Health can feel like an overwhelming checklist of foods to eat, exercises to perform, and habits to follow. And, that’s before you have to deal with flip-flopping opinions that tell you to do something one day and avoid it the next.
But, there’s a much shorter checklist that might be more helpful and cause a lot fewer headaches.
Instead of worrying about what you need to add to your life, it might be easier to think about addition by subtraction.
Avoiding the bad means you’re more likely to be doing something good — and isn’t that the point?
Many years ago, Tim Ferriss created a “not-to-list” that applied to getting through life with less stress and frustration. It’s such a brilliant idea that I thought it should be applied to fitness.
In many ways, a not-to-do list is much more powerful than any version of “The 11 Best Foods You Should Eat,” the “20 Best Diets” or the “15 Most Effective Exercises.” What do all of these articles have in common?
They make it very clear that many things work with fitness and nutrition. So, picking the right plan is less about finding “the one approach that works” and more about finding “the right approach for you.” It’s a lot easier to accomplish if you avoid all of the garbage information that will lead you farther from your goals.
As with Tim’s original post, I highly recommend not trying to avoid all of these at once. Start with 1-3, master them (or, more accurately, just limit), and then add other items from the list as they apply to your health and lifestyle.
1. Don’t eat while working or watching TV.
You might believe that hunger alone is what drives you towards food. But, what you might not realize is that attention and memory also play a big role in how much you eat and whether you feel full.
Distracted eating — or having a meal (or snacks) while watching TV or working — is a sure-fire way to ensure that you don’t pay as much attention or remember what you ate. And that means you’ll be eating more during your meal or eat more later. The less you are distracted, the less you eat, according to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
2. Avoid workouts that
require time you don’t have.
If you’re going to be healthy, you need to make time for exercise. However, prioritizing movement does not mean you need to spend hours lifting weights or on the treadmill or bike. When you select plans, a primary consideration needs to be the total number of hours required and the amount of time you can realistically commit.
Don’t get it twisted: you might need to adjust your schedule to create time to prioritize your health. But, however much time you create should be something you can realistically accomplish.
If you pick a plan that demands too much of your schedule, you’re more likely to fall off the plan and become sedentary. That’s the opposite of what you want. (Research goes as far as providing data that a 60-minute workout doesn’t necessarily lead to more results than a 30-minute workout.)
Where to start? As a good rule of thumb, aim for, at least, 20-30 minutes of movement per day. This can be as simple as a walk at a brisk pace.
And, 2-3 times per week, try to include 10-20 minutes of intense exercise. In fact, if you have the right program, research suggests that just 1-minute of high-intensity exercise (along with a 10-minute warmup of moderate intensity) might improve your heart health and metabolic factors.
3. Do not buy over-the-counter fat burners.
American’s spend anywhere from 2 to 5 billion on fat-loss pills every year. That’s a mind-numbing amount of wasted money. While some supplements — such as caffeine — work to help your body’s thermogenic process (it increases heat production), the actual impact on the scale is minimal at best.
Simply put: fat burners might have a tiny boost on your exercise and diet plan, but it’s not likely anything you’ll notice. And, for the amount of money you pay, you might as well just drink coffee or black tea.
Better yet, stop depending on over-the-counter weight loss supplements altogether. They are fool’s gold.
4. Do not argue with people
about which diet is best.
Many diets work. If someone is married to an idea, you’re unlikely to convince them otherwise. There are many ways to reduce calories, and infinite ways to get the nutrients your body needs. Some diets are more likely to work for many people, but the “best diet” is the one that works for you.
5. Do not ignore off days.
Your body needs rest. Your muscles need to recover. Your mind enjoys breaks. If you want better results, more effective workouts, and a body that won’t break down, then make sure — at a minimum — you have 1-2 off days per week.
6. Do not downplay sleep.
It might seem similar to prioritizing off days, but sleep and rest two sides of the same coin. Sleep abuse is an equal problem for people who exercise and those who don’t. But, it very well might be the healthiest habit you can master every day.