How to be Healthier

If you’re caught up on why diets fail, then you might be left wondering what to do instead? If weight loss is the only option presented over and over again for how to be healthier and that’s not possible, what do we do?

Sandra Aamodt, in her book Why Diets Make Us Fat, outlines the practices that are linked to lower risk of death without an impact by weight. In a long-term study over the course of 14 years, the four habits below were studied in relation to the risk of death. With the addition of each habit, the risk of death decreased. For those who had two or more habits, weight affected risk of death minimally or not at all.

  1. Drinking in Moderation

  2. Not Smoking

  3. Eating Five Servings of Fruit and Vegetables

  4. Exercise (Activity Overall)  

The most emphasized of these, and the most beneficial according to research, were eating vegetables and physical activity. Regular physical activity, and conversely minimizing sedentary time, improves health.

“Someone who isn’t physically active at all can expect to gain another three to five years of life and better health just by walking for 150 minutes a week,” Aamodt wrote.

As exercise increases in frequency and intensity, the benefits increase with high-intensity interval training generate fitness gains more than moderate activity for the same amount of caloric/energy burn. The best practice to implement now is to increase your activity level from where you’re at now, and then gradually increase more from there.

Along with exercise, avoiding sitting for long periods of time can be beneficial. For those who exercise regularly, sitting for long hours still increased their risk of death (no matter their weight). Ten or more hours a day sitting increased the risk of early death by 34 percent—even for those who exercised. The recommendation is to stand and move frequently to break up periods of sitting.

“For readers who are currently sedentary and make only one change as a result of reading this book, I hope that it’s deciding to get some exercise,” Aamodt wrote. So, there, you didn’t even need to read the book to get her key advice. That exercise doesn’t have to be something you hate either, instead experiment with movement-based activities until something is fun.

Beyond exercise, consumption of vegetables is another huge recommendation, and a potential place to switch out bad habits. For those still working towards mindful eating and struggling with mindless eating, moving foods like potato chips to the top cupboard and stocking the fridge with vegetables can be a good snack swap.

Aamodt doesn’t say to stop eating chips. Food restriction leads to obsession and binging. If you really want chips, go get them, but making them slightly harder to reach can ensure that if you’re eating chips it’s because you want them. Instead, vegetables should be one of the things we’re eating more of and if you must eat mindlessly, while working towards better habits, vegetables would be the best bet.

The key tips, to exercise more and to eat veggies often, are the recommendations that Aamodt notes. Also, there is nearly universal agreement across scientists for the health benefits of these guidelines, where other diet changes are still being argued and discussed.

So, if nothing else, try to move your body and snag some more greens next time!