Lockdown 3 is upon us in the UK, as we have known from the start, Murphy’s Law is here and will turn up without warning. The politics and intricacies of the lock down are not for this post, but instead I want to consider what this means for our health. In the lock down of 2020, we saw more people seizing the opportunity to get outside for their allotted period of time every day. We are seeing similar rules again where outside time is limited to once a day, which I hope will foster a similar enthusiasm.
But with more of the population working from home, is there the temptation or almost the expectation for people to work even more. Add in the lack of transition form workplace to home and we have the breeding ground for potential unhealthy habits.
The quick motorway service sandwich or McDonald's breakfast is being replaced by the quick cupboard snack trawl to be taken back to the desk or even just nothing at all. We are sitting now, more than ever.
I want to introduce the concept of a habit-based approach to heath and improving our mental, physical, and emotional states through simple habits. I feel that there are too many ‘diets’ out there that replace and change everything immediately, thus capitalising on the body’s natural adaptation response and calling this ‘weight loss’. There are too many so-called fitness plans that promise 30-day abs or short cuts to size, you name, they exist. These are folly and based on no tangible results.
Firstly, crash diet result in weight loss due to a significant change in macro breakdown of diets, for example, if you stop eating carbohydrates, you will likely loose around 4-5kg in a very short time. This is a diet result of the body using up all of the glycogen stores (stored carbohydrate) for energy and the combined water storage weight. This is not fat loss as no fat has actually been lost…
Secondly, fitness fads are just a clever marketing strategy that capitalise upon the ‘wants’ of the general public. There is a demand for the shortcut to abs and so they are created. The reality here is that these plans are usually combined with severe calorie restriction and the resulting water loss and glycogen loss makes you look a little leaner. It’s not necessarily building muscle at all but rather just showing them more. Abs are made in the kitchen remember.
That’s not to say that all diets and fitness fads are bad, they are not. But there are some truly dishonest people in the world who are just in it for the money. A lot of fitness plans are simply getting people to move more or at least start exercising, which is no bad thing. With this comes the ‘newbie gains’ that are seen so soon with those starting exercise, it’s a win-win that unfortunately adds credence to these fads. The truth is, any exercise is better than no exercise, and you will see the benefits of whatever you do.
A habit-based approach considers your current starting point, and buy this I mean, it has taken you however many years you have been alive to get to where you are now, and this is the result of this culmination of habits. As such we shouldn’t look to completely change everything overnight. For some this will work, and this needs to be done under the guidance and support of a dedicated coach, nutritionist, or team to ensure the support is there to maintain the progression.
Habits are small things that are done continuously until they become system 1 processes, actions that are done almost subconsciously. They become a part of your identity and when you have associated your identity with a certain action, you follow through on it.
As we are now in another lockdown, we have an opportunity to introduce new habits into our lifestyle that are going to improve our mental, physical, and emotional state. These can be centred around a way of eating, getting outside, exercise, drinking more water, there are a plethora of different options that will make you a better version of you. The question is, what is best for you?
As much as these are personal choice, there are certain factors that transcend individuals which should be considered and are proven to help improve your life.
Exercise outside daily: Spending time in nature is shown to improve your mental state, reduce cortisol, the stress hormone, and keeps you active. A morning walk or something a little more intensive, if you choose, is a great way to start the day as you are completing some exercise prior to starting your workday, so no matter what happens in the day, you have already got some physical exercise done.
Drink more water: We all love a morning tea or coffee but increasing our water intake in the day is hard work for some. We spend the day at our desks and seldom leave, thus neglecting our hydration. Adequate hydration is proven to improve cognitive function, mood, feelings of well being, recovery from exercise, physical performance, and sleep. Aim to drink 2-3 litres of fluid per day, mainly from water.
Eat more fruits and vegetables: Many of us don’t need the latest diet revolution, we just need to eat healthier, start with eating more fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. Aim for your five a day or at least 30 different fruits and vegetables per week.
Discipline in repetition: Stick to your habits everyday without fail. Set realistic habits that can be achieved every day at a similar time, 7 days a week. The key here is to start with one or tow habits and master those, then add more. The journey is always more important than the destination. But too often do people want to concord to the destination and forego the journey. The journey is where we become, the destination is where we go further.
These steps sound simple, insultingly so. But these are the core foundations that make up our health and well being. We are in a society that likes to over complicate everything and find more ‘sciencey sounding’ results. The truth is the key to understanding the full potential of our 21st century body is in the basic human health foundations that are so often overlooked.
So, this year, don’t just look to the goals you can put on the calendar, the races, events of dates that are key to you, look to the process and trust in it. By all means set the goals, but don’t make those goals your master. Master the process in becoming and then live those goals as and when they come, as a better version of you, a celebration of all of your hard work thus far.
2021 is the year where you become more, you bring out the best in you and you reach further.
You are not where you CAN be, and I would bet that you already KNOW it.