Fat Loss 

13 Exercises That Are Better than Burpees for Fat Loss – These moves are the ULT…

13 Exercises That Are Better than Burpees for Fat Loss – These moves are the ULTIMATE fat torchers for most people. … scotfin.com/… says, Lucky thirteen. Source by roderickgil75

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Fat Loss 

Today is your very lucky day. Do you know why? I wish to refer you to a dietry s…

Today is your very lucky day. Do you know why? I wish to refer you to a dietry system where you can get working answers to your long time problems. This particular option is the Fat Loss Factor system. The Fat Loss Factor plan will help you to locat Source by sbriker

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I Refuse to Work Out, but I Do These 4 Things Instead

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I truly hate running. I’ve tried every fitness class my city offers — and living in one of the fittest cities in the country means I have a lot of options. And at-home workouts? The living room in my tiny San Francisco apartment is about as wide as my wingspan. I don’t work out, but I am still the healthiest and most fit I’ve been in my adult life.

I know that fitness means something different for everyone, and I am not saying that working out is something people shouldn’t be doing, either because they want to, because they need to, or both. But when it pertains to my own fitness regime, I can knock it, because I sure as hell have tried it all.

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Growing up, I was active and athletic. I participated in an array of sports — from basketball, track, dance, and gymnastics to swimming, diving, and horseback riding. I was also an active nanny for years, and anyone who has kids or works with them knows that keeping up with two toddlers is more work than running a marathon. I loved it all and never once thought of what I was doing as a workout or as something that I had to push myself to do. Then my focus shifted significantly. No longer was I a high schooler with time to spare and a metabolism the speed of light — I was a determined college student dedicated equally to my GPA and happy hour, and then I was a postgrad professional looking for a job. When was I supposed to be squeezing in a trip to the gym, especially considering the fact that getting myself there was like pulling teeth?

Still, I tried everything to stay healthy and in shape. I bought fitness videos and watched countless online workouts for people who hate working out, for people who live in small apartments, for people who don’t know body balls from barbells. I signed up for individual classes at yoga, barre, and cycling studios, experimented with different gyms, took boxing lessons, and even tried my hand at aerial silks (which were by far my favorite!). Still, nothing quite did it for me. I skipped classes, made excuses, and ultimately felt worse about myself because I simply couldn’t muster the motivation everyone around me seemingly had for fitness.

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What I realized about myself is this: I hate exercise that feels like effort. For me to get a good workout, the results need to be incidental, not intentional, which is why fitness activities that aren’t focused on the workout aspect, but more on the fun, appeal to me most. So I stopped working out. I implemented a few simple things into my daily routine — simple being the operative word here — and I have never felt healthier, more in shape, and happier since letting go of other people’s idea of what fitness should be and instead doing what really works best for me. Here’s how I did it.

I stay constantly active and on my feet.

I am never, ever idle. Seriously, it’s to the point where I risk running into people (and poles) daily because I read while walking through the city. I am constantly on the move, even at work. I get up and down several times an hour and take my laptop to places in the office that allow me to stand (standing desk is next on the list). On the weekends, I make sure to allow myself some downtime with Netflix or a good book, but I don’t waste beautiful, sunny California Saturdays sitting on the couch.

I walk everywhere I can.

I am lucky to live in a place where walking is not only possible but also very practical. I honestly think this is the key to staying in shape for me. I walk everywhere. I have a Fitbit, but my biggest thing about having one is to not let myself dwell on the nitpicky parts of the device. I don’t log every calorie I eat, and I don’t use it to lose weight. I just love challenging myself every day, and having it on my wrist reminds me to take the stairs instead of the escalator and to not waver at the sight of a San Francisco hill but conquer it so that I’m rewarded with an amazing view when I make it to the top. Just this weekend I caught up with my mom on the phone while walking the three miles from my house to Target (totally worth the trek!), then hopped on a bus on the way back home since I had bags. Two birds, one stone.

I eat healthy.

I have a very healthy diet. I eat what I think is probably most similar to a Paleo diet — but I don’t diet. I just try to stick to things that are natural, clean, and not overly prepared, like vegetables, fruits, fish, and meat. I also don’t overeat, mainly because I can’t stand feeling sickeningly full, so I am a huge proponent of multiple small meals throughout the day. It makes the workday go by faster when you get to snack on something every couple of hours, anyway! Sweets aren’t my thing, but I swear by a rare steak every now and then and a postwork glass of red wine. I avoid mixed alcoholic drinks because, to be honest, I can’t stand the sugar, and I drink my coffee black unless I opt for green tea instead.

I make fitness fun.

I’ve stopped pushing myself to go to classes and join a gym, but instead I save my energy for activities that I can get really excited about. I ski, I swim, I dance, and I ride horses any chance I can get. I’m planning my next biking trip across the Golden Gate Bridge, and my last hike took me on a five-hour adventure through a redwood forest in Northern California. I make fitness fun for myself, and in doing so, I’ve learned to love my version of a “workout” so much that I am more in shape than I’ve ever been in my adult life. I am climbing toward my 30s feeling incredibly fit, and what’s more, I’ve finally found a way to stay healthy without hating it.

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Even Optimists Tend to Expect the Worst

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Even if you consider yourself to be pretty upbeat, it’s easy to get caught up in feelings of dread as you wait to hear about uncertain news. As the moment of truth draws nearer, people often find themselves increasingly convinced that bad results are ahead.

These emotions may feel stressful and unhealthy, but a new study suggests they’re totally normal. In fact, this instinct to brace for the worst can actually be protective and serve as a buffer against potentially bad news, say researchers from the University of California Riverside.

In previous studies, it’s been recognized that, as individuals wait for their respective results, students become increasingly convinced they’ve failed an exam, patients become increasingly convinced they have a terrible disease, and voters become increasingly convinced that their candidate will lose an election.

RELATED: Optimism Can Help You Live Longer

Kate Sweeny, Ph.D., a psychology professor at UC Riverside, wanted to see if this was true of optimists and pessimists alike. “Intuition might suggest that some people are more likely to brace than others,” Sweeny said in a press release. “In particular, happy-go-lucky optimists would seem immune to the anxiety and second-guessing that typically arise as the decisive moment draws near.”

So she and her co-author performed nine different experiments in their lab and in real-life settings. Some involved college students anticipating rankings of their attractiveness from peers, for example, while others involved law-school graduates awaiting the results of their bar exams. All participants answered questions beforehand to determine their natural disposition.

The researchers’ findings, published in the Journal of Personality, were “counter to intuition,” Sweeny said. “Optimists were not immune to feeling a rise in pessimism at the moment of truth. In fact, not a single study showed a difference between optimists and pessimists in their tendency to brace for the worst.”

RELATED: Happy People Make Their Spouses Happier

There was a difference, unsurprisingly, in overall predictions: Optimists started out with more positive expectations than pessimists. But everyone in the study tended to shift those expectations downward over time.

This may be because not getting one’s hopes up can be a natural defense. “If you expect the worst, you can lessen feelings of shock and disappointment if things don’t go as you hoped,” Sweeny told RealSimple.com, “and you’ll be pleasantly surprised if they do.”

So if you feel down right before a big announcement, Sweeny says you shouldn’t necessarily fight those feelings. Rather, she says, we should all try to be more like the optimists in this study, and save our pessimism for these strategic moments.

“It’s generally good to be optimistic about the future,” she says. “Optimists are happier and healthier in lots of different ways, and it’s true that worrying too much or for too long can lead to anxiety and rumination. But in these final moments before you get big news, optimism can be really treacherous.”

In other words, she says, making sure you’ve done everything you can to ensure your chances of success—and then putting off your worries until those final moments—may be the best balance you can strike. And if you do feel like the world’s about to end while you wait, take heart in knowing that that’s normal, too.

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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5 Healthy Reasons to Have a Glass of Wine Tonight

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It seems like no one can get enough of red wine, scientists included; every day there seems to be another study touting the amazing benefits of the plum-colored beverage. Lucky for us, the proof is in the long-stemmed glass (just one, since drinking more may be detrimental to your health). Here are five reasons unwinding with a glass of red after a long day should be on your list of to-dos — one reason for every workday!

It’s good for your heart: Antioxidants in red wine called flavonoids have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and increasing the production of good cholesterol. According to researchers at the University of California, Davis, certain varietals have more concentrations of flavonoids than others. Of the most common red varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon has the most flavonoids, followed closely by Petite Sirah and Pinot Noir, then Merlot and Red Zinfandel.

It can lower depression: While heavy drinking has been linked to mental health problems, drinking a glass of red wine a day may do the opposite. A recent study found that moderate drinkers (those who drank two to seven small glasses of wine a week) were less likely to suffer from depression than those who drank more or less.

It can help your gut: That morning bowl of Greek yogurt isn’t the only thing that’s helping your gut. A study found that drinking red wine increases the amount of good bacteria levels in your digestive tract.

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It may help you lose fat: New research is studying the effects of piceatannol, a compound found in red wine that is converted from the antioxidant resveratrol, has on fat. A recent lab study found that piceatannol blocks fat cells from forming, and more studies are looking at how the compound can help us slim down.

It can improve memory: Polyphenols, also found in tea, nuts, berries, and cocoa, can improve your memory and may also decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

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18 Nutrition and Fitness Experts Reveal Their New Year's Resolutions

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Eat better, join a gym, drink more water, get eight hours of sleep every night…many of the most popular New Year's resolutions are focused on living a healthier, more balanced life. But what do those people who are already extremely healthy (in fact, it's their job to be) want to improve upon? We polled 18 wellness influencers, from nutritionists to celebrity trainers to healthy start-up founders, to find out what their self-improvement goals are for the upcoming year. From being more mindful to carving out time for themselves to working out a little less (if only we all had that problem), here are their resolutions for 2017.

RELATED: 21 New Year's Resolutions You'll Actually Keep

Embrace mindfulness and live in the now

"Be even more mindful with the words I use, making sure they are influential in a positive, hopeful, and inspiring way; not just for the clients I train, but for everyone I interact with, including myself." 
—Tanya Becker, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Physique57

"Furthering my meditation practice. I find that mindfulness not only allows me to react more calmly in stressful situations, but it also helps me feel happier overall and more in the moment, whether I’m eating, being active, or spending time with my hubby and pets."
Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, Health's contributing nutrition editor

"I resolve to listen closer, breathe deeper, and be more present. I hope to think less and risk more. And while focusing on all these things, I hope to empower others to do the same. I'm very excited for 2017!"
—Olivia Young, founder of box + flow

"My New Year's resolution is to commit—to be more instinctual and trust my gut. To work harder, and to live in the now."
—Derek DeGrazio, celebrity trainer and managing partner at Barry's Bootcamp Miami

RELATED: 13 New Year's Resolutions You Shouldn't Make

Pay it forward

"My New Year's resolution is to advocate on more result-oriented ways and less social ways to educate and support people's lives. This is an important year in health and I feel a strong commitment to providing people tools that help them invest in their health and their futures. I feel that the trends in fitness will be taking a backseat to people wanting life-long solutions that pay it forward in a really meaningful way."
—Tracy Anderson, Health contributing fitness editor, celebrity fitness trainer, and founder of the Tracy Anderson Method

"To do a random act of kindness every day. [It] forces you to think about how you can be more compassionate all day, so you can realize the perfect moment to act on it."
—Danielle DuBoise, co-founder of SAKARA LIFE

Carve out more personal time

"I want to make sure to spend more quality time with my closest friends and call my mom and sister more often. I’m going to work on improving my cooking skills. Professionally, I’m going to hire an assistant. And physically, I’m going to take more rest days. I’m on my feet working six out of seven days a week. I’d like to change that to five days a week." 
—Lacey Stone, celebrity trainer and founder of Lacey Stone Fitness

"Put more 'me' time on the calendar. It can be difficult to manage the work/life balance when you own a business because you're emotionally invested. This year, I'm going to make more of an effort to put the computer away and take time for myself."
—Tracy Carlinsky, founder of Brooklyn Bodyburn

"I am so busy and pulled in so many directions—single parent to twin girls, business owner—I don't take enough time to decompress. I know doing so will make me more grounded, balanced, and ultimately more productive."
—David Kirsch, celebrity fitness and wellness expert

RELATED: 28 New Year's Resolutions to Look and Feel Better

Schedule in restorative workouts

"Take it down a notch! As a fitness pro, I often push myself as hard as possible in every. single. workout, choosing the most advanced poses or sequences. Movement is my 'drug of choice' and I'm working on sometimes allowing that movement to be peaceful or restorative rather than only the most intense."
—Amy Jordan, founder and CEO of WundaBar Pilates

"Being an athletespecifically a boxer and a runnermy body is always tight, and I often don't take much time to stretch and recover, as I'm in a go-go-go mentality. I want to try out new yoga classes a few times a week and get into my own stretching routine so I can feel better doing what I love."
—Ashley Guarrasi, founding trainer of Rumble Boxing

Stress less

"Learn to only focus on controlling the things I can control. Too often we stress about things we really can't control, and it just makes us put unnecessary worry and pressure on ourselves."
—Skylar Diggins, Dallas Wings guard 

Fuel up the right way

"Be more mindful of how I'm fueling my body. Being 38 years old, it's getting harder to bounce back from eating badly consecutive days in a row. My goal is to incorporate a more Paleo-based way of eating, with lots of chicken and fish!"
—Alonzo Wilson, founder of Tone House

"Most resolutions focus on things to cut out. Here's what I plan to add more of in 2017: more colorful veggies on half of my plate, more outdoor workouts, and more books (for fun!)."
—Erika Horowitz MS, RDN

"I like to set my New Year's resolution to be realistic and achievable, so my nutrition plan is based on the 80/20 rule: stick to the Ketogenic diet six days a week, and one day a week splurge with my cheat food of choice (rhymes with "rasta")."
—Ross Franklin, CEO and founder of PureGreen Cold Pressed Juice

RELATED: 57 Ways to Lose Weight Forever, According to Science

Take a risk and try new things

"Trying new sports and workout classes. I want to break out of my comfort zone a bit more! I've never been rock climbing or snow skiing, so I'd like to try those. I would also like to make more of an effort to prioritize recovery. I work out hard and throw around some pretty heavy weights. Somewhere along the line I've started to skimp on stretching, foam rolling, and resting. Not okay!"
—Melody Scharff, instructor at the Fhitting Room

"I'm going to find a better balance between my strength training, mobility, and Jiu Jitsu. I tend to hyper focus on one type of training and my body needs the variety to perform and feel optimal. I'm committed to sitting down before the new year and re-structuring my schedule to reach my goals. If you don't plan, it won't happen!"
—Ashley Borden, celebrity fitness trainer

"Although I work out (and I'm lucky to LOVE working out), my exercise was all over the place in 2016 and I want to take it up a notch in 2017. This includes getting in a few races, planning a few hiking trips, and being consistent with four intense workouts a week."
—Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, and founder of Nutritious Life and the Nutrition School

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How to Survive a Quarter-Life Crisis and Find Your True Purpose

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During my quarter-life crisis, I felt paralyzed to make a change. I felt like I was at the intersection of hopeless, stuck, and FOMO (or fear of missing out).

I said to myself, “I hate my job and I want to do something else, but I don’t know where to start. I’m interested in so many things, but none of them seem perfect. All my friends on Facebook are so happy and successful. My friend is a Forbes 30 Under 30. My buddy is traveling around Thailand. My friend just got engaged. I’m tired of being single. I’m a failure.”

Everything feels impossible during a quarter-life crisis, even small decisions like which shampoo to buy, or which show to watch on Netflix. 

But the five simple steps below helped me get through that period of intense confusion—and eventually, find my true purpose. I hope these tips will be helpful as you discover yours.

Stop the comparisons

Social media has made it all but impossible to avoid comparing yourself to others. We see only the coolest parts of our friends’ lives, like when they get a new job, fall in love, or travel somewhere beautiful. We think, “Wow, I really need to get my act together.”  All of us are figuring it out, even our friends whose Instagram grass looks really green. All of us are on different paths, with no right or wrong answer. Comparing yourself to others is a waste of time. Stop worrying about what other people think and start figuring out what you want.

RELATED: Elizabeth Gilbert Shares Her Secrets to Living a More Creative Life

Pursue what’s meaningful to you

If you want to turn your quarter-life crisis into a breakthrough, you have to stop focusing on everyone else’s noise, and start asking yourself why you’re here. What do you care most about? What do you want to do for the world? What are you really good at? What types of people do you want to surround yourself with? How much money do you need to live your desired lifestyle? I call this finding alignment between who you are and how you’re spending your days.

Turn your doubt into action

When I was stuck in my old job, fear of the unknown often kept me up all night. This doubt never really goes away, but I’ve learned that we can turn our doubts into research, into positive energy that takes us closer to our next lily pad. If you write your doubts and fears on paper, you can begin to take tangible action steps toward figuring out what’s next in your life. This might mean reading a book that interests you, signing up for a class, launching a crowdfunding campaign for a creative project, starting a blog, attending a cool conference or event, traveling somewhere you always wanted to go, having coffee with a mentor, or pursuing an apprenticeship or volunteer opportunity that excites you.

Find a community of people who believe in the beauty of your dreams

Surviving a quarter-life crisis is the result of both hard work and finding the right people to support your journey. You can’t do it alone. Building a community of believers is the difference between your breakthrough being a dream and a dream come true. So, start finding people who make you better. People who inspire you; who are creative, who are living for others, who hold you accountable. Depending on where you live, believers might be easy or incredibly difficult to find. Attend conferences, ask your network for ideas, and use social media to find local meet-up groups based on your interests.

RELATED: 8 Promises Every Woman Should Make to Herself

Practice weekly self-care rituals

When I was stuck in my quarter-life crisis, overworked and stressed, I definitely wasn’t taking care myself—and I got shingles! I didn’t give myself time to eat well, see friends, meditate, write in my journal, or exercise. If you don’t take care of your body, it’s nearly impossible to reach your goals or help anyone else reach theirs. Finding your purpose doesn’t translate to applying to as many to jobs online as you possibly can. Finding your purpose means spending time doing the things you love, with the people you love most. It also means learning how to be kind to yourself. So, what are three things you can do to be kind to yourself this week? Think about ways you can treat yourself, take care of yourself, and create yourself.

If you’re lucky, practicing self-love might even bring you closer to the purpose you’ve been searching for.

Adapted from The Quarter-Life Breakthrough: Invent Your Own Path, Find Meaningful Work, and Build a Life That Matters by Adam Smiley Poswolsky, available from TarcherPerigee/Penguin Random House. Subscribe for more career resources at smileyposwolsky.com.

 

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9 Health Mistakes New College Grads Make

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Commencement speakers love to give flowery advice: Dare to dream! Reach for the stars! Embrace the whole new world waiting for you on the other side of graduation! 

They’re a little less likely to mention what really matters when it comes to securing your long-term success. A lot of it involves adjusting to adult life and learning what it means to be healthy, both phyiscally and mentally—and it's something a lot of new grads seriously struggle with. 

After you change out of your cap and gown, keep this cheat sheet on health mistakes to avoid in mind. You'll be #adulting like a pro in no time. 

Mistake #1: Going to urgent care for all your medical needs

We get it: you're young, you're healthy, and you haven't been sick since that unfortunate case of mono in the 11th grade. But building a relationship with a primary care doctor now establishes your baseline level of health and allows for continuity of care. And, in parts of the country where there are more primary care physicians, people live longer and have lower rates of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other medical conditions, according to study published in the International Journal of Health Services. 

If none of that's enough to sway you, then remember: on many insurance plans, a trip to the emergency room or urgent care is more expensive than a visit to a PCP. 

RELATED: The Early Signs of Stroke You Need to Know—Even if You're Young

Mistake #2: Skipping health insurance

Speaking of insurance, you really won't be saving any money if you don't sign up for it after you graduate. The Affordable Care Act says you have to be insured, and you can get hit with a fine if you don’t register quickly enough. You can usually be added to a parent’s health plan if it covers dependents and you’re under 26—even if you're living on your own. If you’re younger than 30, you can buy a catastrophic plan with low monthly premiums; you’ll pay most non-emergency medical expenses yourself, but coverage includes three primary care visits each year—as well as preventive care like shots and screenings—before you hit your deductible.

Mistake #3: Eating a sad desk lunch every day 

Chowing down in front of the computer might seem like a good way to gain traction at a new job. In fact, one 2012 survey found that 39% of employees spend their lunch breaks at their desks. Truth is, in the working world, many of us aren’t counterbalancing our hours of inactivity with regular movement (such as crisscrossing campus for classes). Moreover, “when we eat distracted, we tend not to enjoy, appreciate, or even register the calories—they’re calories eaten, calories forgotten,” says Katherine Zeratsky, RD, an associate professor of nutrition at the Mayo Clinic. “If you absolutely have to eat at your desk, appreciate each bite of food in your mouth, chew it, notice that you’re chewing it—and do so at least several times before you swallow it—and then type a paragraph or read what you have to read. If you can take a bit of time to appreciate your food, you’re less likely to be looking for a snack an hour or two later because you forgot you ate.”

Mistake #4: Getting out of the exercise habit

Regular exercise at a campus gym? No sweat. Juggling physical fitness with an entirely new set of life circumstances? Not so straightforward. Researchers have found that even elite college athletes struggle to exercise consistently after graduation, and that everyone who wants to squeeze into their favorite big-game tee a few years later stands a better chance of doing so if they make exercise a habit ASAP. First step: Find an activity you really love, whether it's SoulCycle, Orangetheory, CrossFit, dance classes, or something else. Those people you know who get up at 6 a.m. to run do it because they truly enjoy it. 

RELATED: 10 Habits of People Who Love to Work Out

Mistake #5: Ignoring stress

A study in Social Science & Medicine linked student loan debt to poor mental health for young men and women. Generation Opportunity, a nonpartisan youth advocacy group, reported that the national unemployment rate for people between ages 18 and 29 is more than double that of Americans older than 29. Finding one’s way in the working world has never been easy, but some argue that it’s never been harder than it is right now—and millennials report higher levels of stress than any other generation. “Stress can impact everything from one’s sleep to their energy, attention, concentration, and interpersonal relationships,” says Simon Rego, PsyD, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. “If you’re experiencing some of those symptoms at a level that is uncomfortable or that people are commenting on, it may be a good idea to seek support from a friend or loved one, or, if necessary, professional help.” Talking to a pro, Rego notes, yields the long-term benefit of developing skills that will help you manage life better for years to come.

Mistake #6: Developing a Seamless addiction

The idea that takeout food is cheaper than healthier home-cooked meals is a myth, plain and simple. So is the idea that preparing your own meals is a time suck. “You don’t have to be a chef in order to cook,” says Zeratsky. “You can love to cook or you can hate to cook, you can have no time or you can have all the time in the world; you don’t have to be a gourmet to put a healthy meal on the table. Think back to the basics of what comprises a nutritious meal: Do you have a fruit or a vegetable, a protein-rich food, something starchier that will provide you with good energy? It might not look like what you see on a cooking show or at a restaurant, but it’s a complete meal.” Almost anything you prepare for yourself, experts argue, will provide better nourishment than hyperprocessed fast food ever could.

Mistake #7: Happy hour wings and beer five nights a week

You're going to be spending 40 hours a week with your new coworkers—probably more time than you spend with your friends and family. So it's important to forge friendships in the office, and a common way to do it is hitting the bar after work. In one survey, 82% of respondents who headed to happy hour said they did so to bond with their coworkers. But those bargain drinks and buckets of wings add up fast. A beer rings in at around 145 calories, and those savory little snacks are 50 to 100 calories apiece, even when you haven’t dipped them in anything. Keep an eye out for lower-calorie options, and don’t be shy about bowing out before someone suggests karaoke.

Mistake #8: Forgetting what you learned in sex ed

According to the CDC, reported cases of three STDs (syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea) are on the rise in the United States for the first time in a decade—and STDs continue to affect young people, particularly young women, most severely. Some health department officials believe online-dating apps like Tinder are to blame, and they could have a point; while moving to a city and turning to your phone to meet a friendly stranger can be good, clean fun, with sexual freedom comes responsibility. Playing it safe means testing and treatment for STDs (the CDC recommends that sexually active women under 25 be screened for chlamydia and gonorrhea, which often have no symptoms and go undetected, every year) and using condoms consistently and correctly.

Mistake #9: Losing contact with friends and family

In college, your friends lived down the hallway from you. Now, you're lucky if you live in the same city, or even the same state. But even if you don’t have a whirlwind wedding engagement or splashy new job title to report, keeping up with old pals after graduation is worth the time and energy. “People are social beings and therefore we derive a lot of benefits from staying in contact with others,” says Rego. “This includes emotional support and comfort and a sense of belonging. These benefits help create a buffer against daily and life stressors that come our way.”

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Will Immunotherapy Be the End of Cancer?

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In September of 2011, I did the worst Google search of my life. A year after a seemingly manageable melanoma diagnosis and surgery, I learned that my cancer had appeared again, this time moving aggressively into my lungs and soft tissue. Naturally, the first thing I did was open my laptop and type "stage 4 melanoma life expectancy." Then I cried. The results were terrifying. 

On the website of MD Anderson, one of the most prestigious cancer centers in the world, I found a January 2011 article on metastatic melanoma. There was a telling quote from Michael Davies, MD, of the center’s Melanoma Medical Oncology Department: "The average survival for patients with stage 4 metastatic melanoma is 6 to 10 months, and this hasn’t changed for 30 years."

I still get chills when I recall my prognosis not so very long ago, a prognosis that looked likely to wipe my presence from my two young daughters’ childhoods. Yet a month after my diagnosis, I became one of the first dozen patients in a new clinical trial at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, receiving a type of treatment known as immunotherapy, which harnesses the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer. Three months later, I was declared cancer-free, and I have been ever since. I had not only been granted a future—I had seen a glimpse of it. Welcome to the next era of medicine. 

WATCH THE VIDEO: "I Survived Stage IV Melanoma"

Outsmarting cancer

Our bodies are incredible machines. We are born with an internal defense system designed to fight off invaders like infection and disease. At the heart of that system are T cells, microscopic killers that recognize and destroy abnormalities. But cancer is a potent—and sneaky—foe. "For reasons we are just beginning to understand, your T cells don’t see the cancer cells," explains Naiyer Rizvi, MD, professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center and a leading specialist in immunotherapy for lung cancer. And the immune system can’t fight an enemy it doesn’t even recognize.

In the fight against cancer, the trinity of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy—known by the assertive nickname "slash, burn, and poison"—has long been the weapon of choice. By going directly after cancer cells (almost always with collateral damage to otherwise healthy parts of the body), the method at least has an understandable logic: Scorch the area, then cross your fingers that the disease doesn’t come back.

Immunotherapy approaches the problem differently, stimulating the patient’s own body to kill the cancer. But reprogramming the immune system to, as Dr. Rizvi says, "break the hypnosis effect" that cancer cells have on our T cells has been hard to achieve, and immunotherapy languished for decades as a fringe field of research. I just happened to be lucky enough to be diagnosed with my typically fatal—and historically chemo-resistant—form of cancer at the right time for a breakthrough.

In the spring of 2011, the FDA approved the immunotherapy treatment ipilimumab, known by the brand name Yervoy. It was the first drug proven to extend the lives of patients with metastatic melanoma. That fall, when I needed a Hail Mary pass the most, I joined a clinical trial in which I would be given regular infusions of Yervoy with a new drug, nivolumab. (That drug would be approved under the brand name Opdivo in 2014.)

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Cancer cells slip past the immune system by appearing invisible to it. The job of immunotherapy is to activate the system to recognize the enemy. "I tell people, 'This is not a cancer drug; it doesn't kill tumor cells. This is an immune system drug,'" says James P. Allison, PhD, chair of the department of immunology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. In my case, the hope was that the two drugs would work together to override the breaks holding back my own defenses, flipping the switch on my T cells to go find and kill my cancer.

And my T cells quickly did just that, like Pac-Man devouring pellets. After my very first treatment, a visible tumor under the skin on my back began to shrink. By my first set of scans—only 12 weeks into the trial—all my cancer was gone. And I was not an isolated success case; other patients were showing marked improvement, too. 

As the trial expanded, nearly 58 percent of patients had “significant reduction in tumor size,” an achievement my doctor, Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Chief of Melanoma and Immunotherapeutics Service Jedd Wolchok, MD, noted at the time by saying, "Just five years ago, many of these patients would have been expected to live for only seven months following diagnosis." In September of 2015, the one-two punch that saved my life became the first immunotherapy combination treatment to gain FDA approval.

But what makes a story like mine even more mind-blowing is not just that the cancer went away. It’s that four years after I was declared cancer-free and two years after I completely ended treatment, it has not come back. In much the same way that once you’ve been vaccinated, your body recognizes and fends off formidable diseases, the hope of immunotherapy is that when your body has learned to identify your form of cancer, it remains vigilant against it. That’s why some of the currently approved courses of immunotherapy span only a few doses over a relatively short period: The idea is that as soon as the body learns, it remembers.

A life without the constant worry that I’ll get sick again has been the second greatest gift of my treatment. It puts me in a privileged population—a 2013 German study of recent cancer survivors found that more than 67 percent expressed a fear of recurrence. Of course, as one of immunotherapy's relatively recent successes, I know that things could change. But I also know that the early two- and four-year studies on the growing number of people who have had progression-free survival suggest that our responses have been generally durable. As blogger T.J. Sharpe—who, after a stage 4 melanoma diagnosis, has been thriving for three years in a trial of the immunotherapy drug Keytruda—puts it, "The truth is the drug isn’t beating cancer; my immune system is."

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The new hope

With encouraging results like mine, it’s little wonder that in just the past few years, immunotherapy—alone and in combination with traditional methods—has been touted as the next big thing not only for melanoma but for cancer itself. Though other forms of the treatment take different approaches, like modifying and transferring T cells, they have the same goal: lighting up the individual’s own system. Since 2010, the FDA has approved immunotherapy treatments for prostate, kidney and lung cancers.

Meanwhile, clinical trials and research continue to show that immunotherapy holds promise for devastating forms of cancer, including breast, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers and myeloma. "We’re recognizing that the lessons we learned studying the relationship between the immune system and melanoma are applicable to other types of cancer," says Dr. Wolchok. "We’re now engaged in trials spanning 5 to 10 other cancers." Adds Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, PhD, the CEO and director of scientific affairs at the Cancer Research Institute in New York City, "The ultimate potential is that immunotherapy could have an impact on all types of cancer." New research and treatments have also been gaining ground against the notorious immune system foe HIV.

The principles of immunotherapy are not only being used to fight disease; they’re also being applied to preventing it. You’re probably familiar with one example—in 2006, the FDA approved Gardasil, the first of three vaccines that prevent infection with the types of HPV that can cause cervical and anal cancers. Scientists are working on vaccines for breast cancer and lymphoma.

In his final State of the Union address in January, President Barack Obama pledged to support Vice President Joe Biden’s "cancer moonshot," and vowed, "Let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all." While cancer has a wide variety of unique manifestations that may never have a single cure, the possibility of profound progress owes a large debt to the explosion of breakthroughs in the field of immunotherapy. 

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Facing the future

But while there’s plenty to be excited about, there are still significant downsides. The cost of an approved course of immunotherapy for a late-stage cancer patient can be astronomical; when my drug combo hit the market, it held a price tag of more than $250,000 a year. And though you won’t lose your hair like you might with chemo, immunotherapy is far from a guaranteed "get out of side effects free" card. My course of treatment went relatively smoothly, but the side effects for some—from fever to colitis—can be so severe that they’re unable to continue treatment.

The biggest reality check of all, however, is that the number of cancers immunotherapy has been proven effective for is still relatively small (though growing)—and it doesn’t work on every patient. The fact that more than half the patients on my drug combination, people with serious cancer and alarming odds, had their cancer shrink is incredible. But it’s not what you’d call a decisive victory in the war on cancer.

Last summer, 91-year-old former president and metastatic melanoma patient Jimmy Carter began a course of treatment that included Keytruda. By December, he was sharing the good news that a recent MRI "did not reveal any signs of the original cancer spots nor any new ones." (In March, he announced that he was able to stop treatment.) But two weeks before that, a friend of mine died. We’d both endured melanoma of the scalp and undergone surgery for it. We’d both had a recurrence that catapulted us into late-stage cancer. We had the same doctors. She had just started on the combo that saved my life. It did not save hers. She was 25.

Why did immunotherapy apparently work on Carter and not her? Why is it so effective on some of us and not others? Because cancer doesn’t play fair, and even the most promising treatments don’t work on everybody. T.J. Sharpe says that when he was initially diagnosed, "A doctor told me, ‘Don’t be surprised if you’re not here in two years.’ I know statistically he was right." Yet here he is. Here we are.

That’s the next great mystery. "What is it about the subsets of patients who respond that makes them different?" says Dr. Wolchok. "We are now at the beginning of the journey." Yet it’s one that has already come so far. One I can’t wait to spend my long, long life watching.

Every morning when I wake up, my eyes open to a print that leans against the wall opposite my bed. It reads, "When odds are one in a million, be that one." I have been. But how much more amazing it is, with every new breakthrough, to see myself becoming something else. Not so unique. Just another person who got cancer, and then got better. 

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What you need to know about melanoma

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, killing more than 10,000 people in the U.S. each year. And the disease is on the rise: The CDC reports that between 1982 and 2011, melanoma rates doubled. While at least part of the problem is environmental (blame decreasing ozone levels), the main risk for melanoma arises from individual predisposition and behavior.

In the hopes of reversing the trend, in 2015 the FDA proposed a nationwide ban on the use of tanning beds for individuals under the age of 18. In the meantime, follow the drill you've likely known ever since you were a kid: Wear sunscreen, ideally a broad-spectrum SPF 30. Reapply regularly. Stay out of the sun during peak midday hours. Wear a hat. You don't need to be obsessigve or avoid your regular activities, but you do need to make friends with common sense and consistency like your life depends on it. It does.

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