At the end of the day, I would tell myself the same story…”Tomorrow I’ll get up early, go to the gym and workout”
The next morning I am abruptly awoken by my alarm clock.
All the motivation I had the night before has disappeared.
Inevitably, I hit the snooze button and go back to sleep.
After hitting snooze two or three (or maybe four or five..) I realise it’s 8am and I have to get up and rush to get to work.
Jees, I would think, I was meant to go to the gym and have plenty of time to get to work feeling energised.
Instead, I feel unmotivated, ashamed of myself and rushed.
No problem, I thought, I’ll put my gym clothes in my bag and go straight after work.
Feeling better knowing I would go to the gym later, I rush out of the flat to get to work, downing a coffee and some sugary cereal for breakfast.
I walk in the door to the office. ‘Morning, How are you?’ says the secretary. ‘Good, how are you’ I reply.
Obviously, I’m not actually ‘good’. But this is the response that I know will stop people asking anymore questions.
Because the last thing I feel like doing first thing in the morning is having a deep conversation.
While sitting through another progress meeting come mid morning, all I want to do is eat!
When lunchtime comes around I grab a meal deal at the local supermarket and mindlessly eat as fast as I can in front of my computer whilst trying to work. Or at least look like I’m working.
Must look like I’m putting in the effort by working through lunch, I thought.
An hour or so after lunch, I feel like it’s bedtime.
I need a break.
I go to the kitchen for some water and do 1 minute of stretching. I feel so stiff and have a lack of energy.
Must. Do. More. Exercise. I think.
But before I can continue my micro break, my manager walks in. ‘How long until you complete that energy statement report? Remember it’s due tomorrow.’
Like I didn’t know already.
So much for having a proper break for just 5 minutes.
I feel the pressure that I must get back to work.
Everyone else is at their desks and I’m here in the kitchen looking like I’m taking it easy.
I stay late to complete the report before I leave the office.
When it’s time to head home, I think “Oh man, I’m meant to go to the gym…”
But I feel so tired and drained of energy.
And this is the perfect excuse not to go to the gym.
After all, I’ve had a hard stressful day at work haven’t I?
Plus the thought of going to the busy, sweaty gym does not fill me with excitement.
On my way home I grab a quick microwave meal to save the hassle of cooking.
But this isn’t satiating. I’m still hungry afterwards and gauge on crisps and my nemesis..granola.
It’s okay, I thought, I’ll definitely get up early and go to the gym tomorrow to make up for it…
There is a better way
Does this story sound familiar?
This was how I lived for years as a professional sustainability consultant.
The occasions when I did manage to go to the gym or the park to workout I would push my body to the maximum with high intensity exercise thinking this would make up for all those days of stress and sitting down.
How wrong I was.
But it’s important to realise that this is completely normal.
We are imperfect human beings.
But I have changed quite a bit since then.
Some simple lifestyle habits have made all the difference.
But while they might be simple, they are not easy.
They require some focus and commitment.
Evolving your health is about realising that modern lifestyles are devolving us as human beings mentally, physically and spiritually.
But it’s also about realising that making small changes can greatly improve your mental, physical and spiritual health.
It doesn’t require expensive celebrity endorsed supplements, expensive gym memberships, signing up to weight watchers or buying the latest fad diet book.
It requires a holistic lifestyle approach across nutrition, movement, sleep and reducing stress.
It’s no good if you are healthy in one area but not in another because every part of our body affects another.
But you don’t have to be 100% perfect.
It’s about making progress, not trying to be perfect.
But most of all, it’s about not relying on willpower to get up early to go to the gym and sustain an exercise or diet that you don’t enjoy.
It’s about finding a healthier lifestyle that works for you and makes you feel good.
And there are some simple things that we can do to that don’t take much time and don’t cost money, yet have multiple benefits.
So from years of research and self experimentation, here are my top 5 actions that you can start to implement to get the best bang for your buck across nutrition, movement, sleep and reducing stress.
1. Get outside for just 30 minutes a day
From improving your sleep and productivity to decreasing stress and likelihood of illness, there are so many health benefits to being active outside that I have already written about.
If you can combine being active with being outside in nature such as a park, you are getting many lifestyle benefits above and beyond the exercise itself.
Being outside really is like therapy and is the best bang for your buck.
Even if it’s cloudy or raining it still has benefits.
Being outside is just way more interesting than being inside. The scenery is always slightly different.
And whether it’s walking part way to and from work or the supermarket, taking an actual lunch break (which is more productive than if you don’t), walking the dog or visiting the local park, there are so many ways to fit it into a busy lifestyle.
2. Prioritise rest and digest
We are so focused on all the things we think we need to do, we become too busy to live.
Life is not a to do list.
However I know we all have stuff to do. But there is a better way to be more productive and less stressed.
I now focus on accomplishing one thing rather than trying to do twenty things and end up rushing them or getting distracted and not actually achieving anything.
I also make time for 15 minutes of me time each day.
This can be meditation by just counting for five seconds as you breathe in and out.
Or it could be reading a book or doing some yoga.
Just try to find something that makes you feel good.
Also, sleep is absolutely huge.
I’ll say it again, sleep is absolutely huge!
Ideally you want to sleep in sync with the human circadian rhythm. This is the body clock of all living beings and is controlled by an area of the brain that responds to natural daylight.
Everyone’s rhythm is unique, hence the terms ‘morning larks’ and ‘night owls’.
Fighting your natural urges plays havoc with your sleep quality. However, modern lifestyles with screens make it all too easy to stay up till late watching Youtube.
Hence, try to have your ‘me time’ just before bed whether that is meditation or reading a book for example as this will not only reduce stress but promote better sleep.
And if you usually wake up to the alarm clock in a deep sleep then you should try going to bed earlier as you naturally need more sleep.
The most important factor in keeping your circadian rhythm in sync is to have a routine that works for you.
3. Find a food lifestyle that works for you
Don’t force yourself on a diet plan that is hard for you to adhere to.
Despite all these labels out there, it’s not about being 100% keto or 100% vegan or whatever.
It’s also not about short term diets.
Instead, identify a few healthy foods that you like and an unhealthy food that you can live without.
Start small by choosing one fruit or vegetable and one unhealthy food to reduce.
Eat foods that make you feel good and are satiating for you. This will make it much more likely that you will sustain it and enjoy it.
For example, you might like apples and peas so focus on meals with those ingredients.
For myself, I would really struggle on a keto diet because I need carbohydrates to feel satiated.
However, I realise there are some benefits to limiting carbohydrates and I am not hungry in the mornings so choose to follow an intermittent fasting routine whereby I go without food for 16 – 20 hours.
Foods like potatoes (no, they don’t make you fat) sweet potatoes and legumes as well as nuts and seeds are some of the most satiating foods for me whilst also being the healthiest.
Moreover, the hormones Serotonin and tryptophan are also good at reducing stress and calming the mind and are found in these food types.
Whilst I eat a 99% plant based diet, I don’t define myself by this or by being vegan (even though I personally agree with the ethics of being so).
I eat what works for me in terms of health and taste.
So don’t conform to a label. Find your own label.
4. Move throughout the day
It’s time to stand up against sitting down.
It’s not that sitting in itself is bad. It’s the amount of prolonged sitting that we are doing now that is worrying for our future health.
The World Health Organisation has declared sitting as the new smoking.
And everything is catered for the current age of comfort and convenience.
The health and fitness industry answer is to do formal exercise sessions.
However, new research is showing that moving more throughout the day has more positive benefits on things like blood sugar levels.
The term is exercise snacking.
Even getting up off your chair for three seconds and sitting down again is better than just staying sat down for hours!
Just try and move as much as you can throughout the day.
Also, it’s a very effective strategy to exercise just before eating. A brief 60 seconds of exercise before meals has been shown to be more effective at controlling weight and type 2 diabetes than 30 minutes of intense exercise.
And if you work in a sedentary job, see my guide on how to stay active in a desk based job.
5. Question mainstream thinking and social norms
All of the past four tips have a recurring theme: they generally go against what the mainstream thinking is on the topic.
Exercising outside rather than in a gym, focus on one thing rather than multitasking and being ‘busy’, find your own food lifestyle rather than forcing yourself to follow a fad diet and small movements throughout the day rather than ten hours of sitting and 1 hour of intense exercise.
I used to follow mainstream advice.
Then I realised that there are so many vested interests and politics at play that the best thing to do is do your own research from the most independent sources you can find.
What I now think is that what’s commonly accepted as the truth is actually the opposite of what we should be doing.
This is much like the Mandela effect.
My perspective is that if the mainstream thinking was good for you, we wouldn’t have soaring rates of obesity and mental health issues.
Because the reality is that the mainstream thinking all fits in to the narrative of a consumer lifestyle.
A consumer lifestyle that wants and needs us to be too busy, stressed, unhealthy, distracted and to feel like we never have enough so we will end up being an easy target for corporations and making the easy and convenient lifestyle choice i.e. buying their service or products.
Our economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our ego satisfactions and solve all our problems, in consumption. The measure of social status, of social acceptance, of prestige, is now to be found in our consumptive patterns. We need to have people eat, drink, dress, ride, live, with ever more complicated and, therefore, constantly more expensive consumption.
~Retail analyst Victor Lebow
Therefore, try to limit the amount of news you watch or advertising you expose yourself to.
Be open to question things that are considered normal.
Ask yourself what is the motive of the source.
Ask it about me. If this blog doesn’t resonate with you, than I’m sorry for wasting your time and you should not follow my advice.
Ultimately, it’s about thinking openly and rationally to feel empowered to go with what resonates with you, rather than be manipulated into going with what works best for consumerism and a corporation.
A healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive
The best things in life are free.
None of the above cost money. In fact they will probably save you money.
Remember, these aren’t advocated so much because people can’t make money out of them.
Following the advice in this blog means you are a poor consumer.
And the consumer mindset has been conditioned in us since we were young that we think we need to spend money, ‘fit in’, have fun and be healthy.
I’m not saying never buy anything, throw away your tv or hate the system!
Hating the system will get you nowhere and promote hate within you.
It’s not you against them, it’s you for you.
I’m advocating for you to be a more empowered, aware, self-sufficient and ultimately healthy human being.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them below or contact me and I would be happy to help.