Real Simple readers share their tried-and-true tricks for maintaining good health.
Back to Basics
I try to eat things that appear as close to their natural state as possible, such as raw or steamed vegetables; fresh, in-season fruit from the farmers' market; and "natural sweeteners," such as honey. I also like knowing that I'm giving the local economy a boost by buying locally grown products. Plus, I get some fresh air shopping outdoors.
I end my evenings with sudoku puzzles. They settle my mind and help me drift off to sleep, so I'm better rested and less vulnerable to colds.
Culver City, California
I wash my hands often, especially when shopping or traveling. I keep an alcohol gel in the car and wipes in my purse. I also keep my hands off my face, especially around my lips.
Palo Alto, California
Learning to knit has been a big help for my waistline. In the winter especially, it's easy to veg out in front of the TV and snack mindlessly. Instead, I knit to keep my hands busy with something other than food, and I wind up with great handmade gifts.
When I start to feel sick, I rest. Your body can't do everything it normally does and heal itself at the same time.
As an elementary-school teacher in constant contact with little sniffly noses, I stay healthy in the classroom by taking an Airborne every morning. It really does seem to work.
New York, New York
Love and Laughter
My secret for staying healthy is simply being around healthy people. Alone, I'm a 160-pound chocolate-popping, Wendy's-eating, deep-fried couch potato. When I surround myself with my legume-guru buddies, I become a 145-pound mandarin-orange-popping (fresh, not canned, to avoid heavy syrup), Wendy's-salad-eating (easy on the dressing), sitting-on-a-stability-ball-for-core-strength-and-balance-while-watching-TV baked-potato half (no butter). Arielle Sewell
Westbrookville, New York
Everything in moderation, except love and laughter. You can never have enough of those two things.
I know this sounds silly, but when I think of my health, I don't think of the normal "staying fit, eating healthy, and exercising" bit. I think of happiness. My secret for staying healthy is staying happy, which I think we could all accomplish if we simply let into our lives people who make us smile every day.
I have an active collie-mix mutt who likes to be on the go. My walks with her keep me moving and happy at the same time.
Playing with my child like a child keeps me healthy and in shape. Actively playing, while laughing hysterically, always makes me feel good and youthful. I think the key to staying healthy is learning to let go and have fun.
Fort Mill, South Carolina
Diet and Exercise
I eat healthy during the week, and if I want to splurge, I save it for the weekend. I call saturated fat my "Saturday fat."
My cooking includes nuts, low-fat cheeses, and low-fat milk. I'm 51 years old, and after a recent bone-density scan, I was told that I have the bones of a 20-year-old.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
My secret for staying healthy is simple: What you can't see, you can't eat. I stock my refrigerator with fresh fruit and vegetables, yogurt, and nuts. I know myself well enough to know that if chips and dip are in the house, I will eat them. If I keep healthy treats around, those will be the ones I reach for.
In 2002 I had reached nearly 200 pounds. I worked nights, rarely exercised, and was miserable. I decided that, even if it meant tearing down my life to its very base, I'd make positive changes. I now work at a university for about half of what I used to earn, but the environment is refreshing. In the evening after work, I walk four miles instead of taking the bus. The best part of my day has become that hour I take for myself. I listen to my favorite music as I walk. I'm 35 pounds lighter, and my attitude is lighter, too.
I love staying healthy by boxing four days a week at 6 a.m. It has positively changed my life, both physically and mentally. I feel great after 45 minutes of jumping rope and throwing punches―fearless and empowered for the day ahead. The gym motto is "If you aren't boxing, you aren't working out!"
I maintain a fairly regular routine of sleep, exercise, and healthy meals. If something gets in the way of one of the three, I still stay on track with the other two―no excuses. A restless night, inclement weather, or a less-than-healthy meal means the jog or yoga class still happens. I usually feel better afterward, mentally and physically.
After years of not playing, I recently took up tennis again through my health club. I take a group lesson once a week, which is great for improving my skill and a terrific cardiovascular workout. But the best part is that my gym has an all-levels league and tennis mixers on Friday nights, making it fun for my social life as well.
Extra minutes? More like stolen ones! I would relax on the couch with an electric blanket, a cup of tea, Hildegard von Bingen on the stereo, and a book about how to find more time for myself.
Ossining, New York
Be active! I don't mean go to the gym every day for an hour―just move. After I eat, I move for at least 20 minutes. I play with my dogs, clean, organize, or work. I also eat several small meals throughout the day. I snack a lot, but I choose my snacks wisely―fruit and granola for the most part.
My secret for staying healthy is coming up with healthier versions of recipes I love. For instance, instead of regular pancakes, I make blueberry whole-wheat cottage-cheese pancakes. The recipe is simple but tastes like the most sinful dessert ever. I use Splenda instead of sugar wherever possible, and when a recipe calls for flour, I substitute whole-grain flour for half the amount.
Point Venture, Texas