The Best Time of Day
• Weigh yourself. Stepping on the scale first thing (after the bathroom, before breakfast, wearing little to nothing) gives you the most accurate read on your weight, which can fluctuate by up to three pounds during the day! It's a good idea to weigh in daily: A study from Brown University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill showed that 61 percent of people who did so maintained their weight within five pounds over time (compared with 32 percent who weighed in less often), mainly because it helped them catch weight gain early.
• Slather on sunscreen. For the best possible protection, apply it (year-round) a full 30 minutes before you head outdoors — that's how long it takes for the stuff to soak in and become effective.
• Bask in the morning light. Boost your energy for the day, and ward off depression, by getting a healthy dose of sunlight in the morning (after putting on sunscreen!). Exposure to natural light in the a.m. signals your body to cut off production of melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy. Light is also a natural antidepressant, according to several studies, and increases your body's production of vitamin D, which may help you fend off cancer and heart disease. So head outdoors for at least 10 minutes early in the day, whether that means walking to a farther bus stop or sipping your coffee on your porch.
• Eat breakfast if you're watching your weight. A hearty starter, ideally eaten within 15 to 30 minutes of waking and no later than 8 a.m., will help you stave off a gain. "If you don't eat breakfast, your body thinks it's in starvation mode, and you'll eat more food later on," Edlund says. A Harvard Medical School study confirms that people who ate a morning meal were one third less likely to be obese than those who didn't. Go for whole grains (oatmeal, whole-grain cereal, or whole-grain toast) with a serving of protein (an egg, a tablespoon of nut butter, or a slice of low-fat cheese) and some fruit to keep you alert and feeling full for longer. Aim for a meal of around 200 to 300 calories.
In the Afternoon
• Take a power nap. A midday snooze isn't just for babies! By 2 p.m., your body temperature starts to dip, just as it does before bedtime, bringing your eyelids with it. Instead of hitting the vending machine for a sugar high — and eventual crash — try succumbing to your sleepiness and indulging in a 10-minute siesta. An Australian study compared naps lasting 5, 10, 20, and 30 minutes and found that 10 minutes left participants feeling the most refreshed, rested, and alert. Just make sure to set an alarm on your watch or phone so your doze doesn't go overtime, which can cause sleep inertia (that horrible post-snooze grogginess). Can't nap at work? Get off your duff for a 10-minute loop around the block. It's not as restorative, but it will clear your head and boost your circulation, energizing mind and body.