10 January 2018

Over the past 16 years, I’ve come to the realization that all of us have the opportunity to feel better than we currently do. Whether it’s gaining more energy, keeping our minds sharp or preventing future illness, science now shows us all these things are possible, as only 10 per cent of our health outcomes are due to genetics. That leaves 90 per cent influenced by lifestyle and environment, which is incredibly empowering.

However, modern life often has a negative impact on health. Also, ‘health’ has become far too reductionist; we’re often seeking a magic pill or miracle diet but the reality is, neither exists. Food, for example, is more than simply fat versus carbs, and good health is about way more than just what you eat.

My book, The Four Pillar Plan, goes back to basics and takes a much more rounded view by covering four areas: relaxation, nutrition, movement and sleep. The key to living a longer, healthier life is maintaining balance across all of them, rather than perfection in just one. Here’s how you might start:

Rangan Chatterjee

Relaxation

Stress negatively impacts your health. While I can’t remove stress from your life, I can give you tools to reduce its effects. In the book, I recommend creating a five-minute daily practice of stillness, perhaps using a mediation app, doing my 3-4-5 deep breathing or listening to relaxing music with headphones on, eyes closed. Each will help you lower the stress hormone cortisol, which will positively influence your health.

Food

There is plenty of conflicting advice on what we should eat for optimal health but it’s not always just about what you eat but when. In the nutrition chapter, I outline the principles of time restricted feeding, suggesting a 12-hour eating window. The benefits of this include improved blood sugar balance, stronger immunity and weight loss.

Movement

We’ve been conditioned to view exercise as something we do at specific times in specific venues, yet it ought to be part of everyday life. Our focus needs to be on moving more in general, not sitting for hours then doing the odd fitness class. That’s why I love the concept of ‘movement snacks’: bite-sized moments of movement you do with friends, colleagues or kids for just a few minutes, such as playing tag, or perhaps my five-minute kitchen workout (see drchatterjee.com for video instructions).

Sleep

Plenty of us are sleep deprived yet we often inadvertently do things during the day that compound the problem. Technology is a major player. Looking at screens and smartphones at night prevents your levels of melatonin, the sleep hormone, from rising because of the blue light they emit. Blue light is only found in nature during the daytime. In the book, I recommend switching off all gadgets 90 minutes before bed. This has been life changing for many of my friends and patients, leading to better sleep, increased energy, mood and concentration, as well as stable weight.

The Four Pillar Plan is designed to be simple and straightforward. It will help you make lasting lifestyle improvements so you can be healthier, happier and live longer, whatever your age, gender, race or current health. What’s more, you can personalise the advice to suit you; if five minutes’ of meditation is too difficult, start with one; if cutting out sugar is too daunting, start somewhere else; the key is balance.

I know changing habits can be hard, but if you begin small and with the right mindset, you truly can transform your wellbeing. 

Dr Rangan Chatterjee can be found on Twitter at @drchatterjeeuk, Instagram as drchatterjee and on his website drchatterjee.com.

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