with some protein combined with carbs or healthy fats like yogurt or nuts.

Snack smarter

When the candy machine calls around mid-afternoon, keep temptation at bay by keeping healthy snacks at hand. Your best bet, says Cohn, is a combination of protein and fat, such as a dollop of peanut butter on a whole grain cracker or a low-fat cheese stick wrapped in a small wheat tortilla. (Adding a splash of hot salsa will boost your calorie-burning metabolism briefly, thanks to the capsaicin in the peppers.)

Make easy swaps

Your supermarket is full of healthier versions of your favorite treats. For instance, instead of your usual bagel with cream cheese – which can pack 400 calories or more – you can easily substitute a whole-wheat light English muffin with 2 tablespoons of cream cheese whipped with Greek yogurt. Saved: 165 calories or more.

Read the menu

By law, big restaurant chains are now required to post calorie counts on their menus, and some smaller competitors are following suit. You might be surprised at just how many calories are packed into your favorite dishes. But that doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself; just eat a small portion and take the rest to go.

Move it

Let’s face it: Exercise is still important not only for weight loss, but also for your overall health. The good news is that it’s not hard to burn an extra 100 calories per day. Just do something you enjoy for 30 minutes:  skipping home with the kids, raking leaves or planting veggies in your yard, or cranking up the GaGa or Gershwin on your iPod and dancing around the house!

Stay Healthy the Easy Way

Sure, eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly are two of the best ways to stay healthy. But doing them isn’t always easy. Stop beating yourself up if that fast food drive-through was just too tempting or you fell off the workout wagon. There are plenty of other ways to help protect and maintain your health -- and they’re a lot easier than you may think. Adopt these habits today and start feeling your healthy best tomorrow.

1. Floss daily to save your heart.

With this one simple daily ritual, you can keep both your smile and your ticker in tip-top shape. Bacteria from gum disease can trigger an overproduction of C-reactive protein, a substance that leads to inflammation and is tightly linked to heart disease, according to the Journal of Periodontology. Flossing helps remove the plaque that breeds the bacteria, so no plaque means no bacteria -- and no disease-causing compounds.

2. Kiss more to control cholesterol and stress.

Couples who smooched more often over a six-week period lowered their cholesterol and reported feeling less stressed, according to a study from Arizona State University. Because stress is tied to higher cholesterol, the relaxing effect of affection can thwart heart-clogging molecules, researchers say.

And that’s not the only antistress benefit to kissing. A Rutgers University study found that when couples kissed, levels of the stress hormone cortisol instantly dropped. That’s good news since less cortisol has been associated with better sleep, improved immune function and other markers of good health, says Claire Kruppe, a pathologist and wellness coach in Palm Desert, Calif.

3. Laugh it up to lower blood pressure and boost immunity.

When people say laughter is the best medicine, they aren’t far off. Watching a funny video can actually lower your blood pressure, reveals a study from Loma Linda University in California. But that’s not all: Simply anticipating a funny experience increases hormones that aid your immune system and reduces those associated with stress, research from the same university shows.

So look for and think about opportunities to have a chuckle, whether by filling your DVR queue with comedies or setting up a night out with a hilarious friend. You’ll have fun while blunting the dangerous effects of chronic stress.

4. Cook with garlic to protect against cancer.

The more garlic you eat, the lower your chances of developing cancer, say researchers from Pennsylvania State University. Scientists speculate that an element in the bulb inhibits the formation of toxic compounds that may lead to the disease.

Add your garlic to salad dressings, pasta and stir-fry for a tasty and beneficial meal. Just be sure to use fresh cloves; you’ll get a more potent health effect than from the dried version.

5. Have a drink and toast to overall health and longevity.
Sipping one alcoholic drink a day could help you live longer and healthier. Ladies who drink moderately have the lowest mortality rates of all women, reports the New England Journal of Medicine. They’re also less likely to develop heart disease, diabetes and depression.

Drinking moderate amounts of beer, wine or liquor is also associated with less weight gain when compared to excessive drinking and even abstaining, according to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. In turn, keeping the scale in check helps ward off diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke, Kruppe says. Cheers to that!

Of course, don’t give up on healthy eating and exercise, not to mention regular doctor visits. But adopting these incredibly simple healthy habits will keep you feeling your best yet.
 

The Best Exercises to Boost Your Metabolism

Can’t seem to lose those last few pounds, even with diet and exercise? Your metabolism could be to blame. Not all of us are blessed with a high metabolic rate, but by making some simple changes to your exercise routine, you can boost your metabolism and help your body burn more calories, even when you’re resting.

“You absolutely can increase your metabolic rate with exercise,” says fitness expert Cindy Whitmarsh, a trainer on ExerciseTV and author of 101 Ways to Work out With Weights. “Muscle burns more calories than fat does, so the more muscle you build, the higher your resting metabolic rate will be. Every muscle cell you gain is like a little internal fire that burns calories, even while you’re sleeping.” Here are Whitmarsh’s top tips for revving up your routine, plus the best exercises to boost your metabolism.

Get Cross-training
If you’ve fallen into a predictable pattern of biking or walking every day, try cross-training to get your body out of its rut and stimulate more muscle growth. Try running on Monday, stair-climbing on Tuesday, weight training on Wednesday, boxing on Thursday, cycling on Friday and jumping rope on Saturday.

Pump up Your Heart Rate
Keeping your heart rate elevated for at least 30 minutes during your cardio routine will boost your metabolism and help your body burn fat faster. Whitmarsh recommends keeping your heart rate within 65 to 85 percent of your heart rate maximum, which you can find by subtracting your age from 220. Multiply that number by 0.65 and then by 0.85 to find this magic fat-burning range. Then, use a heart rate monitor while exercising to help stay in that range.

Try Interval Training
Interval training -- alternating high-intensity exercise bursts with lower-intensity activities -- will break up a stale workout and boost your metabolism. “You’re building muscle and increasing your heart rate so it will stay elevated for a longer time after your workout, and you’ll burn calories longer,” says Whitmarsh.

Keep It Up
The last secret to boosting your metabolism is to choose multifunctional exercises that maximize your muscle gain by working many body parts at once. Whitmarsh’s top five exercises to boost your metabolism can all be done easily at home:

1. Mountain-climbers: Start on the floor in a hands-and-knees position. Lift one bent knee close to your chest. Alternate your knees into your chest by tapping your toes to the floor and back. Repeat 20 to 50 times without stopping.

2. Eight-count Body-builder With Push-up: Start at standing pose. Bring hands to the floor, jump feet back into a high plank. Jump feet out wide, do a push-up, jump feet back together, jump feet back to hands and stand up. Repeat five to 15 times.

3. Squat Into Bicep Curls and Overhead Shoulder Press: Stand holding weights by your sides. Squat down. Stand back up while doing a bicep curl. Perform overhead shoulder press, bring weights back to sides. Repeat eight to 15 times.

4. Walking Lunges While Alternating Bicep Curls and Lateral Shoulder Raises: Stand with weights in each hand. Lunge forward with right leg while doing a bicep curl with right arm. Repeat with left side. Then, lunge forward with right leg while lifting your right arm out to the side. Repeat with left side. Repeat 10 times.

5. Medicine Ball Drop-catch and Overhead Lift: Hold a medicine ball in front of your body with arms straight and legs slightly wider than shoulder width. Lift the ball overhead, keeping arms straight and engaging your core. Then, drop the ball down to the floor as you squat so your thighs are parallel to the floor. Catch the ball at the deepest part of your squat with your arms straight. Lift ball as you stand. Repeat 10 to 20 times.


Photo: @iStockphoto.com/aabejona

Solutions for Oily Hair

If you are a busy mom, not shampooing your hair every day can be a huge time-saver. Unfortunately, though, if you have an oily scalp and hair, you probably don’t have that luxury; for your hair -- and you -- to look and feel beautiful, you probably need to wash away the oils daily.

What’s worse, even when you do shampoo every morning, excess oil can build up throughout the day, leaving hair limp and greasy-looking by evening. “Strands can literally drown in their own oil, and your hair goes flat really fast,” explains Edward Tricomi, co-owner of Warren Tricomi salon in New York City.

What Causes Excess Oil
It may not seem like it, but in most cases, an oily scalp is as normal as having oily skin or brown eyes. Sebaceous glands inside hair follicles produce what’s called sebum, an oily, waxy substance. Sebum is then released onto the scalp, in a similar way to the pores on your face releasing oil onto your skin. No one knows why, but your glands simply produce excessive sebum, which migrates more into your hair and gives it that greasy look and feel, says Dr. Heidi Waldorf, a dermatologist and associate clinical director of dermatology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

Although you can’t permanently change your scalp’s composition or your hair type, there are a few things you can do to help control oil and get hair that looks fresh and healthy:

1. Consider your hormones.
Hormonal fluctuations can increase sebum production. So, during your menstrual cycle, your scalp can feel greasier. Birth control pills may help normalize the hormones and balance the oil, says Waldorf. Talk to your doctor if this is an option for you.

2. Switch shampoos.
Waldorf suggests using a shampoo that contains zinc pyrithione or salicylic acid, which are found in some dandruff shampoos. These ingredients may help keep the oil on your scalp in check, she says.

3. Lather, wait, rinse, repeat.

Don’t rinse out your shampoo right away. Instead, lightly massage it into your scalp and wait at least 30 seconds before rinsing. This gives the suds more time to break down excess oil. Then lather up again if needed to clear away additional residue. This way, you are sure to start the day with an ultra-clean scalp and hair. 

4. Give your roots a boost.
The key to infusing oily hair with more volume is to style right after you towel dry, when there is no or little sebum on hair. Try these tricks:

  • Use a volumizing spray or hair spray. Apply to damp hair and aim your application only at the root area.
  • Blow-dry hair upside down. This helps train hair to stand up at the roots from the get-go. Use the high heat button to dry, then right before you finish, blast roots with the cold setting to get fullness and lift that lasts.
  • Tease roots with a comb. Hold up a section of your hair, place a fine-tooth comb into strands at your roots, and comb up and down with short, quick strokes. Afterward, spritz each section with hair spray. Then stash the comb in your purse for quick touch-ups throughout the day.

5. Try hair powder.
Also called dry shampoo, this powder-based product absorbs oil and can keep hair from falling flat. (In a pinch, you can use baby powder, but sprinkle it sparingly to avoid giving strands a whitish hue.) You can use hair powder when you don’t have time to shampoo or during the day if oil starts to build up. You might also apply it immediately after washing and styling hair as a preventive measure, to keep oil at bay, suggests Tricomi.

To apply, part your hair in different spots and lightly sprinkle it on your scalp. (Always use less than you think you need; too much could clump.) Massage in the powder, then gently run your fingers through the hair at your scalp.

6. Cut hair short.
“Long hair can weigh itself down,” says Tricomi. “A shorter, layered cut will give you more lift at the roots, and hair won’t look as greasy.” You may even consider a gamine pixie cut (think Halle Berry). It’s the ultimate wash-and-go style.

Whatever haircut you decide on, talk to your stylist about how it will work best for your face shape, hair type and personality.

Isn’t It Time to Stop Judging Yourself?

Bad habits aren’t limited to things like nail biting and procrastination. For women, one of the most common and insidious habits is being overly critical or judgmental of themselves. What’s worse, a pattern of self-criticism can become so ingrained, you might not even notice you’re doing it.

“It’s a huge issue for women,” says Alice Domar, who has a doctorate in health psychology and is the author of Be Happy Without Being Perfect. “We criticize ourselves from morning to night, and all that negative self-talk puts you at risk for depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.”

You can learn to silence your inner critic and become more accepting of yourself, however. Start with these strategies:

1. Listen to yourself.
The first step is to recognize when you’re engaging in negative self-talk. Decide to spend a day tuned into your thoughts about yourself and jot down every comment. That night, count how many are negative.

Seeing in ink how many times you call yourself a bad mother or berate your lack of diet willpower helps you realize just how critical you’re being. “It’s a big wake-up call,” says Domar.

2. Be honest.
Now that you’re better tuned in, when you “hear” criticism, ask yourself four questions, says Domar: "Is this thought logical? Is it true? Does this thought contribute to my stress? Where did it come from?" In most cases, your answers will be, "No, it’s not logical or true. Yes, it stresses me out." And the thought originally came from a former boss, a judgmental relative or a mean teacher you had in high school.

By paying attention to and dissecting the criticism in this way, you can better realize that the criticism isn’t valid. And that’s a crucial first step toward stopping it.

3. Avoid the comparison game.
Comparing yourself to others doesn’t do anything but make you feel bad. It’s unfair and damaging to reprimand yourself because you’re not as thin as one friend or as organized as another. “There will always be someone who will exceed you in some part of life,” says Pauline Wallin, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology and has written Taming Your Inner Brat.

Instead, focus on what you do right. Recognize, for example, that you’re a great multitasker or can manage a complex project efficiently -- and ignore that you’re not a pro networker like your colleague. You’ll feel better about yourself, which helps you succeed in the long run.

4.
Look at the big picture.
So what if your house isn’t immaculate? Who cares that you lost your keys? Will beating yourself up change anything in the grand scheme of things?

It’s important not to get caught up in minor details. Instead, think about what’s really important: You may not spend time scrubbing your floors, but you do spend time with your kids, and they are healthy, well-adjusted and love you, for example.

5. Get a second opinion.
“People hold themselves to much higher standards than they do others,” says Domar. So when you start getting beat down, talk to a trusted friend to get a needed reality check.

Another’s voice will help you see things from an outsider’s more accepting perspective. She’ll help you realize all the things you’re doing well in your life and that nobody thinks you’re a bad mother, woman, employee -- whatever! Your criticisms will soon seem as silly and unwarranted as they actually are.

6. Decide to stop being negative.

After a while, you will start to recognize when you’re about to be (or are being) too hard on yourself. When you do, stop yourself -- literally, says Domar. Visualize a stop sign, take slow, deep breaths, then consciously make a choice not to be negative. Remember that you control your thoughts. It can be quite empowering to decide not to let them hurt you.

Try changing the subject in your head by shifting to something positive, such as an upcoming party or vacation. Changing the subject helps short-circuit negative thoughts immediately, says Wallin.

7. Keep a bravo journal.

Getting in the habit of recognizing success can help overtake negativity. So at the end of each day, take stock of what you did well and write it in a journal or share it with your partner. “A lot of us have been brought up to think bragging is bad,” says Domar. “But if you’ve accomplished something, recognize and share the good news.”

Whether you gave a stellar presentation at work or helped your daughter create an A-plus art project, seeing accomplishments in writing or hearing them in your own voice helps you think of yourself more positively every day. This will evict the inner critic, and a kinder commentator will move in -- one who treats you with the respect you’re so good at giving others.