How to transform your health and shape (The 3-Pillar Method)


Most people start the new year with lofty goals around eating healthier and exercising more because they want to look good (been there, done that). Yet, accomplishing these goals works much better by holistically optimizing the three pillars of physical health.

What to do

Unlock your best health and shape by optimizing your nutrition, exercise and sleep for good.

Why it works

In his instant #1 New York Times bestseller Outlive, Dr. Peter Attia (pictured above) identifies three pillars of physical health: nutrition, exercise and sleep. While his fourth pillar – emotional health – is as essential as the other three, I won’t go deeper into it in today’s post. Let me start by stating the obvious: nutrition, exercise and sleep can make or break your health. 

First, “you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet.”, according to Dr. Mark Hyman. Second, not exercising at all is as bad for your health as smoking, as Dr. Attia shares in his book (this blew my mind). Third, sleep is the foundation of our mental and physical health and performance in all endeavors, according to Stanford professor Andrew Huberman.

In Outlive, Attia provides excellent advice for optimizing ​​both your lifespan (how many years you live) and healthspan (the quality of those years) via his four pillars of health, and I highly recommend giving it a read. For now, here are my best tips for transforming your physical health and shape via nutrition, exercise and sleep.

How to do it

First, nutrition. I know what you’re thinking. Eating and drinking right is difficult. So, here are five easy tips that work like a charm:

  1. Drink loads of water. Water is essential for your physical and mental health. Also, 1-2 glasses before a meal make portion control so much easier (take it from a hopeless foodie). The prestigious Mayo Clinic recommends 2 liters a day for women and 3 liters for men. Try this. It’s a total game-changer.
  2. Fast intermittently. Daily intermittent fasting (IF) for 12-16 hours has many health benefits, including reduced cancer and dementia risk. Getting to 12 hours of IF is easy: stay away from food 3 hours before bed and 1 hour after waking up. And if you eat breakfast later (or not at all), you’ll also burn fat while working.
  3. Eat smart, go genius. You can’t outfast (or outwork) a bad diet. So, avoid processed foods and eat smart. How? Go big on the 10 Genius Foods for brain health (h/t to Max Lugavere): eggs, almonds, wild salmon, broccoli, avocados, extra-virgin olive oil, grass-fed beef, dark leafy greens, dark chocolate, and blueberries. I have five or more of these most days.
  4. Cut out the alcohol. Alcohol contains loads of sugary calories and crushes your impulse control. That makes for a helluva double-whammy. Consider starting a “Dry January” today. After that, have 0-6 drinks a week. Scientists found more is really, really bad for you (learn why here). Save alcohol for special occasions. Your future self will thank you.
  5. Screw cheat days. Harsh truth: you‘ll never rewire your brain to enjoy healthy food if you stuff yourself with garbage all day long once a week. After reading “The 4-Hour Body” in 2011 (which has a lot of great advice, too), it took me ten years to figure this out. Don’t be me. Start avoiding cheat days now. Silver lining: cheat meals are fine.

Second, exercise. Away with spending countless hours running or cycling to burn calories. If you want to get into your best health and shape, doubling down on maintaining muscle and zone 2 cardio is the way to go.

  1. Resistance training is vital to maintain muscle. Two exercises give you the most bang for the buck: kettlebell swings and myotatic crunches (h/t to Tim Ferris). When you feel like quitting, use Ed Mylett’s “One more rule” – and get in One more rep. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends resistance training at least two times per week. If you’re interested in changing your body composition, go for three times a week.
  2. Zone 2 cardio (e.g. walking) is key for your health and fat-burning. Here’s how to get it in on a busy schedule: do a 10-min walk before or after work, and get off the car (or train) a block earlier; take the stairs whenever possible, and never take an elevator; take a walk before or after meals to buffer your blood sugar response. You’ll effortlessly make it to the 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week recommended by the AHA.

Third, sleep. As reflected by Prof. Huberman’s statement, sleep is vital for pretty much everything. Yet, mere quantity (i.e. 8 hours of shallow sleep) isn’t good enough. You also need quality, most notably 90 minutes of deep sleep. Only in deep sleep, your stress system is entirely deactivated, your brain cleans out toxins, and your body emits growth hormones. All three are crucial for your health and shape.

To get to 90 minutes of deep sleep, use my 3T Method around time givers, technology and timing (and learn more in this wildly popular article on the topic):

  1. Time givers. Start with light by following my 10-10-10 rule: get 10 minutes of sunlight before 10 am and avoid bright (blue) light after 10 pm.
  2. Technology. Try intermittent digital fasting (IDF): put your phone out of sight 1 hour before bed (give it its own bedroom!) – and let it “sleep in” for 1 hour after you wake.
  3. Timing. Sleep in 90-minute multiples to avoid “sleep inertia” by going for 7.5 or 9 (not 7 or 8!) hours of sleep a night – and adding 5-15 minutes for falling asleep.

As Jim Rohn said: “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”

Use the 3-Pillar Method to transform your health and become unrecognizable.