#205 Making Choices
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"24 hours in a day . . . 24 beers in a case . . . coincidence?"

Stephen Wright


The 5 Best and 5 Worst Cocktails

By Steve Edwards

Across the board, studies keep telling us that a bit of alcohol in your diet enhances health and lengthens life span. But last time you hit the bar, you woke up feeling like someone was using a rototiller on your brain, leaving you to wonder, "How can this have been good for me?"

The truth is—it isn't. A hangover means you've done damage that needs to be reversed. Unfortunately, a common remedy is a greasy meal, which further damages your system and hinders all weight loss plans. But there's no doubt that a drink every now and then can help lift your spirits and diminish stress. But all cocktails are not created equal. Just like making smart choices with the foods you eat, imbibing with a plan can be the difference between extending your life and getting to know your Domino's guy on a first-name basis.

The Best

  1. Red wine. Much has been written about its high antioxidant content and how wine drinkers are the healthiest sect of those who imbibe regularly. The difference between red and white wines is the grapes' skins. Whites don't have 'em, and they also contain more residual sugar, and sugar and alcohol is a bad combination.

    Downside . . . The sulfates in red wine affect many people poorly, often leading to an inability to sleep. And if you can't sleep, you're offsetting all of the positive effects.

  2. Light beer. Beer is a blend of barley and hops and, essentially, fairly healthy. It has some food value and its alcohol content is low. Light beer has about a third fewer calories than regular beer; a bottle generally contains less than 100. It's not a terrible snack by any means.

    Downside . . . It's hard to drink just one. Because it's mainly water, it's not uncommon to see light beer drinkers wielding a 12-pack after work and 1,200 calories of beer will ruin anyone's diet.

  3. Guinness stout. In Ireland, the saying goes that Guinness is food. And, sure enough, it tastes like it. Thick, rich, and syrupy, one Guinness can feel as satisfying as a case of Bud Light. However, it's not all that high in calories or alcohol and has a high iron count.

    Downside . . . It can be addicting. When one doesn't do the trick anymore, you can quickly pile on calories. "Food" as it may be, most of beer's calories still comes from alcohol.

  4. Top-shelf alcohol of any kind. Straight, on the rocks, or with water. The means of producing hard alcohol ensure that you're getting what you pay for. Cheap stuff isn't made with a high-quality distillation process, leaving it with all sorts of impurities and a taste that renders its main use to be mixed with non-alcoholic, and usually highly caloric, substances. Top-shelf stuff, whether it's bourbon, vodka, or even rum, is made to be consumed alone, or with water. Slowly savoring your drink is a great way to make sure that you don't overdo it. Cost is another. It's much better to slowly relish a glass of Blanton's than to power down a fifth of Old Granddad and Coke.

    Downside . . . The cost of providing for your top-shelf-only habit could lead to enough extra stress down at the office to offset the stress you're relieving with your drink.

  5. Vodka soda. Vodka is the purest of the hard alcohols and soda is mainly water. Add a couple of limes and you've got a clean and refreshing cocktail with very few calories.

    Downside . . . It's so clean and refreshing, it's hard to be restrained. If you have four of these, you might as well have just had that strawberry margarita you wanted in the first place.

The Worst

  1. Scorpion. Or just about anything you'll find at the Kon Tiki, Trader Vic's, or any place where drink is referred to as "grog." If there's anything worse than mixing a lot of sugar-based alcohols together, it's mixing them with a bunch of sugary juices in a bowl that's big enough for six. Drink one of these and be prepared to skip the entire drunken process and head straight to the hangover.

  2. Long Island Iced Tea. Forget the word "tea." There are no antioxidants to be found in this concoction of five different alcohols, sweet and sour mix, and Coke. A few of these and you might as well put in a wake-up call to Domino's.

  3. Red Bull and vodka. If you want to be a supercharged drunk, here ya go. One of the main offenders of the hangover is your inability to sleep well after a night on the town. Nothing enhances the chance of seeing dawn's early light like a couple of these. The only positive is that maybe you'll dance all night and work off the calories. Hopefully, you don't have to work the next day.

  4. Jack and Coke. You might as well just mainline your whiskey. Nothing's better than Coke at creating a sugar rush. Adding alcohol to this mix creates the perfect atmosphere for a bar fight. The only saving grace is that being drunk impairs your reflexes. Losing a couple of late-night melees could lead to some restraint.

  5. Piña Colada. The only thing more densely caloric than alcohol is fat and this baby combines the two, along with all the sugar you need to guarantee a hangover. The result is a virtually nutrition-free milk shake that contains half of your daily caloric requirement. The only possible bright side is that you're only likely to feel comfortable drinking one of these on an island where you have ample opportunity to shed the pounds you gained the night before.

Check Steve Edwards' Mailbag for his responses to reader comments. If you'd like to ask a question or comment on a newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

For Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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30 New Starts for June

By Jude Buglewicz

We're creatures of habit—sometimes bad habits. And changing bad habits that have hardened into unhealthy routines is difficult. That's why we've prepared this handy list of 30 easy suggestions for achieving a healthier lifestyle, organized into three categories: Fitness, Nutrition, and Motivation. The idea is to pick a different one each day throughout the month of June and try it out. Maybe you'll like one or two enough to start forming some good habits—and be on your way to a happier, healthier life.

Fitness

  1. Measure progress. Use a pedometer the whole day—try to walk at least 3 miles.
  2. Improve posture. Focus on sitting up straight and "sucking in" your stomach. Strengthen that core!
  3. Go longer. Work out at least 10 minutes longer than you normally would.
  4. Step it up. Take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator (at work, in the mall, out doing errands).
  5. Push a little harder. Add a few more reps to your resistance-training routine or use just a little more weight than you normally do (just don't overstrain your muscles).
  6. Add a little cardio. Ride your bicycle or walk to the store (or work). Or park far enough away that you have to walk for a while. Or if you ride the bus, get off a couple of stops early and walk the rest of the way.
  7. The more the merrier. Go for a walk after dinner with the whole family.
  8. Get a new toy. Incorporate new fitness gear into your workout, like a heart rate monitor or a balance ball.
  9. Be flexible. Do at least 20 minutes of yoga before you go to bed.

Nutrition

  1. Skim the milk fat. Replace whole milk with skim in cereal and recipes and with coffee or tea.
  2. Go sugar free. Avoid all sugary goodies (cake, cookies, ice cream, candy, etc.).
  3. Best eats. Eat only foods from the top tier of Michi's Ladder.
  4. Pick new produce. Eat a fruit or vegetable you've never tried before.
  5. Slow down. Chew each bite of food at least 10 times before swallowing.
  6. Relaaaaax. Drink a cup of chamomile or relaxing herbal tea before you go to bed.
  7. Do-it-yourself snacks. Make your own frozen fruit bars with fresh fruit (liquefy in the blender with a little juice, then pour into ice cube trays or Popsicle molds and freeze).
  8. No sodium. Replace salt with herbs and spices.
  9. Hydrate. Drink at least 8 glasses of plain (noncarbonated) water.
  10. Read up. Read the nutrition label of everything you buy when you go to the store or get something to eat out of the cabinet or fridge—avoid eating foods with more than 5 percent of saturated or trans fat.
  11. Fast. Don't eat anything for a day—just drink water or juice (or try a guided fast, such as with Beachbody's 2-Day Fast Formula shake).

Motivation

  1. Keep a record. Write down every single thing you eat and drink during the day—and relevant details about your mood, cravings, and hunger level. Learn to spot—and overcome—your unhealthy eating triggers.
  2. Be accountable. Work out with a WOWY® Buddy.
  3. Get informed. Browse the Beachbody Newsletter archive and read a few articles.
  4. Face facts. Get into your swimsuit, take a photo of your body, and post it on the fridge with today's date. (Do this again in a month—see any changes?)
  5. Remind yourself of the prize. Buy a dress/shirt/shorts/swimsuit in your goal size and hang it up in your kitchen.
  6. Breathe through cravings. Instead of reaching for that fatty, sugary, or salty treat you don't need, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and exhale slowly—10 times. Visualize your slimmer self gently urging you to stick to your weight loss goal.
  7. Stress less. Meditate by sitting quietly for 5 to 15 minutes with your eyes closed, focusing your attention on your breathing. When your mind starts wandering, gently refocus again on your breathing.
  8. Get support. Log on to the Message Boards and ask someone for advice about whatever it is that you're having trouble with in achieving your fitness or weight loss goals.
  9. Find role models. Read through the Success Stories and see what obstacles others have faced and how they managed to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
  10. Be nice to your body. Get a manicure or a haircut or highlights or a massage—something that makes you feel attractive. Take pride in your appearance! You're looking and feeling better every day!

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