What’s better than a resolution? Results. We asked local experts for simple ways to improve your life in 2014 — no willpower required. They came up with these quick fixes.
Eat a Better Breakfast.
Your morning meal needs more protein and healthy fat, says Anne Mauney, a registered dietician (annetherd.com). “What most people eat is high in sugar and carbs, and later, they’re starving,” she explains. It’s not virtuous to stir up your oatmeal packet with water instead of milk — it’s shortsighted. Add the dairy and you’ll help stabilize your mood and cravings, and be less likely to binge later in the day. “And it tastes a million times better,” she adds.
There’s a huge variety of options that’ll get you properly fueled up. She suggests grabbing a Greek yogurt, spreading some avocado on your toast or pairing your banana with peanut butter. Or just down a handful of nuts on your way out the door.
Bonus tip: Swap any processed grains for whole grains, at breakfast or any other meal. There’s no sacrifice involved in chowing down on whole-wheat bread, brown rice and quinoa. And you’ll get more fiber and nutrients, and fewer additives, Mauney says.
Rearrange Your Nightstand.
“The bedroom should be for sleep and sex and nothing else,” says Dr. Vivek Jain, medical director of the George Washington University Hospital Center for Sleep Disorders (gwdocs.com/sleep-center). The only objects he recommends keeping by your pillow are a notepad and pen. That way, when you can’t drift off because you can’t stop thinking about something you need to do the following day, you can jot down a reminder. “Make a cheat sheet, and then you can forget about it,” he says.
An alarm clock is probably a necessary evil: “It’s best to use nature to wake up, but that’s not practical for most people,” Jain says. That doesn’t mean, however, that it needs to stay in your field of vision. If it’s 3 a.m., you’re likely to obsess over that. Instead, keep the time out of sight, and you’re more likely to fall back asleep, Jain says.
Bonus tip: Don’t stress about getting eight hours of sleep a night. Forcing yourself to get into bed when you’re not actually tired or fretting about the fact that you’re up too late won’t solve anything. “Expectations should be grounded in reality. Nobody gets a perfect night’s sleep every night. Some nights you can’t,” Jain says. “We can’t treat our bodies as robots that switch on and switch off.”
Buy an Electric Toothbrush.
Money can’t solve everything. But this small investment will make you smile, promises Brian Gray (smiledc.com), who recommends snapping up one made by Sonicare or Oral-B. “They’re the Lexus and Mercedes,” he says. They’re also a lot more affordable than they were a few years ago. The top-of-the-line models can cost upward of $200, but there are also versions for about $50. While the fancier brushes come with extra modes (“polish,” “gum care”), those bells and whistles aren’t necessary. “For us, we’re more interested in the brushing action and how the bristles move,” Gray says. “I just care that you’re using it.”
If you are, he adds, you’re much more likely to have a happy visit to the dentist: “Some people do a great job without an electric toothbrush, but for anyone with dexterity problems, a lot of dental work or who is just lazy, it gets into grooves better.”
Bonus tip: Never forget to floss! Gray has a specific technique for making sure you don’t slip up: “Leave it everywhere. Keep it in the car, in your purse, by the TV.” Whenever you have a little free time, it’ll be in reach, so you can break up plaque and give gums the attention they need. “If I pull up at a stoplight and I see someone flossing, I think it’s great,” Gray says.