My New Year's Beauty Resolutions are Actually More About Health

But in a plump, glowy-skin way (no treadmills or crash diets here!).
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Michelle Villett
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But in a plump, glowy-skin way (no treadmills or crash diets here!).
Woman-exercising

I might be a complete nerd about beauty—if your definition of "nerd" involves being able to cite mascara launches from 2005, or to understand the difference between primers versus mattifiers versus serums.

But secretly, I am even more of a geek about health. And maybe not in the way you might think.

You see, I'm of the school of thought that beauty is just the trimmings on top of an already-healthy main course... er, body. It's why I'm not that much of a product junkie (okay, maybe a tiny bit). While I'm obviously in support of enhancing what Mother Nature doled out, many of the things we use prodz to achieve—shinier hair, clearer skin, rosier cheeks, brighter eyes—are things that just come naturally when you're in good health.

And my definition of good health is perhaps not that mainstream. (Hint: my resolutions do NOT involve waking up at 6am to do do tons of cardio in the gym or going on a restrictive low-fat diet.)

So on that note, let me tell you more about them. Here's what's in my game plan for a healthier AND prettier 2011:

1. Say no to sugar and partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils.

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These are the REAL bad boys in our diets (along with unfermented soy, which I haven't touched in years now—PLEASE ditch it if it's still in your diet). Although I already make a concerted effort to avoid them, I sometimes fall off the wagon.

Sugar in any form—glucose, fructose, sucrose, dextrose, newfangled versions like agave or just the old-fashioned white stuff—has zero nutritional value (and artificial kinds are even worse for you). Every time you eat some, it makes your blood sugar spike, and then crash—which makes you feel and LOOK tired.

And I'm really not kidding about the looks part. In the past few years, beauty scientists discovered that sugar actually CAUSES aging (and I suspect breakouts too), and although they've come up with a whole new product category to combat this (they're called "anti-glycation" prodz), your best bet is to just avoid the stuff in the first place. Try sweetening with molasses, maple syrup, honey or stevia instead.

As for the partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils—a.k.a. trans fats—they are pure EVIL.

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Hydrogenation is the high-temperature process by which oils that are normally liquid at room temperature are turned into solids. You'll find these oils in margarine, shortening and a crazy amount of packaged foods, eg. cookies, crackers, chips, etc. (Oh and a lot of fast-food places fry their French fries in them too.) The problem is that they're completely toxic to the body: they're correlated with cancer, diabetes, obesity, immune system dysfunction and loads of other scary stuff.

And here's the beauty angle: because the high-temperature processing creates free radicals, by consuming them, you're actually aging your own skin and body. I've also noticed another consequence: breakouts! So avoid, avoid, avoid.

2. Say yes to coconut oil... and butter... and (even more) fermented cod liver oil.

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I'm jumping back on board with the book Eat Fat, Lose Fat this month. The premise is that you can actually lose weight and/or maintain a healthy weight by eating a diet that's high in healthy saturated fats—which, duh, not only taste great, but are also essential to our bodies for the fat-soluble vitamins they contain.

(And seriously? The idea that fat makes you fat is a big (fat) myth. Here's another book to read if you don't believe me.)

The Eat Fat, Lose Fat book is big on coconut oil, cod liver oil, butter and meat (yep, the red kind)... and to me, these are the real health foods, and by extension, BEAUTY foods. I mean, you already know how I feel about cod liver oil—it's basically the Holy Grail of Skincare.

Anyway! It's kind of mind-blowing that you can lose weight this way instead of semi-starving yourself on a bland and restrictive low-fat diet. So you'll be killing two birds with one stone: great skin AND a great ass. (And here I thought we had to choose...)

3. Speaking of getting a great ass... trade cardio for weight-lifting.

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If you're anything like me, you've probably logged far more hours on the treadmill than in the weight room.

Apparently this is wrong.

I recently tore through The Female Body Breakthrough by fitness pro Rachel Cosgrove, and I'm TOTALLY buying what she's selling. Which is that the secret to losing fat isn't cardio but strength training. Sheesh! I've had it backwards all these years. (Another fitness dude who advocates this is Craig Ballantyne, who has some excellent vids on YouTube.)

This article has some deets (and studies!) that back up the no-cardio philosophy. (Note: it's only no-cardio at first. Apparently you have to first *get into good enough shape* for your body to be able to handle cardio. Wow!) The book comes complete with a 16-week program and detailed explanations/photos of all the exercises.

And here's where health segues a bit more into beauty... I also plan to:

4. Get more sleep. Take more baths. Do more masks.

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In general, just RELAX more. I interviewed Pure + Simple's Kristen Ma last year (who you may remember from the Babe in the Biz series) and one of the things she told me really stood out. It was that many people who come in to her spa for facials end up looking a zillion times better when they're done, and it's not necessarily because of any product applied (although they are all fab, trust me).

It's because they've simply given their over-worked, over-tired, stressed-out bodies the chance to calm down and peace out. So important and yet how many of us EVER treat ourselves to a hot bath, a yummy face mask or a luxurious 10 hours of sleep? Kristen is really big on self-care and I vow to do more of it myself this year.

5. Choose more natural beauty products.

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It's not that I don't love all the prodz out there like they are my children. But after my Oil Cleansing Method disaster, I've just become a bit more wary of what I'm putting on my apparently VERY sensitive skin. (To say that I'm terrified of having another skin freak out like that would be an understatement.) So: I'll be looking to use purer products with fewer chemicals when it comes to makeup, skin and hair care.

6. Stop being so darn lazy!

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Confession time: I may write about beauty, but I can be really lazy about it when it comes to my own habits. (No, I still shower every day, thankyouverymuch.) What I mean is: too often I just let my hair dry naturally without bothering to do anything with it... I let my hair accessories gather dust instead of trying them out... I tend to rely far too much on just mascara and lip balm... well, you get the idea.

I hereby vow to make more of an effort—not because I want to impress anybody else with my beauty skillz (okay, maybe you guys)... but because it makes you FEEL good when you look good. (And this will start tomorrow, because I'm realizing as I write this that I'm wearing not a stitch of makeup. Oops!)

7. Cultivate inner beauty.

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Not to get all Pollyanna on you (that's Janine's usual M.O. anyway), but there is no point to any of this beauty stuff if you're not also working on being a more beautiful person on the INSIDE. Charm. Grace. Kindness. Generosity. Good manners. Yes? So even though I prefer to surround myself with bitchy people (they're just so much more INTERESTING, non?), I'm really going to try for 2011 to keep my snarky side in check. Within reason, of course—because a beauty faux pas is still a beauty faux pas.

Annnd that's it! Remember to check with your doc (since I am not one) before you follow my lead on any of the health stuff, and then tell me—

What are YOUR New Year's resolutions?
Are they more health- or beauty-related, or a mix of both?
Isn't "eat more butter" a fabulous resolution? I think we should all adopt it.