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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Eat Move Sleep" (Tom Rath)

TITLE: Eat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes
AUTHOR: Tom Rath
PUBLISHER: Arlington, VA: MissionDay, 2013, (256 pages).

Do you know that sitting is one of the most hazardous activities in our modern living? Do you know that sleeping less in order to get more work done can also hurt our overall long-term health? What about additional nutritional awareness apart from counting calories? These findings and many more are described in this very illuminating book about how our daily habits are critical elements to our long-term health. Longevity is not inherited. Physical inactivity can be very harmful. Health must not be taken for granted. In fact, simple healthy lifestyle choices can help 90% of us live up to age 90! Is it impossible? Are we missing something here? No. According to Tom Rath, all we need to remember is the "Eat, Move, Sleep Equation." These three are all interconnected. Point by point, Rath goes on to debunk the promises of super diets; how inactivity is our greatest enemy; and how we need to learn to sleep well and longer!

A) Eating

Rath makes several observations about eating and the kinds of food we eat. He makes a case for "quality" instead of quantity. While eating in moderation is a good rule of thumb, we must remember that every mouthful we put in is either a net gain or a net loss for our overall health. In terms of snacking, we are encouraged to lay out for convenience healthy foods instead of junk stuff. Rath also takes aim at sugar, calling its addictive element dangerously "next to nicotine." Food must also be judged by colours. Dark and vibrant colours are better. Green is healthier. Replace refined carbohydrates with a natural substitute like vegetables. He even makes a case for not letting our stomachs become overly hungry. Such a state makes one vulnerable to unhealthy foods. There are many other familiar situations that Rath speaks into. For instance, when we go to restaurants, we must remember that the first person who orders food, sets the tone for the rest. In fact, the more people there are on the table, the trend is that the more we eat! He also has this piece of advice for us. Many high sugar foods are better off in the garbage than to be given away to friends. Other small choices include:

  • Use smaller plates;
  • Focus on proteins;
  • When dining out, select places where it is EASIER to order healthy choices;
  • Learn to "stigmatize" unhealthy foods;
  • Eat more at sunrise, and less at sunset;
  • Food that is cooked with lesser heat is better
  • Do not rush our eating. Keep a minimum of 20 minutes to dine slowly and casually;
  • Eat the healthiest food on the table FIRST!
  • Focus on microscopic cancers, way before waiting for diagnosis of one large one.

B) Moving

Rath is particularly harsh on inactivity, especially sitting. It is not just one huge activity splurge but regular movement throughout the day that is important. The author recommends aiming for 10000 steps daily as a health regimen. If one needs to sit for a long time, consider standing and moving more frequently even when in the same spot. For every twenty minutes of inactivity, take two minutes to incorporate some active moves. Sitting is more harmful than most people thought. For instance, each time we sit, electrical activity to our legs stop. Our good cholesterol level drops. Our energy levels lower and we become fatter. In fact, cardiovascular diseases affect most desk-bound workers. The longer we sit, the more our moods are negatively affected. That is why Rath recommends moving, that even a 20 minutes of moderate activity can enhance our moods for the next 12 hours! If we absolutely must sit, straighten our backs and stand on a regular basis. Dim lights at night to promote our sleeping activities. Other small tips include:

  • Finding various reasons in order to move our bodies;
  • Do not eat at our work desks;
  • Start an active physical regimen at home;
  • Walk more, drive less;
  • Watch less TV for health's sake!
  • Activity comes before any exercise;
  • Publicly exercise with a buddy.

C) Sleeping

A third way in which we can improve our health is to sleep regularly and punctually. Dim the lights at night in order to facilitate sleep. For bright lights can increase levels of melatonin in the body. In an experiment with 116 volunteers over five days, researchers discover that bright lights decrease our sleep quality. Use dimmers and avoid nighttime television. Keeping our beds cool rather than warm is a great condition to be sleeping in. Other small tips include:

  • Use constant background noise (a hum, or a smartphone sound app) to facilitate sleep;
  • Remember that stress can ruin sleep;
  • Eight hours of sleep is optimal;
  • Sleep in;
  • Before making any big decisions, make sure one gets a good night's sleep first!

So what?

Is longetivity possible now in a world of modern diets, advanced exercise routines, and more comfortable sleeping conditions? Yes, but it is dependent on many small steps rather than one single leap of activity. There is a Chinese philosopher (Lao Tzu) who once said: "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." It is a proverb of wisdom, urging one to stop worrying about the thousand miles and to start taking a progressive step forward, albeit a humble step. This wisdom underlines the philosophy of this book, that our general health and physical well-being begins with small steps rather than giant leaps. The decisions of today shape the state of ourselves tomorrow. The key thing it not choices per se, but knowing and selecting the right choices for our best. Using his own personal experience with how a black spot in his vision leads to a discovery of a large tumor, the author of the bestselling book, "Well Being" pens down a very personal odyssey of what health means for him and what it could mean for you and me. This odyssey has led him to research on both medical and psychological journals, in-depth books, and various academic work to search for some kind of a holy grail of good health.

What I appreciate is the way the author has described the relationships between eating, moving, and sleeping. For example, moving and sleeping is related. Exercising well is much better than sleeping pills. Avoiding "desktop dining" links the importance of eating and moving. To promote sleeping well, we are also urged to avoid checking emails in our last hour before bed. A good sleep means lower risks of diseases. One of the biggest benefits in reading this book is that it is possible to begin where we are right now, to make choices with healthy intent, and to tweak our eating habits, our moving routines, and our sleeping times. For those of us who need help to discipline our eating, moving, and sleeping, Rath has helpfully included a 30-days challenge that incorporates important elements of all three things. For some of us, this 30-days may very well be our turning point in our general well-being.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of MissionDay and Cave Henricks Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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