I’ve not talked about this subject previously as I didn’t want be seen to be a health bore and it felt quite self-indulgent. But inspired by some recent blog posts I’ve read, I thought I’d briefly share my own experiences.
Last year a perfect storm of poor lifestyle choices caught up with me. I’m talking about a crap diet, no exercise, late to bed, overworked and most definitely very, very stressed.
I’ll spare you the gory details but suffice it to say there was a period of time where I really thought I was toast. MRI & CAT scans turned up blank, neurologists were scratching their heads, I spent weeks in bed unable to move, I was in lots of pain that strong prescription painkillers wouldn’t touch among other serious & very tangible physical symptoms; it was a proper scary time.
Every time I went back to my GP she’d ask me if I’d tried all the ‘obvious’ things but I’d rapidly discount these as my problems were clearly physical and I needed external help to solve them, right?
In my case: wrong.
12 months on from lowest ebb, it’s now clear to me that stress was my main problem but that there were lots of ancillary issues which also contributed.
Below I’ll list the measures I’ve put into place to turn things around and get the following results:
- Weight from 13+ stone down to 11 (I started measuring this in March 2015)
- Dropped a waist size o/
- Physical issues gone
- Much more mellow and grounded
- Motivated and engaged with my career again
- Orders of magnitude happier
Stuff I did (and am still doing)
Cutting down on booze
I now rarely drink on a school night and when I do it’s minimal amounts. Whilst I wasn’t an addict and was more about little & often it was definitely a high calorie crutch that wasn’t doing me any favours.
Reduced technology exposure
This was really hard to implement and took some months, but it has paid off.
- Email deleted off phone
- Turn off *all* the notifications on phone
- No laptop in bedroom (I allow iPad, but for Kindle only)
- No work at all of any description from Friday evening to Monday morning
Going to bed early
Default 9:30pm not 11:30pm. Lights off 10:30 not midnight onwards.
This is a huge one. I’ve always considered myself to be a ‘night owl’ but I now know this to be a load of tosh. I had just got used to going to bed late and guess what? Going to bed early means *drum roll* I get up earlier. I get more time at the bit of the day where I’m more alert. Waking up circa 6am is the new default.
This gives me an hour or more in the mornings to;
Do more (read: any) exercise
30 mins of cycling in the morning when I’m at home plus an hour on Saturday. Daily press-ups & sit-ups; I’ve not joined a gym (but I still might).
I did slightly cheat and the last 1/4 stone to get me to my target weight was dropped during a pretty hardcore week canoeing in April.
Watching what I eat
My wife has always said that I had a “fat person’s diet” and it has only been down to my metabolism and a constant jiggly leg that I wasn’t 5 stone heavier.
I have not followed any recommended diet and I can’t be bothered with measuring & counting. I’ve simply looked at packets and bought low fat items. When cooking from scratch I don’t by default use fat any more. I also eat loads of fruit now and have cut out most bread.
The two main casualties are sausages and cheese but now I’m at target weight I do indulge occasionally.
I never thought in 10 lifetimes that I would pull eating more healthily off but this has probably been the easiest thing to change. Definitely a habit thing and once I’d retrained my taste buds I have been pretty much on auto-pilot.
Tip: Waitrose do the best low fat but amazing tasting beany/salad things. Choosing these over a dirty burger when on the hoof – I’m away from home on ave. 6 days per month – has helped loads.
No incense, crystals, omming or converting from atheism required (though lots of texts on the subject do mention the S word). As I alluded in a recent post, for me it’s simply about focusing a lot more on the now rather than the stressing about the past or the future. More being, less doing.
It’s early days but my stress levels are pretty low and I have managed to avoid any medication.
I can’t recommend this course of action enough. If you’re interested in finding out more, to include the science behind it, then start with Ruby Wax’s book and for something to help guide you, Buddhify is a great app.
No S**t Sherlock
That’s it. I appreciate it’s all pretty obvious stuff but that’s usually the way isn’t it?
For Mr 40 something stressy & unfit, hated fruit & veg, (still) loves pasties, crisps & lager it has worked for me. Your mileage may vary of course.