I love summer for a number of reasons, the most obvious one being, IT'S SUMMER! The season conjures up so many wonderful memories, and since I grew up very close to the Atlantic Ocean, many of these involve the beach, a place that still calls and comforts me.
My father used to say that I was like a turtle, always drawn back to the water. It's funny though: I'm not a swimmer (confession: deep water scares me!), but I find the water soothing and wondrous, nonetheless.
Summer, for so many of us, feels like a new beginning. To help usher it in, let's make that new beginning about health. Here's an opportunity to make some changes in your life that can make this summer—and all of the summers to follow—your healthiest one(s) yet.
I offered five tips last week. Here are five more:
- Stay hydrated. Do you drink enough water? I don't. I'm rarely thirsty, and although thirst is generally a good guide to how much you need to drink, the fact is (though the reasons are not entirely clear) as we get older our mechanism for recognizing thirst is diminished. It's not that way for everyone, but you do want to pay attention and drink enough. One good way is to keep an eye on the color of your urine, making sure it's not too dark yellow, too smelly or too cloudy. If you're exercising in extreme heat or for longer than an hour, consider supplementing your water with a sports drink containing electrolytes and 6 percent to 8 percent carbohydrates. Other things besides water also count toward your hydration, like coffee, tea, juices, milk and fruits and veggies. It's not called watermelon for nothing.
- Be sunscreen savvy. You may be celebrating the sun, but be cautious: those rays can fuel the most dangerous form of skin cancer—melanoma. The rates of this lethal cancer have been rising for at least 30 years. In 2015, almost 79 million new cases were expected to be diagnosed in the United States, and out of those, there will be nearly 10,000 deaths. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen for everyone. Use an SPF of 30 or higher and use enough: about a shot glass (or two tablespoons) reapplied every two hours or right after swimming, toweling off or heavy sweating.
- Laugh. Laughing is a great health boost. It's free, it's easy and it feels so good (and may even work your abdominal muscles a little). By decreasing stress hormones, and increasing immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, a good guffaw may even enhance your resistance to disease. I love an article I read on Time.com that cited the research of Dr. Lee Berk of Loma Linda University in California, who has studied the health effects of laughter for nearly three decades. The article says he equates laughter to a proper diet and exercise when it comes to your health. Hard to argue with that. "Laughter appears to cause all the reciprocal, or opposite, effects of stress," he says. That's a good thing when you consider that stress releases health-busting hormones like cortisol, while laughter triggers feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine. I'll choose the latter, since these chemicals can calm and help reduce anxiety. Know of any great comedies? I'm ready.
- Downsize your plate. No matter what you hear about this diet or that diet, the fact is that any will work. When it comes down to it, if you eat fewer calories when you diet, you will lose weight. Period. To make this so much easier, just reduce the size of your plate. Dinner plates—both at home and at restaurants—have grown over the years. Use a smaller plate, and you'll pile less food on it and automatically eat fewer calories. Plain and simple.
- Eat more. Wait, what? I just said to eat less. True. By eating more, I mean eat more nutritious foods. Add and subtract from your diet: Take away fatty meats and add lean protein and seafood. Get rid of solid fats, like margarine or butter, and add healthy oils like olive and canola. Take away the baked goods and cereals that have refined or white grains and add whole grains like farro, brown rice and quinoa. And include a good helping of eggs, beans, fruits and veggies in your everyday diet.
Here's a way to keep your summer look going all year long.
This post originally appeared on mysocalledmidlife.net.