Shape your life news

Gabrielle Gayagoy

kick off the holidays!

Get ready for soiree season with a pre-party. Whether it’s a full-blown fete or a low-key event, a fabulous get-together with your friends offers everyone involved an empowering sense of community. Now that’s something to be grateful for!


Find the perfect present with this advice from President Sherri Athay.

* Send a message. Look for a gift that tells the recipient he or she is unique–and you know it. For the avid outdoor cyclist, that might be a brand-new pair of shades; for the fashionable foodie, a teakettle that matches her kitchen’s decor.

* Listen for hints. Most people give clues as to what they’d love to own–so make mental notes while shopping or talking with friends, family and co-workers. Likewise, listen for hints about what they don’t want. And be sure to note the colors and styles of their clothing and home decor.

* Shop by gender. According to a poll of more than 1,000 adults, men prefer money, as well as gifts that are playful or practical (audiovisual equipment, computer software, tools and sports equipment). Women like travel gifts, as well as presents that are beautiful, memorable and personal (flowers or plants, photographs, jewelry, clothing and fragrance). Still in doubt? Foolproof your present by including a gift receipt.

–Nancy Monson

trend report

* Action-Packed Presents

Thrill someone special with the latest trend in gift giving: exciting experiences. Online retailer Xperience Days offers something active and fun for everyone on your list–no wrapping required! For more information, click on–Amanda Kawalek

FITNESS AT YOUR FINGERTIPS No time for the gym? You can get fit in a flash with our online archive featuring at-home moves for your abs, butt and thighs. Log on to today!


It’s no joke: Researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., discovered that 15 minutes of laughter can burn as many as 50 calories.

While laughing is no substitute for time on the treadmill, the study shows how small actions can add up. Over the course of one year, a good laugh a day could burn “2-4 pounds of fat, even without changing your dietary habits,” says Mac Buchowski, Ph.D., a nutritionist and adjunct professor of bionutrition.

But why stop at 15 minutes? The following modern comedy classics each boast two hours of laughs and are ready to rent whenever you need a pick-me-up.

Check out these DVDs from the American Film Institute’s top 100 list of funniest movies. For more, go to

A Fish Called Wanda

(MGM/UA, 1988) A ragtag group of thieves double-cross each other in this tongue-in-cheek comedic caper set in England.

Mrs. Doubtfire

(20th Century Fox, 1993) A divorced dad disguises himself as an old British nanny in order to get more quality time with his kids.

There’s Something About Mary

(Fox Home Entertainment, 1998) Sidesplitting gags abound as a lifelong loser attempts to woo a beautiful woman.


(Sony Pictures, 1982) A struggling actor auditions in drag on a whim … and becomes a feminist in the process.

–Emily Lapkin

* Feeling Blue? The average person feels down about three days a month, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.–Maryann Hammers

Get Energized!


Learn what your dream job looks like so you can land it.

* Feeling frustrated at work, like you’re never going to get the promotion you want or the recognition you deserve?

Make a “visionary collage” to create a picture of your future–just the way you want it to be, recommends Diane M. Scholten, author of Be Your Own Life Coach (Penguin, 2004). See what your dream job looks like on paper with the following steps:

1 Gather supplies: a large piece of colorful poster board, photos, magazines, newspapers and glue.

2 Flip through the magazines, newspapers and photos. Cut out any words or images that jump out at you. Look for ones that address not only what you want to do (e.g., “account executive”), but who you want to be (“efficient,” “leader,” and “creative”).

3 Look for themes among your power words and pictures. Find a central idea (e.g., your ideal job description from the classifieds) to put smack in the middle of your collage.

4 Group the rest into categories. Your collage may naturally divide into sections based on how you interact with different people on the job: customers, colleagues and your boss.

5 Lay out your collage first without gluing anything. Reposition items until you’re satisfied and you feel that your collage reflects what you want for your future.

6 Glue all of your words and images down, and then hang your visionary collage in a private place where you will see it often for daily inspiration.

–Bethany Gumper


you may be dreading this year’s family gathering because you don’t want to deal with mom inquiring about your weight or your marital status.

“Since you can’t change your family, you have to change the way you react to them,” says Mariana Caplan, Ph.D., a family counselor in Berkeley, Calif. Here are five unwelcome comments–and how to answer them with diplomacy.

* When are you and John going to stop living in sin and get married?

* Thanks for asking, but John and I are content right now. We’ll let you know if anything changes.

* When is the stork going to pay you a visit?

* Don’t worry, we’ll give everyone plenty of notice before the stork arrives.

* Are you ever going to stop wasting time in school and get a real job like your brother?

* I’m learning a lot and enjoying my classes, but thanks for your concern.

* Why aren’t you having seconds of Aunt Edna’s double-chocolate cheesecake?

* Thanks for asking, but my first slice was delicious. I’ve worked really hard at the gym for the past month so I can stay in my size-10 jeans.

* It looks like you’ve gained some weight, dear.

* Yes, I have, but I’m working on losing it.

–Tajinder Rehal

Shape Wants to Know …

What’s the most important life lesson you’ve ever learned?

“You have to take chances. More than likely, the big decision you’re contemplating will work out for the best.”

“The only person that can bring about change and create happiness in your life is you.”

“You can start over every day. Knowing that each new day brings an opportunity is the best lesson.”


passport update

* Previously, Americans could travel to most neighboring nations using just a birth certificate or driver’s license. But to boost border security, the U.S. government will require a passport of anyone traveling to Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, Bermuda and Central and South America as of Dec. 31, 2007. For applications, see

–Elaine Glusac

ask the fit traveler

Q I’m planning to backpack across Europe next summer. Does Shape have any tips for meeting people while traveling?

A Backpacking is a great way to meet other globe trotters–and stay fit! International hostels (find reputable bases at provide easy interactions with fellow wayfarers. Bring a phrasebook, but you may not need to flip through it on backpacker routes, where English is the lingua franca.

–Lea Lane, author of Solo Traveler: Tales and Tips for Great Trips (Fodor’s Travel Publications, 2005)

Send your fit-travel questions to travelq&

reader postcard

Hualtulco, Mexico

We were in our bikinis the whole time there, so it really motivated us to work out before and during our trip.


Send your favorite fitness-vacation memories and snapshots to


Athletic shoes eat up lots of room in luggage. Now adidas has a space-saving solution for you: the ToGo shoe scrunches into the smallest cranny of your carry-on bag and expands from a women’s size 5 to 10. For use on low-impact cardio machines ($75;

–Sarah Bowen Shea

* 5 best URBAN TRAILS of 2005

The American Hiking Society recommends the following:

1 Red Trail, a 1.2-mile loop through John Boyd Thacher State Park near Albany, N.Y.

2 Barton Creek Greenbelt, a 7.9-mile byway in Austin, Texas

3 Rock Circuit Trail, a 3.7-mile loop 20 minutes north of Boston

4 Sand Creek Greenway, a nearly 14-mile passage between Aurora, Colo., and neighboring Commerce City

5 Burke Lake Loop Trail, a 4.7-mile loop 25 minutes southwest of Washington, D.C.

–Deborah Abrams Kaplan


COPYRIGHT 2005 Weider Publications

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group

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