TIME Infectious Disease

Egypt Sees Second Bird Flu Death in Two Days

A poultry merchant feeds a pigeon from her mouth in a popular market in Cairo, Egypt, Nov. 19 2014.
A poultry merchant feeds a pigeon from her mouth in a popular market in Cairo, Egypt, Nov. 19 2014. Khaled Elfiqi—EPA

30-year-old woman had contact with infected birds

Egypt’s health ministry said Tuesday that a woman died from H5N1 bird flu after coming into contact with infected birds, one day after another case proved fatal.

The 30-year-0ld woman was reported in a state newspaper to have died in a hospital in the southern city of Assiut, according to Reuters, just a day after a 19-year-old woman had died in the same city.

Seven cases of the virus, including three deaths, have been identified in Egypt this year. H5N1 doesn’t appear to transmit efficiently between human beings, the World Health Organization says, and Egypt’s cases have largely revolved around rural areas where villages slaughter or keep poultry.

[Reuters]

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

You Asked: Does Laughing Have Real Health Benefits?

Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

Your body could use a belly laugh

It may not be the best medicine. But laughter’s great for you, and it may even compare to a proper diet and exercise when it comes to keeping you healthy and disease free.

That’s according to Dr. Lee Berk, an associate professor at Loma Linda University in California who has spent nearly three decades studying the ways the aftershocks of a good laugh ripple through your brain and body.

Berk says your mind, hormone system and immune system are constantly communicating with one another in ways that impact everything from your mood to your ability to fend off sickness and disease. Take grief: “Grief induces stress hormones, which suppress your immune function, which can lead to sickness,” he says. Hardly a week goes by without new research tying stress to another major ailment.

Why mention stress? “Because laughter appears to cause all the reciprocal, or opposite, effects of stress,” Berk explains. He says laughter shuts down the release of stress hormones like cortisol. It also triggers the production of feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine, which have all kinds of calming, anti-anxiety benefits. Think of laughter as the yin to stress’s yang.

Thanks largely to these stress-quashing powers, laughter has been linked to health benefits ranging from lower levels of inflammation to improved blood flow, Berk says. Some research from Western Kentucky University has also tied a good chuckle to greater numbers and activity of “killer cells,” which your immune system deploys to attack disease. “Many of these same things also happen when you sleep right, eat right, and exercise,” Berk says, which is why he lumps laughter in with more traditional healthy lifestyle activities.

Berk has even shown that laughter causes a change in the way your brain’s many neurons communicate with one another. Specifically, laughter seems to induce “gamma” frequencies—the type of brain waves observed among experienced meditators. These gamma waves improve the “synchronization” of your neuronal activity, which bolsters recall and memory, Berk says.

How does laughter accomplish all this? That’s where things get murky, says Dr. Robert Provine, a neuroscientist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and author of Curious Behavior: Yawning, Laughing, Hiccupping, and Beyond.

Provine calls himself a “reserved optimist” when it comes to laughter’s health-bolstering properties. “One of the challenges of studying laughter is that there are so many things that trigger it,” Provine explains. For example, you’re 30 times more likely to laugh around other people than when you are by yourself, he says. Social relationships and companionship have been tied to numerous health benefits. And so the social component of laughter may play a big part in its healthful attributes, Provine adds.

Here’s why that matters: If you’re going to tell people they should laugh to improve their health, there may be a big difference between guffawing on your own without provocation, watching a funny YouTube clip or meeting up with friends who make you laugh, Provine says.

“That doesn’t mean the benefits aren’t real,” he adds. “But it may not be accurate to credit laughter alone with all these superpowers.”

But even for researchers like Provine who aren’t ready—at least not yet—to coronate laughter as a panacea, he doesn’t dispute the benefits associated with a hearty har har. He only questions science’s current understanding of the underlying mechanisms.

“When we laugh, we’re in a happy place,” he says. “That’s always a good thing.”

Read next: Is It Good Or Bad To Take A Nap?

TIME ebola

Cuba Says Doctor Catches Ebola in Sierra Leone

Cuban doctors and health workers unload boxes of medicines and medical material from a plane upon their arrival at Freetown's airport to help the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone, on Oct. 2, 2014.
Cuban doctors and health workers unload boxes of medicines and medical material from a plane upon their arrival at Freetown's airport to help the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone, on Oct. 2, 2014. Florian Plaucheur—AFP/Getty Images

(HAVANA) — A member of the 165-member medical team Cuba sent to fight Ebola in Sierra Leone has been diagnosed with the disease, according to state media.

Dr. Felix Baez Sarria is being treated by British doctors in Africa but he will be transferred to a special unit in Geneva at the recommendation of the World Health Organization, Cuban state media said, citing the island’s Ministry of Public Health.

Cuba won global praise for sending at least 256 medical workers to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to help treat Ebola patients. State officials have emphasized the medics’ high state of readiness for the mission, saying the doctors, nurses and support staff received weeks of instruction in protective measures and equipment.

Once in Africa, the Cubans got two to three weeks of additional training before heading into the field. They were to be quarantined in Africa for weeks at the end of their six-month mission before returning to Cuba.

State media said that Baez, an internal medicine specialist, came down with a fever of more than 100 degrees on Sunday and was diagnosed with Ebola the following day.

Cuban officials did not say how he caught the disease or immediately release any other information about the case, the first reported among the health workers the island sent to Africa.

Early symptoms of Ebola include fever, headache, body aches, cough, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea, and patients aren’t contagious until those begin. The virus requires close contact with body fluids to spread so health care workers and family members caring for loved ones are most at risk.

Ebola has killed more than 5,000 people in the west African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Cuba is one of the largest global contributors of medical workers to the fight against Ebola, a commitment that has drawn rare praise from the U.S. and focused worldwide attention on the island’s unique program of medical diplomacy, which deploys armies of doctors to win friends abroad and earn billions a year in desperately needed foreign exchange.

Cuba has more than 50,000 medical workers in more than 60 countries, many in nations like Brazil that pay hundreds of millions a year for their services. Others are on humanitarian missions that generate good will abroad.

Despite a recent set of pay raises, most Cuban doctors’ salaries don’t top $75 a month, less than many workers in tourism or other sectors that bring in money from abroad. The foreign missions almost uniformly offer the chance to earn extra pay, in many cases enough to buy a bigger home or new car.

Critics of Cuba’s communist government have accused it in the past of exploiting the doctors by giving them only a small portion of the money paid for their services and keeping the rest.

TIME ebola

Gates Foundation Gives $5.7 Million to Help Develop Ebola Cure

Physician demonstrates testing of blood sample at quarantine station for patients with infectious diseases in Berlin
Doctor for tropical medicine Florian Steiner demonstrates the testing of a blood sample at the quarantine station for patients with infectious diseases at the Charite hospital in Berlin Aug. 11, 2014 Thomas Peter—Reuters

Potential donors will undergo tests to ensure their blood is completely free of Ebola and other diseases

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged $5.7 million towards the fight against Ebola, specifically focused on finding a cure for the disease through plasma collected from the blood of survivors.

In a statement on Tuesday, the foundation said it will work with a host of private sector organizations focused on producing and researching a potential remedy with guidance from the World Health Organization.

Dr. Papa Salif Sow, a senior program officer and infectious diseases expert with the foundation’s Global Health Program, said the funding was for research and development efforts on potential cures that could be quickly delivered if proven effective.

“We are committed to working with Ebola-affected countries to rapidly identify and scale up potential lifesaving treatments for Ebola,” he said.

Potential donors will undergo tests to ensure their blood is completely free of Ebola and other diseases before their plasma — the liquid portion of the blood that contains antibodies — is separated out to study and develop.

TIME ebola

Woman’s Remains in New York Test Negative for Ebola

Nurses from the New York State Nurses Association protest for improved Ebola safeguards, part of a national day of action, in New York
Nurses from the New York State Nurses Association protest for improved Ebola safeguards, part of a national day of action, in New York City November 12, 2014. © Mike Segar—Reuters

She had arrived from Guinea about three weeks earlier

The remains of a woman in New York who died while under observation for potential Ebola exposure have tested negative for the virus, health officials said Wednesday.

The woman arrived from Guinea, one of the three nations hit hardest in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, nearly three weeks ago and was being monitored out of “an abundance of caution” because her trip fell within the virus’ 21-day incubation period, the New York Times reports. She had shown no symptoms for the disease.

She was one of some 300 people being monitored by New York City as a potential case. The city’s sole diagnosed case to date, Dr. Craig Spencer, was successfully treated and released.

[NYT]

TIME Diet/Nutrition

How Trans Fat Eats Away at Your Memory

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Eating lots of trans fats has been linked to memory impairment

What’s the opposite of brain food?

Trans fat, finds a new study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2014. Eating a lot of the compound that magically rejuvenates junk food that should have expired long ago is linked to higher rates of memory impairment.

After analysis of food questionnaires and memory tests from about 1,000 adult men, trans fat intake was linked to worse memory in people under age 45, even after controlling for mind-influencing factors like age, depression and education. Every gram of trans fat eaten per day was linked to 0.76 fewer words recalled. Put another way? Those who ate the most trans fat remembered 11 fewer words.

MORE: 7 Foods That Wouldn’t Be The Same If Trans Fats Are Banned

That relationship eased when researchers adjusted for BMI and blood pressure, and a study like this can’t prove cause and effect. But the study author believes trans fat may be contributing to oxidative stress, a cell-damaging process. Trans fat appears to be a pro-oxidant: the opposite of an antioxidant. And indeed, prior research from the study’s lead author, Beatrice A. Golomb, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at the University of California-San Diego, found that antioxidant-rich chocolate is linked to better word recall.

We’re not eating as much trans fat as we used to: a recent study found that between 1980-2009, we cut down on trans fats about 35% thanks to regulations and reformulations. Still, trans fat is the bane of every health nut’s label-reading experience—it travels under sneaky ingredient adjectives like “partially hydrogenated” and can even creep into foods labeled “0 grams of trans fat.”

But as hard as it is to figure out whether or not your snack contains trans fat, what the compound does to your brain is even more cognitively complex. “From a health standpoint, trans fat consumption has been linked to higher body weight, more aggression and heart disease,” Golomb said in a press release. “As I tell patients, while trans fats increase the shelf life of foods, they reduce the shelf life of people,” Golomb said.

Read next: The Surefire Way To Eat Healthier

TIME Research

How to Survive a Spaceship Disaster

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One of the most dangerous parts of an astronaut’s journey is the very beginning

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Falling from ten miles up, with no spacesuit on, in air that’s 70 degrees below zero and so thin you can hardly draw breath…Conditions were not ideal for Peter Siebold, a test pilot flying on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two, to survive. But he did. Siebold told investigators that he was thrown from the plane as it broke up, and unbuckled from his seat at some point before his parachute deployed automatically. It’s unclear at this point why the same thing didn’t happen for his copilot, Michael Alsbury.

Now, as spaceflight goes commercial, the destruction of both Spaceship Two and the Antares unmanned rocket is likely to bring the eyes of federal regulators back towards an industry that has until now enjoyed minimal red tape. The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act, first passed by Congress in 2004, was designed to encourage innovation by keeping the rules not so stringent for the fledgling private space industry. But “the moratorium [was designed to] be in place until a certain date or the event of the first death,” Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Space Law, told the MIT Technology Review. “Unfortunately, the first death has now occurred, and the FAA will likely revisit the need for regulations, if any.”

A Virgin Galactic spokesperson said in an email that the company couldn’t comment too broadly about the escape mechanisms for its spacecraft, due to the pending investigation. The spokesperson did confirm there are two exits from the cabin, but said that “specific design elements of the passenger cabin and spacesuits are still being developed and have not been made public.”

Since the earliest days of the space program, researchers have tried to develop realistic ways to provide astronauts with an emergency exit. But in an emerging field of such complexity, what mechanisms are plausible…and practical? Here’s a brief history of the effort so far.

Condition One: Failure To Launch

One of the most dangerous parts of an astronaut’s journey is the very beginning. To maximize the chance of survival during a launch, most spacecraft from the Mercury project onwards have incorporated a launch escape system (LES), which can carry the module containing the human crew away from a sudden threat to the rest of the craft—either while still on the launch pad, or during the initial ascent.

The Apollo LES was powered by a solid fuel rocket. At the first sign of trouble (transmitted by the loss of signal from wires attached to the launch vehicle), the LES would fire automatically, steering the command module up and away from danger, then jettison and allow the module to open its parachute and land. A similar principle lies behind the launch escape mechanisms used for Russia’s Soyuz capsules and the Shenzhou capsule used by the Chinese space program. The Orion spacecraft, NASA’s next generation of manned craft in development, also features an LES mounted on top of the craft, called a Launch Abort System.

On the private industry side of LESs, SpaceX’s Dragon capsule incorporates the rocket motors of the escape mechanism into the sides of the capsule itself, instead of mounting the LES on top. Since the LES isn’t discarded after launch, this “pusher” method provides the capsule with emergency escape capability throughout the entire flight—something the Space Shuttle and Apollo crafts never had, the company notes. (The drawback is that, if unused, all that fuel for the escape system is extra weight to carry around). Testing Dragon’s abort system both on the launch pad and in flight is something SpaceX expects to have done by January.

Using one of these devices is no picnic. Orion’s LAS was estimated to put about 15.5 Gs of force on an astronaut—more than a fighter pilot experiences, but a little alleviated by the fact that the astronauts are lying on their backs. “They’ll feel the effects,” Orion’s launch abort systems director Roger McNamara told Space.com, but “the bottom line is they’ll be walking away.”

Condition Two: Disaster In Orbit

In the 1960s, General Electric tested an emergency inflatable device called MOOSE (Manned Orbital Operations Safety Equipment, but originally Man Out Of Space Easiest) that was basically a small rocket motor attached to a six-foot-long polyester bag equipped with a heat shield, life support system, radio equipment and parachute. After a space-suited astronaut exited his or her space vehicle and climbed into the bag, he or she would activate pressurized canisters that filled it up with polyurethane foam.

More recently, NASA explored a new escape pod design called the X-38, a 7-person lifeboat designed to provide an escape route for astronauts on the International Space Station (say in case the Soyuz space capsule were damaged, or made unavailable because of political infighting, or hijacked by Sandra Bullock). This design made it as far as test flights, but was scrapped in 2002 over budget concerns.

Condition Three: Extraterrestrial Rescue

What if a disaster trapped astronauts on the moon? To prepare for that contingency, NASA worked on designs for unmanned Gemini Lunar Rescue Vehicles that could scoop up a marooned crew of two or three astronauts from the lunar surface, or from orbit around the moon. But funding cutbacks during the Apollo program prevented the agency from fully exploring these designs.

Condition Four: Trouble With The Landing

NASA’s space shuttles had an inflight escape system to be used only when the orbiter could not land properly after reentering orbit, which used a pole that extended out from one of the side hatches. The astronauts would hook themselves to the pole with a Kevlar strap and then jump out, allowing the pole to guide them out and underneath the left wing of the spacecraft. However, for this exit system to work, the space shuttle would have to be in pretty good shape, capable of staying in controlled, gliding flight. You can see the pole being used in this test footage here:

This article originally appeared on World Science Festival.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

How Much Arsenic Is In Your Rice?

rice
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Why you might want to lay off the rice milk

All rice and rice products are not created equal, according to a new study released today by Consumer Reports. Some types of rice, and some rice grown in specific regions, contain much higher levels of inorganic arsenic (IA) than others.

The report, available online and in the January 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine, offers new information to consumers who were left with questions after a 2012 report revealed measurable levels of arsenic in more than 60 rice samples. Arsenic exposure, especially long-term and at high levels, can lead to higher rates of skin, bladder and lung cancer, and heart disease.

For the latest findings, scientists at the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center tested 128 samples of white, basmati, and jasmine rice for arsenic levels. They combined these results with tests and data from the original 2012 study, along with data from tests done by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The total number of samples tested was 697.

The results show a clear connection between geography and toxicity. Basmati rice from California has the lowest arsenic levels. Rice from Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana tend to contain the highest levels of IA. White basmati rice from California, India and Pakistan, and sushi rice from the U.S., on average, have half the IA of other types.

In a surprising twist, brown rice has 80 percent more arsenic than white rice of the same type since arsenic accumulates in the grain’s outer layers. Brown rice from California, India, or Pakistan are the best choices in this category, according to the report. Contrary to what one might think, organic, in this particular case, doesn’t mean safer; organic rice sucks up arsenic at the same levels as conventional rice of the same type.

The report also establishes a point system for consumers, which serves to guide people towards understanding what rice products have the highest amounts of arsenic and how to limit intake through serving size and consumption frequency.

In one example, it’s suggested that children consume rice pasta and hot rice cereal only once every two weeks as these products have higher point values.

Dr. Michael Crupain, a board-certified physician and associate director of the Consumer Safety and Sustainability Group, said that children are the most vulnerable population and should either consume certain products rarely, or, in the case of rice milk, never.

“Children younger than five should not drink rice drinks as a substitute for milk,” he explained, echoing the report’s findings.

Rice holds higher levels of arsenic than other grains and acts as one of nature’s “great scavengers of metallic compounds.” Unlike, millet or polenta, rice planted in arsenic-contaminated fields acts as a vacuum for the toxin. Inorganic arsenic, as opposed to the less toxic organic arsenic, which comes from minerals in the earth’s crust, was introduced into the water and soil through pesticides and drugs injected into animal feeds. The FDA rescinded approval for three of these drugs in 2013 after connections were found between poultry feces used as fertilizer on fields and elevated arsenic levels.

“Some parts of the country just have more arsenic in their soil than others,” Crupain explained. “Rice happens to be a plant that tends to take up arsenic when it’s present. It’s probably based on variety, different types of plants take on different amounts.”

Currently, the FDA does not have safety levels for arsenic in rice. The governmental organization has cautioned against making state-by-state or country-by country comparisons in IA levels for rice, citing the varying factors that can influence arsenic concentrations, such as soil composition, fertilizers, seasonal variability, and water-use practices.

In a statement to Civil Eats, FDA press officer Lauren Sucher said that the organization’s assessment of arsenic in rice remains a priority.

“Last year, the FDA released what we believe to be the largest set of test results to date on the presence of arsenic in rice and rice products, and we are planning to release a draft assessment of the potential health risks associated with the consumption of arsenic in these same foods,” she added.

Until then, the FDA and Consumer Reports have similar recommendations: Consumers should strive to maintain a balanced diet and eat a variety of grains. Parents should consider options other than rice cereal as a first solid food for their baby. Cooking rice in volumes of water five to six times that of the rice, and then draining the water, can reduce arsenic content, though this may also reduce the nutritional value of the rice.

The Consumer Reports study also analyzed arsenic levels in other grains. The data shows that quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, and polenta all contain lower IA levels, making them good alternatives. Bulgur, barley, and farro also contain negligible amounts of arsenic.

At the same time, food safety advocates like Dr. Crupain ultimately believe the government should set stronger standards.

“Consumers won’t have to make such difficult decisions about rice intake levels if we ensure that there is less arsenic in rice to begin with,” he said.

This post originally appeared on Civil Eats

TIME Developmental Disorders

Why Screening Young Children for Language Delays Isn’t Helpful

language delay
Bruno Ehrs—Getty Images

Evidence to support language screening for all young children is weak

Doctors and new parents are eager to do everything they can to help young babies develop well. But the latest research shows that testing infants for signs of speech or language difficulties may not end up helping the young ones.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a government-appointed group of experts that reviews existing health and behavior data, analyzed the available studies on how effective screening for speech and language delays during infancy can be in improving children’s communication skills later. Most such screening is done by pediatricians during routine well-child visits and includes specific tests requiring parents to answer questions about their babies’ development, as well as the doctors’ own observations of the babies’ behavior and responses to verbal cues.

The task force reviewed 24 studies that looked at how accurate the most popular screening tools are. The trials involved children younger than five years old and revealed that the data is not strong enough to support using these studies as a reliable way to identify children who may have speech or language delays or who might have the early symptoms of language disorders.

The group came to a similar conclusion when it evaluated interventions designed to improve children’s development in speech and language areas. The studies showed inconsistent results and were of varying quality.

“There’s not enough evidence to say that these instruments should be used regularly,” says Dr. Alex Kemper, professor of pediatrics at Duke University and a member of the task force. “It could be that the instruments work well, and it could be that they don’t; we just don’t have enough evidence to say that all children ought to receive these tests at well-child visits routinely. We just don’t know whether or not they lead to benefit.”

In fact, the committee noted, the tests could contribute to harm, as the identification of potential problems could cause anxiety and result in time, effort and money spent by parents to address the problem. While an estimated 2.6% of children between ages three and five years received additional services for speech and language disabilities in 2007, the researchers say that many children who may be slower to develop speech or language skills eventually catch up and may not need specific services or interventions.

In his own practice, Kemper says that he employs the screening only when he or the parents of infants have concerns about a child’s language development. And that should be the guideline for other physicians and parents as well, he says—at least until stronger data can provide support for the idea of screening all infants, and for determining how to conduct the screening so that infants who need the most help can receive it.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

The Most Surprising Tool for Transforming Your Body

Mind body soul
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Mindset is the greatest fitness motivator

Want to know one of the best workout secrets I’ve learned? Attitude is everything. You’re either mentally in the game or you may as well be sitting on the sidelines. Not only does your attitude help motivate you, it’s the only tool that guarantees lasting results.

Ask any professional athlete: So much of their training is mental preparation. If pro athletes are not mentally pumped and focused on winning, they’re almost guaranteed to lose. But for those of us who aren’t pro athletes, no amount of encouragement from a trainer—or even an upcoming high school reunion—will help you achieve long-lasting results. But your attitude can.

Attitude, along with a motto, helps maintain a focus that is everlasting. It’s a simple theme that translates from pro sports to even the simplest children’s book. For example, in The Little Engine That Could, a long train gets stuck up a mountain only to be rescued by a much smaller engine who continuously repeats, “I think I can, I think I can.” Yes, the train was small, but mental prowess saved the day.

Here are 6 ways to improve your attitude and help you get in shape and stay there.

Get a motto and use it

Mindset is a powerful tool that can motivate and encourage big changes, along with lasting results. With the aid of a motivating motto, that little train did something none of the larger engines could achieve. The power of words can drive a person to completely change herself.

HEALTH.COM: 24 Motivational Weight Loss and Fitness Quotes

Value your mistakes

Altering your outlook will guarantee results if you stick with it. And if you get derailed from your goals of eating healthy and regularly working out (like many of us do), shrug it off and learn from your mistakes. Treat yourself with the same compassion you would offer a close friend. You’re human, cut yourself some slack—no one is perfect. If you happen to skip a workout or end up eating more pizza than you planned, dust yourself off and start fresh. Tomorrow is a new day.

Celebrate your victories

Remember that it’s important to set realistic goals when beginning a new workout regime. Celebrate the minor triumphs; one day they will become big ones. In my book, Strong Is The New Skinny, I encourage people to start a brag box where you can stash mementos and reminders of your greatest accomplishments (i.e. your first 5K race number). Your very own personalized brag box will be your greatest asset on days when you’re feeling unmotivated or like you’ve fallen off the wagon.

HEALTH.COM: 20 Ways to Stick to Your Workout Routine

Invest in yourself

No one will take care of you like you. So take care of yourself. Imagine the best version of yourself: physically, mentally, and emotionally. Keep that image alive in your mind as you continue to pursue your fitness goals.

Update your strategy

Just because you think of yourself as Xena, Princess Warrior once, won’t mean that every time you look in the mirror, you’ll see a powerful warrior glancing back. Sometimes you need to shake things up and re-strategize. Back in 2013, shortly after having a baby, I received a great opportunity to create and appear in a new Weight Watchers fitness DVD series–an experience I could not pass up. The only problem was I had just had a baby five months prior. I needed to motivate and fast! What did I do? I instantly took action. Besides eating wholesome foods, I changed my outlook, confident I could achieve my goal. The idea is to fake it till you make it, genuinely feeling strong and powerful until you ultimately get there.

HEALTH.COM: 14 Reasons You’re Always Tired

Visualize the new you

Take a minute and imagine how you’d look, move, and feel if you already had the strong, fit body you’ve always wanted. Stand tall, walk, run, or dance with assurance. Adopting a posture that suggests confidence can literally change our feelings, our behavior, and even our hormone levels, according to the research of Harvard Business School social psychologist, Amy Cuddy.

Not only did I improve my posture, but I also posted pre-baby photos all around my house in an effort to motivate myself back into shape. Everywhere I looked, I had visual reminders reaffirming that I, just like the Little Engine that could, was going to make it.

HEALTH.COM: The 25 Best Diet Tricks of All Time

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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