Mounting credit card bills, lingering relatives and dark afternoons probably have you craving a box of soft-centred chocolates and a big, warm bed right about now. Go ahead and escape, but take us with you. And relax, this isn’t a high maintenance checklist of new year resolutions. No one is suggesting that you lose 20 pounds in eight weeks or give up your favourite vices. Most experts agree that by the third week of January, a quarter of new year resolutions have already been broken, and only 20 percent of us follow through on the promises we make ourselves. Who needs the guilt?
This eclectic gathering of beauty tips and myths, body news and mind candy is designed to appeal to the wilful, self-centred and mercurial side of every woman — you know, the one that’s often amplified by the whirl of holiday obligations.
So now is the perfect time to wrap yourself in that cashmere throw, toss some marshmallows in a steaming cup of hot chocolate and indulge.
1 Go figure
It turns out that men are bad for women’s waistlines, at least that’s the latest word from Dr. David Haslan, a British obesity expert. Women are far more likely to stock up on fruits and veggies and to manage their food portions when living on their own or with other women, Haslan told the BBC. But as soon as a man enters the picture, several factors contribute to their weight gain: they eat out more, indulge in richer foods in man-size portions, snack in front of the TV and exercise less.
2 Strike a pose
It’s Hollywood’s latest fitness craze. A fusion of ashtanga yoga, martial arts and meditation, Budokon (meaning “spirit of the warrior”) starts with meditation, followed by a series of yoga-based moves that pick up speed and turn into gymnastic lunges, leaps and flying kicks. “By better organizing the way a person moves, we serve to better organize the way that person thinks and lives,” says creator Cameron Shayne. Converts include Rene Russo, Amber Valletta and Courteney Cox-Arquette, who used the regime to help shed her baby weight.
3 “Life is about messing up and getting on your feet again. So have a sense of humour about yourself.”
— Debra Messing
4 Gourmet sex
If your sex life is a snooze, turn up the heat with these healthy foods:
• Chili peppers and ginger root Improve circulation and stimulate nerve endings. Capsaicin, the compound responsible for giving chilies their burn, is thought to trigger the release of endorphins, the feel-good brain chemical.
• Soy Binds estrogen receptors to keep the vagina lubricated.
• Olive oil, salmon and nuts Sex hormone production thrives on the “good fats” found in these heart-healthy foods. What’s good for your heart benefits all your bits and pieces.
5 Dial a bod
If dragging yourself to the gym at dawn is as unlikely as hiring a personal trainer, pick up your cellphone and dial a workout. The Fitcall, a new program being offered in Los Angeles by Eric the Trainer (ericthetrainer.com) is designed for busy women. All you need is a yoga mat, a towel and a cellphone equipped with the speakerphone or hands-free option. Twice a week, students jump into a conference call with Eric, who leads them through 45 minutes of kicks and crunches.
6 Air supply
Here’s one more reason to book that winter vacation. Frequent exposure to negative ions creates positive vibes that can boost your mood. Negative ions are odourless, tasteless and invisible molecules that we inhale in abundance in environments with a lot of moving air or water. Scientists believe that when negative ions reach the bloodstream, they produce a biochemical reaction that increases levels of the mood-boosting brain chemical serotonin.
Kiss away the carbs on the next page …
5 ways to boost your energy7 Pet project
Pets make great companions but, according to a new Australian study, they can also serve as “four-legged introduction agencies for their owners.” Of those surveyed, more than one in 20 credited Fluffy or Rover with introducing them to their soulmates, but a whopping 72 percent of horse owners found love in the stable swapping hoof picks and fly sprays.
8 Kiss away the carbs
Want to burn more calories? The latest stats are in: three kisses a day burns nine calories. Making love twice a week burns 425 calories. And we’ll bet that you didn’t know that most of us can guess someone’s sex with 95 percent accuracy just by smelling their breath!
9 Art therapy
Forget surrealism and cubism, the newest movement in art stimulates your digestion. The next time you’re on a gallery crawl, you might want to scope out the restrooms ahead of time. A Swedish study claims that viewing art does more than spark your imagination; it also helps to cure high blood pressure and constipation. Twenty women who met once a week over a four-month period to look at and discuss different works of art reported experiencing lower blood pressure and using fewer laxatives.
10 Socks and a smile
A frigid attitude is apparently not the only barrier to hot sex. A new Dutch study shows that cold feet inhibit women and men from achieving orgasm. Of the 13 hetero couples that took part in the University of Groningen study, 80 percent were able to reach orgasm in socks compared to 50 percent who went barefoot. So by all means wear the peignoir, but don’t forego the fuzzy footwear!
11 “I don’t believe makeup and the right hairstyle alone can make a woman beautiful. The most radiant woman in the room is the one full of life and experience.”
— Sharon Stone
12 Repeat after me
If stress has turned you into a giant clenched fist, try to meditate. Close your door and tune out the world. Focus on your breath, replacing shallow breathing with deep inhalations that go right to the bottom of your lungs. As you exhale, choose a favourite word-like ‘ah’-and repeat it until you feel your whole body relaxing.
13 Beauty myth
Good news for those who partied a little too hard this holiday season. Sleep deprivation doesn’t affect your looks, so say British scientists. Fifteen volunteers, aged 18 to 45, spent two days living Big Brother-style — with sleep, cosmetics and toiletries banned — while researchers tested their skin’s hydration and elasticity and carried out psychological tests. After two days, they found no significant dermatological changes (i.e., no dark circles, puffiness or additional wrinkles), although it was agreed that the men looked more haggard than the women. However, negative self-impressions rose 23 percent. “The more tired people became, the greater the emphasis they placed on sleep being the answer to looking good,” said Alex Gardner, clinical psychologist. Eight hours of sleep only makes us feel more attractive — apparently our looks don’t depend on it.
Get out of your fitness funk with these fun ideas14 LOL
More good health news on laughing. Researchers at the University of Maryland report that frequent laughter protects against heart disease by increasing the blood flow to the heart. Ninety-five percent of volunteers experienced increased blood flow during a screening of There’s Something About Mary, with the effects lasting 12 to 24 hours, while 74 percent experienced a decrease in blood flow watching tense flicks like Saving Private Ryan.
15 “We can’t hold onto our youth, but what you can hang onto is all the things we’ve been told a zillion times: you have to find the light in your life that you had when you were a little girl that made you happy.”
— Goldie Hawn
16 Spot remover
Alternative medicine’s integrated approach to mind, body and soul appears to be changing the face of traditional medicine. The number of dermatologists who are opting to earn second degrees in psychology has given rise to a new field of study: pyschodermatology. Now, rather than rummaging through the medicine cabinet for a cure, pyschodermatologists are helping patients with severe skin problems deal with stress through relaxation techniques, exercise and music therapy.
17 Call in sick
• Live and learn So you’ve always wanted to try your hand at illustrating children’s books. What’s stopping you? Take a class! And while you’re at it, sign up for another course on how to make a sock monkey! (artworksartschool.com) If it’s too cold to leave the house, you could always find out more about “Dreams and the Subconscious Mind,” “How to Cook for a Crowd” or “Living the Russian Way” by registering for free online classes at suite101.com.
• Tu or vous? Watch a foreign film without the subtitles. Studies show that learning another language opens you up to new cultures and world views while protecting the brain against the early onset of dementia.
• Make a splash Take up synchronized swimming. Not only does it tone and reduce stress but it also does wonders for your sense of rhythm and grace. And did you know that retro flowered bathing caps are in again? The nose plugs are another story! (synchro.ca)
• Spend the whole day reading
a great book Sarah McLachlan loves Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. “I always come back to it for inspiration.” Julia Roberts is a fan of Thomas Hardy’s short story An Imaginative Woman. Brooke Shields recommends The Hours by Michael Cunningham.
• 18 Good vibrations
Harry Winston take note. The Aris Institute in Los Angeles, spa to the stars, has found a new way to mesmerize women with diamonds, emeralds and rubies. Clients are treated to a relaxing head massage in which a glass transmitter, filled with the vibrations of these precious gems, is combed through the hair. To increase the harmony in the room, the walls of the spa are painted with a special finish made from crushed minerals. (arisinstitute.com)
19 M x O Bh (H R) x S
This wacky formula, conjured up by Cliff Arnall, a psychologist at Cardiff University, is proof that the middle of May, and not January 1, is the best time of year for making new year resolutions. M is for motivation (it’s sunny out and only getting warmer), O is for opportunity (think birds and bees), Bh is for proximity to a bank holiday, H is for the increasing hours of daylight, R is for reflection time and S stands for success. Mark May 18 on your calendar, says Arnall.
20 Food mood
If your tone of voice and choice of words don’t give away your mood, your food order might. A recent study by a team of American psychologists involving 500 volunteers found that angry people favour hard-to-chew food, like steak, that allows them to be physically expressive. The sexually frustrated cram in the carbs in search of a quick fix, while depressed people try to stimulate themselves past their gloom with caffeine and sugar.
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