Compared with many people, I have had a pretty easy life, and looking back I have made the most of the many opportunities that came my way. However, as I describe in my book The Fatigue Solution, I was often a bit like the swan that effortlessly cruises across the lake – outwardly calm, but with legs working furiously underwater to achieve an outwardly graceful glide. Perhaps I am not graceful like a swan on water, even though I aspire to be. Peel back the layers and you would uncover someone rather different, and at times, struggling to keep her head above water. My challenges started at school, progressed through university and my early working life, and continue to slap me in the face periodically even now. I was never one to take the easy path. We have probably all faced tough times in our lives. My question is this: how did you respond to yours?
When I was dangerously ill in 1990, I faced the biggest challenge of my life to date. Did I take the medical advice seriously (go home and die, basically) or did I fight back with every fibre of my exhausted body and prove them wrong? As Viktor Frankl says in his famous book Man’s Search for Meaning, “If the why is big enough, you can cope with almost any how.” Few people will experience anything as extreme as Frankl did in the Nazi concentration camps. He had one mission – to survive. David Goggins went through “Hell Week” on three separate occasions in training to become a Navy SEAL. His resolve was so tough he even made the instructors suffer on more than one occasion. Even before joining up, he put himself on an extreme dietary and exercise regime to lose the 100 lbs of excess weight that would have excluded him (he achieved this in less than three months), in addition to teaching himself to swim and studying hard to overcome his poor educational record. That’s determination. That’s a massive great why.
We live in a society where there is an excess of pretty much everything. We can get food (often delivered right to our doors now with the touch of an app) at any time of day or night. What this does to fuel the obesity and health crisis that many people face can only begin to be imagined. We have 24/7 TV on demand. We have never been less active (see my separate blog post for more about this). We crave the quick fix and it is readily available. Temporary pleasure for long term pain. Least resistance. Shouldn’t we be turning that on its head?
We need sustainable solutions to health, and it’s really very simple. But the attitude we have to adopt might be viewed as the path of most resistance – it’s uncomfortable until you get used to a new way of living. Yes it is easier to slope on home after work, grab a ready meal and a couple of glasses of wine to reward yourself, and turn on the TV. It’s tough to finish work and get to the gym instead. But if you want real change, you’ll get it done. You have to be prepared to do what most people won’t, to get the results that most people can’t. Challenge yourself. Decide what your goal is, write it down and divide it into achievable chunks. Celebrate the wins. And whatever goal it is, the list below will positively assist you in that quest because it will give you better health, and therefore a better life.
- Shake up your diet. Cut out all processed food. Eat the rainbow. Eat a whole foods, plant-based diet, always. Incorporate as much raw plant food as you can handle. Start juicing and drink green juice every day. Grow your own sprouted food – its easy, inexpensive and very nutritious. Start using proven whole-food supplementation to get there faster (you’ll find some on my separate website). Stop allowing yourself regular “treat” foods. It’s time to get tough to get better.
- Get moving. Everyone can do some sort of exercise. Yes, everyone. Decide what you are going to do, and stick with it. Make a start. Keep yourself accountable. Yes it will hurt, but are you going to give it up just because of that? Not if your resolve is strong enough. Get uncomfortable. You’ll learn to appreciate it, even if you don’t love it. And I’ll tell you something, you will enjoy the compliments that you’ll inevitably get after a few weeks of working on yourself.
- Drink water. Get it out of the tap and filter it. It’s free! It doesn’t have to cost a lot to get healthy. Proper hydration will make your brain work better, and with all the exercise you’re going to do, that sweat needs to be replaced. You don’t need any of those fancy electrolyte performance drinks unless you’re racing in endurance races that last for several hours. See my blog about sports drinks if you need the lowdown on this.
- Avoid alcohol. It’s a carcinogen, as well as an addictive substance that lowers your mental and physical performance.
- Get to bed early. Exercise, then sleep. Wind down with a good book, not screen time. See chapter 10 of The Fatigue Solution to find out why screen time is the most important thing to avoid before bed.
- Work on your weakest link. I am currently on a yoga retreat, working and stretching my body in ways it isn’t used to when at home. I am getting stronger and more flexible whilst also working on my mind with meditation. Yes I am still running (strongest link), but that doesn’t need as much work as the rest of me, and the practice of yoga and meditation helps me run more smoothly and reduce my risk of injury. What is your weakest link and how are you going to work on it?
- Don’t waver in your resolve. Why wait until January 2020 to get started? Start today. Start right now. If you want it badly enough, you’ll do it.