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AJ Jacobs

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How to Be the Healthiest Person Alive

Posted: 04/20/2012 8:25 am

Weight Loss Tips

Three years ago, I was fat. Not fat all over. I was what they call "skinny fat" -- a body that resembled a python after swallowing a goat.

My wife had a repertoire. She'd ask me when my baby was due. She'd subtly sing the Winnie the Pooh theme song.

And she'd tell me about this legendary place called "the gym." If I went there, maybe I wouldn't get winded playing hide and seek with my kids.

I ignored her. Then came a freak case of tropical pneumonia, a three-day hospital stay, and a now-urgent plea from my wife: "I don't want to be a widow in my 40s."

Thus kicked off a two-year quest to remake my body, a journey I chronicled in my new book Drop Dead Healthy. As with my other books, The Year of Living Biblically and The Know-It-All, I pledged to become the world's greatest expert in a field I knew nothing about.

My goal? To test out every diet and exercise regimen on planet earth and figure out which work best. I sweated, I cooked, I learned to pole dance. In the end, I lost weight, lowered my cholesterol and doubled my energy level. I feel better than I ever have. (Though I know that just typing that will mean I'll come down with rickets tomorrow.)

The project ended a few months ago, but I've kept dozens of the strategies I found most helpful. Here, a sampling.

Embrace Chewdaism
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We are a nation of under-chewers. We are wolfer-downers. Chewing offers two health advantages: It gets us more nutrients, and more important, it slows down our eating. The slower we eat, the less we eat (this is because, annoyingly enough, it takes 20 minutes for the "I'm full" message to travel from the stomach to the brain).

I ran across a passionate pro-mastication community on the Internet. They call their movement "Chewdaism." They're a tad overzealous -- they recommend 50 to 100 chews per mouthful, which means you spend a day and a half eating a sandwich. But their heart is in the right place. As a reform member of Chewdaism, I chew about 15 times.

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