Energy Essentials – fight back by boosting your metabolism

If you’re feeling leveled by lethargy lately, fight back by boosting your metabolism — defined by the National Institutes of Health as “all the physical and chemical processes in the body that convert or use energy.” To improve your stamina and general health, avoid trendy supplements and drinks that claim to perform metabolism miracles. Instead opt for these time-tested tips to keep your body’s engine humming:

  • Exercise: Strength training 2 or 3 times a week will build muscle, and muscle burns more calories than fat. Add 30–60 minutes of regular cardiovascular exercise — such as jogging, elliptical, or fast walking — to see results.
  • Don’t starve yourself: Research indicates that skipping meals, especially breakfast, can actually slow down your metabolism.
  • Eat more often: Many dieters are finding success by spreading out their calories and eating several smaller meals about every 3–4 hours.
  • Stay hydrated: Keep that water flowing and avoid dehydration, which produces the same unwanted metabolic effect as starvation.
  • Try green tea: It can raise your metabolism while providing an antioxidant and caffeine infusion.
  • Avoid sugar: Soft drinks, alcohol, and processed foods can all contribute to weight gain. Aim for healthier calories from produce, whole grains, lean protein, and low–fat dairy.

Try Before You Buy?

Before you head into the dressing room, know how to safely try on items so you’re not bringing home more than you bargained for.

  • Undergarments: Your safest bet is to avoid the in–store audition. If you must, try them on over your undies. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling underwear regardless.
  • Hats: Sure you like to model that baseball cap before dropping the dough, but how many other fans have taken it for a cranial spin? While lice is usually considered a kids’ disease, adults aren’t immune — those little buggers thrive on human blood and require nothing more than direct contact with your scalp to start their infestation. The good news is they usually die within a day, but if a carrier tries on a hat right before you, the parasites could upgrade to your hospitable head.
  • Shoes: It’s best not to buy shoes without trying them on. But if you do so without socks, you could risk contaminating with fungal foes. Wash the socks when you get home and spray down the interior of your new footwear with a disinfectant to clear out infectious stowaways.

Elective Actions

Use today as an excuse to exercise your body, mind, and spirit:

  • Leave your car in the driveway and walk or pedal to work. Or round a track or sprint up stadium steps at a nearby school.
  • Dust off mental cobwebs by challenging your mind. Play a trivia game that tests your knowledge or try to recall the names of US presidents. If you get stuck, look them up. Or just pick one to learn more about — studies show that simply reading regularly may slow cognitive decline.
  • Just as activating your brain and body helps maintain health, spiritual stimulation helps you maintain balance. Write down 3 habits you know need pruning, and 3 virtues you’d like to promote… then work on both — offer to help a neighbor, perform a good deed for a stranger, or extend an olive branch to someone with whom you’ve butted heads. If you subscribe to a particular belief, increase your prayer or meditation time with readings or quiet reflections.

Sweet Urge to Splurge

Does ice cream summon you at night or vending machine candy bars call you during the day? Succumbing to your sweet tooth can become your nutrition or weight control downfall. Wean yourself from the urge to splurge by minding these ground rules for knowing when to give in… and when to slap your own hand.

  • While going cold turkey is sometimes effective, it could put you on a fast track to failure. Consider gradual cutbacks. Drop from 3 sodas/day to 1 or stash half the candy bar before biting in.
  • If the desire to indulge strikes, evaluate emotional triggers — boredom, anxiety, or depression often activate longings. If you recognize why that chocolate cake is soliciting your affections, you might be more apt to shun it.
  • Note vulnerable times of day. Caving in to the rich coffee drink before 9 AM is dangerous if you know you’ll want another by mid–afternoon. Take a different way to work to avoid that favorite coffee stop. And if late–night munchies antagonize you, say yes to your sweet tooth with a piece of fruit.

Image Conscience

Body perception depends more on self–esteem than the reflection in the mirror. If left unchecked, it can easily shame you into fad diets, extreme exercise, and insecurity. Give your body image a makeover with these tips for shaping a healthy perspective regardless of where you are on your fitness journey:

  • Touch, don’t look. Magazine covers are like carnival mirrors — they reveal fictional figures. The beefed–up bodybuilders and svelte models often are a figment of digital touch–ups, and are unrealistic for the general population. So buy them for cooking tips or financial advice, but don’t envy pictures spread throughout — they’re dishonest attempts to claim beauty is only skin deep.
  • Strut your stuff. Nobody’s flawless. But dwelling on the areas you wish to improve can blind recognition of your positive traits. Step back and pick 3 things you appreciate about yourself. Then focus only on them the next time you walk into a room. Drop your arms, raise your chin, and smile as you practice celebrating the qualities you’re proud of.
  • Aim for health. Too often we shoot to drop pounds because we want to look better. But those results can be temporary, which can lower self–esteem. Give up the goal of weight control for appearance. Concentrate instead on developing a healthy lifestyle. Eat more vegetables and fruit. Walk longer and more often. Pursue stress–relieving activities like yoga. Pamper yourself with a golf outing or a massage.

When not to get a Pap Test

If you dutifully visit your ob-gyn for a Pap smear every year, you might want to change your routine. There are new government guidelines for the test, which checks for abnormal changes in cells in your cervix that might lead to cervical cancer. Experts now believe that less frequent tests may be safer because getting tested too often can lead to false positives and invasive follow-up diagnostics, such as biopsies and colposcopies – not to mention anxiety and stress. Here’s the latest advice for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a government advisory panel of medical experts:

  • 20 and Younger Skip the Pap smear regardless of sexual history. Cervical cancer is rare in this group, and any abnormal cells often return to normal over time.
  • 21 to 29 Get a Pap test every three years. Skip getting the test for the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer.
  • 30 to 65 Get a Pap smear every three years or go every five years for both a Pap smear and an HPV test.
  • 66 and Older Skip the Pap test as long as you’re not considered high risk – for example, you’ve had cervical cancer or dysplasia or you have a compromised immune system – and you’ve had three normal Paps or two normal HPV tests in a row in the pas decade, with the most recent one within the past five years.

You can also skip getting a Pap smear if you’ve had a hysterectomy and your cervix removed for reasons other than cancer.

Just keep this in mind: The new guidelines aren’t an excuse to skip your annual appointment with your ob-gyn, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. That exam is about a lot more than just a Pap. Depending on your age, it could include a pelvic and breast exam, a discussion about the right birth control for you, or a chat about menopause concerns. It’s also important to keep track of when you had your last Pap smear because that might be a challenge to remember now.

Also keep in mind that you should start getting mammograms every two years once you turn 50, depending on your health and family history. If you have questions or concerns about the recommendations, discuss them with your doctor.