When was the last time you gave your scalp a facial? Yes… you read right. I said when was the last time you gave your scalp a facial? Because, like our face, the scalp is also ‘skin’. And it needs just as much love and care. In fact, hair experts say a good scalp treatment is key to healthy, glossy, sleek strands. And it makes sense: like all other skin on our body, the scalp also needs to breathe. It needs oxygen, moisture and nutrients. And since our hair is rooted in the scalp, it is kind of important!
It seems our grandmothers understood this pretty well. I know mine did – she was regularly brewing up lotions and potions for the skin on top of her head and her hair looked super-gorgeous even at the age of 80. So, I am borrowing a page from her beauty diary – two luscious coconut oil scalp treatments that she would use at least once a month to make her hair thicker, longer and silkier. Both remove product build-up, loosen the hardened sebum (natural oil) that clogs hair follicles, bust dead skin cells and boost circulation.
Pick your scalp recipe
First, however, you need to choose your scalp treatment formula.
On the other hand, if you have an oily scalp, tons of product buildup or hair that just generally feels lacklustre, mix 6 tablespoons of extra virgin, organic coconut oil with 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and 2 tablespoon of grapefruit juice.
How to apply the scalp treatment
Done? Good. Now, apply the chosen mixture to your scalp with a hair dye brush or cotton ball. Make small partings through the hair and work in 1-inch sections to make sure the mixture is evenly distributed. Then give your scalp a good massage (mothers, kind friends or loving significant others are priceless here), rubbing with your fingertips in a circular motion for 5-10 minutes. Let the mixture sit for another 20 minutes before washing off with your regular shampoo. Finish with a good conditioner.
Why does it work?
Easy right? And totally worth it, as your hair will attest. These ingredients are great for rebalancing the scalp’s oil and hydration levels, ridding it of toxins, calming down the sensitive skin and stimulating the follicles for hair growth, among other things. Neglecting your scalp, on the other hand, can result in hair damage and premature hair loss.
1. Cut the calories
2. Eat nutritious food and ditch the processed junk
But what if you’ve done all that and still can’t budge as many pounds as you would like? Or, like me, you’re way too busy/lazy/unmotivated to stick to a diet and exercise plan? Or you have medical issues that don’t allow you to do as much as you would like? Or maybe (and let’s be honest, it happens to all of us at some point) you just want an easier way out?
For these, and a million other reasons, health and weight loss experts have a host of hidden tricks up their sleeve that are not so common knowledge. These are the hacks that are used every single day by those svelte models and celebs who can afford to spend the big bucks on weight loss advice. And they go a long way in melting that excessive bulge – without giving up on those Kettle Salt & Vinegar chips (my personal nemesis!). Try them out for size (pun intended)?
Stare at the screen
Those annoying Candy Crush requests? Turns out they may serve a greater purpose. Vegging out with Candy Crush or FarmVille has its benefits… and I don’t just mean the adrenaline rush of hitting the next level. According to Appetite, playing a fast paced video game distracts you from that sinful red velvet cake, thereby cutting down on calorie-packed cravings.
See, I told you this was a slacker’s guide to weight loss. And how much more painless could it be than to just sleep? Truth is most of us don’t get enough sleep, which raises cortisol, leptin and ghrelin levels, making you crave high calorie foods. Plus, poor sleep literally changes your fat cells, making it near-impossible to lose weight. Statistics from the American Health Association prove that the sleep-deprived average a 55% lesser reduction in fat loss compared to their well rested counterparts. More statistics: According to the University of Michigan, sleeping an extra hour every night could lead to a loss of 14 pounds in a year. And according to the American Journal of Epidemiology, those who slept seven hours every night gained 30% less weight on average than those who got five hours. That’s major.
But also don’t over-sleep as that will be counterproductive and make you pile on the pounds. Optimal duration? 7-9 hours everyday.
Black it out
Is your room dark enough at night? By that, I refer to all natural and artificial sources of light, including the glow from your cell phone, street lights and yes, even a super-moon. Which means you need to knock off that falling-asleep-while-reading-your-digital-gadget habit and maybe even get some blackout curtains if the light from outside is too bright. Because the light – especially blue light (think iPads and such) – disrupts your circadian rhythm, disturbing your sleep and making you eat more during the daytime.
Cut the clutter
Blame those visual cues again: Clutter makes you hog more. According to Environment and Behavior, people eating in messy spaces consumed twice as many snacks as those who ate in a clean space. Time to clean up?
Turn down the thermostat
Yay for people like me, who love chilly rooms! Seems cool temperatures don’t just make you feel good, they actually help you lose weight. Scientists say cold climes force your body to work harder, thereby boosting metabolism. So, think a cold after blast of a shower and a thermostat that’s set a few notches below your usual.
A good quality vanilla aroma cuts down on sweet cravings, says the St. George’s hospital in London. My favourite trick? To just dab a bit of vanilla extract on the wrists.
Make time for nature…
The American Diabetes Association holds that spending time amidst greenery leads to lower body weight. Even a short weekend escape or a morning stroll in the park looks good at this point, doesn’t it?
…but avoid pollution
This one’s easier said than done but the scientific fact is that pollution makes our metabolism sluggish, causing you to gain weight.
And get enough sun
Repeat after me: The. Sun. Is. Not. Our. Enemy. Yes, the sun is NOT our enemy. In fact, it’s the single most life sustaining element of our planet. The health risks associated with sun exposure come more from humans depleting the ozone layer and laying ourselves open to skin-damaging rays than the big orb in the sky itself. In the absence of adequate sunlight, the hypothalamus gland gets imbalanced, making you crave more carbs. And sunlight lowers Vitamin D levels, which makes you pack on the pounds (according to Boston University, Vitamin D3 helps burn fats for energy, rather than storing them around your waist). So grab some protection and head out into the sunlight – we need to let our bodies bask in the sun for at least 20 minutes every day.
Step up the protein
Egg whites, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese… eating about 30 grams of protein at breakfast makes you feel fuller for longer and cuts down on unhealthy snacking between meals. It’s a also a power-fuelled way to start the day!
In fact, pack on more proteins in general. Protein boosts your metabolism and keeps you feeling fuller for longer. Plus, your body actually burns a lot more calories while digesting protein-rich foods than it does with other nutrients.
Get more fiber
And then there is fiber… the cornerstone of every great weight loss story. Fiber both fills you up and keeps you regular, helping flush out fats and toxins from the body. Without enough fiber, most of us would be just a bloated mess!
Skip the antibiotics
No, we can’t avoid antibiotics all the time. But some of us end up taking them a bit more often than is necessary. Antibiotics basically kill off the good bacteria in our gut, which helps boost digestion and makes us lose weight. When you do have to take an antibiotic – or any other strong medicine for that matter – make sure to supplement your gut with loads of probiotic supplements and fermented foods such as kimchi and kefir.
Bring out the probiotics
The good bacteria in our gut are super-essential to weight loss. However, our over-polluted, over-stressed environments, coupled with some not-so-healthy foods, means our body finds it increasingly difficult to maintain the micro biomes. Enter probiotic supplements, which are an easy way to maintain the gut balance. And according to the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, people who pop a daily probiotic supplement for more than 8 weeks, have lower BMIs and weight than those who don’t. Time to work in a new habit, then!
Pop a multivitamin
A simple multivitamin pill may make you lose weight systematically. That’s because our body craves all kinds of food when it’s undernourished – sometimes, food that seems to have no connect to any kind of nutrient at all. Like chocolate when you are short on magnesium, or calcium when you are jonesing for a soft drink. Seriously.
Ditch the diet soda
All those zero-calorie promises make it oh so easy to fall into the diet-soda-for-weight-loss trap. But what nobody tells you is that the artificial sweeteners and other chemicals totally mess up your hormones and enzymes, leading to weight gain. How much difference does it make? According to the University of Texas, Austin, people who drank diet soda had a 70% greater increase in waist circumferences than those who abstained. Convinced yet?
Instead… load up on water
Often, what we think of as hunger is only the body’s way of signalling dehydration. So reach out for a glass of water first and see if that helps the pangs subside. Plus, drinking more water can help you feel full and eat less food. And water is crucial for every body function, right from metabolising fat and regulating temperature to facilitating important bio-chemical reactions, aiding digestion, hydrating the skin and helping the body flush out waste and toxins. So, the simplest way to lose weight? DRINK MORE WATER!
Added bonus: Drink it on ice. According to the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, drinking six cups of chilled water can raise your resting metabolism by 12%.
… and green tea
Is there any truth to the claim that green tea helps you lose weight? Yes. Several actually: Green tea has been shown to inhibit lipolysis, the process by which dietary fats (triglycerides) are broken down in the body. Inhibition of the breakdown of triglycerides prevents absorption of the fat, thereby ensuring you don’t gain much weight. Besides this, the catechins in green tea inhibit an important enzyme – catechol-O-methyl transferase (COMT) – that speeds up the metabolism, thereby stepping up the calorie burn.
Then there is red wine
According to the University of Alberta, Canada, the weight reducing benefits of red wine are similar to that of exercise (this one’s my favourite study!). How? Among other things, red wine is loaded with resveratrol – an antioxidant that helps convert ‘white fat’ into ‘beige fat’. Beige fat makes you lose weight by actively burning calories. Red wine also creates thermogenesis, which raises body temperature by burning more calories. And the tipple significantly increases levels of the appetite-regulating hormone leptin, while saturating the body with piceatannol, which actually blocks the growth of fat cells. Cheers!
… and tomato juice
Still looking for more options? According to Institute of Biostatistics, China Medical University, tomato juice is another great beverage that helps lose weight, while also regulating cholesterol. Hola, Bloody Mary!
Make your glass tall and thin
Of course, we get that you can’t always be limited to water, green tea, red wine or tomato juice. There’s, for instance, Champagne. But there’s still a slacker’s way out of sinful sipping: Simply swap those short, wide tumblers for a tall, skinny glass and you’ll automatically end up drinking up to 30% less liquid calories due to the simple psychology of visual cues.
Change your dishes
Eating out of a smaller plate or bowl creates an illusion of a larger portion and we end up serving ourselves less food. Perfect way to painlessly shave off 200-300 calories every day, all of which adds up to a pretty big deal!
Create a contrast
In a phenomenon called the Delboeuf illusion, when the colour of your plate blends with the surface beneath it (think red plate on red table cloth, or a brown plate on a bare wooden table), you will end up serving yourself 10% more food. Strange but true, according to research by Cornell University.
But don’t match your dishes to your dinner
Another finding by Cornell University: When the main colours of your food match the colour of your plate (red spaghetti on red plates!) you will end up serving yourself 30% more food. Better, instead, to serve up contrasting tones, so you can clearly visualise your portion size.
Have an early lunch
Talking of lunch, having it early is another way to effortlessly lose weight without even trying. According to Obesity, women who ate their lunch before 3 pm dropped 25% more weight than those who had it later, even though both groups ate the same things!
Surround yourself with good food
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Surround yourself with chips, cakes and chocolates and that’s what you will reach out for when the hunger/cravings hit. On the other hand, if your pantry is stocked with healthy options, like carrots and cucumbers, it’s going to be so much easier to make a better choice for your waistline. So, keep the good stuff in plain sight and make the junk food difficult to access.
An apple a day…
Best option to carry out the above? Apples. Plain and simple apples. Because they come loaded with fiber and nutrients to help you lose weight. Not too fond of apples? Basically anything raw – fruit or vegetables – make for a good snack as they are full of fibre, nutrients and hydration. Plus, no cooking = no cleaning = no effort. Triple bonus!
… and some berries
Then there are those juicy little berries… according to the British Journal of Nutrition, three cups of berries in a week – fresh or frozen – can help you drop up to four pounds in a month. That’s because berries contain polyphenols that help burn off excessive blood sugar. Not. Kidding.
Ditch the white stuff
As a top notch nutritionist once told me: Avoid anything “white”. Instead, get your bread, pasta, pizza, waffles, cookies and just about everything else in a whole grain version, like buckwheat, oats, barley and brown rice. You will cut down on calories, cholesterol and bloating without even noticing a marked difference in taste.
Lentils, beans, peas, chickpeas… according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, having just 3/4 cup of these can help you drop half a pound. Without any other change in your diet or exercise. Reason? Beans and lentils are chock full of fiber and protein, two of the top ingredients needed for sustained weight loss.
Spice it up
The spice lover in me simply loves this one: chili-pepper-laced foods help you feel satiated with smaller portions and thereby cuts down the calories. My favourite is a sprinkling of cayenne pepper over salads, grills, roasts and just about everything else.
Cut out the additives
Artificial flavouring, chemical sweeteners, preservatives, plastic packaging, trans fats… all these have been linked to weight gain and a host of other health problems to boot. So swap that ultra-processed, pre-packaged food for fresh, farm-to-table type of sustenance and the pounds will start dropping away almost automatically.
Up the flavour quotient
Chewing a strongly-flavoured sugarless gum, having a cup of strong black coffee or even rinsing your mouth with Listerine is a good way to defeat food cravings. The strong flavours will overpower your taste buds, making those chocolates and crisps just feel blah, saving you from a gazillion calories!
Get busy in the bedroom
Sounds too good to be true but sex does make you thinner. It burns 200-300 calories in an hour, says my personal trainer. Yoga will torch approximately 230 calories in that time, dancing will do 260 and walking 310. Do the maths. And it’s not just the cardio quotient: Nookie releases testosterone, which goes a long way in building and maintaining bone and lean muscle tissue. Thin and toned? Bring it on!
Easier said than done but stress increases levels of cortisol, which piles on the belly fat. If you live or work in high stress environments, as many of us unfortunately do, try to meditate, do yoga or find some other activity that relaxes you on a regular level.
Going through the day with puffy, itchy, irritated eyes is a pain… in every sense of the term. Besides being super-uncomfortable, puffy eyes are also something you don’t want to show to the world. Thankfully, natural remedies abound. And many of these healers can be readily found in the kitchen at home.
However, remember that all puffy eyes are not created equal. Causes run the gamut from a late night to allergies, hormones, weather or fluid retention due to excessive salt or alcohol. And the remedy needs to follow the underlying reason. So, first try and ID your problem, then choose the cure from these easy home treatments.
The I-need-sleep puffy eyes
Sleepless night? Cold water is the best bet. And it’s so simple that even your sleep-addled brain can manage: just rinse your face with several splashes of cold water. Or take a small bag filled with ice, wrap it in a washcloth and place it on your eyes. The chilled texture will help constrict blood vessels and lessen swelling. Repeat as necessary throughout the day until puffiness is gone.
PS: In a pinch, wrap a bag of frozen vegetables in a thin towel and place it over your eyes for 10 minutes. It will work just as well as the ice!
The outdoors puffy eyes
Witch hazel has tannic and gallic acids that are brilliant at reducing inflammation. Rosewater, on the other hand, is a cooling and aromatic astringent that contains both antiseptic and antibacterial properties. And using them is simple: soak cotton or wool pads in these astringents and leave pads on the eyes for 15-20 minutes.
The hangover or post-crying-binge puffy eyes
They’re a cliché for a reason: cucumber’s soothing qualities, astringent properties and high water content help put you on the fast track to brighter peepers. Lean your head back, rest a slice on each closed eye, and relax for 5-10 minutes to reap the de-puffing benefits.
The allergy-ridden puffy eyes
If your eyes are puffy and itchy due to an allergic reaction, cold spoons will constrict the irritated blood vessels, while also reducing redness and swelling. Simply place 2 teaspoons in the refrigerator. When they are nice and chilled, lie down, close your eyes, and place one spoon (curved side down) on each eye. As the spoon warms, replace it with a cold one from the fridge.
Another option: the common potato. This has been a staple in European folk medicine for soothing allergy or illness-riddled peepers. The logic? Potatoes have astringent qualities. Plus, the high level of starch can have an anti-inflammatory effect. Peel a potato, then wash and dry it thoroughly. Grate it as fine as possible, place the pulp in a clean cloth and fold to make a poultice. Place the poultice on your eyelids for 15 minutes.
The I-overdosed-on-salt puffy eyes
A heaping portion of fries, Parma ham pizza and other salt-intense foods can cause puffy eyes. However, salt by itself does the eyes good. Mix 1/2 teaspoon salt in a glass of warm water; make sure the water is not too hot. Soak cotton balls or facial pads in this solution, lie down and apply them on your eyelids for a few minutes. Rest in this position for at least 10 minutes while keeping the pads in place. You’ll arise with deflated eyes.
The fluid-retention puffy eyes
Aloe vera’s antioxidant and vitamin E content make it excellent for improving blood circulation and flushing out excessive fluids from around the eye area. Simply apply aloe vera juice or gel under your eyes, making sure that it does not touch the inside of your peepers. Leave it on for the day.
The I-am-dehydrated puffy eyes
Water is again the saving grace here. But this time, you need to pour it down your throat. That’s because when body is dehydrated, it acts much like a camel, storing water for the long haul across the desert. Instead of a camel’s hump, you’ll develop water reserves around the eyes. By keeping yourself adequately hydrated, the body isn’t put into survival mode and won’t puff up in all the wrong places.
If, like me, your eyes puff up at that time of the month, look for nettle tea. It contains anti-irritants that soothe redness and inflammation. First, drink the tea. Then, lie down, close your eyes, and place a tea bag over each eye. Let cool until the bags are comfortably warm to the touch.
The ageing puffy eyes
The eye tissue becomes weaker with passing years, thereby leading to puffiness in this already-fragile area. The alpha-hydroxy-acids present in strawberries can make skin smoother and tighter. At the same time, they can also reduce under-eye puffiness and swelling. Keep a couple of strawberries in the refrigerator for half an hour. Then remove their tops and slice them into thick pieces. Now lie down and place the slices under the eyes for several minutes.
Do you often find yourself dealing with puffy eyes? How do you tackle them?
Next time you boil rice, think twice before tossing the water. Rice water is rich in beauty minerals and vitamins that make it fantastic for both skin and hair – a secret those flawless-skinned Japanese geishas have known for centuries. And it’s super-easy to make: simply boil some rice (preferably organic rice and boiled in distilled water), then pour the excess water in a lidded glass jar and store in the refrigerator. Once cooled, it will be a potent ingredient for crystal clear skin and super-shiny hair.
Wash your face, then soak a cotton pad in the rice water and apply it all over, as you would do with a toner. Rice is rich in a complex of B vitamins called ‘inositol’ that helps promote cell growth, slows down the aging process and stimulates blood flow – the perfect recipe to tighten pores and bring a glow to the face. Besides this, rice water also has moisturising, antioxidant and UV-absorbing properties, along with an ability to bind to naturally occurring copper in the skin, thereby preventing the formation of melanin formation (hyper-pigmentation) and age spots.
After shampooing, work in some rice water into your hair. Leave it on for a few minutes, then rinse well. Rice proteins strengthen the hair shaft and fill in the cracks. The result? Ultra-smooth, seriously shiny hair.
The soothing nature of rice water makes it an effective remedy for rashes and other irritating or painful skin conditions. In a dermatological study at Brussels University, patients with atopic dermatitis (chronic inflammation of the skin) saw a 20% improvement after taking 15-minute baths filled with rice water twice a day.
Recipe for health
Drinking rice water is also extremely beneficial for overall health. It contains 8 essential amino acids, which form the building blocks for tissue and muscle regeneration. Rice water also provides energy due to high concentration of carbohydrates.
What do you do with your rice water? Will you be seeing it differently after reading this?