It’s a whole new year; get out there and shake a few things up
LOSE 20 POUNDS…OR MORE
This is the time of year everyone signs up for the gym, buys the Bowflex, starts the cookie diet or initiates a radical cleanse (which is an image most of us do not need to harbor). People may choose from Weight Watchers or keto or Nutrisystem or Atkins or South Beach—whatever the current diet du jour is. But you can also just take a commonsense approach with no gimmicks, no points, no miracle supplements—starting with deciding 1) You are fine just the way you are, and 2) losing weight is more for your own health and well-being than it is for measuring up to societal standards and 3) self-loathing is a dead end. Accept yourself as you are. In fact, love that self of yours like there’s no tomorrow.
And here are five commonsense ways to tackle the weight issue:
INTAKE: What you take in is more important than exercise when you are trying to lose weight. Avoid junk foods, processed foods, sugar, diet sodas, snacking between meals, high-carb white foods. You know what to do. Instead, choose low-carb, high-protein alternatives, lots of veggies, and more fish than meat.
SEE WHAT’S MISSING: Find out what your nutritional deficiencies are and correct them. Excellent nutritional tests are available from Genova Diagnostics at gdx.net. A common deficiency is Vitamin D; Vitamin D supplements can promote weight loss.
SLEEP: Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can cause weight gain by increasing appetite and decreasing metabolism.
ALCOHOL: It’s all fattening, so ease up on the cocktails. You don’t have to go all nuclear on this, but cut back your intake and the pounds will come off faster.
GET MOVING: Exercise helps boost metabolism, which helps your body burn fat. Find something you like to do. Do not try a marathon or a Pilates class designed for animals. Just get moving.
FALL IN LOVE
Ok, so this is easier said than done, but studies show that falling in love has solid health benefits. A Time magazine article featuring Dr. Helen Riess, director of the Empathy and Relational Science Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and author of The Empathy Effect, says the first thing love does is make you happy through the release of the brain chemical dopamine.
“That is a mood intensifier, so people feel extremely positive and very appreciated,” Riess says.
That stage of love is followed by a more mature variation, marked by the release of another brain chemical, oxytocin, which Riess says “not only gives you ‘warm and fuzzy’ feelings for your partner, but it can also be good for your health.
“When people feel securely attached, their stress levels go down,” she says.
So we know love may decrease anxiety, but having someone in your corner may also encourage you to take better care of yourself, go to the doctor, see the dentist, work out. And then there’s that sex thing, which everyone knows makes you healthier and more connected to your own body. All this adds up, and data shows it may even help you live longer.
Dr. Nancy Gold, a psychologist and cofounder of Elegant Introductions, says, “We know it’s certainly healthier, but feeling connected is so important to us. That’s how it is in the animal kingdom; we are all paired up.”
Time magazine adds, “Studies suggest … Married couples have been found to have lower rates of substance abuse, lower blood pressure and less depression than single peers.”
And here in South Florida, being paired up can mean a difference as simple as having someone to do things with, a liberation from Netflix bingeing alone n your jammies, or having a built-in escort to all those black-tie galas. So why not throw your hat in the ring?
Some ways you can start the search for your soul mate include online dating like Match.com or apps like Bumble, Hinge or Plenty of Fish, or simply by joining any number of groups depending on your interests, from pickleball teams to young professional or arts organizations, beach cleanup groups and biking and running clubs. You could also hire a matchmaking service.
Dr. Gold says, “People don’t necessarily know what they’re going to be attracted to, what’s going to be the key to their heart. Sometimes they just have to experience it.”
So go on—give it a whirl. The night is young.
Ilene Becker can save you from yourself.
As owner of I Declutter U, Becker can help you clean out those overflowing cabinets and drawers and garages and get organized. Streamlined. Sorted out and squared away.
“Clutter clouds your insides; it causes a lot of inner stress. … It stops you from doing other things in life. … There are a lot of people who have psychological issues when it comes to holding onto stuff. They want to go forward in life, but they keep holding onto things that keep them behind, [missing out] on opportunities.”
Becker wants to liberate her clients from this kind of paralysis; she asks them what their needs and goals are, and then dives in. For example, if she needs to tackle a garage she begins by sorting out the contents into groups she calls “friends.”
“I like to take everything out, and I put it with its ‘friends’—all the stuff for car washing together, the sports equipment, the beach stuff. And then you can see what you have. Most people can’t find something, so they run out and go buy it—sometimes four or five times. So if you see you have six things that are the same, you get rid of the broken or used ones.”
Next comes her handyman with shelving, and Becker starts organizing. She also has estate buyers and flea market people on call when it comes to buying items, and donates castoff items to charities as well. Becker does everything from boxing up and disposing of items to reorganizing space, wardrobing, and even teaching clients how to fold things more efficiently. She says the hardest items to part with are those with sentimental value, or passed-down “things that they think they should keep.”
But her advice is simple: “You keep the things that evoke real memories for you; do not keep them just because they were given to you. If you don’t need an item, can’t use it or it doesn’t bring back memories of somebody, then I would really put it in the pile to give to charity.”
You can reach Becker at 954/415-6268.
$TICK TO A PLAN
It’s all about the money. No matter how Zen you try to be, that nagging discrepancy between your paycheck and your bills gets old after awhile. So maybe this is the year you try something new. Boca resident Elias Janetis, founder and CEO of Squeeze.com, a personal finance company, specializes in allowing consumers to search for the best deals on recurring household bills—all in one place. In addition to the website, Janetis offers these five ways to get the year off to a good financial start.
1. MAKE A LIST OF ALL DEBTS
Making a list of all your debts will help you get a clear picture of what you owe and how much interest you are paying. This list will also include your bank’s overdraft protection, which—don’t kid yourself—is also a debt in the form of a glorified payday loan. Getting a clear view of how much interest you are paying will help prioritize which debts you pay down first. Another way to look at your credit is to pull a credit report, which you can do for free at annualcreditreport.com.
2. NEGOTIATE WITH CREDITORS
You may be able to negotiate a lower interest rate. Or, if you have student loans, there are programs that can help you lower your monthly payment. Many creditors are willing to work with you—all you need to do is ask.
3. PAY OFF DEBTS WHEN POSSIBLE
Excess or discretionary income should be diverted toward paying off debts to avoid interest charges and penalties. Experts suggest spending at least 15 percent of your paychecks on debt. Consider taking on freelance or part-time work, and use any savings or tax refunds to settle what you owe.
4. CONTROL SPENDING
Spending more money than you make will always get you into trouble. You can trim expenses by cutting the cable or bundling services to consolidate more of your monthly bills.
5. TACKLE CREDIT CARD DEBT
Pay off more than the minimum balance per month to get rid of lingering balances. Consider signing up with a debt counselor where you would pay a fixed amount each month negotiated with your creditors through the counseling service, which manages payments to the creditors. You could also opt to not use a credit card all together, which might seem impossible, but it can be done.
GO ON A LOCAL ADVENTURE
If you are a skydiver or a spelunker or a SCUBA diver, you already likely have this adventure thing down pat, but for the rest of us, discovering Florida’s natural world (or some of its attractions!) allows real context for the Florida dream—and will open your eyes as to why you live here.
A BIKE RIDE in Shark Valley or a walk out west at Loxahatchee will warm you up for the magic that is the Everglades. But we best like the option of gliding through the Everglades in a pole boat with a guide. Get up close to gators, wading birds and all the sights and smells of this mythical primal swamp—without noisy airboat or boat motors. Breathe in that tannin smell and listen to the occasional splash of a fish. Yep, the river of life. Dive in. Everglades Adventure Tours, 40904 Tamiami Trail, Ochopee, 800/504-6554, evergladesadventuretours.net; $109 for a two-hour pole boat tour, or rent a tiki hut for $200 per night.
STEP INTO A WIND TUNNEL and experience the thrill of flying—without leaving terra firma. “Indoor skydiving” gives you a simulated free-fall in a wind tunnel, and a little practice means you can fly. Yes. Right there. iFLY, 11690 W. State Road 84, Davie, 954/280-4359, iflyworld.com; $70 and up.
READ SOME BOOKS
This could be part of unplugging (see no. 12), but it’s also, to risk sounding really high-minded, a return to civilization. Reading is the antithesis of screaming reality TV and game shows; it is quiet, solitary, deeply entertaining and can transport you around the world and back (or forward) in time. It makes you smarter (there are studies on this), boosts your writing ability, increases your vocabulary and introduces you to great ideas. Now, no one’s judging if you slip a few Oprah books into your reading list, or if you find a guilty pleasure in reading mysteries, true crime or romance novels. You are reading again. And that is a start.
The second-best thing about reading is that you get to go to bookstores. And we really love South Florida’s independently owned Books & Books, which was founded by Mitch Kaplan (who also co-founded the Miami Book Fair in 1984) in 1982 in Coral Gables. Today, Kaplan has stores in Bal Harbour, Miami Beach, Grand Cayman, Key West and even the Adrienne Arsht Center. His imprint on South Florida’s literary world is legendary; he is our Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Books & Books is our City Lights bookstore. We asked Mitch what reading meant to him, and this is what he told us:
“To read is to live. I read fiction and find catharsis in fictional lives lived. I read history, memoir and books on politics, science and philosophy to learn about myself. I make a living finding books for others. I find more satisfaction than I deserve in knowing I’ve found something meaningful for someone else to read. My highest calling is to help develop the next generation of readers. And, once a lifetime reader, you don’t need much else to lead the richest life possible.”
TAKE A BIG TRIP
There is nothing like a massive life-changing trip to the other side of the world to adjust your attitude. Big trips give you a global point of view, broaden your perspective, and feed that adventurous soul of yours like nothing else can. Lauren Jacob and Whitney Roper at Reid Travel suggest three destinations that are especially mind-bending for your next big trip:
ANTARCTICA IS BIG THIS YEAR. “We took an expedition cruise; it was truly spectacular,” Roper says. “Glaciers are a big draw, as well as wildlife like penguins and seals.” The average cost of a trip like this is $12,000, not including international airfare.
TRAVELING INTERNATIONALLY VIA PRIVATE JET is the ultimate luxury. Roper says there are now many small group trips (12-44 people) on private jets, and “you can do a country by private jet or around the world [and] see and experience destinations in a completely different way.” You land at private airports, avoid wasted hours on long drives and will enjoy the luxury of air travel without crowds, bad food and cramped seating. (That alone would be worth it.) Depending on trip length and duration, private jet travel can range from about $45,000 to $145,000 per person.
THE AFRICAN SAFARI is everyone’s favorite trip and offers a multitude of experiences from walking safaris, luxury tented safaris, gorilla trekking and more. You can go to Kenya and Tanzania during the great migration in search of the Big Five (lion, African leopard, rhinoceros, African bush elephant, African buffalo), or to South Africa for a wine country add-on. Good tours average $12,000 per person, not including airfare.
TAKE A WALK
Get out. Walk in the morning, or after dinner. Walk to the store. Walk on the beach. Get out and walk the Marsh Trail at the Loxahatchee Preserve (10216 Lee Road, Boynton Beach) and get up close with alligators and wading birds. Stroll through the gardens of Morikami Park (4000 Morikami Park Road, Delray Beach) or along the waterfront on Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach. Not only does walking get you unplugged and out in the world, but it can be a lifesaver, according to the Mayo Clinic, which says walking can:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
- Strengthen your bones and muscles
- Improve your mood
- Improve your balance and coordination
The faster, farther and more frequently you walk, the greater the benefits.
GET A MASSAGE
So who says no to a martini after work? Turns out some savvy customers say no to that and yes to a yummy massage instead. Think of it as a happy hour for your body.
There are all kinds of massages and even more delivery systems—you can get a traditional Swedish version (gentle, kneading), a deep massage (slower and more forceful), a sports massage (similar to Swedish but targeted at athletes) or a trigger point (focuses on those tight muscle fibers—think too much computer time). You can get massages with hot stones and acupuncture and all kinds of oils—there are a gazillion variations, but they all add up to a refreshing and restorative experience.
Massages also reduce stress, muscle tension and anxiety (helllooooooo!), can relieve joint pain and are thought to help everything from migraines to fibromyalgia. So what are you waiting for? Whether you opt for something spa-licious or have someone meet you at your home, this 2019 idea is all about selfcare. And it’s time you started doing that.
WRITE A LETTER
OK, so we may err on the side of Old World quaint here, but we are sticking to it. Try writing a letter this week to an old friend, a relative, new friend, a lover. On real stationery, with areal pen (fountain pen optional). Tell he or she you are thinking about them, what your day is like, what it feels like where you live, whatever you feel like saying, then stick it in an envelope, slap a stamp on it and send it on its merry way. Imagine how fun it will be to open a mailbox and find a letter amid all those Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons.
LEARN A LANGUAGE
South Florida is the international template for America. We have it all: an infusion of people from South America and Cuba, relocating Russians, islanders, Africans and more. So why do so many of us only speak English? This could be the year you break out of that provincial little bubble of yours by learning a second language. Become a citizen of the world, cast off those isolationist shackles and learn something new in the meantime. World Class Languages in Boca offers one-on-one instruction on Spanish, Russian, German, French, Turkish, Portuguese, Italian, Chinese and Arabic, for starters. Call 561/289-3527.
This is a big one. Most people spend hours a day in front of a screen, staring at a phone, wired into earbuds, or playing video games. In a sense, this is nothing less than immersion in a technological parallel universe—an alternate reality where “friends” are tiny Facebook icons, and text messages stand in for real conversations with other human beings. We’ve all seen people (sometimes whole families) at restaurants, each of them mesmerized by their own phones. We love the idea of breaking up with this dependence in 2019— maybe not entirely, but at least taking a breather so you can reconnect with real flesh-and-blood people. Talk. Clink your wineglasses. Hold hands. Go shopping. Sit on the beach and stare at the waves, talking abut nothing and everything. Call instead of text. Turn off the computer. Take a vacation from Netflix. It’s great out here in the real world; rediscover sound and light and colors and humans and smells and music.
Other benefits include:
- No more tech neck and reduced lower back pain
- Better sleep
- Improved memory and retention
- Greater productivity
- More in-the-moment-ness (You can simply be here now instead of photographing it for posterity.)
Go on, get a life. You deserve it.