There are enough diets, health products and workout plans out there to make your head spin. How do you know what truly works? Let A.J. Jacobs, author of Drop Dead Healthy, eliminate the guesswork for you.
Do you want to lose weight, enjoy more energy, and transform your health, but don’t know where to start? A.J. Jacobs, author of Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Quest for Bodily Perfection, spent 2 full years testing every major diet, cutting-edge product, and miracle workout trend on the market. Before embarking on this health challenge, he was overweight, had high cholesterol, and had never seen the inside of a gym. Now, he’s in the best shape of his life. Here, he shares what really worked for him, along with his incredible before-and-after numbers:
Weight: 172 lbs
Body Fat: 18%
LDL Cholesterol: 77 mg/dl (with statin drug)
Weight: 156.5 lbs
Body Fat: 7%
LDL Cholesterol: 62 mg/dl (without statin drug)
A Diet That Really Works
In coming up with a diet, A.J. Jacobs tested over 100 different plans and talked to dozens of top nutritionists, fitness trainers and doctors, including Dr. Oz. Here are the three most important things he learned:
1. Shop the Perimeter of the Grocery Store
When you shop the perimeter of the grocery store, you’ll stick to buying fresh, whole foods such as produce, meat, fish and diary. Also, you’ll be avoiding everything in the middle aisles, which is where most of the processed foods, full of added chemicals and empty calories, are located.
Click here for Dr. Oz's Supermarket Survival Guide. Learn how to wisely navigate the aisles to improve your health and save more money.
2. Eat the Rainbow
Eat a rainbow of colored fruits and vegetables. Each color indicates a different powerful antioxidant that protects you against cancer and a host of other diseases. For instance, bright red tomatoes have lycopene, orange carrots contain beta-carotene, deep purple grapes are loaded with resveratrol, etc.
3. Eat Like a Baby
You’ve probably heard that if you use a smaller plate you’ll eat less. In addition, try using smaller forks and spoons to help limit how much you eat and keep portion sizes moderate.
4. Reduce Cravings
The old adage, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, holds true. If you eat an apple a few minutes before lunch, you’ll consume 187 fewer calories during that meal. Or enjoy soup at the start of a meal or as a snack, and you’ll consume 134 fewer calories (or more) than you would have otherwise. A study showed that people who started meals with soup ate 30% less food. Start your meals off right with this tasty garden vegetable soup recipe.
Beyond Diet: Other Tried and True Tips
For his book, A.J. Jacobs tested plenty of other ways to get healthy beyond diet, some which may really surprise you.
5. Squat to Improve Bowel Movements
If you squat when going to the bathroom instead of sitting, you can release your bowels three times faster. This is actually the position that people around the world used for thousands of years before the invention of toilets. Squatting also reduces the development of hemorrhoids and strengthens your legs. You can purchase a squatting seat to fit on your toilet online.
6. Fidget to Burn Calories
So many people can’t find the time to exercise, but any little movement is better than sitting still. In fact, fidgeting can burn up to 300 calories. So, tap your fingers, wiggle your toes, move your hips, etc.
7. Burn Fat With High Intensity Interval Training
To boost your metabolism and burn fat in less than 6 minutes, practice high intensity interval training. Run on the treadmill or ride the stationary bike as fast as you can for 30 seconds; then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat 5 or 6 times for a total of about 10 minutes. This process not only speeds up your metabolism, but also may do more good than 30 minutes of running or working out at a leisurely pace.
8. Decrease Your Cholesterol by Using Paper Coffee Filters
A.J. Jacobs attributes lowering his cholesterol to eating lots of fruits, vegetables and unprocessed foods. In addition, he shares this secret: Use a paper filter when making coffee. The filter removes cafestol, a compound, which is known to raise cholesterol.
9. Boost Your Energy With the Sports-Drink Spit
Before you exercise, take a sip of a sports drink and then spit it out. Your tongue will sense the presence of sugars and send a message to your brain that says, “Energy boost out of the way.” In other words, your body is fooled into expending more energy without the weight of water to slow it down.
10. To Prevent a Heart Attack, Try “Chewdaism”
Studies show that people who chew their food more thoroughly, say 25-40 chews, will deliver more healthy monounsaturated fats to their heart than people who chew a mere 10 times. As a bonus, you’ll be eating slower, which means you’ll eat less.
11. Get More Sleep By Playing the Didgeridoo
Many people suffer from disrupted sleep due to snoring or undiagnosed sleep apnea. Studies show that blowing into the didgeridoo, an ancient Australian instrument, strengthens the throat muscles and can actually help cure snoring. Available online.
12. New Ways to Program Your Taste Buds
A.J. Jacobs has discovered ways to make healthy foods you may not like taste good. Here’s how:
Sugar Splash: Purists may object to this advice, but A.J. Jacobs recommends a spoonful of sugar to help the vegetables go down. Studies show that dipping vegetables like cauliflower briefly into sugar water can make this cruciferous cancer-fighting food taste better. Or try adding a dash of brown sugar to Brussels sprouts, another healthy veggie many folks are not fond of eating.
Crunchy Cheat: Research shows that people think crunchy foods taste better, so add some crunch to your veggies. Add sunflower seeds to your salad.
The Purée Slip: Purées are a great secret weapon to get your taste buds on board with healthy food. Purée cauliflower and/or summer squash, then add them to some whole-wheat macaroni and cheese. You’ll get your healthy veggies and also consume up to 300 fewer calories per meal. Learn other creative ways to add vegetable purées to your meals.
The Sounds of Silence: Studies show that noise makes food taste worse. To achieve the opposite effect, try eating your veggies in a quite environment. You can also try wearing earplugs or a set of noise-cancelling headphones, available online.