Find out when the best strategy is to ignore your instincts
If You Want to Banish Bloat...
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Drink more! When you're retaining enough water to make Shamu jealous, drinking even more H2O seems like the last thing you should do. Do it anyway! Bloating happens when your kidneys sense dropping fluid levels and order your body to hang on to all the water its got. This can happen from over-indulging in salty snacks or from skipping water after your super-sweaty spin class.
To calm your kidneys and slip into your skinny jeans, drink water throughout the day. Every little bit helps, so don't worry if you can't swallow the recommended 64 ounces (eight 8-ounce glasses) of water per day. According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, "the eight-by-eight rule isn't supported by hard evidence, but it remains popular because it's easy to remember." The rule should state: "Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day," because all fluids count toward the daily total.
If You Want Fewer Breakouts...
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Eat more chocolate! Chocolate gets a bad rap when it comes to acne, but the National Institute of Health says it's not warranted. "There are many myths about what causes acne. Chocolate and greasy foods are often blamed, but there is little evidence that foods have much effect on acne in most people."
The truth: Chocolate is actually good for your skin! The flavonoids in dark chocolate can help reduce inflammation and redness, protect the skin from sun damage (less wrinkles!), and help resolve acne by improving blood flow to the skin, according to a 2007 study published in the International Journal of Cardiology. Just be sure to keep your serving size in check. Subjects in the study were given 45g of dark chocolate per day. That translates to about 1.5 ounces, which is the amount in one standard-size Hershey's bar.
If You Want Whiter Teeth...
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Brush less! According to a recent survey conducted by the American Dental Association (ADA), "90 percent of respondents mistakenly believe they should brush after every meal when the ADA recommends only twice a day." Brushing too often can erode the enamel on your teeth, making them weaker, more prone to cavities, and less white. Be especially cautious after eating acidic foods such as tomatoes or citrus fruit, as brushing immediately after can push the acid deeper into your teeth, causing further erosion.
To keep your pearly whites, well, white, the ADA recommends waiting 30 minutes after drinking OJ or eating other acidic foods to brush your teeth. In a hurry? Chew a piece of sugar-free gum instead. The xylitol has been shown to reduce acid on teeth.
If You Want to Drop a Dress Size...
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Gain weight! This doesn't mean you should curl up with a pint of Ben & Jerry's this weekend. That would translate into gaining fat, and the weight we're talking about is lean muscle mass. Many women notice that when they start a regular weight-lifting program, they gain weight yet look smaller. This is because muscle tissue is more dense (tightly packed) than fat. So while the number on the scale may go up, your jeans size goes down.
If You Want to Eat Less...
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Surround yourself with more food! Healthy food, that is. Every day we make more than 200 decisions about what to eat, when to eat it, and how much of it to eat, says Dr. Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.
Dr. Wansink made it his mission to figure out why people make the choices they do and concluded that "we are strongly influenced by the way food is packaged, labeled, and served." While that may work against you when confronted with an alluring array of snack cakes, you can also use this finding to your advantage by controlling your environment. Basically we eat what we see, so surrounding yourself with fresh, healthy snacks—think "convenient food," not "convenience food"—and moving the treats out of sight can make good choices automatic. Plus, snacking on healthy, whole foods helps keep your blood sugar in check. Why that's a good thing: You won't be so starving by the time dinner rolls around that you inhale half the loaf of French bread while you're cooking.
If You Want to Run a Faster Marathon...
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Walk more! Popularized by Olympic runner Jeff Galloway, "run-walk" training is the latest strategy for improving your race time. You can set the run/walk ratio at whatever feels right to you, but many people adhere to Galloway's "walk one minute of every mile" advice. Adding in walk breaks before your body gets tired helps speed up recovery, boosts endurance, and ultimately shortens your race time. Seasoned marathon runner and professed skeptic Tim Deegan used the run-walk method and chopped 20 minutes off his time, resulting in a finish that qualified him for the Boston Marathon.
If You Want to Be Happier...
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Spend less time talking about your problems! "When we feel dissatisfied or frustrated by something, we respond by engaging in an exclusively human behavior—we complain," says Guy Winch, Ph.D., in an interview with Psychology Today. "We complain about things large and small and do so with great frequency. This should surprise no one. What is surprising is that although we all invest prodigious amounts of time complaining, almost all of it is wasted. We do practically nothing to resolve our complaints."
It's a vicious cycle: The more someone complains the less likely they are to fix the problem, and the more likely they are to feel worse about it. According to Dr. Winch, this happens because of something called "learned helplessness," a psychological state that describes what happens when people believe they have no control over their environment. "When we become convinced our actions will not have the impact we desire, we cease our efforts and become passive and helpless," Dr. Winch says.
This doesn't mean you should always bottle up your emotions. Experts says there's a fine line between venting and complaining. While there's nothing wrong with blowing off some steam to a friend, be careful not to get caught up in a negative downward spiral. And don't forget to count your blessings on occassion—research shows that expressing gratitude is one of the most powerful ways to boost happiness.
If You Want to Get Stronger...
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Lift less! Long sets with light weights are great for building muscle endurance, but if you really want to see strength gains, you need to put down the candy-colored dumbbells and push yourself by doing shorter sets (fewer reps) with heavy weights. The same principle applies to training frequency. Your muscles need time to rest and rebuild between weight lifting sessions so try to avoid scheduling back-to-back strength workouts. For best results, aim for one to two days between each heavy lifting session.
If You Want Less Stinky Gas...
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You need more stinky bacteria! There are more than 5,600 different strains of bacteria living in your gut right now. When all is working properly, the various strains of intestinal bacteria balance each other out. When an imbalance occurs (antibiotics or an unhealthy diet are the most common culprits), biological warfare breaks out. One of the first signs that a battle is raging: rank gas.
To keep your gut healthy and reduce flatulence, Dr. Mehmet Oz recommends eating fermented foods like yogurt or kefir or taking a probiotic supplement.
If You Want Shinier Hair...
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Shampoo less and avoid "shine" products! Washing your hair every day strips its natural oils, making your locks dry and prone to breakage. Depending on your scalp and hair texture, experts advise shampooing every two to five days. And steer clear of silicone-based products (silicone is the main ingredient in most "shine" formulas) that can actually make your hair look more dull over time.
"Silicones are synthetic compounds that are usually heat-resistant and are most often non-water soluble. This insolubility causes build up in your hair, weighing it down and creating a dull look," says Allison Cooper of Naturally Curly.
Focus on keeping hair healthy and the cuticle shaft intact by deep conditioning, limiting your use of hot styling tools, and allowing more time between shampoos.