Larsen & Talbert for USA WEEKEND
Don't read while you eat.
No watching TV either, or playing on your iPad, or doing anything that diverts attention from your dish ó staying focused may help curb calories. Researchers at the University of Liverpool analyzed two dozen previous studies of normal-weight people and found those whose who ate while distracted not only consumed more of the food in front of them, but even more of a later meal. Attentive eating could play a role in weight loss and maintenance. Of course, what you eat takes center stage: Choose fruits, vegetables and lean proteins; opt for low-fat dairy and whole-grain products; up your fiber intake; limit sugar; and drink lots of water.
Use your body as weights.
No need for high-tech gym equipment to get into shorts-and-tank-top shape: Push-ups, planks, lunges and other exercises that use your body as resistance work just as well, and theyíre more popular than ever. This back-to-basics approach to muscle-strengthening emerged as a top fitness trend for 2013, according to a survey from the American College of Sports Medicine.
Body weight training doesnít cost a dime, requires little or no gear, and can be done anywhere. Do it two or three times a week to tone muscles and help your body burn calories better; combine it with a regular cardio routine to boost energy and shed extra pounds. Talk to your doctor before starting any new workout routine; itís also a good idea to try a class or see a personal trainer to learn new bodyweight training moves and make sure youíre using proper form.
Apply sunscreen, then bug spray.
The first helps protect you from the harmful ultraviolet rays that cause most of the 3.5 million skin cancers diagnosed each year; the latter reduces exposure to mosquito bites that may carry viruses such as West Nile, which can cause serious illness. Use both, but be sure to put them on in the right order.
First, rub a generous amount of sunscreen into clean, dry skin before heading outdoors (choose one with broad-spectrum protection, an SPF of at least 30, and water-resistance). Give the sunscreen 15 minutes to fully absorb; then lightly mist your skin with insect repellant. DEET- and picaridin-based sprays typically provide the longest-lasting protection, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); if you prefer plant-based repellants, oil of lemon eucalyptus works longer than others.
The CDC does not recommend using all-in-one sunscreen and bug sprays, however, because the products are meant to be used differently: sunscreen, for example, needs to be reapplied about every two hours (or after swimming or sweating); repellant is typically re-sprayed only if youíre being bitten. Plus, some research suggests using sunscreen and bug sprays at the same time leads to an increased absorption of the pesticide.
Stock up on watermelon.
Itís a favorite hot-weather snack among nutrition experts, and for many good reasons: The refreshing fruit is 92% water (so it helps you stay hydrated) and itís packed with lycopene, an antioxidant that may help reduce risk of certain cancers.
Research suggests that when lycopene is combined with other carotenoids (like beta-carotene, and vitamins C and E), it may help protect against sunburn. Watermelon is also an excellent source of vitamin C (which boosts the immune system), vitamin A (good for eye health). A recent study suggests another of its compounds may promote heart health.
Chew less sugarless gum.
Go easy on hard candies, too ó especially if you plan to hit the beach in a bikini. Gum and candy often contain sugar alcohols (such as sorbitol, maltitol and xylitol) ó sweeteners that are lower in calories than regular sugar, but when eaten in excess, could trigger bloating. Plus, the act of chewing (the gum) and sucking (the candy) will likely cause you to swallow extra air, which can build up in your stomach and intestines and boost belly pooch. Other ways to reduce bloating: Cut back on carbonated drinks and gas-producing foods such as baked beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, apples and peaches.
Know the signs of overheating.
Warm weather draws everyone ó from kids to adults, casual walkers to extreme sport-ers ó outdoors for some fun in the sun, but staying in too-hot weather for too long raises your risk of heat-related illness. Muscle cramps or profuse sweating may be an early indicator; nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, weakness and cold, clammy skin are all signs of heat exhaustion.
If you have any of these symptoms, move to a cooler spot, lie down and loosen your clothing, sip water and, if possible, apply cool, wet cloths to your body. Ignore the signs, and it may progress to heat stroke, a condition that occurs when your body temperature is greater than 104 degrees, resulting in hot, red skin, extreme confusion, irrational behavior and possible unconsciousness. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention.
Shower before pool-swimming.
Thatís right ó before. The reason: to help keep disease-causing germs out of the water. A recent CDC report suggests one in three people think chlorine kills all germs instantly, but thatís not the case ó some survive for days, even in well-maintained pools. Crypto (short for cryptosporidium) is one of those resilient germs ó itís the leading cause of swimming pool-related outbreaks of diarrhea, with reported cases on the rise, and swallowing just a little contaminated water can get you sick.
Rinsing off before diving in is one way to helps prevent the spread of germs; itís also smart to take young kids on bathroom breaks and check diapers often, avoid getting pool water in your mouth, and skip the pool entirely if you have diarrhea. You canít know for sure if a public pool is contaminated, but a strong chemical smell is not necessarily a good sign: Well-chlorinated pools have little or no odor, a potent smell indicates a maintenance problem. The water should also be clear enough for you to see the pool floor and the sides should not be sticky or slimy.
Soak scaly feet.
Itís the first step to getting cracked, callused heels and toes sandal-ready. Before bed, submerge your feet in warm water mixed with 4 Tbs. of olive oil for 20 minutes; then use a pumice stone, foot file or exfoliating scrub to thin that thickened skin and smooth rough patches. Rub feet with baby oil, then put on socks and hit the sack. In the morning, your feet with be softer, more supple, and ready to slip into your favorite summer shoes. One note: If flip flops are your first pick, choose a sturdy pair (if it folds in half, itís no good), preferably made of soft leather (to minimize the risk of blisters), and make sure it fits well (so no part of your foot hangs off the edge). Flip flops are fine for the pool or at the beach, but donít wear them to walk long distances becasue they offer limited shock absorption and arch support. For a list of brands approved by the American Podiatric Medical Association, visit apma.org/flipfloptips.