(NEW YORK) — There are thousands of diet and exercise studies for how to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle: Don’t eat that, drink more of this, run hard for this length of time, etcetera. The tips constantly change when new studies are published.
For his most ambitious project, author A.J. Jacobs followed the latest medical advice about getting healthy — all of it — and found out what really works.
“I was in bad shape,” Jacobs said. “I had a huge stomach. I looked like a snake that swallowed a goat. It was sort of the skinny fat, and you know, my diet was terrible. I ate sugar, salt, fat. Those were my three food groups, so I really wanted to — I needed to do a big revamp.”
Following the success of his book, The Year of Living Biblically, in which he tried to follow every rule in the Bible for a year, Jacobs, 44, spent two years trying out every diet plan, every workout routine, every self-improvement trick and technique out there. He documented his journey in his new book, Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Quest for Bodily Perfection, which he wrote while walking on a treadmill, by the way — a chapter every 12 miles or so.
“More and more research shows how horrible sitting is for you,” he said. “It’s really bad. It’s like a Paula Deen bacon doughnut. It’s just so … if you are sitting for more than six hours a day, that’ll increase your risk for heart disease by 60 percent.”
Jacobs is now a walking encyclopedia of health insight, from applying sunscreen daily, to having certain plants nearby to filter the air — even proper water bottle care.
So what did work? Over the course of two years, Jacobs developed definite opinions about how to maintain a healthier lifestyle. He said people need to exercise more, sit less, meditate, pet dogs — because studies have found it lowers blood pressure — and cook their own meals instead of eating prepared food.
Jacobs now has a healthier diet, mostly made up of vegetables, fish and eggs. The dietary revelation came not with what he eats, but how he eats it.
“I chew as many times as possible, because you’ll eat less and we eat way too much as a nation,” Jacobs said. “There’s actually a very passionate movement on the Internet called ‘Chewdaism,’ and they believe you should be chewing as many as 50 times a bite.”
And then there were those health regimens that Jacobs said didn’t work for him, such as colonics and juice fasts.
“I was not a fan of either one, and luckily the science is not there,” he said. “There’s really very little science that colonics are good for you. You don’t really need them. The body cleans out by itself.”
At the end of two years, Jacobs said he managed to lose 17 pounds. His body fat dropped from 17 to seven percent and he said he is now bursting with energy and feels great.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio