The 7 Secrets of Healthy People
Everybody knows the type: those lucky humans who seem to eat whatever they want, aren't slaves to the gym, and yet always look lean and energized. Studies show they all
share many of the same habits -- embrace them to keep (or get) your own wellness plan on track.
1. They don't diet.
Researchers at Cornell University's Food & Brand Lab created the online Global Healthy Weight Registry (GHWR) to study the everyday behaviors of people who maintain their weight. Their analysis of 147 adults (mostly women) revealed that 74 percent either never or only rarely diet. And that makes sense, because diets don't usually work -- at least not in the long term. "They end up being temporary," says lab director Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of Slim by Design (William Morrow, 2014). "It's almost like taking medicine. You take it until you feel better, and then you stop." That cycle can actually lead to weight gain, too, according to Sandra Aamodt, Ph.D., a neuroscientist and author of Why Diets Make Us Fat (Current, 2016):
"Out of 10 people who have deliberately lost weight, five years later one of them will be thinner than when they started, four of them will be heavier, and five will be back to the same weight."
2. They weigh themselves often.
The scale is not your enemy. Fifty percent of people in the GHWR pull theirs out at least once a week. The same is true for 75 percent of participants in the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), an ongoing Brown University study of more than 10,000 people who have successfully kept off at least 30 pounds for an average of five years. The data suggests these are the people who are able to quickly catch any small weight gains and take action to reverse them, according to NWCR coinvestigator Graham Thomas, Ph.D. "We encourage folks to weigh themselves at least weekly. That way, they have the information and get accustomed to coping with any of the negative feelings generated by getting on the scale so it becomes easier," Thomas says. Don't let the number define how you feel about yourself or ruin your mood, he advises; rather, use it to demonstrate where you are in relation to your goal. Daily fluctuations of a couple of pounds are to be expected due to changes in fluid balance, he notes, so don't fret when the needle is slightly higher.
3. They eat mindfully.
Ninety‐two percent of those in the GHWR are conscious of everything they eat. The trick is listening to your body's cues. Aamodt suggests pausing before and after you eat, closing your eyes and thinking about how your body feels. Start checking in halfway through a meal. It may take more than six months of deliberate consideration, but eventually you'll hear your body saying that you're full and it's time to stop. "It becomes automatic, and you no longer have to pay attention to it. That's why mindful eating works better than diets," Aamodt says.
4. They walk it off.
Breaking a daily sweat pays off. Forty-two percent of the people in the GHWR exercise five or more times a week, and 90 percent of those in the NWCR exercise -- usually by walking -- for about an hour a day.
5. They keep the kitchen clean.
In a chaotic, messy kitchen, women eat twice as many cookies, a 2016 Cornell study found. That's because the disarray primes us for a lack of self-control and also can cause stress -- both of which make us want to eat, says Wansink. However, when women have a meditative mindset and feel in control, they're better able to resist temptation, the study showed. "You've got two choices: You can learn how to meditate, or you can clean your kitchen," Wansink says.
6. They don't feed their feelings.
Most people in the NWCR report that they rarely overeat in response to internal or emotional cues. Translation: They don't reach for the pint of ice cream when they're feeling down. Eating your go-to comfort food doesn't actually soothe you any more than when you eat something else -- or nothing at all, a 2014 study in Health Psychology showed. "You'll feel better even if you don't eat it, so you may as well save it for a time when you can be happy and savor it," says study author Traci Mann, Ph.D., author of Secrets From the Eating Lab (Harper Wave, 2015).
7. They start over every week.
Fifty-eight percent of healthy people see Monday as a fresh start, and say kicking the week off with a workout, nutritious meals, and a positive attitude helps keep them on track in the days ahead, according to a 2014 survey of more than 1,000 people by FGI Research & Analytics. Plus, people who diligently resume their healthy eating habits after a weekend splurge are more successful at maintaining a steady weight, a recent study in Obesity Facts showed. Consider each Monday a chance to hit reset, and make exercise and healthy eating your New Week's resolution.