Take These 12 Steps Towards Your Healthiest Year Ever

Try Just One New Change a Month

Take These 12 Steps Towards Your Healthiest Year Ever

Setting monster goals at the beginning of the New Year is a classic setup for failure. Everyone starts with the best intentions, but when faced with a laundry list of resolutions, overwhelming feelings set in around the second week of January. Before winter is up, your resolutions are a distant memory. Why bother, right?

Well, before you scrap the whole plan, consider this idea instead: set a year's worth of resolutions up front, but don't attempt them all at the same time.

10 Questions You Need to Ask Yourself Before the New Year

Instead of front-loading your resolutions into the beginning of January, why not spread them out throughout the year? Assign yourself one resolution per month. The reason why this works: it takes about 21 days for a new habit to solidify. And one new habit at a time is a totally manageable thing. By the time each month is up, your new habit should be well and truly entrenched, and you're ready to work on the next one on your list. By the end of the year, you've tackled (and conquered) 12 positive changes in your life.

Your health is a lifelong project, right? So...pace yourself.

Set it all up at the beginning of the year, and create some kind of system to remind yourself of your resolution at the start of each month (messages in your smartphone, a note on each page of your 2014 calendar, or a series of scheduled emails you send yourself...). Think of it like a monthly subscription of healthy resolutions. Every month you get a fresh start.

Below, I've listed twelve habits that would make excellent monthly resolutions. Each of these are manageable, on their own. Feel free to rearrange their order, or substitute something else entirely. But DO NOT tackle these all at the same time!

1. Get More Sleep

This month, focus on cultivating regular sleep patterns and getting sufficient shut-eye. There's growing research to show that sleep deficiency can increase your risks of depression, obesity, and heart disease. So how to get more sleep? Here, here...and possibly here. also, here's a secret that may help your kids get better sleep, too.

2. Floss Every Day

Besides making your dental checkups much less agonizing, regular flossing is a good idea for other health reasons—and it just might save your life. It turns out there are several studies that show an association between gum disease and heart disease.

3. Practice Portion Control

I have a friend who lost 20 lbs last year strictly through portion control alone. It's certainly how the Europeans do it. Here's how you can do it, too.

Seven Realistic Healthy Eating Resolutions For The New Year

4. Nurture Friendships

Many studies have shown the health benefits of strong social relationships. This month, make a plan to meet up with friends on a regular basis, and cultivate those connections.

5. Wear A Pedometer

A recent New Zealand study showed that making this one little change—just the simple act of wearing a pedometer—almost doubled walking rates in the 300+ subjects they observed. Walking is excellent exercise: it's easy on your joints and it's a terrific stress buster. Plus it's the perfect activity to fit into small wedges in a busy schedule. By the end of this month, you just might approach the magic number of 10,000 steps a day.

6. Manage Stress With Breathing Exercises

Stress: we all have it, right? Of all the ways you can deal with stress, breathing is one of the best, easiest, and quickest. But not just any old breathing. Make this your month to work on retraining yourself to use diaphragmatic breathing, and you'll be amazed at the calming effect.

7. Have A More Colorful Diet

Make this your month to harness the power of nutrition. Naturally colorful foods—purple, orange, dark green—tend to be the richest sources of phytonutrients and antioxidants (compounds that help fight serious chronic diseases, like heart disease and cancer). This month, fill your plate with a rainbow.

8. Work On Your Posture

Posture is something many of us don't think about—until we've got chronic headaches, back pain, and shoulder stiffness. Standing tall is also the quickest way to look slimmer and feel more confident. There are many ways to work on your posture this month: doing stretches, modifying your work station, practicing yoga—whatever works for you.

9. Drink More Water

This was Michelle Obama's pet project and campaign last year, and it's a good, achievable healthy habit. Regular fluid intake is important for long term kidney health and digestive health. Plus, it's a secret energy boost.

10. Help Others

It's the right thing to do, of course, but it turns out there are mental and physical health benefits to being kind. Helping others has been shown to reduce depression, decrease anxiety, and improve your longevity. This month, find little ways to practice random acts of kindness.

11. Increase Your Vitamin D

Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin—which means the sun is our primary natural source—but there's a growing body of research to sow just how important vitamin D is for overall health, and why taking supplements is probably a good health practice for most of us.

12. Practice Gratitude

The end of the year is the perfect time to institute a gratitude routine. A daily habit of gratitude doesn't take much time at all—just a minute or so—which also makes it a good project for a busy time of year. Better still, research has demonstrated that gratitude significantly benefits our health and happiness. Here are some ways to put it into practice.

Happy New Year, everyone! 


How to Predict Your Next Cold or Flu

A Cutting Edge Tool That Can Help You Plan Ahead

How to Predict Your Next Cold or Flu

How to Predict Your Next Cold or Flu

It's the middle of the night, you're awakened with the first telltale signs of a sore throat. You sneeze. And immediately experience a sinking feeling: you're getting a cold. And you know what it means. It'll only be a matter of time before everyone in your family goes down for the count, too.

You get up and scramble through cupboards for tissues, only to find one lone Kleenex tissue at the bottom of the box from last time viruses descended on your household. You open the medicine cabinet, hunting for the things you know can help, and find yourself down to your last vitamin C tablet, your last crumbled little zinc lozenge...this cold caught you totally off guard. Curses.

Perhaps worse, that thing you've been procrastinating about for the past several days (that errand, that presentation, that project)...well, it's not going to get done anytime soon, is it?

If only I'd known, you think...

Well, guess what? There's now a brand new, very cool tool that will help you do just that. Kleenex has developed a breakthrough online tool that will actually help you predict your family's chances of contracting a cold or the flu. Three weeks ahead of time.

When I first heard about this program, I was fascinated about the concept. Nobody had ever done anything like this before. Of course, I was also a little skeptical. I wondered how they could possibly predict such a thing.

But here's what I learned: this tool was developed by a global network of professors, top business leaders, and highly trained analysts. Here's the data they use for their forecasting model:

  • official CDC (Centers for Disease Control) flu statistics
  • weather patterns
  • online search queries
  • social media discussion
  • OTC drug sales in various categories
  • bird migration patterns
  • air travel patterns
  • vaccination rates, vaccination campaigns and major public events that could increase transmission rates

Impressive, no? (And, yes, you read that right: bird migration patterns, you guys. These people aren't messing around.)

The tool gives you an outlook for the next three weeks, with an average accuracy rate of more than 90 percent. Which means you will be well prepared for colds and flus before they hit your area.

To receive your cold and flu forecast for the next three weeks all you have to do is enter your postal code, including the space. Here's what my forecast looks like:

This means you can be ready right from day one. You can stock up on vitamins and Kleenex products and your favourite home remedies. You can also take steps to prevent the dreaded viruses from striking your household down, including getting the flu shot.   

The achoo by Kleenex website also has useful information to help you recognize the symptoms of a cold or the flu and then tips on what to do to get you through it as fast as possible, and back to normal.

When you and your kids get hit with a cold or the flu it wreaks havoc on your lives, doesn't it? Removing some of the uncertainty of cold and flu season, and avoiding the "day one scramble" is a good thing, in my book.  


What to Do In a Severe Allergic Emergency

Every second counts

What to Do In a Severe Allergic Emergency

What To Do In An Allergic Emergency

It’s something you might not want to think about, because—let's face it—it's probably your worst nightmare: what if your child comes into contact with his or her allergy trigger and starts to have a severe allergic reaction? It’s the worst-case scenario if you have a kid with a severe allergy, and it’s natural to want to avoid the very thought. But, of course, you need to do the exact opposite. You need to give it detailed thought, and you need to know EXACTLY what to do if such a situation were to arise.

In a severe allergic emergency, every second counts. But first, you need to be able to recognize an allergic reaction when it's happening.

What an allergic emergency looks like

Here are the key symptoms that herald a severe allergic reaction. A reaction can include just a few, or all of these:

  • itchy mouth, swelling of the lips and/or tongue
  • throat itching, tightness, closure, hoarseness
  • hives, itchy skin, redness, swelling
  • vomiting, diarrhea, cramps
  • shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing
  • weak pulse, dizziness, passing out from low blood pressure

Click for more details on severe and anaphylactic reactions, and the things you need to know about them.

What you need to do

Acting quickly is critical. And here’s one of my most important take-home messages: do not hesitate to use your EpiPen Auto-Injector. You don’t have to be positive that what you’re witnessing is a true severe allergic reaction. You don’t need to wait it out, to see if your child’s symptoms worsen. Use your child’s EpiPen at the first sign of a severe allergic reaction. The risks associated with hesitating to use an EpiPen are greater than the risks associated with administering an EpiPen unnecessarily. Hesitation can be life-threatening.

Here are the steps you need to take:

1. Inject epinephrine at the first sign of a severe allergic reaction. This is the treatment of choice for severe allergic reactions. It helps reverse the symptoms of an allergy.

2. Call 911.

3. Help your child to lie down or sit down in the most comfortable position for their breathing.

4. Stay calm.

5. Listen and watch to make sure your child can still breathe and that their airway is staying open.

6. If an insect stinger is present in the skin, try to remove it by brushing at it gently. Do not pinch it—that may cause the stinger to release more venom.

7. If you have CPR training (which I highly recommend—especially if you have a kid with a severe allergy), go through the steps and give it as needed. If your child also has asthma, you can give them their inhaler. Do this only after you have administered the EpiPen.

How To Administer An EpiPen

There’s a good chance you’ve never given anyone an injection, but this is definitely something you can do.

Look at the website for step-by-step instructions, with pictures, or watch the video. Even better? Get an EpiPen training device and give it a go. As many times as you need to, until you get comfortable. It really is very easy. Even when you do get the hang of it, you should consider practicing from time to time (there's every likelihood that you won't have to actually use it very often.)

Remember, using an EpiPen does not replace seeing a doctor or going to the hospital. That's because the effects of epinephrine can wear off. Sometimes a second reaction will occur, and that can happen several hours after the initial reaction. If symptoms return before receiving medical attention, additional injections may be needed.  Also, even after you get medical help, it's important to stay close to a place where you can easily call 911 for the next 48 hours.

No matter how unlikely...make sure you're always prepared

It will be the rare occasion indeed, that you'll have to actually use your EpiPen. Which means: it may expire before you use it. It's important to have a system in place to remind you when your EpiPen is about to expire. You can register for the Expiration Reminder Service on

Naturally, you're going to do everything in your power to prevent this kind of emergency from happening. But...if it does, you'll be prepared.

You've got this.

Severe allergies are on the rise in Canada.
We teamed up with EpiPen so you can arm yourself with information and be prepared if a life-threatening allergic reaction occurs.
You can find out more about life-threatening allergies and read stories from other parents on our A Parent’s Guide to Dealing with Kids with Severe Allergies page.