Day 1: Pick Up a Jump Rope
Remember how fun it was in elementary school, jumping rope during recess? Though it might be tough to find willing double-dutch participants, going solo can still be a blast. It’s also a major toning exercise and calorie-burner, if you take the right steps. To engage all your muscles, including the smaller stabilizer ones, fitness guru Tracy Anderson says footwork is important: “Jump on one foot, jump side to side, jump with both feet, jump in a running pattern—the key is changing up the motion while keeping the heart rate pumping.”
Day 2: Keep Lips Supple and Line-Free
Thin, shriveled lips are never in style. For a softer pucker exfoliate with sugar; to smooth lines on the lips and around the mouth follow with an emollient salve. Note: Stay away from medicated balms that contain menthol or camphor, says skin care expert Marcia Kilgore. “They might feel good at first, but they create an addiction for your lips by drying them out even more, at which point you feel you have to apply additional product to reduce the dryness,” she explains. “It’s like a dry-lip self-fulfilling prophecy. Look for balms with ingredients like Shea butter and beeswax instead, since these will help reduce trans-epidermal water loss and chap.”
For added plump, create the illusion of Angeline Jolie-like lips by tracing a nude lip liner around the edges of the lips before applying your lipstick or gloss.
Day 3: Start With the Essentials
Put off frowns and furrowed brows—and the resulting expression lines—with a healthy dose of aromatherapy, says Ayurvedic guru Pratima Raichur: “Smell is the ancient root of emotions and can balance the mind and body.” To treat ailments like anxiety, poor digestion, and insomnia, for example, she suggests rubbing essential oils such as orange, neroli, geranium, and lemon between your palms; cup your hands around your nose and inhale deeply for instant relaxation.
Applying essential oils directly onto the face can also be beneficial, says holistic skin care expert Tata Harper, who lists calendula oil and lavender extract as powerful collagen promoters.
For her part, model Chanel Iman covers her skin with an essential-oil blend each night before bedtime. “It’s amazing—it makes the face and body so beautiful and glowing,” she says. “Right after a bath, I rub it all over, and it gets me into that zone of going to bed and sleeping wel
Day 4: Prepare Your Own Food
Okay, so you might not be gearing up to be on the next season of Top Chef, but crafting your own cuisine comes highly recommended by fitness expert Kathy Kaehler. Besides playing personal trainer to the eternally youthful Julia Roberts (pictured here), Kaehler is also the founder of Sunday Set-Up, a program that encourages prepping a week’s worth of healthful meals every Sunday. “It’s really just about taking your food in the most simplistic way—fresh fruits and vegetables that are as close to their natural state as possible—and getting yourself organized at the top of the week,” she says.
The idea is that, by planning out healthful meals and snacks, you’ll be less prone to eating foods that contain loads of sugar and/or hydrogenated oils—two common culprits of weight gain and oxidative stress (read premature wrinkles).
Day 5: Quench Your Thirst with H2O
Everyone knows the eight-glasses-of-water-a-day rule, but actually consuming those necessary 64 ounces can seem like a daunting task. But before you go overboard refilling your Sigg bottle, think outside the box: Fruits and vegetables, for example, are also excellent sources of hydration.
For those times when you go the traditional route, drink your water cold—ice cold. Besides tasting better postworkout, the lower temperature also sheds more calories than its lukewarm counterpart: As your body warms the liquid, you burn between 17 and 25 calories per glass.
Day 6: Eat Your Veggies
Your mom was right: You really should “finish your broccoli!” Although not the most fun food to eat as a kid, the unassuming vegetable is actually a major complexion-enhancer—especially for perimenopausal women 35 and older. “As your estrogens decrease, you can supplement them with plant estrogens,” says dermatologist Cheryl Burgess, MD. “Broccoli is very high in these so it will make your skin look pretty nice.”
The payoff is good for the under-35 crowd too: Broccoli and other greens are packed with vitamins A and C, which are renowned for their ability to fight off free radical damage and enhance skin tone.
Day 7: Do Dance-Inspired Exercise
For a svelte, youthful-looking bod, opt for a dance-inspired exercise routine like Gwyneth Paltrow’s. To create long, lean muscle prior to a film premiere and press tour the star does a dance cardio routine and intense mat work daily. “I prefer my clients to have an hour and a half of strategy-oriented workouts six days a week—45 minutes of cardio and 45 minutes of muscle structuring,” says her trainer, Anderson.
Ballet can be particularly beneficial, especially when it comes to toning unwanted flab around the thighs: Standing straight and facing forward, slowly lift one leg at a 90-degree angle, keeping it stiff and pointing your toes. Do this eight to 12 times, repeating the exercise to the side and back, switching sides to work out the other leg.
Day 8: Relax With Yoga
Doing yoga can help you focus and unwind after a stressful day at the office—and according to yoga guru Tara Stiles, who appears on ELLE’s Make Better DVD, the practice has anti-aging benefits too: “It revs up circulation and is believed to rejuvenate cells,” she told ELLE earlier this year. “A lot of people find that after doing yoga for a few months, their skin is glowing, and any acne clears up. It’s not just the sweating, it’s the breathing and the stimulation of the nervous system.”
Day 9: Be SPF-Savvy
Don’t be deceived by waning sunlight—dermatologist Jeanine Downie, MD, says you should wear a sunscreen that’s SPF 30 or higher “every day, rain or shine, January through December.”
“UV radiation is the main environmental factor that causes skin aging,” says dermatologist Nicholas Pericone, MD, who lists hyperpigmentation—those dark, unsightly liver spots—as “one of the negative effects of chronic overexposure to sunlight.”
Day 10: Get Adequate Amounts of Sleep
Though it may be tempting to stay up watching all those saved TV programs on your DVR, studies suggest that getting seven to eight hours of shut-eye a night is necessary to ward off weight gain. Separate research done by the University of Chicago and University of Pennsylvania, revealed that sleep-restricted subjects gained more weight over time than those who were well rested. The causes behind sleep-deprived weight gain are believed to be leptin and ghrelin, two hormones that affect how full you feel. When you’re short on sleep, levels of leptin (an appetite suppressant) fall and levels of ghrelin (an appetite stimulant) rise—so you feel hungrier than you would otherwise.
During sleep is also when skin cells regenerate and are more receptive to antiaging creams. “There are circadian rhythms that happen in nature and also with the skin,” explains Burgess. “During the day, our skin wants to protect itself, and at night it wants to repair itself.”
Day 11: Treat Yourself to a Massage
Body work and massages are “critical,” says nutrition specialist Oz Garcia, PhD, because they reduce levels of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline (which have been linked to weight gain) and increase feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine. Getting regular massages also results in greater relaxation and blood circulation, with less bloating.
When it comes to massage, don’t forget about your face: Like body work, facial massage can create positive feelings and a rejuvenated appearance. “It helps you relax and stimulates lymphatic flow,” says celebrity esthetician Christine Chin, who places special emphasis on the eye area. “When you put on your eye cream, gently press several pressure points—the beginning and end of the brows, corners of the eyes, and temples—to help reduce puffiness and dark circles.”
Day 12: Embrace Healthful Carbs
Contrary to what you may think, it’s okay (and, in fact, necessary) to have carbs, but they’re not all alike. Select the healthy complex variety—fruits and veggies like cantaloupe, berries, green beans, and cauliflower, which are full of fiber and absorbed slowly into the bloodstream. Though cookies, bread, and pasta are tempting and provide a quick release of “feel-good” serotonin, these simple carbs will catch up with you in the long run. For a similar head rush without the backlash, dietician Carrie Wiatt, RD, says pasta and bread junkies should opt for whole-grain versions. “They have a lot of fiber, which is good for your digestive system.”
Day 13: Trade In Coffee for Green Tea
While nothing can beat the heady jolt of a good cup of joe, we asked Garcia to spill the beans on a healthier way to get your daily caffeine fix: green tea. “Coffee increases cravings. It can control appetite in the moment, but it will cause you to be hungrier in the long run—it makes your blood sugar shoot up, then crash hours later,” he reveals. Green tea, on the other hand, is a powerful antioxidant and natural diuretic that can “help control your cravings and raise your metabolism.” Garcia recommends drinking up to four cups daily for caffeine-like energy minus consequences.
Day 14: Get Lustrous Locks
Protein damage—incurred by sun exposure, heat styling, and chemical processing—can result in dull, damaged hair. And let’s face it, dry and brittle tresses aren’t exactly the picture of youth. To revamp your mane, book an appointment with your stylist to trim split-ends and finish with a semipermanent glaze: “There are a lot of conditioners in it that make the hair supershiny,” says Victoria Beckham’s colorist, Jessica Galvan.
Available in clear and pigmented formulas, a glaze can pump up your shine, color, or both. “Even over top of highlights I always finish with a glaze, whether it’s clear or tinted to add warmth and sparkle,” says colorist Rick Wellman of Patrick Melville Salon. “Whenever you use lighteners, you’re opening up the cuticle—a glaze brings hair back to its natural state and helps seal in color.”
In between salon visits, keep strands in tip-top shape by using a weekly hair mask and/or massaging essential oils onto the roots and ends.
Day 15: Fill Up on Good Fats
“After water, fat is the most abundant substance in your body. Fats from animal and vegetable sources provide a concentrated source of energy in the diet and are the building blocks for cell membranes, hormones, and prostaglandins,” says Perricone. But before you dig into that fettuccine Alfredo, take note: The type of fat you ingest is key, so stick with the “good” ones—the essential fatty acids found in avocado and virgin olive oil. And when it comes to more “bad” fats like cheese, consume in moderation.
Day 16: Don’t Skip Breakfast
Never underestimate the benefits of jump-starting your day with a protein-rich breakfast. An eight-week study done by the Pennington Biomedical Research Center of Louisiana State University System found that those who ate an eggs-and-toast combo versus bagel and cream cheese reduced their waists by 83 percent more. Investigators also found that subjects who ate eggs in the morning (think an egg white omelet or protein shake) instead of a bagel went on to consume fewer calories over the next 24 hours.
Day 17: Turn Off the Television
If you feel good, it shows—and unfortunately for all the TV-addicts out there, it appears that watching television isn’t the path to feel-good vibes: Data from the recently completed General Social Survey of 45,000 Americans found that the more TV people watched, the more likely they were to report being unhappy.
Being a couch potato has also been shown to have an effect on your waistline: A study by Yale University found that TV viewers who saw snack commercials were inspired to eat just about anything (regardless of whether they were actually hungry). The most successful dieters, say experts, watch less than the adult average of four hours per day and weigh in at less than 10 hours per week.
Not ready to give up your time in front of the tube? If you plan to be glued to your TV for awhile, be sure to delve into healthy foods if the urge strikes (we suggest having vegetables and a yogurt-based dip or low-fat pretzels and hummus readily available).
Day 18: Score a Perky Posterior
Squats or lunges are a surefire way to firm your glutes—doing two sets of them with 12 to 15 repetitions will suffice (add light hand weights for more of a workout). To stay centered, focus on pressing down through the heels while pushing your hips back, which will place rightful emphasis on your glutes and hamstrings. Another way to squeeze in tush-firming exercise: Choose steps over the elevator and/or do a hard-core stair workout at home, running up and down as fast as you can for 30 seconds, then slow-climbing for two minutes (repeat this routine for a half hour).
Day 19: Squeeze In a Brisk Outdoor Stroll
Follow in Jessica Biel’s footsteps (shown at right): Power-walking just 20 to 40 minutes a day can make a huge difference, says David Kirsch, personal trainer to Liv Tyler, Kerry Washington, and Heidi Klum. He recommends using half your lunchtime at work to take a quick alfresco walk. “This is enough to get your endorphins up, improve your mood, and help you regulate your cravings better,” adds Garcia.
Day 20: Moisturize Regularly
Regardless of skin type, keeping the dermis adequately moisturized is important for a clear and line-free complexion: Dryness can clog pores (sebaceous glands overcompensate, causing oil production to go into overdrive) and age the skin. To maintain radiance, Burgess suggests using an overnight face lotion with hyaluronic acid (“it acts like a sponge, drawing moisture into the skin and plumps it”;). Show your neck and hands some love too—if not properly cared for, these often-missed spots can age you beyond your years.
Day 21: Drink Responsibly
Partying like you just turned 21 is fine, but be sure to supplement alcoholic beverages with water. “Alcohol dehydrates you,” says Burgess, noting its ability to work against supple, youthful-looking skin. Opting for red wine over beer is also a wise anti-aging move: According to a study by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, light to moderate alcohol consumption—especially red wine—is not only good for the heart, it's also good for the waistline. Though a glass of wine contains about 150 calories, subjects who drank one to two glasses per day over the course of 13 years gained less weight than nondrinkers (of the 19,220 participants, the risk of obesity was 30 percent lower for wine consumers). A potential explanation? Resveratrol, a compound present in grapes and red wine, appears to inhibit the development of fat cells.