8 Strategies to Stay Slim Forever in a World Trying Its Darndest to Make Us Fat: One Man’s Story

When I first moved to Los Angeles from Iran at 13, I was a scrawny little punk. This changed soon after I discovered Big Macs, Double Cheese Whoppers, one-pound bags of peanut M&Ms, Pringles potato chips, and boxes of Twinkies, scarfing them down in front of Knight Rider reruns. Soon, I was chubby—for the first time in my life. And, fortunately, for the last.

Then I read a magazine article that listed the amount of calories and fat in the junk I was devouring: something like 800 calories and 65 grams of fat for a Double Cheese Whopper from Burger King. With the help of some scolding from my older sister, I got religion: I dropped all the junk food, joined the local YMCA swim team, and became one healthy sonofabitch. I’ve been trim since then, around 175 pounds (80kg) for the past 25 years or so at a height of 5’10” (177cm).

I never thought of trimness as much of a feat, attributing most of it to my excellent choice in parents, whose weight has been pretty stable their entire lives. But a few things I noticed recently made me think that perhaps I am doing something differently. After all, over 60% of Americans are now overweight. And my metabolism has slowed down significantly since I was a college athlete. And at my recent college reunion, about half of my classmates were seriously overweight. Why did I not balloon out?

One thing I’ve noticed: people make piss-poor choices when it comes to eating. They buy chips and candy from convenience stores. They load up on french fries, steak, and cheesecake at open buffets. They drink sugary sodas and fruit juice.

I used to think that this only happened to people who were uneducated, or didn’t have access to good food. But at that Harvard College reunion I just mentioned, my classmates were making the same piss-poor choices, even though some of them were not just doctors but medical school professors. America—we’ve got a big problem. Pun always intended.

The statistics for slimming down and keeping the extra stuff off aren’t encouraging. It seems like you have a better chance of recovering from cancer. So let me be clear that this article is not about shedding mass. This article is about staying slim, or at least maintaining your current size, which is much easier than shedding mass.

And if you, eagle-eyed reader, noticed that I use “shed mass” instead of “lose weight”, there’s a good reason for that. Nobody likes to lose, or wait. Nobody likes to lose stuff, either. And some of our most ecstatic moments happen when we find stuff we’ve lost. No wonder people are so good at finding the weight again! Trying to lose weight is a losing proposition that your unconscious will battle every step of the way.

Although I am a physician by training, I emphasize that this is the report of one man (i.e. me) on what seems to work for him to stay trim so far. It is purely anecdotal and not scientific. I do not have an evil donut-chomping twin or clone, so there is no control experiment either. All I know is this works for me.

This is also not some universally applicable panacea, and your results will vary. That said, you may find some useful ideas here that work for you to stay slim while still fully enjoying the culinary and gustatory pleasures of life. Let’s dig in.

As I was writing this article, a few principles emerged for staying slim and healthy. I’ll introduce these to you now, and fully flesh them out later in the article.

A. Sustainability. Ask yourself, “Could I stay slim if I did this every day for a month, or a year, or a lifetime?” If it’s not sustainable every day for the long term, then don’t do it at all.

B. Use habits to regulate your behavior, not willpower or thought. Hunger does not operate in the logical part of your brain. So if you have to think about food choices, you’re toast. Willpower and motivation are also weak allies. Use strong habits instead.

C. Use rules so you don’t have to think about food choices as much. Similar to #2, if you have think about your choices every time you come across a slice of cheesecake or a double margarita, you will lose. Have ironclad, unbreakable behavioral rules instead.

D. Hara hachi bu. From the Okinawans, the champions of healthy longevity, featured in the National Geographic Blue Zones books by Dan Buettner: eat only up to the point that you’re 80% full.

E. Use extreme categories for undesirable foods. Perceiving danger is an effective way to change your behavior; some wimpy relativism of “oh potato chips aren’t that bad” ain’t gonna cut it. This is why I classify all junk food as poison, and encourage you to do the same.

E. Use the Power of Zero: zero times anything is zero. So substitute zero-calorie things for stuff that has calories that add up: water instead of soft drinks; plain coffee or tea instead of adding cream and sugar; vinegar or no salad dressing instead of Thousand Island.

F. Move a lot. Given a chance to move vs sit, move. Walk or bike instead of driving. Over the course of your lifetime, this will burn up 10x more calories than going to the gym.

And now, for the rules:

1. EAT ONLY WHEN HUNGRY

This may seem so insanely commonsensical as to not even be worth mentioning. But the fact is that humans do a lot of mindless eating: that’s why we’ve gotten so fat. This is probably because our brains, holdovers from our stone-age evolutionary past, are designed to hedge against scarcity and famine, which happened a lot. So when it sees food, it just goes into eat eat stuff face noooow mode. We gorge on the antelope now, because we don’t have a fridge and might be involuntarily fasting for two weeks after.

In the era of ubiquitous supermarkets and restaurants, we can afford to relax this famine-phobic hypervigilance. And instead of eating dinner because it’s 7.30pm, or because other people around us are eating, we can think: “Am I even hungry?”, and only eat when we’re actually hungry. If you’re not hungry, feel free to skip the meal entirely and go for a walk instead.

2. NO LIQUID CALORIES

The easiest way to add unwanted mass to your body is by drinking your calories. Your body has a precise mechanism for regulating the amount of solid calories you ingest. Let’s call it the appestat, like a thermostat for your appetite. The appestat is thrown off by calories consumed in liquid form: soda, juice, milk, beer, smoothies, wine, pumpkin spice frappelattecino, frozen double-fudge mudslides. It’s almost like your body says, “Oh, that stuff went straight through so it probably doesn’t count.”

Well, it does, ‘cause it’s still going into your bod, bud. Here’s a key number I want you to remember: 3500. That’s the approximate number of calories in a pound (or half-kilo) of body weight. There are 365 days in a year, so if you eat an extra 10 calories every day for a year, it adds up to 3650 calories, or about one extra pound.

Coffee and tea

When you add sugar, milk, or cream to your coffee, it may not seem like much. But in fact, that’s anywhere from 10 to 100 calories added to a normally calorie-free drink—or 1 to 10 pounds per year (PPY). And if you have that coffee many times a day—or if it’s a 400-calorie frappelattecino—the numbers can add up fast.

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol is so woven into the fabric of social life that we don’t even notice it’s happening. And it’s not like it’s food; it’s just a drink! Drinks don’t count!

They do. It’s where beer bellies come from. For our purposes, let’s say beer, wine, and liquor have about 100 calories per serving. More precisely:

  • 5-ounce (150ml) glass of wine: 122 calories
  • 12-ounce (350ml) bottle of beer: 153 calories; light beer: 103 calories
  • 1.5 oz shot of 80-proof liquor (gin, rum, vodka, whiskey): 96 calories.

Just one drink may not seem like a lot. But even that one drink is 10 PPY, and who has just one drink? It all adds up over the course of the evening. Fancy cocktails add even more. A gin and tonic has 200 calories, because the sugar in the tonic water is what makes the gin taste less like a Rottweiler’s ass. A margarita can be anywhere from 300-500 calories; drinking two is like eating a whole pizza by yourself. And something like a frozen mudslide—consider investing in Champion elastic waistband sweatpants, because you will need them soon.

Soft drinks

Sodas and juice are the biggest culprits of them all. I include them together because juice is the more dangerous of the two by masquerading as a natural, healthy option while having the same effect as soda: delivering excess sugar to your body in a way that avoids the appestat.

Listen up: there’s nothing “natural” about juice. Ever seen an orange tree growing square cartons instead of round fruit? That would be cool in a psychedelic kind of way, but it’s not how nature works. Instead, the liquid in the fruit is complexed with skin and pulp and fiber and a whole bunch of other good stuff that makes it really hard for you to eat 4 oranges in one sitting. Take all that fiber away, and what you’re left with is mostly water and sugar from the formerly nutritious fruit.

Your best bet for a drink is water. It is the perfect drink, which means it cannot be improved upon—not by adding caramel coloring, phosphoric acid and sodium benzoate (that’s Coke); not by adding cream, pumpkin spice, caffeine and sugar; not by adding sulfites, tannins and ethanol (sorry, wine); not by adding anything. Water is what your body needs. It has zero calories, and zero times anything is zero, so a lifetime supply still has zero calories. Drink up.

Implementation

The way I implement the no liquid calories rule is that I generally refrain from calories in liquid form: no juice or soda, no sugar added to my green tea. Every once in a while I’ll have a glass of wine at a social event, which I then burn off by doing jumping jacks in place for the duration of the party. Actually, no, I don’t really do that ‘cause it would be weird, which is the point: don’t get so overzealous about this stuff that it’s makes you miserable and/or pointlessly eccentric. Feel free to be sociable.

Enjoy life, and realize that you won’t miss the empty liquid calories once you cut them out, and you will feel much better in the long run–with the added bonus that you’ll save thousands of dollars a year. You will, however, make exceptions for the occasional glass of Château Petrus and flute of Dom Perignon rosé, especially when someone else is buying.

3. BE BULLET-PROOF – ER, BUFFET-PROOF

Here’s the thing about a buffet: you will overeat. Guaranteed. So the first rule of buffets is: don’t go to them. But sometimes you’re at a multi-day conference or cruise, and the buffet is the only choice. So you might as well concede defeat, put on those gray Champion sweatpants, and declare Homer Simpson as your spirit animal.

Or—you could go into full commando mode and defeat the buffet with your ironclad Buffet-Proof Rules:

  1. Eat salad and veggies first—lots of them.
  2. Drink lots of water.
  3. Avoid fried crap.
  4. Eat slowly.
  5. Skip dessert and eat fruit instead.

When you eat salad and veggies first, followed by water, you basically fill your belly with high-nutrient, low-calorie food that makes you feel full. If the salad contains high-pectin foods like pears, apples, plums and citrus, drinking water on top of it creates a jelly-like semisolid matrix in your tummy that makes you feel full fast. Then, you can go to town with the lasagna since you’ll only have so much room left for it.

Eating slowly gives the satiety signal from your tummy the time it takes to reach your brain and say, “Enough already, yo.” This is how you keep the hara hachi bu rule: stop eating when 80% full. And I have a whole section on skipping dessert, which we’ll get to in a bit.

And if you do end up overeating at a buffet, you may expiate your sins by walking the full length of the Camino de Santiago, or sending a generous donation to my Champagne Fund. Or you could just skip the next meal—more on that later.

4. USE MICHAEL POLLAN’S FOOD RULES

If I had to boil down this whole article to its bare minimum, it would be Michael Pollan’s Food Rules:

  1. Eat food.
  2. Mostly plants.
  3. Not too much.

“Food” is stuff you can recognize: apples, blueberries, chicken breast, carrots, broccoli. It is in contradistinction to “food-like objects” (FLO) that have been processed, packaged, and engineered to taste good without necessarily being good for you: potato chips, candy bars, nachos, french fries, ice cream, chicken nuggets, and almost anything you buy at a convenience store.

My rule is simple: if it’s not food, it’s poison. I won’t put it in my shopping cart, and I won’t eat it.

Waitasec, doc: you’re saying Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is poison? No, I’m saying ice cream is poison. Not necessarily poisonous the way, say, cyanide is. But you can’t eat ice cream all day long without getting sick and fat.

Some things that I consider poison: soft drinks; cookies; brownies; doughnuts; pretty much any UFO (unidentifiable fried object); come to think of it, almost all IFOs (identifiable fried object); potato chips; nacho chips; candy bars; milkshakes; anything sold at a fast-food chain.

The point is that classifying things as food vs poison may be extreme, but it may be the only method that keeps you honest. Your brain sticks to the good stuff and avoids the nasty stuff. Feel free to choose the nomenclature for the bad stuff that works for you. Some suggestions: junk food; supremely fattening food; toxic waste dump extract; heart-attack fodder. Your pick.

Eating a mostly plant-based diet may be the best damn idea you’ll ever have for your health and that of the planet. The evidence for a plant-based diet being good for your long-term health is overwhelming. But this article is about staying slim, so: eat a plant-based diet because plants are nutritionally dense without being calorically dense. And they take up a lot of space in your tummy, which makes you feel full without actually taking in gobs of calories. What a deal!

A vegan diet may be a bridge too far. The point is to eat plants instead of meat whenever possible, but not to the point of becoming sanctimonious and difficult to feed. Also, no society on earth has had a long-term vegan diet. It’s an unproven experiment and a fad, and your health should not be subject to fads.

And finally, not too much. What does that mean? That means you obey the rule of hara hachi bu: eat until you’re about 80% full, then stop. This is how Okinawans live to be 1000 years old, according to Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones books (ebook & print).

This is a rule I’ve been pretty good about: I never eat dessert or sweets. And by never, I mean once or twice a month I break this rule, usually with dark chocolate, which I basically consider somewhere between “medicinal” and “reason to live.”

What?! No cheesecake? No danish? No chocolate mousse? You may think I possess some kind of stupendous dessert-avoiding superwillpower bestowed upon me at birth, and you would be wrong. There are two secrets to my successful lifelong implementation of the no-dessert rule.

The first has to do with human neurology. If you stop eating sweets, after 2-4 weeks, you will stop enjoying them. Huh? It’s totally true. See, your senses are really good at adjusting to the level of stimulus you present it. For example, when you walk outdoors into bright sunlight after having been indoors all day, you initially can’t see at all, until your eyes adjust to the new light levels.

In the same way, if for 100,000 years the sweetest thing you’ve been eating is a plum or banana, and then someone suddenly hands you a cheesecake, your taste buds will go whooooaaaaaa nelly this is way too intense. Because there is nothing in nature as insanely rich as cheesecake. It’s the gustatory equivalent of shining a floodlight in your face, or a bullhorn in your ear—overkill.

But your neurology is good at adjusting, and soon, you get used to the cheesecake, just like you get used to direct sunlight. The problem is that now you will be barely able to taste anything less rich than a cheesecake.

Do this experiment: go have a bite of an apple or banana. Delicious, right? Then have a bite of a candy bar, or a spoonful of cake. Then go back and have another bite of the fruit.

What happened? Since you almost certainly didn’t do the experiment, let me tell you the results: after cheesecake, the fruit will taste like cardboard. A banana that was way tasty and sweet two minutes ago is now completely devoid of flavor. Weird.

And that’s the problem: once you’ve gotten used to the cheesecake, it’s like you’ve been walking in the bright sun all day. Eating fruit is like walking indoors: your taste buds will be blind to it.

What happens when you stop eating sweets? You get your senses back, that’s what! Gradually, you start to appreciate the subtleties in food that you were missing. You taste the sweetness of a carrot or green peas. You can tell the difference between brown and white rice. A whole range of foods that seemed uninteresting before—broccoli, brussels sprouts, lentils, spinach, arugula—suddenly become fascinating. Your senses regain their acuity. A good strawberry or blueberry becomes a divine experience. So many flavors! So many textures! What had you been missing out on this entire time?

Which finally brings me to the point I’m trying to make. Once you quit eating sweets for good, you will no longer crave them. They will simply be too treacly, too cloying, too sickeningly sweet—just too much. This is why I don’t require a whole lot of willpower to avoid dessert. They are now simply unappealing to me. And it’s not like I’m not enjoying myself: fruit is my dessert. The ecstasy of a perfect summer strawberry in Helsinki, which I am having right now even as I write this sentence, is hard to match.

The second principle is that avoiding sweets isn’t something I do; it’s who I am. It’s an identity-level statement. For some reason, identity-level statements like “I’m a non-dessert eater” work really well, implementing the Be-Do-Have system of behavioral success:

  • Reconfigure your identity to fit the kind of person you want to be: I’m someone who doesn’t eat sweets.
  • Then, do the things that that person does: I never eat sweets.
  • Then, reap the results: I stay slim and get to enjoy a wide range of foods a helluva lot more.

The paradox of quitting sweets is that you get to enjoy life even more. Who knew that moderation could feel so good?

5. EAT SALAD WITHOUT DRESSING

Salad’s great for you. Greens! Veggies! High nutrition, low calories! So when you drench it in 10,000,000 calories of Thousand Island dressing, you completely defeat the point of salad. This makes the salad sad.

I never add dressing to my salad. If I do, it’s some no-calorie or low-calorie thing like balsamic vinegar and dijon mustard which is high on flavor, low on fat. Remember the Power of Zero: zero times anything is always zero. Zero dressing equals zero calories, for ever and all time, hallelujah and amen.

An added bonus when you stop drenching your salad in dressing is that you get to appreciate the subtle taste of the greens and vegetables. Arugula, mesclun, butter lettuce, dill, parsley, carrots: they all have flavors that get drowned out by the fat and sugar in heavy dressing, like starlight gets drowned by sunlight. Skip the dressing, and get to savor the extra flavor you bring into your life.

6. TAKE THE DAMN STAIRS AND WALK EVERYWHERE

This is one of those rules that, over the course of your life, can result in burning up millions of extra calories, no joke. My rule is simple: if it’s less than 5 stories, take the stairs. And if it’s less than 25min away by foot, walk. Over time, this will add up to a lot more exercise than a gym membership, and it’s much easier to integrate into your life. Biking also works. Pro tip: wear shoes comfortable to walk in. Fancy dress shoes or high heels will make you reluctant to implement this rule.

7. MINIMIZE MEAT CONSUMPTION

I never eat red meat; stopped doing it at 14. And by “never”, I mean that I’ll eat it once or twice a year on special occasions, like when reindeer meatballs are being served at a Swedish midsummer party, or it’s a particularly tasty filet mignon of grass-fed beef in Buenos Aires, or when a Maasai tribe has just sacrificed its last goat in my honor, and not eating the very tasty roasted goat would not just be ungracious but would probably result in the wrath of people with pointy spears.

But avoiding red meat is an identity-level thing for me, which makes it easy to refuse red meat and never seek it out. For me, red meat just tends to be laden with saturated fat, and heavy in a way that just sits in (and on) my body. It’s also super-dense calorically, with 100g of beef having on average 10 times the amount of calories in 100g of, say, broccoli. Eating lots of red meat is an easy way to get fat.

I do eat some fish, and occasionally chicken. Finding lean cuts of chicken is easy, though it’s much harder to find the stuff that’s not factory-farmed. I never eat pork, because I’ve seen pig factory farming and it’s horrifying.

There are many strategies for reducing your meat consumption. As Dan Barber suggests in his magisterial book The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food (ebook & print), it’s useful to think of meat as flavoring to your food, as opposed to being the main dish. Or as author-chef Marc Bittman suggests, be vegetarian before 6pm.

You can also opt for changing your mind. Books like The Third Plate, Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals make non-hysterical, reasoned, utterly convincing arguments for switching to a plant-based diet. And if you prefer shock therapy, watch the documentary Earthlings. After watching it, my pork consumption dropped from once a week to zero, and has stayed there.

8. ALWAYS EAT HOMEMADE FOOD.

Restaurants have a vested interest in having you come back, but not necessarily in keeping you healthy. That’s why they liberally add salt, sugar and fat to their dishes to make them maximally appealing to your brain. At least in the US, they also serve gargantuan portions far beyond what we would normally eat. And they’re constantly trying to upsell you with empty-calorie drinks (the main profit center for most restaurants) and appetizers. 

Add to this the human tendency to mindlessly finish whatever’s on our plates, and we’ve got a formula for adding hundreds of extra calories per meal and dozens of pounds per year. 

The solution is to eat out as little as possible–never, if you can help it. This may be hard to do if you’re in a line of work involving lots of client meals. In those cases, be vigilant about what you order. And if you did overeat, you can always skip the next meal.

If you don’t have to eat with clients, then always bring your food from home. I recommend the never-eat-out manifesto called Foodist: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting (ebook & print) by neuroscientist Darya Pino Rose, which changed my behavior.

IMPLEMENTATION

So you found some ideas in this article that you’d like to implement? Groovy! This is the most important part of the whole process. Information alone does not become transformation. Behavioral change leads to transformation, by creating new habits. And the way to change behavior is gradually.

The way to set yourself up for success is to implement these suggestions one at a time. More than that, and you’re upsetting your homeostasis and inviting your unconscious mind to revolt against the changes. And you don’t want to have a revolting unconscious, do you? Didn’t think so.

I know it’s fun to just go for a huge change and do a bunch of things at once. But we’re trying to change behavior here that’s been ingrained for a long time, so let’s eat this elephant one bite at a time, shall we? 

I recommend staying with one new habit for at least 4 weeks before launching the next one. Research shows that median time for habit establishment is 66 days, so even 4 weeks is pretty quick. Luckily, we’re aiming to establish lifelong habits, so time is on your side.

CONCLUSION AND RECAP

We live in an unprecedented time in human history where many of us don’t have to expend any effort to acquire food, nor worry about shortage. Yet, we still have these ancient brains that are adapted to a supermarket-free, refrigerator-free environment when food could become scarce any day. Evolution will eventually adapt us to these new conditions in a couple of hundred thousand years or so. But you and I aren’t that patient, so let’s get clever and use some rules to circumvent the environmental distractions, shall we? So once again, the principles:

A. Sustainability. Ask yourself, “Could I stay slim if I did this every day for a month, or a year, or a lifetime?”

B. Regulate your behavior with habits, not willpower or thought. Hunger does not operate in the logical part of your brain. So if you have to think about food choices, you’re toast. Use strong habits instead.

C. Use rules so you don’t have to think about food choices. Similar to #2, if you have think about your choices every time you come across a slice of cheesecake or a double margarita, you will lose. Have ironclad, unbreakable behavioral rules instead. Rules enforced over the long term can often turn into habits.

D. Hara hachi bu. Eat only up to the point that you’re 80% full.

E. Think of undesirable foods as poison. Slow-acting poisons perhaps, but poisons still.

F. Use the Power of Zero: Zero times anything is zero. Eat and drink lots of zeros, like water, and air salad dressing.

G. Move all the time.

And if you found this article helpful, please help spread the word so people don’t spread their waistlines 🙂

To your health and flourishing, Dr Ali

PS: The links to the books in this article are affiliate links. This means that every time you purchase through those links, you support the blog by having several shiny pennies deposited into my Amazon account, so I can buy more great books (currently about 20 a month) and tell you about them. I am infinitely grateful for your support!

RESOURCES

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan (ebook & print). Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. If it’s processed, your grandma can’t pronounce it, or it’s got 17 syllables, it’s not food. Have a reference copy to keep in your kitchen.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (ebook and print). Essential reading if you haven’t read it yet, even though it came out in 2006 (sadly, not much has changed). Pollan takes you through the origins of the ingredients of 4 meals: from a fast-food joint; from Whole Foods; from a biodynamic farm; and hunted and foraged by himself. In the process, you learn where food comes from, how industrial livestock farming works, the real meaning behind the “organic” label, what naturally raised eggs and chicken taste like, and how you can do your part to eat healthier and more sustainably.

The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food, by Dan Barber (ebook & print). Barber is the chef at the famed farm-to-table restaurant Blue Hill in New York City and Blue Hill at Stone Barns. A multiple James Beard Award winner, he spent 13 years writing this book, and it is a masterpiece. Barber urges us to deeply reconsider our default food choices, currently based on transportability, pest-resistance and shelf life thanks to giant agribusiness firms. Instead, we should bring flavor, nature’s way of signaling high nutrition, to the center of our food choices. In the process, he takes us to the best (and most sustainable) seafood restaurant in the world, Washington University’s Bread Lab, ethically-raised foie gras, and his own restaurants and farm (Stone Barns). It’s an utterly convincing tour de force, and fun to boot–Dan can write.

The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest by Dan Buettner (ebook & print). Want to live to be 100? The people in the five Blue Zones do, at rates vastly disproportionate from the rest of the world. A big part of their highly functional longevity comes from their eating habits: locally produced food, eaten in good company, mostly plant-based, with good red wine. Written in conjunction with National Geographic, the whole Blue Zones book series is well worth reading and re-reading. If all you get out of it is hara hachi bu, moai, and Cannonau red wine, you win huge.

Foodist: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting (ebook & print) by Darya Pino Rose, Ph.D. A manifesto about real food and real science that proves once and for all that sustainable weight loss is possible by incorporating fresh, seasonal—and delicious—ingredients into every meal.

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, by Prof John J Ratey. As if you needed more reasons to exercise, Prof John Ratey of Harvard Medical School provides a truckload of evidence on how exercise can positively affect learning, stress, anxiety, depression, attention, depression, hormonal changes and aging. Although the science has moved forward to bolster the benefits of exercise since he wrote this book in 2008, the book is still enormously persuasive and worthwhile.

7-Minute Workout app by Johnson & Johnson. Don’t have time for a serious workout? Can’t afford a gym? The good news: as publicized by a 2013 New York Times article, a properly designed 7-minute workout can convey the benefits of a much longer one. This free app by the pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has different 7-minute workouts that exercise the entire body. It even has a smart workout setting that allows you to up the intensity to your ever-improving fitness level. And did I mention it’s totally free? The bad news: I just destroyed any last excuses you had not to exercise. Who doesn’t have 7 minutes to spend on exercise? You spend more time every day watching cat videos. Get on it.