When you read or hear statistics such as 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetime. How does it make you feel?
For me when I hear this, I feel both sad and inspired. Let me explain why. Having worked in health and wellbeing for over 20 years and watching the transformation of people who have overcome diseases such as Cancer, it confirmed that health and wellbeing should be our number one priority in life, though because of the nature of the life that we live, how we don’t really get that until we or someone close to us has a serious illness or disease.
A couple of years ago one of my clients was diagnosed with Liver Cancer, which has one of the lowest success rates of all cancers. This is partly due to the fact that the Liver has over 500 different functions in the body. So when there is a problem with the liver then the whole body is compromised until the body recovers, if it does at all. My client was the type of person who was successful, had a life that many would be more than happy with, though worked 70+ hours a week and cancelling sessions with me was quite common.
This all changed once he got diagnosed and his health and time with me and others who were supporting him through his treatment became his number one priority. After over 2 years of treatment, he is now cancer free and healthier than ever before. Though here’s the amazing thing about us human beings. Despite what he had been through, it was a surprise how easy it was for him to go back into the habits and behaviours that contributed to his cancer in the first place.
For me working with clients like this has inspired me to instil key foundations into my life to make health and wellbeing one of my main priorities. There are 3 tools that I want to share with you which are integral to how I live my life and when applied consistently over a period time can have a powerful effect on your health and wellbeing.
The first one is to eat how my great grandparents would have eaten. You might think that in the modern 21st-century world our food would be superior to what our great-grandparents ate…but this is not true.
Yes, we have so much more choices of foods and variety than they did, though the quality of foods has gone down. For example, Professor David Thomas looked at mineral content records over a 60 year period, which showed for example that you would have to eat 4 carrots to get the same amount of magnesium as 1 carrot in 1940.
The mass production of foods by using things such as artificial fertilisers has sacrificed quality to accommodate quantity.
I grew up only eating freshly cooked foods at the weekend. I grew up in a single parent home, so meals that could be cooked easily either by throwing them into the microwave or oven was the standard Monday to Friday. I would like to say that school dinners were cooked foods, though I don’t know about your school, ours may have looked like food, though never quite tasted like it. So a plate of chips would on most days suffice.
The idea of cooking from scratch seems like a chore for a lot of people. Though for me it is one of the best things I do for myself, actually cooking is almost therapeutic for me. Just opening bags and boxes of pre-made meals, which almost seem to be the norm for a lot of people and thinking even if it is marked as “natural” that they’re eating well, just doesn’t feel right to me. This is also because our food starts to lose nutrients once they are cooked, especially nutrients such a vitamin C and the B vitamins. So again we are sacrificing quality for convenience.
Over the years I had tried high protein diets, eating 5-6 small meals a day, or adding whatever was the ‘healthy’ supplement, whether creatine or whey protein to my routine. These were all good, though they became more of a chore rather than a pleasure.
For me, there is something beautiful about wandering around a farmers market and picking seasonal foods that are only available at certain times of the years, which allows me to try new flavours and textures, which would have been normal for my great-grandparents, as they had no other choice.
Even though I eat seasonally local foods now, I don’t actually eat a big enough variety in my diet, I have the foods I really like and know how to create meals with and don’t really go outside of that too often.
So I’m working on taking this to another level. I had the pleasure recently of speaking with Dr Megan Rossi, a Registered Dietitian with an award-winning PhD in the area of Gut Health. She has also recently joined forces with Leon Restaurants to launch a nationwide gut health campaign. Megan recommended that we should be eating 20-30 different fruit and vegetables a week. I know crazy right? Though when you think about it our ancestors would have eaten 100-200 different plant foods a year, so this number actually makes sense.
So I’ve started to try a wider variety of foods and combinations to see if I can achieve this and I’ll share with you in a future article how I get on with it.
My second tool is to Move Every Day. I’ve always worked with people who are around 5-10 years older than me and it’s been a motivation for me when I see what happens to people who come to me with back pain for example because they didn’t make the time to move on a regular basis.
Now I say movement because exercise gives off a different connotation. Whereas movement is ancient. Hunting and gathering, dancing, walking, climbing, running, jumping, crawling, lifting, swimming…even sex! These are all movements the human body is designed for.
From my perspective the body contributes far more to our lives than just physical attributes such as strength and endurance – it also plays a major role in emotions, learning and relationships.
Now don’t get me wrong smashing out reps in the gym always feels good, though for me it’s about the connection between the body and mind. My interest in health started with bodybuilding and pumping weights to look good when I was a teenager to being a personal trainer and getting heavily into a cardio phase before coming back towards the weightlifting, and then over the last 5-10 years realising that it was much more than the physical, especially having worked with clients who physically looked good, though didn’t feel good. Even though I hadn’t had any major injuries myself apart from knee surgery, I felt better within myself when I did what felt right, rather than what made me look good. Though here’s the funny thing, I actually looked better when I started doing more of what made me feel better.
Nowadays for most people, they work in jobs that don’t require their bodies to move that much, simply sitting at desks, which then carries on into their personal lives, sitting on the couch in front of the TV.
You see, human beings evolved to be active, to spend time outdoors walking and running, and playing. I make time every day to go for a walk, this is partly because I live in the countryside and it’s on my doorstep, though even when I lived in London, I still would walk for 8-10 hours a week. Whether walking to a client appointment or just a walk along the Thames to go and meet friends for brunch. I will also stretch almost every day, which for me is probably the most important part of my movement routine. I then lift weights, maybe do a few sprints and now starting to get into more body weight movement such as handstands, which I will share more with you on in other articles.
What’s been important for me, is realising it goes beyond the physical aspects, especially as I get older. I feel so much better when I move in some way every day. What about you?
The final tool that I want to share with you is for me is the most important one.
It’s important to Make Time for Yourself Every Day, which for me may include the movement or cooking, though more often than not it involves some form of writing or meditation.
See, we live in such a fast-paced world where our time is demanded from so many different mediums, that we forget to take the time just to breathe. With the rise in mental health issues such as depression, which according to the World Health Organisation affects over 300 million people worldwide and more prevalent in women than men, then taking the time for yourself should be an essential part of your routine.
I have always considered myself been quite balanced emotionally and been able to ride the ever-changing waves of life quite well, though I find myself more mentally and emotionally thrown off balance when I spend too much time with others, like being at a wedding celebration for 4 days, like I was a few weeks ago.
So I make time for myself to balance this out. I like to use the analogy of a bank account. We can only pay out what we have in our accounts. For many this will involving going overdrawn on a regular basis, which over time will lead to anxiety and depression.
For my me time this often translates into a 20-minute meditation when I wake up in the morning, or 30 minutes doing what is known as journaling, writing down my thoughts and whatever is on my mind as a way to offload, and this can happen at any point during the day.
Making time for yourself can also involve going for a massage, spending time with your best friend or just simply sitting and reading your favourite book.
These tools for me are intrinsic to my health and wellbeing and even though I may go through times where I do not honour them as much as I should, they are my staple that I always come back to especially when I’m feeling low or things have got too hectic with work and my body starts to ache.
Click below to wawtch my video on these tools