Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.


The best of solutions journalism in the sustainability space, published monthly.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Bill Roth headshot

Simple Lifestyle Changes That Extend Life Expectancy

By Bill Roth

American life expectancy is now the lowest among high-income countries, according to new research.

The typical American can now expect to live as long as someone in Mexico or Croatia. Our increased weight, along with infant mortality and high homicide rates, were statistically identified as reasons why Americans have a significantly shorter life expectancy than those living in South Korea or France.

The journal Obesity published new research linking stress to weight gain the same week the life expectancy study was published. This is not just coincidence. Professional awareness is growing about the role stress plays in our national weight crisis and our diminished life expectancy compared to other high-income nations.

Moving more, eating less fails at achieving sustained weight loss

We have all tried and failed at weight loss plans centered on moving more and eating less. Here is what my research has documented on why we are failing:

Eating less rarely achieves sustained weight loss. Our bodies are not designed to go hungry. Going hungry is painful and stressful. We then rebound against this stress and pain by breaking our eat-less diets. Too often we end up loading up on sugary foods and drink. Counterintuitively, my research concludes that eat-less dieting results in weight gain.

Eating healthy rarely achieves sufficient weight loss. Eating more vegetables, fruits and fish is documented to advance human health. But as a stand-alone action, it is typically insufficient in achieving meaningful weight loss.

Play, not exercise, promotes sustained weight loss. Exercising will burn off calories. It can also be stressful and painful. So we stop exercising. Playing, like riding a bike or aerobic dancing, is fun. Because it is fun we will keep doing it.

Less stress means less weight. Figuring out how to reduce stress was the real breakthrough in my weight loss journey. Eating better, playfully burning calories and reducing stress is the winning formula for sustained weight loss.

How to reduce stress

Reducing stress is easier said than done. The very idea of setting a goal to reduce your stress can be stressful! The following are best practices for reducing stress. The key is to do all of them!

Play outside. Playing outside was my breakthrough first step in stress reduction. I discovered that I loved riding a mountain bike. There was something about pedaling away in a location with natural beauty that just melted my stress away. My typical ride is about 45 minutes. Most days I get on my bike worrying about something. I get off feeling relaxed and thankful. The cause of my stress didn’t change. But my reaction to it improved. Figuring out how to play, most especially outdoors, is a huge first step in reducing stress.

Prayer/mindfulness. I actually pray while pedaling. It usually happens after the first 15 minutes of my ride. That much exercise relaxes my body which enables me to think spiritually. A lot of my prayer time is spent thanking God for my blessings. Research finds that most of us are touched by depression and anxiety caused by looking at ourselves based on what is wrong or missing. Focusing on what is right about our lives can sooth our spirit. It can brighten our perspective. Combining that with playful exercise has been my recipe for reducing stress and weight.

Sleep more. Research is confirming that at least seven to eight hours of sleep is key to achieving sustained weight loss. It is not that sleep reduces weight. It is that a lack of sleep is tied to weight gain.

Try this new formula for sustained weigh loss

The fact you have not achieved sustained weight loss is most probably linked to using a diet-plus-exercise formula.

Try this formula instead:

  1. Figure out what healthier foods tastes great to you, and then eat all you want so you never go hungry.

  2. Learn to play, and enjoy what life has given you.

  3. Sleep at least seven hours a night.

What I found is that this formula will help you lose weight, have fun and live more. It is the reason I have lost 30 pounds and have kept them off for years.
Bill Roth headshot

Bill Roth is a cleantech business pioneer having led teams that developed the first hydrogen fueled Prius and a utility scale, non-thermal solar power plant. Using his CEO and senior officer experiences, Roth has coached hundreds of CEOs and business owners on how to develop and implement projects that win customers and cut costs while reducing environmental impacts. As a professional economist, Roth has written numerous books including his best selling The Secret Green Sauce (available on Amazon) that profiles proven sustainable best practices in pricing, marketing and operations. His most recent book, The Boomer Generation Diet (available on Amazon) profiles his humorous personal story on how he used sustainable best practices to lose 40 pounds and still enjoy Happy Hour!

Read more stories by Bill Roth