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By Brianna Steinhilber, Everyday Health
When it comes to living a healthier life, we all know what we should be doing: eating better, exercising daily, and sleeping more. But when hectic schedules get in the way, living by these mantras can feel close to impossible - who has time to think about these things, let alone ensure you're sticking to them every single day? What you'll be happy to hear is that you can boost your health each day without having to constantly think about it. "The One-Minute Wellness Coach" to the rescue! Certified nutritionist Deborah Enos shares her simple tricks that will only add a minute to your daily routine but result in some major health perks.
1. Beat Your Sugar Addiction: Swap Your Sugary Snack
Does your sweet tooth ache around mid-afternoon or after dinner? You may be battling an addiction: According to a Princeton University study, rats who were allowed to binge on sugar and then had it taken away showed signs of withdrawal. "That may very well be why it's so hard to stick to your diet after 'treating yourself' to a sugary treat," says Enos. Her simple solution: avoid the sweets in the first place and swap them for bananas with peanut butter or yogurt with berries.
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"Bananas are sweet, so they can satisfy your craving, but don't have any added sugar," she says. "It's a quick, fiber-rich snack that will keep you feeling full." If you go the yogurt route, sprinkle nature's candy - berries - on top, or "make your own frozen yogurt bars by freezing the yogurt in a Popsicle tray, with fresh berries for a little more natural sweetness," says Enos.
2. Lengthen Your Life: Stand Up
Want to lengthen your life right now? Stand up! Many of us spend the majority of the day sitting. Take a second to think of all the activities you do each day sitting down: Working at your desk, traveling in the car, watching TV, eating dinner - all that time really adds up! "A study found that people who were required to sit for longer periods of time at work were more likely to experience signs of psychological distress," says Enos. Studies have also found that women who sit for 10 hours a day have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease over those who sit for five or fewer, she adds. Standing up for just a minute whenever it crosses your mind can add up to some major health benefits over time.
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A review by the American Cancer Society found that women who sat for at least six hours a day had a 34 percent higher death rate than those who sat for three or fewer hours daily, says Enos. "Men who sat more than six hours had a 17 percent higher death rate than men who sat for three hours."
3. Change Your Mood: Eat Chocolate
You know that what you eat affects how you look, but what's less recognized is the effect it can have on how you feel. "Researchers found that people who ate junk food were 51 percent more likely to show signs of depression," says Enos. "And the more junk food they ate, the more likely they were to be depressed." That sheds some light on the emotional eating cycle many fall culprit to - finding solace in a bag of chips or carton of ice cream when we are sad or stressed out. Next time a low mood triggers cravings for an unhealthy binge, swap the junk for dark chocolate. "It's likely to satisfy your craving for something sweet and make you feel good at the same time," says Enos. "According to the book 'A Chocolate a Day' by Dr. John Ashton, the phenylethylamine found in chocolate has a stimulating effect on the brain."
4. Beat Snack Cravings: Brush Your Teeth
Snack cravings are constantly fighting to derail your healthy eating intentions. But they won't win any more battles of the munchies if you keep Enos' one-minute tip in your arsenal: "My favorite after-dinner snack is brushing my teeth," she says. "If I did have a sweet craving, after brushing, it's long gone." Not only will brushing help alleviate cravings, but the minty taste left in your mouth will ruin the taste of any unhealthy snack you reach for.
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And this is one case where the lazy factor works to your advantage: "If I do really want to get something else to eat, I probably won't because I'm too lazy to go brush my teeth again," says Enos.
5. Take Control of Your Weight: Get on the Scale Once a Week
While experts often discourage dieters from stepping on the scale too often, not checking in enough is a common symptom of denial. "Years ago, when I knew I had weight to lose, you couldn't have paid me to get on a scale," says Enos. "As long as I didn't see the dial going up, I could go on believing that I still weighed the same as the last time I checked - about 10 months and 15 pounds earlier."
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Enos' problem is common: Studies show that those who are overweight are more likely to underestimate their weight than those in a healthy weight range. In just one minute a week, you can hop on the scale and accurately assess your weight and accept the need to shed pounds if it exists. "Weigh yourself about three or four times a month to be sure you have a realistic view of your current weight," says Enos. "Just don't obsess over your weight by checking the scale daily. Small fluctuations are normal, but can be discouraging."
6. Suppress Your Appetite: Eat a Tablespoon of Flaxseed
When our stomach rumbles, we reach for whatever food is closest and often end up overeating - especially in the time frame between arriving home and dinner, when our appetites are high but we still need to prepare a meal. Luckily, Enos has a 60-second tip that will help you curb your hunger, and the before-dinner munching. "On those days when I don't eat well - a low-fiber lunch or no afternoon snack - I have a tablespoon of flaxseed as soon as I get home," says Enos. "Because flaxseed is high in fiber, it acts as a natural appetite suppressant. Just that one tablespoon of flaxseed and a glass of water really helps take the edge off of my appetite." Not sure this tip is one you can swallow? "If my method doesn't sound attractive to you, try adding some peanut butter to an apple slice, and then add a dash of flaxseed."
7. Burn Fat: Turn Off the Kitchen Lights
While nighttime eating isn't necessarily a bad habit, it is one that can lead to weight gain if you aren't taking the additional calories into account. Most of us munch at night more out of habit than hunger. Oprah made the "Don't eat after 6 p.m." mantra famous when she shared it as one of her personal tips to shed pounds, says Enos. And while this is a smart strategy, it only works if you're in bed by 9 p.m. "Each meal will keep you full for about three to four hours," says Enos. "So if you're done eating at six, you shouldn't have to worry about feeling hungry until 9 p.m. or later." Night owls, don't fret! You don't have to shut down your kitchen well before your day is over. "Just be sure to finish your last meal about three hours before your bedtime. If you go to bed at 11 p.m., don't have dinner past 8 p.m.," says Enos. "If you have an after-dinner sweet tooth, make sure to save about 100 calories for a snack."