As humans we always like to take the short route to success in most things in life. A quick search on google can generate something like this; what is the quickest way to get healthy, what is the shortest time to lose weight, how can I be fit in 5 days, you know where I am going with this. Right? Companies have understood this human instinct and manufactured products from drugs, supplements, and waist reduction belts to name a few.
When it comes to hacking your way to health and wellness, it all starts with getting the fundamentals right. Getting a good grip of the basic aspects of your life can slowly but surely lead you to a healthier stronger you. It takes creating small habits done with mad consistency to create a holistic life
Sleep, nutrition, and exercise are what I am referring to fundamentals and yes in that order. Remember we said small but life changing habits. Picture this, you stayed up till midnight binging on a movie or hanging out with friends, its late and you are hungry so you ate whatever you could find and am pretty sure it was not spinach and Okra, more like fries and shakes, it’s way past midnight so you thought what’s sleep anyway, so you stayed up even more. It’s daytime and you are trying to compensate for last night, but daytime sleep is never good as a quiet restful goodnight sleep. You are trying to have a productive day, but your body thinks otherwise. You are drinking coffee to get your body moving but your mind is foggy, and you are not thinking clearly. I will just stop here and assume I have made my point.
Good quality sleep
There are several hormones our body releases at sleep time, one of them is Growth hormone, this hormone is responsible for stimulating the growth of body tissues, regulating metabolism, and improving heart function to mention just a few. When you are asleep, your body is recovering and repairing its tissues, charging you and preparing you for whatever life throws at you the next day.
You can exercise all you want, eat a very well-balanced diet, and have a therapist, but if your sleep is poor all that will not yield positive results. Some things can lead to poor sleeping habits like blue light from the screen. This artificial light can trick your mind into thinking it’s daytime and will delay your body’s natural tendency to prepare for a restful sleep. Just the way you are told to avoid coffee during the late day is reducing your screen time as you prepare for sleep.
Replace screen time with reading or engaging interactive games with family. A good night’s sleep will determine how your next day will look and that is good enough reason to put much attention to your sleep pattern. From productivity to clear thinking and better decision-making abilities, sleep is linked to improved overall health and good performance.
Eat for function
Have you ever taken a minute to think about why we eat what we eat? Who said we should eat Canjeero for breakfast, pasta for lunch and Sabaayad for dinner? Have you ever taken time to study different food groups and the different nutrients they offer or are you normal?
It’s about time we start questioning our poor eating habits. This folklore story comes to mind, a young bride is cooking for her husband, she is using her grandma’s classic roast recipe, she cuts the ends of the roast. Her husband asked why she always cuts the ends, that is the best part, and she answers that is how my grandma passed it to my mom which she passed it to me. Later, the bride asked her grandma why she always cut the ends of the roast to which she replied that is the only way it will fit in to my small pan
What we are doing is just continuing eating habits that may have made sense in the past but not now. A lot of preventable diseases are caused by poor eating habits and nutrient deficiencies are on the rise now. The time and money spent on treatment can be geared towards educating the public about proper nutrition and making lifestyle changes.
Eating for function means you mainly eat the foods that give your body nutrition and less of the feel-good foods. Eating meals rich in protein and vegetables can keep you full till next meal, taking away your cravings for snacks, providing your body all the essential nutrients and keep you from diseases like fatty liver which is a condition that occurs due to excessive added sugar and fat
Drinks can also contain lots of empty calories. Take for example our classic Somali tea aka Dhakajabiye, all that sugar in tea is empty calorie meaning it will not give your body any nutrients. Tea itself is a great antioxidant but the benefits are taken away when you add sugar to it. Slowly cut sugar from your drinks and meals. There is no such thing as essential sugar; your body gets the sugar it needs from food since most natural foods have sugar content in it.
A lot of people are trying to manage their weight, whether that is losing weight, gaining weight or maintaining weight. It starts with diet. I hate to see a lot of people prioritizing the Gym and paying little attention to diet. It’s 80% what is on your plate. Put more time in planning your meals ahead of time, cooking at home, eating less from outside and learning more about nutrition
I am a fitness trainer by profession, and I have stories for days from clients visiting the gym. How much time do we have? Exercise is secondary to nutrition and sleep. Its hard to see gains from the gym when you are not eating properly and not getting good Zzzzzzzz (editor insert sleep emoji)
Exercise takes effect not when you are in the gym but way after that and during recovery. So, in your report card it should show you have A+ in sleep A+ in nutrition before you apply for a gym membership. Also, A+ in patience and consistency because it takes time to see results. Those who lose 15 kilos in 7 days videos on YouTube are click bait.
Exercising 4-5 days a week improves your overall physical and mental health, reduces your stress, boosts your confidence and self-esteem, and leads to a more productive and fulfilling life. More exercise does not mean better results its what exercises you are doing.
Long duration low impact exercises can stress your body while high intensity short duration exercises get your heart rate up, burn more fat, build muscle, and continue to burn calories long after you stopped exercising. And when it comes to choosing what type of exercises, you are better off training full body then spot training. We all have one part of our body we are insecure about and can be tempted to spot train only that part, but science tells you that is counterproductive. For example, belly fat, full body exercises like push ups or planks are more effective than sit ups or crunches. Also stop buying belly fat, reducing tea and drugs.
A house is only as strong as its foundation and while I know you are not a house but a human with mood swings, cravings and living in an uncertain stressful world, it will help a lot if you build a strong foundation that contains getting 8+ hours of sleep, mindful eating and exercising with consistency.
Zeinab Dahir (@strongsaynab), is Educator and Coach based in Garowe