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Now that March is here, your weight loss resolutions may be long gone. If that’s the case, don’t sweat it: Diets usually don’t work anyway, says neuroscientist Sandra Aamont, PhD. Aamont gave a TED Talk that went viral about the risks of our obsession with dieting, and now she’s got a book coming out called Why Diets Make Us Fat ($28, amazon.com). Her message—based on the latest research—is simple: Healthy is better than thin, and drastically improving your health could be simpler than dropping dress sizes.
In her famous talk, Aamont cited one study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine that looked at four specific healthy habits and mortality risk over a 14-year period: The researchers found that overweight people in general had a higher risk of death from any cause. But overweight people who had adopted just one healthy habit had a risk of death similar to normal weight people. In other words, the number on the scale made little difference. This is good news for anyone who is struggling to lose weight and keep it off, Aamont explained, because it means “you can take control of your health by taking control of your lifestyle.”
Curious about those healthy habits included in the study? We were too. Here, the four potential life-lengtheners.
Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies
While you may think you’re consuming plenty of produce, you may want to double-check: The USDA’s dietary guidelines recommend 5 to 13 servings a day. And according to the CDC, less than 18% of adults eat enough fruit, and less than 14% get enough veggies. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to sneak more produce into your diet. For example, you could start your morning with a smoothie; snack on carrots and hummus; or swap pasta for spaghetti squash. Even better? Try our 31-Day Eat-More-Veggies plan.
Drink in moderation
It’s possible that a little alcohol may do you body good, and red wine in particular has been linked to health perks. But still, experts say it’s best to limit the booze. The USDA defines “moderate” alcohol consumption as up to one drink per day for women, and up to two for men. (When you order a drink at a restaurant or bar, it helps to be conscious of serving sizes.)
By the study’s standard, that’s more than 12 times a month (or three to four times a week). Even if all you’ve got is a few spare moments, you can still squeeze in a challenging workout, like this four-minute tabata routine, or this 10-minute head-to-toe toner by Tracy Anderson. You could also set up a home gym. Forget expensive machines—you can get all you really need for less than 50 bucks.