Small Health Changes, Big Results

How one simple switch can improve your health.

By Bari Nan Cohen and Cathy Garrard

To Fight Weight Creep

Although the battle of the bulge does intensify after 40, it’s still a winnable war. All it takes is a good plan of attack.

1. Downsize your dishes. "Replace your oversize dinner plates with smaller salad plates and you’ll cut one-third of the calories in each meal. Instead of pouring juice into a 20-ounce glass, use an 8-ounce cup so you drink the right amount. And those gigantic wineglasses hold about 12 ounces, which is twice a normal serving." — Milton Stokes, RD, chief clinical dietitian, Saint Barnabas Hospital, Bronx, New York

2. Know what’s on your plate. "I knew that my habit of eating out was the chief culprit in my weight gain. The kitchen was this foreign place to me — someplace I went to fetch a takeout menu or ice cream from the freezer. I signed up for a very basic cooking class. Once I got comfortable in the kitchen, I took a class in spa cuisine and even one in French cooking. To lose weight, you have to know what you are eating, and in a restaurant you never know what they’re putting on your plate. Cooking really gives me a calm feeling, like I am in control." — Jami Bernard, 50, author, The Incredible Shrinking Critic, 75 Pounds and Counting: My Incredible Adventure in Weight Loss


3. Recalibrate your calories. "After 40, you become less efficient at metabolizing fat. As a woman’s hormones decline, there is also a redistribution of existing body fat, so you’ll tend to look like an apple instead of a pear. It’s a battle of the fruits! You can fix this with vitamin I: intensity. If you already walk, add some hills and some speed. Crank up the resistance on the bike or the elliptical trainer. Do not be afraid to sweat. Wet is where it’s at." — Pamela Peeke, MD, author, Body for Life for Women: A Woman’s Plan for Physical and Mental Transformation


4. Count butter pats. "Two years ago I learned that I’d gained 13 pounds and my cholesterol had skyrocketed. The doctor asked me to work with a registered dietitian, who taught me to look at foods as representing a certain number of pats of butter: A glass of wine is two, a tablespoon of salad dressing is three, and so on. Initially, she used it as a quick way for me to count calories, but I began to equate certain ‘high pat’ foods with my opinion of butter: fatty, oily, and high in calories. It was helpful to have her voice in the back of my head when I looked at a menu. It became like a mantra: ‘Try to order shellfish. If you can’t have shellfish, then white meat poultry; if not, then pork; if not pork, then salmon. If you eat steak, keep it small and don’t have wine.’ It took me about three months of following her guidelines to lose the weight." — Jennifer Baum, 40, president and founder, Bullfrog & Baum Public Relations, New York, New York

To Get More Daily Exercise

Real life often gets in the way of working out regularly. These tips can help make moving your body so automatic, you won’t even have to think about it.

5. Keep your core busy. "Sit and stand tall. I do this throughout the day because a physical therapist once told me that if I would sit and stand straight and suck in my gut, I would never need to do sit-ups. Holding in your middle takes strength — try it." — Connie Barnhart, certified fitness trainer, Park City, Utah

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