If the past couple of years have been a lesson in anything, it is that living healthy is relevant now more than ever. The pandemic has made health a priority worldwide, as millions acknowledge the urgent importance of a balanced routine to be the best defence against COVID-19.
For my husband David and I, it all boils down to lifestyle — or in other words, the base plan you chalk out to achieve your goals. In our home, we try making exercise, nutrition and sleep our lifestyle. Our health goals for 2022 are set, and this blog takes you through them.
The best formula for a healthy lifestyle starts with sleep that is regular and tied in with your circadian rhythm. We try to tuck in and wake up early. David is a triathlete, prepping for the World Championship next year, and he is up by 4 AM everyday. “I truly believe that 60% of your health and wellness comes from regular, 8 hours of quality sleep. In the athletic world, we have the formula of stress + rest = growth. While you’re asleep, you are by necessity burning fat because you are doing some low level exercise in your sleep,” he notes.
The best formula for a healthy lifestyle starts with sleep that is regular and tied in with your circadian rhythm
Paired with a wholesome dietary plan that works for you, it’s a booster for health. To kickstart the year, in January, David and I did a nutrition-energy audit to discipline what we are putting in our mouths. We went extra low carb for the first 21 days. We also used eating windows, which means, we only ate during an 8-hour window each day that spanned between 11 AM and 7 PM. Outside this window, we avoided calories, sipping only on water, black coffee or tea.
While David also included a full day of fasting per week in his plan, I avoided it. For starters, I’m not sure of the impact that practice would have on post-menopausal women. Secondly, I don’t feel the need to do that. To reiterate, it’s all about what works for you at the end of the day.
For instance, I prefer exercising fasted while David mixes things up. “I train around 4 hours a day; 3 hours are done fasted and 1 with some fuel. Except on the 40-hour fast of my 1-day week when I don’t eat anything and I’ll still train for 4-5 sessions,” he says. As he puts it, he walks around the house in hunger and strictly stays away from the fridge.
During our course, we also did one meal replacement a day, with Dr. Ben Bickman’s HLTH Code. Read what he has to say about weight loss here. We could also all think more about the fat we’re carrying inside and outside, and keep it in check. Someone may look fit but may be carrying far too much fat internally; that is called adipose fat or visceral fat. That’s the fat that’s going to kill you. For the most part, we preferred subscribing to an omnivorous diet (that did comprise of animal fats). If you’re vegetarian, you can get your proteins from greens. Fruit, which is essentially nature’s candy, should be avoided in very low carb diets because they are jammed with fructose. Remember: Anything with ‘ose’ – lactose or maltodextrose – are all sugars and will keep you out of ketosis.
For most people, this diet plan will mean giving up some things that bring pleasure — such as alcohol. But fret not! Consider a switch to healthy drinking instead. “Healthy drinking would be to drink a glass of red wine on a regular basis because there’s probably enough good in a glass to offset any bad effects,” David suggests. Side note: He gave up drinking and smoking in 1991 and says he hasn’t missed either in the last 30 years!
Coffee, on the other hand, has very few side effects. Caffeine acts as a performance enhancer, physically and mentally. So using it moderately to your benefit is key. David suggests, “If you want to really perform on a day, you should abstain from caffeine 3-4 days before the performance, and then use caffeine for a huge boost.”
Yoghurt can be another enriching addition to your diet. What you’re doing when you eat yoghurt or any other fermented food is looking after 90 trillion cells that exist in your microbiome. The metropolis of bugs in our colon and gut are vital for the immune system that fights illnesses. We recommend organic, plain greek yoghurt with live culture.
Another significant factor to a healthy lifestyle is monitoring your eating intervals. If you snack every time you’re hungry, your gut never gets a rest and your gut microbiome never recovers from all the hard work it does in breaking down the food you need for fuel.
Per our plan, we’ll eat at 11 in the morning and then won’t eat during the day. We’ll let our gut work its magic on the midday meal. It will recover by the time we eat supper by about 7 and then it gets to recover for the next 16 hours after that, before breakfast again. You shouldn’t be eating within 3 hours of sleeping. The supper meal should be fully processed by our bodies by the time we’re properly asleep. Like I always say, there’s nothing worse than waking up feeling full.
To sum it up, restrict your eating window to between 11 AM and 7 PM, while simultaneously incorporating lots of water and liquid minerals in your diet. Here’s a secret: A couple drops of magnesium in your mineral water makes for a wonderful sleep enhancer!
The last time we did this 21-day exercise, we dropped weight comfortably. What you’re looking for, in longer term weight loss measurements, is in the whereabouts of losing one kilo a week. And if ever you slip off the healthy lifestyle wagon, you can pick yourself back up anytime again!