Exercise your right to take a vacation

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Exercise your right to take a vacation

A busy Chicago attorney we'll call Robert was proud of himself when he signed up for a weeklong beach-and-golf vacation in Mexico. Then something came up at work and he had to cancel. A few months later, the same thing happened. He was supposed to go bicycling in California with his family. Again, the demands of work made him feel he had to cancel. Here's the saddest part of all: By the end of last year, Robert had taken only one of four weeks of vacation time he earned. What did he earn instead? In my mind, Doofus of the Year award.

"Vacation is not frivolous behavior," says Dr. Alan Muney, chief medical officer of Oxford Health Plans, Inc. "It's essential to staying healthy. Regular vacations are preventive medicine. They cut down on stress-related illness and save health-care dollars."

Still, lots of foolish folks cheat themselves out of vacation. According to a recent survey reported by Oxford Health Plans, one of every six U.S. employees is too overworked to use up his or her vacation time. And here's a shocker: Americans have the least amount of vacation time of any nation in the industrialized world. According to the World Tourism Organization, annual vacation days average 42 in Italy, 37 in France, 28 in Britain, 26 in Canada and only 13 in the United States.

So the moral of the story is Take Your Vacation. Every minute, every day. You earned it, you deserve it, and the world of work will get along without you. Rest assured you'll come back from vacation refreshed and renewed, more able than ever to handle the stress of home and work.

Remember: A healthy body needs a relaxed mind. That's what vacations are for. Disconnect from the pressures of ordinary life and reconnect to the pure pleasure of having fun. And please! Leave your cell phones and pagers at home!

Control those cravings!

Will power is wonderful, but it's easy to waffle when it comes to foods we crave. Chocolate. Cookies. Chips. How can we resist? And yet, eating experts say that food cravings can be reduced. Here's how:

1. Keep tempting foods out of sight. Way, way out. 2. Plan a healthy snack or two into your day and don't skip a meal. 3. Make food your friend. Don't focus on any food as forbidden. We crave what we can't have.

Food is not the enemy. Moderation is the key. When your thinking about food comes into balance, that I-gotta-have-it feeling will subside.

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