Do you have a fat cat?

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Overweight cats are at risk for diabetes, arthritis and a shorter lifespan. So here’s how to help your cat slim down:

First: Count their kibble. Just 10 extra pieces a day will add a pound to your cat in a year, which is like a woman gaining 15 pounds. So use a measuring cup.

Better yet, try canned food. Compared to kibble, it has fewer carbs, more protein and added moisture. And it’s a fixed serving.

One last cat-dieting tip: Don’t give treats out of guilt. Like, when you get home after being gone all day. Instead, play together for 15 minutes. You’ll both get a calorie-free mood boost AND exercise.

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It’s time to unplug more!

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We know it’s rude to be on our phones in the company of others. But it’s also important to occasionally unplug when you’re by yourself. Because it can improve your wellbeing. Psychotherapist Nancy Collier says, the next time you’re alone, like standing in line, or in a waiting room, don’t take out your phone to check email or scroll through Instagram. Because being open to your own thoughts gives you strength, confidence, and wisdom. Plus, Dr. Collier says no one will approach you if your face is buried in your phone. And small talk with strangers can improve our wellbeing for hours afterward. So be comfortable in your own company once in a while – and see if you don’t feel better for it.

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Do you drool when you sleep?

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When you’re asleep, it’s NOT normal to drool – that’s when you salivate, but don’t swallow. Because even at night, we swallow about 3 times an hour. So why do we wake up in a pool of drool? One reason: We sleep on our side, so saliva doesn’t collect in our mouth and trigger our swallowing reflex. Also, people with sleep apnea drool because their swallow-reflex is damaged. We also drool when we smell delicious food, even if we’re sleeping or the aromas are in our DREAMS. So, you drool at night because you’re a side sleeper, you have sleep apnea, or someone’s baking cookies at 2AM, at least in your dreams.

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Here’s another way to exercise your brain:

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Listen to a story! Whether it’s a podcast, audiobook, or someone actually telling a tale. Researchers at UC Berkeley say that’s because listening to, following and understanding a story gives your brain quite a workout, by activating areas linked to spatial reasoning, social interaction, emotional responses, and visual imagery. So if you want a neural workout, just say to someone “Tell me a story…”

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There’s an upside to thumb sucking:

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Sure, it can make your kid’s teeth crooked. But they’d probably need braces anyway. In the meantime, it’ll boost their immunity and cut their chances of developing allergies! A study of over a‑thousand kids in the journal Pediatrics found those who sucked their thumbs for years were less likely to develop allergies as they grew. Because kids’ fingers are gross germ factories! But by ingesting germs in small amounts over time, they built a tolerance to things like pollen, pet dander, and dust. And if kids are thumb-suckers AND nail-biters, they get an even bigger immunity boost!

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Here’s a surprising stress reliever:

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Look at something containing “fractals,” or repeating patterns… Like how a flower’s petals are all the same shape, getting bigger as they go from the center to the outer edge. There are also repeating patterns in leaves, seashells and ocean waves. Researchers found repeating patterns calming, so looking at a natural fractal for a few minutes can reduce stress by up to 60%! No natural fractals around? Try the app FRACT.AL or go to FractalFoundation.org.

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Does tooth-whitening gum really work?

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Well, don’t expect it to clear away 20-years’ worth of yellow from cigarettes, but it can scrub away daily coffee and wine stains. That’s from the UCLA School of Dentistry. A lot of whitening gums contain baking soda, which polishes teeth. But really, ANY gum can help erase superficial stains. Because it’s really your saliva doing most of the work. Chewing gum increases the output of saliva – and saliva is antimicrobial – so it kills bacteria and washes away debris that can stain teeth.

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Don’t get sick this year!

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When everyone around you is coughing and sneezing, try this trick to avoid getting sick, too: Set aside one evening a week for family movie night – and stick with it!

Researchers at the State University of New York found that regular R&R cuts our risk of illness by more than a third. Because kicking back and relaxing allows our frazzled nervous system to cut production of stress hormones, which weaken our immunity. Plus, when we’re relaxed, our body boosts production of germ-fighting antibodies, which is the first line of defense against illness-causing invaders.

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Do you know someone who loves to make lists…

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…maybe it’s you? Well, here’s the reason why it makes us feel so awesome: According to psychologists from the University of Pennsylvania, it helps us adjust and cope when we’re faced with challenges. Whether that challenge is a crazy-busy day, getting the whole family ready for the holidays, or just trying to remember all the chores you have to do. Because modern life throws at us more information than our short-term memory can hold. Writing lists helps free up space so we can focus on what’s important, knowing we can come back to the list to refresh our memory. But there’s another reason why we love making lists: We love crossing things OFF our lists. It actually gives us a little brain thrill – or as psychologists call it, a “reward response.” And that little feel-good jolt propels us to keep going, so we can cross more things off the list.

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Running a marathon? Do this!

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Runners, if you have a 5K coming up – keep this in mind, from the International Journal of Sports and Nutrition: Drink 2 cups of coffee about 45 minutes before your run. It’ll increase your speed by 3%. That may not seem like much – but if you run a 5K in about 30 minutes, you’ll shave almost a minute off your time. What’s the magic in coffee that makes the difference?

The combination of caffeine and antioxidants improves blood flow, reduces feelings of pain, and improves diaphragm strength – so you can breathe easier during exertion. So drink 2 cups of coffee about 45 minutes before your run.

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