January 1. Is there a more anything-is-possible date on the calendar? It's the day you say, "More salads, less ice cream" from now on. The day you vow to renew your gym membership and work out religiously. The day you promise to stop smoking (for good this time) and learn how to meditate, cook, floss properly, and love kale.
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But somewhere between New Year's Day and spring, those vows get broken. Family and work obligations take over, and it's "Goodbye, resolutions" ‘till next year.
This year, try a trick that may seem counterintuitive: Downsize your expectations. That's right. Go for less and get more. You can't rebuild your body or redesign your health in a single leap, but if you take enough baby steps, you can make big strides toward a healthier, happier new you.
These 20 supercharged tips -- five each for body, face, mind, and overall health -- will start you on the road to success this new year, for real this time.
TAKE 5 for Your Body
Step up. Health experts say 10,000 steps a day -- roughly five miles -- is the magic number for trimming fat and preventing type 2 diabetes. Don't have time to walk that far? Adding just 2,000 steps a day can make a big difference, says Marie Savard, MD, women's health expert and author of Ask Dr. Marie: Straight Talk and Reassuring Answers to Your Most Private Questions. Wear a pedometer while you take the stairs instead of the elevator, park a block or two farther from work, and fast-walk a few laps around the mall. Once you've hit 2,000, add another 2,000 -- and keep on walking.
Get a lift. While you brush your teeth, lift one leg. Count to 60. Repeat with the other leg. This little exercise not only improves your balance, essential for preventing falls as you age, but also ensures you brush for the two minutes your dentist recommends.
Ditch the chips. Every week, throw out one processed food -- cookies, crackers, or potato chips -- and replace it with an apple, red pepper, or other fruit or vegetable. "Eating a colorful array of fruits and vegetables will lower your blood pressure and help you lose weight," says Holly S. Andersen, MD, a cardiologist and associate professor of medicine at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical College. These antioxidant-rich foods will also help your body battle disease, she says.
Cinch an inch. We're all weight-obsessed, but good health is less about what you weigh than about how many inches you can tighten your belt. The fat that sits around your middle is the most dangerous kind. Experts say a waist size of 34.5 inches or less is the target for women, but taking off just an inch or two can reduce your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems. To trim your waistline, eat less sugar and increase your physical activity, Andersen says.
Dish the fish. Put fish on the menu at least twice a week. "We know that people who eat several servings of fish each week live longer and have less heart disease than people who don't," says Andersen. Salmon, lake trout, tuna, and flounder strike a good balance between high omega-3 fatty acids and low mercury levels. (However, if you're pregnant, limit fish and shellfish to 12 ounces total a week.) Avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish, which contain high levels of mercury.