Commit to these simple steps and feel your health transform.
Hack #1: Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day.
Without enough sleep, we all become tall two-year-olds. ~ JoJo Jensen
Why sleep? Sleep is essential – no question about it. Every system in your body is enhanced when you sleep well, and every system is compromised when you do not.
Why this hack? Our circadian rhythm thrives on consistency and it becomes more efficient (think needing 7 hours of good sleep instead of 9 hours of poor sleep!) the longer we stick to the same schedule. Have you ever had jetlag? Did it suck? Well, when you change your bedtime and wake time it has the same poor effects on your circadian rhythm as jet lag (lack of concentration, fatigue, headache, indigestion, irritability, and the list goes on). When you change your sleep patterns on weekends it’s like flying to a new time zone each week!
How do I make this happen?
Just like you set an alarm for waking up in the morning - set an alarm clock for 30-60 minutes before you go to bed. Start your bedtime routine (journal, shower, chamomile tea, etc.) when the alarm goes. This hack allows you to avoid distraction by the latest release on Netflix, checking your work email, being on your phone or drifting away in your favorite novel.
Wake up each day at the same time. Yes, I mean it – even on weekends. Over time your body will begin to naturally wake up at the same time. So, no more nasty morning alarm (just a night time one!).
Hack #2: Each day intentionally connect with your community.
The need for connection and community is primal, as fundamental as the need for air, water, and food. - Dean Ornish
Why community? Plain and simply - people need people. It has been proven time and time again having strong social connections (family, friends, co-workers, church, common interest groups, etc) lead to happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives. Furthermore, having strong social connections is the highest indicator of longevity. Yes, even more than eating a salad or walking on your lunch break!
Why this hack? This hack is great because it is easy to incorporate into your life and easy to remember. Simply have coffee or lunch with a coworker, call your mom, attend a local workshop, volunteer, make dinner for your friends, or go on a date with your partner. The important part is to do it, be present and enjoy.
How do I make this happen? Yes, this seems like a time COMMITMENT. It doesn't have to be. It can be just a 5 minute phone call, 10 minute java break or a 20 minute walk with a co-worker. Also, pairing regular daily tasks (memorable) with this hack is a great way to start or maintain. Call your sister while you are folding laundry, invite your neighbor on your evening stroll after dinner, or invite your parents over for monday night football. It is helpful to set your intention in the morning by asking yourself, "who am I going to connect with today" and/or asking yourself each evening, "who did I connect with today."
Hack #3: Eat Real Food
Clean, tasty, real foods do not come processed in boxes or bags; they come from the earth, the sea, the field, or the farm. - Suzanne Somers
Why eat real food? Our bodies need real food to function properly, to feel well and to live a long time.
Why this hack? This hack is great because it is simple to follow and doesn't alienate any of the carbohydrate, protein, or fat macronutrients or common ways of eating (vegan, paleo, zone, keto, etc.). It is a common principle among the most popular and effective ways of eating healthy. It is hard to overeat real food. Our body's recognize and appreciate real food, which enables us to have clear signals when we are hungry and when we are full.
How do I make this happen? OR How do you know if a food is real? Here are some fun ways to remember:
"If it grows, it goes." Veggies, cows, fruit, chickens, nuts (and so much more) all grow!
The "5 Ingredient Rule" from Michael Pollan’s book Food Rules. If a packaged food has more than 5 ingredients, it's probably not good for you.
Lastly, ask yourself, "Would my grandmother (or great grandmother!) know what this is?" Processed and packaged food is in fact a new way of eating for humans when you consider how long we have been around. If our ancestors wouldn't eat it, best to avoid it.
Eating real food is super simple and it can be hard to incorporate into our lives - mostly because we need to plan ahead and avoid easy to grab packaged and processed foods. First, start simple by making sure your breakfast is real food and once that is mastered, gradually begin to eat more real meals and snacks.
Hack #4: Move Three Times
Unwavering incremental change can create remarkable and monumental results. - Ryan Lilly
Why move three times each day? Our bodies are made to move and they are made to move regularly. Movement improves your mood, your body composition (think less fat more sexy muscle), boosts your energy, reduces risk of chronic disease, enhances your sleep and so much more. Plus it is fun! Everyone can find a way to get there body moving that is enjoyable and rewarding to them.
Why this hack? This hack is great because it gets you up and going 3 times a day. It also is very manageable for people on the go with busy work lives and lifestyles. Movement is walking, 10 pushups in your office, 20 air squats in the bathroom on the airplane, yoga, resistance training, dancing, sports, you name it! What is unique about this concept is there is no time commitment. Start with 1 minute 3 times a day if that is what is attainable for you. We all have 3 minutes and most of us will actually do more than a minute once we get started. Momentum is powerful.
How do I make this happen? Commit to moving 3 times each day. A great beginning plan could look like:
In the morning, I walk for 5-10 minutes with my dog.
On my lunch break, I do 10 pushups, 10 air squats, and a 1 minute plank in my office.
After work, I complete a 20 minute yoga class I downloaded for free from the internet.
I move 3 times tomorrow, too :)
Hack #5: Know Yourself, Know Your Environment
If you made all the French fries you ate, you would eat them much less often, if only because they're so much work. The same holds true for fried chicken, chips, cakes, pies, and ice cream. Enjoy these treats as often as you're willing to prepare them - chances are good it won't be every day. - Michael Pollan
Why know myself and my environment? It is key in your health journey, to be aware of yourself and your surroundings. If you understand where your challenges are you can set yourself up for success. (Bonus Hack(s): Understanding that mistakes, obstacles and roadblocks WILL happen. They are difficult, but they do not mean you are failing. You are simply learning. Also, your dialogue with yourself - do not berate, shame, bully or talk down to yourself around your set-backs. This behavior will hurt and be harmful towards your success.
Why this hack?
We need to know our bodies. In Wired to Eat, Robb Wolf states, "We are genetically wired to eat more and move less; it’s no wonder most people fail to achieve health and weight-loss goals." It is true! We innately choose foods that give us pleasurable feedback and a healthy dose of feel good hormones (donuts, anyone?) AND we choose the path of least resistance (have you ever driven to your mailbox instead of walking?). This does not mean we are flawed or bad. In fact, for most of human existence, this is how we survived. Have compassion for your brain, body and understand why we struggle.
We need to understand our environment. The world around us makes it very, very easy to slip into unhealthy lifestyle patterns even if we genuinely hope to be healthier, more fit, or lose unnecessary weight. The food industry markets to and profits from your attention and the fact that it is so damn hard to put the bag of Cheetos away. We live in an age where we literally don't need to leave the house - some work from home, get food (or really any goods) delivered to our doorstep, and we can skype call our family on our phones. So even if we live in 4,000 square foot home, it is hard to get 10.000 steps!
How do I make this happen?
Know yourself and learn from your patterns. For instance, when you are having a night out, is your eating in line with your goals when you have a drink? What if you have two drinks? Do you now order another round of fries and ask for the dessert menu? Perhaps during your nights out, you only order one drink and stay in alignment with your goal.
Know your environment and learn from the patterns you observe. For example, when your goal is to walk each evening, nine out of ten times you succeed if you start within 10 minutes of finishing dinner. However, if you do the dishes, start a load of laundry and watch TV with the kids, there is zero out of ten chances you will head out on your walk. Perhaps each evening you commit to walking within 10 minutes of eating dinner and start the chores and the TV series 30 minutes later.