10 ways to feel your best this month

From compassion training to strengthening your eyes, we wade through the latest research for ways you can improve yourself this month.
10 ways to feel your best this month

Photo, Istockphoto.

Health News | May 2014

1. How to lose weight, no diet required

Regretting weekend excesses? Don’t sweat it. Turns out Saturdays and Sundays are the best days to indulge without the bulge. In a recent study, U.S. and Finnish researchers discovered that people who stay slim tend to follow structured eating patterns; they focus on healthy foods during the week and allow for mini indulgences on the weekend. “It’s important to notice these rhythms for successful weight loss,” says lead researcher Brian Wansink.

Bottom line: When it comes to managing weight, eating healthily Monday to Friday matters more to your waistline than small weekend splurges.

happy healthy woman eating apple in bedPhoto, Istockphoto.

2. How to play away stubborn cravings

You can outsmart temptation with just three minutes of Tetris, say British researchers. They asked a group of people (who happened to be craving chocolate, caffeine or nicotine at the time) to play the tile-matching game. It distracted players and cut cravings by 24 percent — enough to stave off giving in. From these results, they believe cravings are triggered visually, not driven by hunger.

Bottom line: Games can distract the brain from imagining treats. Next time you want a cookie, log on to Free Tetris!

10 ways to feel your best this monthPhoto, Shutterstock


3. How to cook a brain-saving breakfast

The way you enjoy eggs may have a lasting effect on your cognitive well-being, say researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. When it comes to creating a breakfast of champions, they suggest poaching or boiling instead of frying. Why? The heat generated from frying or grilling certain proteins, fats and sugars in some foods triggers a chemical reaction that creates advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These compounds are known to cause chronic inflammation, which is linked to Alzheimer’s.

Bottom line: The researchers plan to do further studies, but they recommend avoiding frying whenever possible.

10 ways to feel your best this monthPhoto, John Bateman/Stockfood.

4. How to beat the 3 o'clock flop fast

Got a case of afternoon brain drain? Quick: Give us 30 seconds of push-ups, jumping jacks or mountain climbers — anything to get your heart rate up! New research from the University of North Carolina shows short bursts of “very hard” exercise help us concentrate more effectively during the workday. Tech and health writer Gregory Ferenstein put the research to the test for the Daily Beast. He reported that 30 seconds of burpees gave him the same boost as a cup of coffee.

Try it today: Work in quick bouts of high-intensity exercise with your co-workers. Think of it as a fitness flash mob.

10 ways to feel your best this monthPhoto, Masterfile.

5. How to use fat to your advantage

Say hello to the new super-slimmers! Swedish researchers reveal foods like salmon, olive oil, walnuts and seeds help you gain muscle and bust belly fat because they’re high in polyunsaturated fats. The study showed these foods actually turn on the genes associated with effective fat and sugar burning. It also showed you’re three times more likely to build muscle when eating polyunsaturated fats instead of saturated ones.

Bottom line: You can fight fat — with fat!

10 ways to feel your best this monthPhoto, Istockphoto.


6. How to improve your eyesight

Computer vision syndrome is the latest in a growing list of techie-related conditions, like text neck and BlackBerry thumb. Eye experts say two uninterrupted hours at the computer is all it takes to start ruining vision. Fortunately, there’s a new doctor-approved gaming app, created by a neuroscientist at the University of California, Riverside, to help us see more clearly. It sounds counterintuitive to look at another screen, but Ultimeyes makes eyes work in new ways to build strength. Think of it as going to the gym for your eyes.

In a recent study published in Current Biology, baseball players improved the sharpness of their vision by 31 percent after playing 30 games on it for 25 minutes each. 

woman on laptop sitting on floorPhoto, iStock.

7. How to avoid BPA toxins

Next time the cashier asks if you’d like a receipt, you might want to decline it if you don’t absolutely need it. Turns out the powder coating on most receipts contains bisphenol-a (or BPA, as it’s most commonly known, from the recent plastic-bottle scare), which is a chemical that mimics estrogen in the body and messes with our endocrine system. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that people who regularly handle receipts have higher levels of BPA in their bodies, absorbed by the skin of their fingers. Even though the BPA levels in receipts were considered “relatively low,” it was recently listed as a “chemical of concern” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

10 ways to feel your best this monthPhoto, Istockphoto.

8. How to soothe sore muscles with summer fruits

Next time you’re feeling the post-workout burn, toast your efforts with a glass of watermelon juice. U.S. researchers credit the fruit with easing muscle soreness, thanks to an amino acid called L-citrulline. Even better, previous research links watermelon’s antioxidant properties with the potential to build muscle protein.

Make it a habit: Rehydrate after your next gym session with a tasty glass of this refreshing juice — we like it even better than coconut water!

WatermelonPhoto, Istockphoto.


9. How to fight anxiety fast!

Does the thought of performing karaoke fill you with fear? What about standing up to make a presentation at work? If you’re the type who bites her nails and clenches her teeth — even after you’ve pictured the crowd wearing only underwear — we’ve got an easy solution to shut down stress: Get excited! Harvard researchers explored how people prone to performance anxiety react by forcing them to sing karaoke. Before singing, one group said, “I am anxious”; another said, “I’m excited”; and the last group just went for it. The game measured individual performance and revealed that people sang better when they positively psyched themselves up.

Bottom line: Next time you’re feeling nervous, think about why you’re doing what you’re doing. Then get pumped about it!

10 ways to feel your best this monthPhoto, Istockphoto.

10. How to be a kinder person

Did you know you can train your brain to be more caring and understanding? A University of Wisconsin-Madison study says just 30 minutes a day of “compassion meditation” over a two-week period can increase our feelings of kindness and sympathy toward others. Bonus: This ancient Buddhist tradition (called karuna) is also proven to make us feel happier!

Your cheat sheet for compassion training
1. Find a quiet and comfortable place where you can sit uninterrupted for about half an hour. Close your eyes, breathe deeply and take time to get in touch with the stresses and tensions in your muscles and mind. Remember that being kind toward yourself is just as important as being kind toward others. Relaxing will make you more receptive and accepting of everyone’s needs, including your own.

2. Rid your mind of judgment and sadness. Think about things that make you happy, and try to let go of any negativity through focus and deep breathing.

3. Think about the hardships of those close to you — it doesn’t have to be anything major, but maybe they’ve had a tough day at work or they’re feeling rundown. Make little wishes for their happiness or recovery and think good thoughts. This helps you direct compassion toward them.

10 ways to feel your best this monthPhoto, Istockphoto.


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