With the world opening up and summer on the horizon, I wanted to go back through all the health hacks I've learned since working on All the Hacks and put them in one place.
However, just because there’s so much here absolutely does not mean you have to do it all. Health and wellness looks different for EVERYBODY, so just pick a few to try and see what sticks for you. Also, I’m sure you know this, but I’m definitely not a doctor, so keep that in mind :)
Finally, I’d love to hear how your experience with these went, so please reach out and share! I’ve already heard about the joys of cold showers from a few of you 🥶.
🍜 All Things Food
It’s no secret that food is by far the most difficult and stressful aspect of healthy living. From failed diets, to shelling out for expensive health foods, to feeling out of control around our favorite ‘unhealthy’ meals, we have a lot of emotions attached to eating. And even the mood you’re in when you think about and eat food has a huge impact on your health.
For me, I think it’s so important to eat foods that make YOU happy! So whatever you do, just know that it should be highly tailored to your needs and your routines. Start with a strong foundation and build up. Being food-healthy is a relationship you can continually build and strengthen with yourself, so take a few of these ideas and run with them!
🥕 Buying organic and in-season
Eating only organic foods isn’t necessary, but there are some foods that really are safer to eat organic. Spinach, for example, has more pesticide residue by weight than any other form of produce—so eating organic spinach instead can have huge benefits.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases two lists every year called the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen. They highlight the most and least pesticide-laden produce on the shelves, and it changes every year.
My general general rule of thumb is to try and shop organic when you’re eating the skin of your produce… that said it’s always better to be eating more fresh vegetables (and fruits), no matter where they come from.
💊 Vitamins and supplements
While a perfectly well-balanced diet is certainly the best way to ensure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals you need, I think it’s impractical (and sometimes not fun) to do that every day. So I’ve been taking Athletic Greens every day as my all-in-one insurance for nutrition, gut health and immunity.
Note: Athletic Greens is a sponsor of All the Hacks, but I do genuinely love their product and the link above will get you a free 1 year supply of immune-supporting Vitamin D and 5 free travel packs.
🍎 Diets: Why they fail and things to try
My past guest and foodist Darya Rose Ph.D. shared that 95% of diets fail in the long term (longer than 3 years). In fact, dieting was more often a better to gain weight than to lose weight.
She explains that diets fail because they rely on willpower and restriction for achieving health goals, and ignore the reasons these tactics always backfire. Most people aren’t willing to change their entire lives to accommodate their diets. Instead, focusing more on consistent healthy habits like adding more vegetables or moving more are more effective.
She also suggests trying to adopt a habit of mindful eating, which research shows will help you eat less, eat slower and improve digestion. As a side benefit you usually end up enjoying your food more.
🍵 Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting can offer a variety of health benefits and many studies show it can have powerful effects on your body and brain and may even help you live longer. If you’re interested in trying it out, I highly recommend checking out Zero, an app that helps you to optimize your health and metabolic wellness.
If you do decide to fast (and depending for how long), it’s important to focus on taking in enough protein at meals and incorporating strength training to prevent too much loss of muscle mass.
🍽 Eating out hacks
Eating out can be tricky. There are so many options and a lot of them just aren’t good for us. So to start, make sure you always order as many vegetables as you can. I think it’s better to spend a little extra on an appetizer with veggies than skip out on them in the meal. Also, keep an eye on the language on the menu, things like ‘glazed’ or ‘crispy’ are good signs that a dish probably isn’t very healthy.
My favorite eating out hack is to check the menu before I get to the restaurant and decide what I want to eat in advance. It has two benefits for me: 1) I make healthier decisions in advance and 2) I’m usually making those decisions when I’m much less hunger, instead of a few minutes before a meal.
Finally, don’t forget that eating is also about pleasure and social bonding, not just being healthy. So if you can use the 80/20 rule and try to make healthier choices for breakfast, lunch and weekday dinners, then it’s probably ok to have a suboptimal weekend dinner out.
🍦 Dessert hack
Liz Moody was curious about exactly what made dessert so ‘bad’ for you, and it really boils down to the spike in your blood sugar after having sugary foods. So she suggests incorporating more food groups like fat, fiber and protein into your sweet treats. So consider including greek yogurt, almond butter or almond flour to make your dessert a more stable blood sugar experience.
My favorite dessert hack came from Nir Eyal’s episode, where he suggested that if you really want something unhealthy, don’t tell yourself no. Instead, give yourself permission to have it, but only after waiting 5 minutes. It’s much easier psychologically and almost every time I get to 5 minutes I’ve moved on to something else and lost the urge.
😋 Make food more delicious
A lot of us remember not liking vegetables as a kid, and as great as your parents might be, their cooking might be the reason why. Adults often think they don’t like vegetables, when in reality they just haven’t prepared them correctly. Experiment with different fresh, in-season vegetables by cooking them in new ways, adding new spices, and always remembering the salt. When in doubt, a little oil and salt can drastically improve the flavor of most foods.
Liz Moody believes that people way under season/spice their foods, and that just doubling the spices called for can really improve the flavor. I usually double up the garlic and ginger in recipes, but I’m going to start doubling the spices from the spice rack and see how it goes.
Finally, while spices don’t go bad, per se, most dried seasonings, herbs and spices lose a lot of their flavor after a year or two of oxygen exposure. I’m personally struggling to replace all my spices, but this Bon Appétit article says I should probably throw everything out.
🍚 Cauliflower rice
While it’s definitely not a perfect replacement for Rice, Liz Moody suggested using it half and half with other ingredients to get a lot of the benefit. When using it in place of half the ground beef in a Bolognese, she says “you hardly notice it’s there, but you just immediately added a significant dose of veggies in your favorite sauces”.
If a recipe calls for white rice, she’ll only replace half of the rice, leaving something much closer to rice a dish with some subtle nutty notes. Or, she sometimes blends it up and uses it to thicken soups.
🥦 Frozen veggies
This surprised me: most frozen vegetables actually have more beneficial nutrients than their fresh counterparts. Liz shared that most of the time, vegetables are flash-frozen at their peak freshness, which means when they are cooked and eaten, you’re enjoying the veggie at its healthiest!
In contrast, fresh vegetables are harvested, processed, transported dozens to thousands of miles to your supermarket, and then displayed in the produce section for days until you buy it and bring it home. Then, it waits for a few days in your fridge until it’s ready to be cooked.
This is great news for busy people! Store frozen veggies for as long as you’d like, roast them on a pan (with no oil or seasoning!) until all the water has evaporated, then oil and season them to your heart’s content and bake them at the end. This will keep them crisp and delicious, instead of soggy.
🌮 My Favorite Healthy-ish Recipes
Now that we’ve talked about a ton of food-related hacks, I wanted to share some of my and Amy’s favorite healthy-ish recipes. We’ve cooked each at least a dozen times the past year and at least one of them makes a weekly appearance on the dinner table.
If you have any top recipes, please send them my way. I’d love to add them to our rotation and share out top listener recipes in the newsletter.
🏃 Body Health Hacks
When I say “body health hacks”, I am referring to anything health-related that matters to our physical bodies and movement. In other words, cold therapy, sauna therapy, regular exercise, meditation, and more. Here are a few of the coolest things I’ve learned from my podcast guests in the past year.
Walking is incredible for your health and Low-Intensity Steady State training (LISS) is actually a great way to burn calories from fat without burning calories from muscle. But choosing the right time for a walk can make a world of difference. Walking with the rising sun (before 10 o’clock in the morning) or winding down on a walk with the setting sun can help your body to reset and follow a healthy daily pattern. Better sleep means better health, and circadian walks, even if they only last ten minutes, can be a huge help.
🏋️♂️ Workout Motivation
For most of us, working out is a pain in the ass, but my favorite hack to make it happen is only committing for five minutes. I tell myself that if after five minutes I want to quit, I can, and even though I know I won’t give up, it still makes it easy for me to get started.
In Episode 52, Liz Moody swore by a reward method, in which you save something you really love for your exercise. For her that’s saving her favorite podcasts for the gym so she can make the gym feel like a reward.
Meditation is a perfect example of how sometimes, a tiny dose of a healthy habit can be much better than too much at once or none at all. The key here is to set the bar really low. That way, you’re more easily achieving small goals, giving you more and more reasons to celebrate yourself and your newfound healthy habits. Only 5 minutes of meditation can be enough to gain the benefits of meditation without forcing yourself to carve out an unrealistic chunk of time every day to practice.
Meditation has been shown to dramatically reduce stress, but also improve emotional well-being, such as increasing self-awareness, focusing on the present, reducing negative emotions, and more.
One way to incorporate meditation into your daily life seamlessly is to practice brief moments of mindfulness. My favorite way to meditate is to tap into my senses while I’m walking. I feel the way the ground feels on my feet, the sun and breeze on my face, and the way the air feels entering my lungs. I don’t have to sit in a pretzel every day, but I do walk every day. That way, I can instantly meditate whenever I get a moment.
One listener, Zach, had trouble making meditation stick until he came up with his own hack of doing it during his regular trips to the bathroom. Sounds crazy, but he’s been successfully meditating with these “bowel movement mindful minutes” for the past 6 months.
🧖♂️ Sauna Therapy
Many people think of the sauna as little more than a luxury, but it can come with quite a few health benefits too. In fact, research shows that spending regular time in the sauna can actually lower your risk of death by heart disease. Rhonda Patrick has a great page on her FoundMyFitness site all about the benefits of Sauna, which includes one study that found people who regularly use saunas are 22% less likely to die from a sudden cardiac event. It's also quite relaxing and feels great to sweat out all those toxins built up in your body. In fact, I’m constantly looking at Saunas on Amazon like this or this, but don’t know where I’d put one.
🚿 Cold Plunge and Cold Showers
Cold water might not sound like the most pleasant experience, but it comes with countless health benefits. Whether you buy The Cold Plunge, build a DIY version or just take a cold shower, cold water can not only help us to build resiliency by showing us that we can adapt to hard things, but also can support our immune system and give a huge mood boost. It can also improve memory, decrease tension and fatigue, and make your immune system significantly stronger.
In Episode 38, 3-time gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings absolutely swore by the cold plunge. She’s been committed to it for a few years now, and she says that nothing compares to the mental strength or the immune benefits of cold plunging. Her time-honored routine four days out of the week is to sit in the hot sauna for 45 minutes to sweat out any toxins and then plunge for 4 minutes a time.
If you’re looking for a DIY cold plunge, a listener named Justin sent in details on how he made his DIY cold plunge using a chest freezer he purchased on Craigslist for only $180. It’s lasted him five years so far:
You can find his recommended resources here:
In Episode 52, Liz Moody shared that she just spends the last 60 seconds of every shower moving the water to as cold as it gets. Though the water hitting your face can come as quite a shock, this can have some great benefits ranging from balancing brain chemicals to giving your body the reminder that you can endure discomfort! In fact, studies show that cold showers can give your immune system an upgrade and help you to bounce back from being sick more effectively.
In that same episode I committed to doing cold showers for the month of April and actually really enjoyed it and will probably keep it up this month. Though in full transparency I didn’t do it the 100% of the time I promised, because my daughter was in the shower with me a few times and I didn’t think the benefits would outweigh the reaction of an ice cold two year old.
😶 Taping Your Mouth
Studies show that breathing through the nose is actually healthier than breathing through your mouth, and some of us need a little extra help to do that. In Episode 52, Liz Moody shared that she tapes her mouth shut most nights to make sure she’s breathing through her nose—and it can do a lot for mental clarity and comfort by supporting your immune system and increasing oxygen intake!
😴 Sleep Hacks
Sleep influences how alert we are, how we battle certain diseases, and how we feel on a daily basis. Knowing how to improve your sleep can be a valuable tool that will help you to live a better life. Matt Walker, sleep scientist, author of Why We Sleep and host of the podcast, Sleep Diplomat, is full of tools to sleep better and get the quality sleep that you need. Personally, my top two sleep hacks are 1) charging my phone overnight in the bathroom and 2) tracking my sleep with an Oura ring (I don’t think I’ve slept without it for the past year).
💉 GLP-1’s for Weight Loss
In Episode 32, Kevin Rose talked about Ozempic (semaglutide), a type of GLP-1 medication originally used to help manage blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. And while Ozempic lowers blood sugar, it turns out it can also help the body lose weight. In fact a recent NEJM study found patients without diabetes achieved 14.9% weight loss after only 68 weeks on the drug. Last year, the FDA approved a different semaglutide for weight loss. Kevin mentioned that Ozempic can cost ~$1,000/mo, but a few startups like Alfie and Calibrate have launched to help navigate the insurance process and bring the cost of the drugs down to ~$25/mo.
While I don’t have any business relationship with Alfie, they did respond to my email and offered me a discount to share with you. If you use SPRING2022, you’ll get an additional 33% off their current discounted price for your first month.
🩸 Check Your Biomarkers
Blood testing is an amazing way to see what’s going on inside your body and an important way to keep track of your overall physical well-being. You can see if something is wrong, or you can see if something is right. And getting tested at routine intervals can allow you to see the way your body changes over time and empower you to make informed decisions about your health.
But getting the results is just half of the story, knowing what to do with those results is what I was really interested in and unfortunately my primary care doctor seemed to only have generic advice. So far the best platform I’ve found is InsideTracker and you can upload your own results or they can order the lab work to be done nearby (I’d tried WellnessFx in the past, but I found their recommendations to be lacking). What’s even better is that I’ve gotten InsideTracker to offer readers a limited time 20% discount on everything on their site.
Full disclosure: After seeing the product, I reached out to InsideTracker and they are now a sponsor of All the Hacks.