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Eating everything in sight? Smoking again? Here, speedy ways to clean up your act—and lower your cancer risk.
Almost everyone has at least one not-so-stellar health habit: pounds over a four-week period (as opposed to the controlMaybe you’ve smoked like a chimney since high school, gotten group, which gained three). “Your body monitors how many one too many sunburns in your mid-20s, or sworn off milk since nutrients it needs and will dampen your taste buds once you’ve the seventh grade. Now you’re ready to clean up your act but had enough,” says study author John Poothullil, M.D., of the don’t want to slave away at it. We’ve got good news for you: Brazosport Memorial Hospital in Lake Jackson, Texas.
Believe it or not, you can undo much of the damage caused by Step #3: Skip the starch. For a week or two, avoid simple carbs
the most common health slip-ups in just two weeks—and with (e.g., pasta, white bread, and sugary cereals) and instead focus minimal effort. Follow our doable fast-fix plan, and you’ll be on fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean sources of protein, well on your way to reclaiming your health and warding off the such as fish, chicken, and low-fat dairy. “Starch and processed sugar increase your body’s insulin levels, which in turn stimu-lates your appetite,” explains Pamela Peeke, M.D., author ofFight Fat After Forty. Simple carbs also cause your body to re- HEALTH SLIP-UP #1:
tain water, so when you stop eating them, you may drop up to Splurging
Fix-it time: Two to four weeks You’ve returned from a ten-
Step #4: Don’t be fats-phobic. It sounds counterintuitive, but
day vacation sporting some extra pounds. Don’t let the weight eating some fat at every meal may help you stick to a healthy- sit; you may up your risk for developing breast cancer, among eating plan. In a study of 101 people at Brigham and Women’s other diseases. (Fat triggers an increase in the production of a Hospital, researchers found that after a year, those on a low-fat form of estrogen that promotes rapid cell division.) The good diet (20 percent of daily calories from fat) actually gained six news: You can burn off those pounds quickly. “If you gain three pounds, while those on a moderate-fat diet (35 percent, mostly to five pounds during a ten-day vacation, you’ll need about a heart-healthy fat) lost ten pounds. “People on extremely low- month to take it off,” says Kathy McManus, R.D., director of fat diets tend to not feel full, so they end up consuming more the department of nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital calories,” says McManus, who was lead researcher on the study.
A few good ideas: Drizzle olive oil on steamed veggies, snack Step #1: Don’t diet! You’re much more likely to stick to a sen-
on a handful of walnuts, and eat a fatty fish, like salmon or tuna, sible eating plan if you focus on the idea of eating healthy, rather than dieting. In a study at the University of Toronto, re- Step #5: Get your moo juice. When women consumed low-fat
searchers found that people who were told they’d start a diet the dairy (such as skim milk, nonfat yogurt, and low-fat cheese) next week actually consumed more food than non-dieters. “Just three to four times a day, they reduced their body fat by up to 70 the thought of deprivation can make you fall off the healthy- percent, shows a study at the University of Tennessee in Knox- ville. “Calcium serves as a switch that tells your body to burn Step #2: Avoid eating on the run. Set aside at least 20 minutes
excess fat faster,” explains study author Michael Zemel, Ph.D., for each meal, so you can sit down and savor each bite. When director of the university’s Nutrition Institute. And no, you researchers asked women to chew thoroughly and to stop eating won’t get the same results if you drink calcium-fortified bever- once their food no longer tasted as good as the first bite, they ages such as orange juice: Research shows that you get the best found that their subjects lost an average of eight and a half Article 1. FIX YOUR WORST HEALTH HABITS—FAST
this: Two weeks after that last cigarette, the hairs in your trachea Becoming a couch potato
responsible for keeping out viruses and bacteria, which had been Fix-it time: Visible results within two weeks Inactivity is
killed off by smoking, start to regenerate; within one month your linked to heart disease and certain kinds of cancer, but it doesn’t ability to smell and taste is enhanced; and within two weeks your take much to whip your body into shape. “If you make weight- lung function increases by up to 10 percent. After a year your risk training part of your regimen, you’ll see results within two of heart attack is cut to half that of a smoker. After 10 years, your weeks of starting an exercise program,” says Wayne Westcott, risk of dying of lung cancer is half that of a smoker. Inspired? Ph.D., fitness director of the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Here’s how to wean yourself off nicotine.
Massachusetts. After two weeks, you’ll gain strength; after six Step #1: Set an official “quit day.” Mark your calendar to give
weeks, you’ll reap cardiovascular benefits.
yourself time to formulate a plan, says Edwin Fisher, Ph.D., aprofessor of psychology at Washington University in St. Louis and coauthor of How to Quit Smoking Without Gaining Weight.
Reschedule your quit day if it falls right before your period. Re- search suggests that it’s easier to stop smoking after your pe-riod, possibly because symptoms of nicotine withdrawal— depression, irritability, fatigue—mimic those of PMS.
Step #2: See your doc. Make an appointment a couple of weeks
Step #1: Pick a consistent time to work out, preferably early in
before your quit day to discuss smoking-cessation methods.
the day. A study at the Mollen Clinic in Phoenix found that 75 Your doctor may suggest nicotine gum or prescribe Zyban.
percent of morning exercisers stayed faithful to their workout Studies show that some nicotine-replacement therapies double routines, compared with only 25 percent of evening exercisers.
your chances of quitting; Zyban may even increase it threefold.
If you’re not an early bird, don’t worry: It’s more important to Step #3: Start exercising. Researchers at Brown University
find a time that you can stick to, even if it’s in the p.m. Can’t found that quitters who worked out were twice as likely to stay manage working out for a whole half hour? Schedule two cigarette-free for at least one year after quitting as those who smaller sessions (for example, a 15-minute weight-lifting ses- didn’t exercise. The suspected reason? Spiked endorphin levels sion in the morning, and a 15-minute walk during your lunch help counteract the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, says Bess hour). Breaking up your sweat sessions allows your metabolism Marcus, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry at Brown University to kick into overdrive all day, burning additional calories for up School of Medicine. It may also help limit weight gain: On av- erage, quitters who don’t exercise pack on about 12 pounds, Step #2: Hit the weights. When starting a workout program,
says Marcus, probably because their metabolism slows slightly your first instinct may be to lace up your sneakers and head out for a jog. Better idea: Combine cardio with weight-training. In Step #4: Be prepared. The first few days are the worst because
a study at Ohio State University, researchers found that muscles symptoms are more acute. Nicotine-replacement therapy or respond to weight-training in as little as two weeks. A study at Zyban will help curb cravings, but keep a “survival kit” (with the University of Athens in Greece found that people who com- sugarless gum, a squeeze ball, and rubber bands) around to keep bined strength-training and cardio were twice as aerobically fit your hands and mouth busy. And enlist a buddy. In a study at as those who concentrated only on cardio.
St. George’s Hospital Medical School, University of London, Step #3: Shake up your routine. If you let your old workout
researchers found that quitters who seek social support can have slide because you were bored with it, find new activities that more than twice the success rate of those who try to stop will keep you interested. One option: Reenergize your routine smoking solo. Log on to QuitNet ( to sign up for a with interval-training, in which you add bursts of high-intensity moves into your workout, suggests Westcott. For example, ifyou usually jog a ten-minute mile, add a 30-second sprint or a HEALTH SLIP-UP #4:
one-minute incline every five minutes.
Sun-fried skin
Step #4: Don’t overdo it. When you haven’t hit the gym in six
Fix-it time: Three to six months Is there anything you can do
months, it’s tempting to push yourself—but don’t. “Since you to reverse all those sunburns? Yes. “Since most of the damage haven’t exercised in a while, your muscles are more susceptible occurs on the superficial layers of the skin,” notes Bruce Katz, to injury,” says Richard Cotton, spokesperson for the American M.D., director of the JUVA Skin & Laser Center in New York Council on Exercise. In the first week, aim for 20 to 30 minutes City and associate clinical professor of dermatology at Co- of moderate-intensity cardio. Then increase your exercise time lumbia Presbyterian Medical Center, “you can reverse up to 90 percent of all sun-damaged cells.” Start following the advicebelow now, and you’ll see results by the summer—and lower HEALTH SLIP-UP #3:
Step #1: Slap on sunscreen. Opt for the broad-spectrum kind
Fix-it time: Recovery begins two weeks after you stop If you
that contains titanium or zinc oxide (such as Ultra Rich Neutro- think it’s too late to undo the damage from smoking, consider gena UVA/UVB Sunblock Lotion SPF 30 or Olay Complete ANNUAL EDITIONS
Plus Moisture Lotion UVA/UVB Protection). Not only will it HEALTH SLIP-UP #5:
prevent further damage, it may help reverse minor damage, says Missing out on calcium
Debra Jaliman, M.D., a New York City dermatologist.
Step #2: Use retinoids. These antiaging forms of vitamin A help
Fix-it time: Immediately You’ve dissed dairy since the sev-
your skin renew itself by increasing collagen production, re- enth grade, and now you’re convinced that you haven’t done versing the effects of sun damage. If you’ve got only a few enough to protect your bones. No need to panic. There’s still brown spots, try an over-the-counter retinol product (like Neu- plenty that you can do to maintain your bone density, says trogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream). If the damage is Bess Dawson-Hughes, M.D., a professor of medicine at Tufts more advanced (hint: skin feels rough and sandpapery, plus you’ve got fine lines and discoloration), go for a prescription re- Step #1: Get at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. Three
tinoid, such as Retin-A, Retin-A Micro, or Renova for drier servings a day of calcium-rich foods (like nonfat cheese and skim milk) and calcium-enriched juices and cereals will do the Step #3: Consider chemical peels. If you see signs of sun
trick. Or try a supplement. For the best absorption, break the pill damage (rough patches and discoloration), ask your dermatolo- in half (for two 500 mg. doses) and take one half in the morning gist about a chemical peel. A peel usually contains 20 to 40 per- and the other at night—and make sure the supplement contains cent glycolic acid, so you’ll have some dryness or peeling afterward. But if you’ve had several bad burns or grew up in a Step #2: Get five servings a day of fruits and veggies. They’re
sunny climate, ask your dermatologist about a medium-depth rich in potassium and magnesium, which help maintain bone- peel that penetrates beyond the skin’s superficial layers, stimu- mineral density. Get your protein, too. Research by Dawson- lating your skin to create new collagen. One option: A peel that Hughes found that bone-mineral density increased in people combines alpha hydroxy acids and 5-FU, a chemotherapy agent whose diets included high levels of protein as well as calcium.
normally used to treat premalignant skin cancer. Katz’s re-search has found that a series of six to eight peels can result in Step #3: Work out regularly. Aim for at least a half hour each
as high as a 90 percent reduction in precancers, since “you’re of aerobics and strength-training three times a week, recom- essentially taking away all the sun-damaged cells that can lead mends Miriam Nelson, Ph.D., director of the John Hancock to skin cancer and premature aging,” explains Katz. Cost: $150 Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition at Tufts. For optimal to $225 per treatment. The procedure takes about an hour.
results, concentrate on high-impact activities, such as jogging, Step #4: Consider laser therapy. If you’re in your late 30s, you
which put the most pressure on bones, making them stronger.
may want to look into lasers instead of chemical peels, since la- Step #4: Detox. Why avoid cigarettes and too much alcohol
sers can get rid of more signs of sun damage and aging. Try one (more than one or two drinks a day)? They cause you to lose cal- of the newer nonablative lasers: These are gentler than older la- cium through your urine. Another tip: Find a stress-buster.
sers because they don’t break the skin. “Essentially, the laser When you’re stressed, your body pumps out stress hormones stimulates your skin to create collagen,” says Jaliman. You can (such as cortisol), which stimulate osteoclasts, the cells that anticipate about a 20 to 30 percent improvement. Your skin will break down bone, explains Lisa Callahan, M.D., medical di- look more even and smoother and lines will be less visible.
rector of the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at the Hospital Cost: $350 to $500 a session (most people require three to four for Special Surgery in New York City. So for your bones’ sake, sessions, which take about an hour).
kick back and relax on a regular basis.
From Redbook, March 2004, pp. 56-58, 61. Copyright 2004 by Hallie Levine. Reprinted by permission of the author.



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