So the moment has come, you’ve made up your mind, you’ve run out of excuses, now is the time. You’ve decided you’re going to get healthy. Good for you!
But where to start? The internet is awash with seemingly contradictory diet advice, the bookshop shelves sag with self-help books.
Eat more fat, eat less fat, eat more carbs, eat less carbs, go vegan, try the carnivore diet. It’s all so confusing and stressful. To be honest, it’s enough to make you go rushing to your nearest drive thru to console yourself with a lovely double grease burger with extra grease!
Well, my friend I’m not about to add to the confusion by proscribing certain diets and exercise regimes upon. I’m going to attempt to help give you a little clarity with the steps you can take get your new healthy life off to a good start.
Ok, I’m starting with the single most important thing you can do for your health. Get. More. Sleep.
Regular exercise and a healthy diet are often referred to as the two pillars of good health, what is often forgotten is that quality sleep is the foundation on which these pillars stand and fall.
Sleep plays a vital role in absolutely everything we do. There is a mountain of evidence the size of Everest that shows poor sleep equals poor health. The weary are more likely to become obese, develop diabetes, have high blood pressure, suffer from cardiovascular disease and even get diagnosed with cancer. Eek!
The consequences of poor sleep don’t just end there, not by a long shot. A lack of sleep also impacts our mental health. Those who regularly miss a few hours a night have a greater chance of developing anxiety, stress, depression and even committing suicide. Yikes!
Despite knowing the above as a society we’ve never slept worse. If you are looking to improve your health improve your sleep. Simple as that. With a good night’s rest under your belt you will find that everything else begins to fall into place, your cravings for unhealthy food with reduce and your desire to exercise will rise.
If you do one thing today start thinking about your sleep. Look at the quality of your bed, think about your caffeine intake, examine your pre-bed routine, look for the easy wins.
Don’t major in the minors, focus on what’s important
Pareto’s 80/20 law tells us that 80% of the the effects tend to come from just 20% of the effort. What this means is, don’t get stuck in the weeds, focus on the changes you can make that will have the biggest impact on your health.
If you smoke twenty cigarettes a day for instance, there is very little point in worrying about what impact the potentially cancer-causing preservatives in bacon might be having on your health.
The best health regime isn’t always the best
A trainer may be able to give you the perfect exercise regime and a nutritionist may be able to calculate the perfect diet. But neither of these will be any good at all if you don’t stick to them.
Getting up at 6am and going for a 10 mile run followed by a wheatgrass smoothie may be scientifically the best thing you can do – but if you don’t do it, well, then it’s utterly pointless.
The best health regime for you is the one that sticks, day in and day out. If that means you sleep in late then go for a 2 mile walk, followed by your normal bowl of cornflakes then so be it. The 2 mile walk is of course not as good for you as a 10 mile run but you’re a hell of a lot more likely to do it aren’t you? Build up slow, get the momentum going.
Focus on health not appearance
Diets on the whole just don’t work. Pretty much everyone who goes on a fad or crash diet – like those you see on weight-loss shows on tv – will recover that weight in almost no time at all. The stats would actually be hilarious if it wasn’t so concerning for everyone involved. Type 2 diabetes is no laughing matter.
The problem is that people focus on what isn’t important – the number on the scales. Obviously it’s a handy guide but to a large extent it’s also just a vanity number, what is truly important is your health and how you feel.
Focusing on weight and appearance alone puts you a negative mindset. Instead of making your goal to lose 12 pounds by the end of the summer, make your goal something more positive. Like being able to play with your son for ten minutes without feeling out of breath, or climb the hill behind the house without breaking a sweat.
Try temptation bundling
Temptation bundling is my favourite trick for promoting a healthy lifestyle. The concept is quite simple, you take something that on the face of it isn’t enjoyable and you combine it with something you do enjoy.
If you have a favourite podcast make a rule with yourself that you can only listen to it while running. Boom! You will find that you’ll actively start looking forward to pulling your trainers on and going for a bop around the block.
A friend of mine is addicted to audiobooks, so much so that he would make excuses to go for a drive just so he could listen to them in the car. His clever wife bought him an exercise bike, now he combines his love of the spoken word with some frantic pedaling. Win-win.
The list of temptation bundles is endless. Love watching Game of Thrones, well load up your tablet and take it with you to the gym. Now you can get your fill of backstabbing while you workout.
Well, there you have my friends – my top five things you can do to improve the chances that your quest for health will be successful. As promised, I didn’t prescribe any fad diets or bizarre exercise regimes. The road to health is all about momentum, start slow and build up pace. Once you get going you’ll see that the things you thought impossible will become not just achievable but actually enjoyable. Good luck!