Now that March is here, your weight loss resolutions may be long gone. IfÂ that's the case, don't sweat it: Diets usually don't work anyway, says neuroscientist Sandra Aamont, PhD. Aamont gave aÂ TED TalkÂ 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 FatÂ ($28, amazon.com).Â Her messageâ€”based on the latest researchâ€”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 MedicineÂ 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 justÂ one healthy habit had a risk of deathÂ similar toÂ normal weight people. In other words,Â the number on the scale made little difference.Â This is goodÂ news for anyone who is strugglingÂ to lose weight and keep it off, AamontÂ 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?Â We were too. Here, the four potential life-lengtheners.
Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies
While you mayÂ thinkÂ youâ€™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 eatÂ 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 morningÂ with a smoothie;Â snackÂ on carrots and hummus; or swap pasta for spaghetti squash. Even better? Try our 31-Day Eat-More-Veggies plan.
RELATED:Â 13 Veggies You Only Think You Don't Like
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 bestÂ to limit the booze. The USDA defines "moderate" alcohol consumption asÂ up to one drink per day for women, and up to two for men. (When you order a drinkÂ 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.Â Forget expensive machinesâ€”you can get all you really needÂ for less than 50 bucks.
RELATED: Train with Tracy Anderson atÂ Health's Wellness Weekend April 22-24
This one goesÂ without saying. But if youâ€™re still stuck on those cigs, consider quitting ASAP. Tried and failed in the past? You might want toÂ look into different strategies.