Welcome back everybody. This is the forth article in a 5 article series that I’m putting together to help you understand how to improve your health and vitality by improving each characteristic in the Pyramid of Vitality. If you’ve missed what we’ve talked about so far, I suggest you look back at the previous 3 articles, which you can find HERE, HERE, and HERE.
The last article covered the first characteristic of vitality, and that would be fitness. This one makes a lot of sense. I imagine you can’t make a trip to the doctor without them telling you that you need to get in better shape or lose weight or take off a couple of inches around your waste. So, if fitness is one aspect of vitality, it would make sense, then, that nutrition would be included, as well. And if you assumed this, you would be partly right…but also mostly wrong.
You see, over the course of the last few decades, our concept of how to change our nutrition has been messed up, to say the least. Nutrition is part of a much bigger picture. The reason why fad diets and cleanses don’t work in the long run is because they don’t fit into this bigger picture. There is much more to nutrition than simply following a meal plan and getting results (at least for the average person). That’s why I’m going to ask you to suspend your normal thinking of nutrition for the time being. I want to show you how nutrition is really lumped into something much bigger, and that’s called lifestyle.
Recently, there has been a shift in how we see our health and vitality. The 80s and 90s were ravaged by infomercials, products, trainers and gyms that were selling you on this simple idea of getting fit. To go along with that, there were fad diets, pills, and surgeries that could help you lose weight and look fabulous. Some of this hasn’t changed, and I imagine a level of this will be around forever. But it really wasn’t until the turn of the new millennia until we started to understand this idea of a healthy lifestyle.
On the surface, it’s easy enough to understand what lifestyle is. Lifestyle simply is the culmination of certain decisions we make on a regular basis that leads us to achieve the results we have, physically, financially, personally, or otherwise. When it comes to your health, there are really only 3 things that have an impact on your lifestyle:
No, I don’t mean whether you’re naughty or nice. Although, I also don’t not mean that (you get that double negative?). What I mean by how you behave is, what you do a regular basis. That could mean your job, how often you go out to bars, how often you get together with family, how many much vacation time you take in a year, or how long you work. There are a lot of things that fit into this category. I just want you to understand that you’re choosing to do on a regular basis (your behavior) is having an impact on your health.
Yes, what you eat is second on the characteristics list, after behavior. Why is that? Simple. Most of our nutritional habits can be linked back to our behavior in some form or fashion. Yes, what you eat is absolutely important. But, being in the fitness industry for almost a decade now, I’ve seen that it’s not as easy as simply telling someone to stop eating ice cream at night. There is a behavior pattern that is getting them to that point. For some people, that’s sitting down on the couch and turning on the TV. For others, it’s simply the act of opening the fridge hoping to find a little snack to eat.
If you read the last article about the 3 functions of fitness (if you didn’t, go read it HERE), you know that this is also the third function of fitness. And although they say the same thing, rest and recovery here is not the same as rest and recovery for fitness sake. For the purposes of lifestyle, I’m talking about how much you sleep, how much vacation you take, how many times a week you meditate, how often you go for a leisurely bike ride (or a downhill mountain bike ride if that is what relaxes you). The important thing is this category is doing the things that you enjoy doing and that keep you even and relaxed.
So you see, although lifestyle only has these 3 functions, there are many, many things that fit into each one of these categories. Making a change in one or all of these categories can be daunting. After all, when most people are told that they need to lose weight, their first reaction isn’t to stop going to bars, stop eating ice cream at night, and start sleeping more. The first action step for most in this scenario is to join a gym. Which isn’t necessarily the wrong thing. It’s just the easiest thing. Because it doesn’t require that you possibly cut out some of your social group or, goodness forbid, not watch your fifth episode of House of Cards on Netflix at night.
Yes, making changes in this category is going to be a challenge. But challenges are what ultimately make us stronger. And if we’re not willing to work through them, we’ll continue to get the life we’re earning. A smarter man than me once said that you’re always getting what you ask out of life, even though your SAY you want more. With that being said, let’s check out some actions steps that can move us forward in our lifestyle:
Like I said, this is a BIG category, so I’m not going to tackle every bit of behavior. I will, however, share with you this wonderful tool that has helped me better understand the decisions that I’m making that are impacting my health. Like I said, behavior has an impact on a lot of things in our life, including food. So becoming aware of what the behaviors are that are leading you to make certain decisions is imperative. That’s why I started practicing Mindful Awareness. Mindful Awareness is simply being aware of your thoughts and actions as they are happening, especially in times that may be having a negative impact on your physical or mental health.
For instance, quitting smoking is a big decision for people. One of my best friends recently told me his quitting story. Luckily, his company pays for them to work with a Quit Coach if you choose to quit smoking. And one of the first questions his Quit Coach asked him was when he had his first cigarette of the day. His answer was that he would grab a Starbucks iced coffee out of the fridge, go out on the balcony, and have a smoke. So the Quit Coach suggested that, instead of grabbing the iced coffee, he grab a glass of water. Seems simple, right? Well, for most of us, we don’t look at the behavior BEFORE the action. We just look at the action and try to fix that. So, use Mindful Awareness to understand what behaviors you have that may be leading to unwanted actions.
Okay, this topic has been beaten to death over and over again. I’m not going to tell you what you should and shouldn’t eat. I’m not going to tell you that you’re a bad person if you eat ice cream (yes, I had cookies and ice cream this past weekend, and I enjoyed every minute of it!). I’m only going to give you some guidelines to follow to improve your nutritional prowess.
First, 90% of the time, only eat meals made with whole foods. What does that mean? That means anything that has more than one ingredient doesn’t count. A whole food is the food itself, in whole form. Think chicken breast, eggs, kale, apples, berries, walnuts, pecans. Those are whole foods.
Next, drink at least a liter of water a day, and better yet, 2 liters of water. This will help eliminate some of the unwanted calories you get from other drinks (no, I’m sorry, your orange juice in the morning is not health and nutritious. It is pure sugar…with a bit of vitamin C).
Lastly, the other 10% of the time, do what you want. Yes, this includes having some ice cream or double stuffs or a couple of twinkies. Now, don’t overestimate your 10%. This is where people get thrown off. The 10% is much smaller than you think. And when I say 10%, I mean 10% of the week, now 10% of the day.
The biggest topic I want to cover here is sleep. The majority of people do not get enough sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation does a whole bunch of things to your body, the least of which is makes you fat (at least fatter than you would be if you slept regularly). Sleep is where your body replenishes and restores itself from the day before. So having inadequate amounts of sleep means not letting your body fully restore itself naturally.
A couple of tips to get more high quality sleep: first, turn off all blue lights at least 60 minutes before bed. Yes, that means phones, tablets, and even TV. I know, TV helps you to go to sleep. Maybe. But it’s also not letting you stay asleep. Blue light suppresses your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone the puts you to sleep and keeps you asleep.
Second, make your room dark, but not too dark. There are lot of fitness experts that will tell you that your bedroom should be pitch black to get adequate sleep. I personally always put things to the evolutionary test. If it doesn’t make sense on an evolutionary basis, then why should I do it? Our body’s run on their circadian rhythm. And that rhythm is controlled by the sun/moon cycle. So blocking out the moon light at night is taking away an important aspect of our body understanding when it’s time to wake up. So let the moon light in, and shut the rest off.
Lastly, the bedroom is for 2 things and 2 things only. The first one is sleep, and the second one is sex. The bedroom is not for doing work or watching TV or even reading (admittedly, I’m a bit of a hypocrite on this last one. Although I may only read 1 or 2 nights a week total). Always remember, your body is an adaptation machine. And if it’s used to doing work before bed, then it will stay up expecting work.
Article 4 is almost finished. We’ve made a ton of progress so far. I’m impressed that you’ve made it this far if you’ve stuck with it up to this point. I know this is a lot of information. Make sure you’re putting these things into action so that they are making change in your life. Remember, knowledge is not power. Knowledge is potential power. Execution beats knowledge any day of the week.
If you’re not involved with something that is improving your life and are ready to make a change in your health and vitality, start by setting up your Vitality Strategy Session! Our Pack is here to support you on your journey.