So many people are left feeling overwhelmed and clueless by the plethora of information of what we need to do to achieve good health. Here, Oh Fabulous Me aim to simplify the whole process for you!
This one body we get is capable of so many amazing things. And it does them without us even having to think about it – which is why it’s so easy to take it for granted.
Perhaps it’s because we think our health will always just function without any input from us… It’s always worked in the past, right? That is until our body has had enough and we get sick. If you’ve ever been sick or had someone you care about struggle with their health, you know how difficult it can be to live in a body that doesn’t function effectively.
But we’ve overcomplicated health. There’s so much information (and misinformation) out there about what we should be doing to have good health, that it can all seem a little overwhelming. It’s no wonder many of us haven’t a clue where to start or what we should be doing and go around in circles seeing little or no results for our efforts.
It can feel like a complicated minefield at times. But it doesn’t have to be. To generally improve your overall health, there’s no need to go all science and start counting every calorie or your macros – unless you have specific fitness goals. Balance is the key.
Put simply: getting your four pillars of health in balance is the best thing you can do to optimise general good health and well-being. These four pillars are: Nutrition, Movement, Relaxation and Sleep.
The body is an amazing, yet complex organic machine where every part our body affects every other part. We’re so interconnected. By making small, achievable changes in these four areas, you really can create and maintain good health – and, importantly, avoid illness.
Let’s talk about the first pillar: Nutrition
Every week there is a new headline promising the latest food fix, diet pill or health hack… NEWSFLASH: they don’t work! Stop thinking ‘Diet’ and re-frame it as ‘Lifestyle’. All you really need to do to support your body from within is eat a balanced, unprocessed diet, rich in colourful vegetables and fruits, healthy fats and plenty of other whole foods.
Opt for complex carbohydrates – not the white fluffy kind (e.g. white rice, cakes, white bread). There should be Protein with every meal (which will help with the extra snacking and cravings you may experience). Try to eat foods as close to their natural source. By eating more vegetables you’ll be getting more fibre so will also need to aim to drink around at least 8 glasses of water per day.
Avoid sugar – too much sugar leads to inflammation which eventually can lead to disease! Be very aware of the sneaky ‘hidden’ sugars found in so many foods like ready made sauces and even low fat products. This is my bug bear as it leads people to believe they’re choosing the right product to boost their health, but it really couldn’t be further from the truth. In order for, say, a low-fat yogurt to be low fat and taste nice, the manufacturers replace the fat with sugar! Fat is not your enemy… Sugar is! Nutrition 101: Read the ingredients list!
Also it’s worth mentioning alcohol here. In todays stressed-out society many people use alcohol as a crutch to get by or help them unwind at the end of the day. But alcohol is not only empty calories (i.e. little nutritional content) it is also proven that it disrupts quality sleep and hormones – which in turn affect metabolism and fat storage. It may sound dull, but it’s best to save it up for special occasions or limit it to once a week.
If you really want to be more mindful about your nutrition but really don’t know where to start, speaking to a nutritionist or following an eating plan can really help you to achieve your goals.
The second pillar is: Movement
Many people blame their lack of exercise on a lack of time. This really is a poor excuse. Even the busiest, most successful people around the world exercise. They know its value. You don’t have to exercise for long periods or buy expensive gym memberships or equipment for it to count. You can really invest in your health by doing short workouts without little or no equipment.
Walking is a classic example: it’s free to do, has no equipment, gets fresh air into your body and will provide you with a low impact cardio workout. Plus getting outdoors is proven to benefit mental health.
Theres a plethora of other workouts available on Youtube for free: from Pilates, Yoga, Hiit, Tabata, Martial arts…you name it, there’s something for everyone. If you want to add some weights for resistance and don’t have dumbells – bottles of water or tins of soup can work equally as well.
Our third pillar is: Relaxation
This pillar could also be called stress management. The World Health Organisation claim stress is the epidemic of the 21st Century (before Covid came along!). Modern life – with all its mod-cons: email, social media and the lack of work/life balance plus many other pressures we face on a daily basis, just add to our stress levels.
When we have so much else to do, we often think relaxation is not a priority. This is a big mistake! It’s never been more important. There’s so many things you can do to help your body get this essential ‘space’. Whether its focusing on your breathing, meditation, journalling, art, Yoga, knitting, having a bath or massage, playing an instrument or simply sitting quietly… whatever you enjoy doing.
Just taking a little bit of time for yourself is not selfish – it’s self-care. And if you want to be your best self in order to be more productive or need to look after others, you must first look after yourself.
The final pillar is: Sleep
Probably the most underrated of all the pillars of good health yet likely to be the most important. Regardless of what you think you need, scientific research states adults need between 7-9 hours good quality sleep each night for our bodies to function properly.
Lack of sleep not only means you are running in a deficit for restoration of your physical and mental functions. It also messes with your metabolism making it hard to shift belly fat and negatively impacts your ability to focus or perform well.
Theres so many distractions out there to hinder our sleep but by setting a good night time routine, we can create the right environment to get a full, rejuvenating sleep each night.
For example, go to bed at the same (decent) time every night and get up at the same time each day – don’t lie in. Avoid being on your phone or computer at least an hour prior to bed and never have it in your bedroom. Expose yourself to natural light during the day and avoid artificial light at night. Get some exercise in your day. Make sure your space is comfortable, cool and dark. Avoid caffeine,alcohol and heavy meals for at least couple of hours prior to bed time.
All or something
Part of the problem of adopting changes to incorporate a new lifestyle can be the belief we need to take ‘an all or nothing’ approach. This sets us up for failure from the start. Aim for an ‘all or something’ approach instead. Where you try your best but you appreciate perfection doesn’t exist! Don’t beat yourself up if one day you ‘fall off the wagon’ – there IS no wagon!
Simply adopt an 80/20 balance in all of your pillars. Where 80% of the time you do things that benefit your health and 20% of the time you allow for a few indulgences. That way you won’t feel deprived and are more likely to achieve your goals. Just do your best for your health and try to balance your pillars. Remember: Small steps in the right direction can lead to big results!
No strings attached
My final tip would be to incorporate a ‘No Strings Attached’ day once per week (this would fall into your 20%). Some people call this a ‘cheat day’ but I think this displays negative language – remember, how we talk to ourselves can either support us or play havoc with our goals.
We are all only human and sometimes life gets in the way. Besides life really is for living! Many people save their NSA day up for a weekend or night out. On your NSA day allow yourself to indulge a little. Have that pizza or wine, go out for cocktails with your friends. Maybe you’ve wanted that chocolate all week… If you’ve worked hard at balancing your pillars all week, you will have deserved the NSA day and so you will feel no guilt for enjoying it! Allowing yourself an NSA day is more likely to keep you on track as you won’t feel deprived.
So, to wrap it up: all you initially really need to do to achieve general good health and well-being is:
1. Align your 4 pillars of health: Eat well, Move more, chill out, Sleep well.
2. Adopt an all or something (or 80/20) approach to everything you do in life.
3. Allow yourself a ‘No Strings attached’ day.
It really can be that simple. I hope this has helped clear up some of the confusion.
Good luck with your health goals!