When it comes to health, Jennifer Lopez is the ultimate goals. She’s 48 years old, has two kids, and her abs are so toned that the internet is constantly accusing her of Photoshopping them. Sorry, trolls: She isn’t. Apparently, her secret to looking so flawless has nothing to do with cutting out carbs, fat, or sugar. Instead, she uses an odd technique that involves citrus fruit to curb cravings. According to Dr. Oz, JLo sniffs grapefruit oil whenever she’s hungry to control her appetite.
If you ask me, this sounds way too good to be true, but there’s actual science out there that sort of, kind of backs it up. In one study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, researchers found that rats who were exposed to grapefruit extract for 15 minutes every day had lower appetites and decreased food intake, losing weight as a result.
To better understand if this is the real deal, I spoke to Kimberly Jonas, the founder and principal alchemist of BodyMantra, who explained to me how essential oils work. “There is no proven science that one specific oil will do a specific thing from a scent standpoint, but if you do work with that intention, it is shown that you can re-pattern your brain,” she explains. “We have a blend that’s called Present, which has a number of essential oils, and if you work with it over and over and you believe that you’re going to become more present or less distracted in your moment to moment life, over time when you smell those scents together, that blend, you’ll immediately become present.”
The idea is that you create a new pathway in your brain that transmits to your body and associates scent. Think of it sort of like Pavlov’s Dog, or classical conditioning, where you can train your brain over time to associate a certain scent with a behavior. When I asked Jonas about using the scent of grapefruit for weight loss, she explained, “For most people, that would be completely effective if they were focused on wanting to change their relationship with nutrition.”
Since I am willing to do pretty much anything to look like JLo (I once attempted to dye my hair her exact shade of honey blonde, and it did not go well), I figured I would give it a try. I bought a big bag of grapefruits and decided to do as the rats did in the experiment mentioned above: I would dedicate 15 minutes every morning to smelling a grapefruit in hopes of changing my eating habits throughout the day.
First of all, I quickly realized that spending 15 minutes sniffing a sliced grapefruit takes up too much of my precious time in the morning. It added a lovely sensory effect to my social media scroll, sure, but even though I tried to think healthy thoughts during my newfound ritual, all I could think about was all of the other things I could be doing with my time—like going for a run. I also realized that I really don’t love the smell of grapefruit. Blame it on too many Greyhounds (aka vodka mixed with grapefruit juice) in college, but the more I inhaled, the more grossed out I became. Maybe this in itself would halt my appetite, I thought.
Honestly, though, I can’t say that it did. I feel like any healthy choices I made were probably more of a placebo effect than anything else. The grapefruit was there to make me eat healthier, so I ate healthier. In the four days that I did the experiment, I gnawed on mostly vegetables and lean meats. Plus, I did end up eating a grapefruit for breakfast pretty much every day, which has its own set of benefits—it was already sliced, so why not?
But, sadly, it didn’t make me entirely un-seducible to the sweets, breads, cheeses and other fatty foods of the world. There were a few things I just couldn’t resist, like a free croissant during my morning meeting and a really, really delicious cheeseburger on a date. Nevermind the receipt I have for five empanadas from Saturday night.
Unfortunately, I think the idea of sniffing a grapefruit to control your appetite is too good to be true. I’m going to go ahead and assume that JLo’s team of trainers and nutritionists have more influence than her bottle of grapefruit oil does. Plus, the time spent sniffing a grapefruit could be better used doing burpees or planks, both of which are more likely to get you those insanely-chiseled abs, anyway.