The thing about leading a healthy lifestyle is that most of us know what we are supposed to go it – but we don’t. In his book “The 4 Pillar Plan – How To Relax, Eat, Move, Sleep Your Way To A Longer, Healthier Life”, Dr Rangan Chatterjee does just this.
Acres of articles have been written about motivation and willpower when what is really needed, I think, is a structured guide to exactly what we need to do.Dr. Chatterjee is the star of BBC One’s Doctor In The House and his particular mission is to tackle two of today’s biggest threats to our health – type 2 diabetes and obesity. The 4 Pillar Plan is a comprehensive programme of 20 diet and lifestyle interventions.
These are the kind of tactics which, if followed could help us to avoid bunging up our doctors’ surgery waiting room and possibly even A&E if we take just three of the nuggets of wisdom in each pillar to heart.
His pillar approach is broken down into four distinct areas:- Relax, Eat, Move and Sleep – in each of which he offers sensible, do-able, no-nonsense steps based on recent research. You won’t find any navel-gazing or chakra massaging. Much of this advice is probably stuff you heard from your mum – and promptly ignored.
It is important to take a holistic approach to this. You can take each pillar at a time but you do need to take steps in each of them. Dr. Chatterjee says that the non-food elements are important because our whole system is interconnected. If we are stressed, we eat more and sleep less, for example.
The 4 Pillar Plan does contain a healthy eating plan but it is just part of an overall approach.
To give you an idea of the type of advice that is included, here are some examples from each pillar.
Pillar 1 – Eat
Try to eat at least 5 portions of vegetables every day – ideally of 5 colours. This is important because these contain chemicals called phytonutrients which help our hearts, fight cancer cells and reverse brain ageing. Good sources include broccoli, red onions, asparagus, carrots and olives.
Introduce daily microfasts – eat all your food within a 12 hour window – so breakfast at 7 am and supper by 7 pm. After 12 hours a process called autophagy will have started, cleaning our bodies and helping with weightloss.
Unprocess your diet – avoid food products which contain more than 5 ingredients – much easier than worrying about calories, carbs or fat content.
Pillar 2 – Relax
Have a ‘digital sabbath’ – Dr Chatterjee recommends a digital free Sunday to give us a break from the constant onslaught of social media and online advertising.
Eat one meal a day at a table – in company and with no mobile devices!
Schedule 15 minutes of me-time every day – this could be reading, gardening, meditating – but no screens. Prioritise your self care.
Pillar 3 – Move
Aim to walk at least 10,000 steps a day – put your Fitbit through its paces or buy a pedometer.
Do three or four ‘movement snacks’ a day 5 days a week – put on some music and sing or dance, do some star jumps or play with the kids.
Wake up your sleepy glutes – exercise your buttock muscles at least once a day to counteract the effect of sitting down all day.
Pillar 4 – Sleep
Sleep in the dark – use an old fashioned alarm clock not your mobile phone. Install blackout blinds or extra thick curtains.
Manage your racing mind – don’t have difficult conversations right before bed or watch the news if it upsets you. Read a calming book or write in your journal instead.
Embrace morning light – spend at least 20 minutes outside (without sunglasses) every morning. There is even a study which shows that people who do this have a lower body mass index!
You can choose which pillar to work on or work on them simultaneously. I think you are better off picking a few small changes to incorporate into your routine and seeing how they work for you.
This is a fantastic, common sense book which is certain to have something you’d be willing to try – and small changes can lead to great improvements long-term.
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