I recently heard Jessi Pavelka live; he is an American fitness expert who often appears on Sky TV channel in programmes about weight loss. What I liked about Jessi is that he is realistic guy that focus on holistic life changes. His model involves dividing being healthy into 4 quadrants: “Eat, Sweat, Think & Connect” and by focusing on the individual’s particular lifestyle he looks to bring small changes in each quadrants that in the long-term make a difference as well as encourage individuals to take further leaps.
The “Eat” quadrant as you would expect concerns food and what we eat. Of course, his recommendations will vary person to person as he doesn’t belief in a one-size-fits-all model, he gave some generic tips. First, he stressed the importance of drinking water to all. This sounds very basic and no matter how many times I hear it, I still have days where I have had two cups of coffee and no water. The second tip is to make your meals more green, where possible when you see your meal whether it’s ramen or a burger add more greens. If this is not possible as you are not a fan of greens, seek to make your meal as colourful as possible. The idea being if you have a meal that you can’t or do not find anything green to add to it, add more colourful fruit & vegetable e.g. tomatoes, orange or beetroot.
The “Sweat” quadrant concerns movement and exercise. He suggests that you take time to look at your lifestyle and implement small changes, could that be getting off a tube stop earlier? Adding a walk in your lunchtime break? He is all about small about that get you moving without you even noticing and building on this model.
The “Think” quadrant refers to mindfulness. He was fairly brief on this quadrant, highlighting the need for anti-stress practices such a meditation to reduce stress, Mental health is equally important and a key contributing factor to physical health and thus needs to be included in the healthy living quadrant model.
The last quadrant “Connect” refers to the individuals you surround yourself with. So if you are on a journey to weight loss or a dramatic lifestyle change, it is important to connect with those on a similar journey so as to keep you motivated.
I really liked this four quadrant model, I think it effectively covers the whole idea “healthy living” and is a great to think of it especially when you are at the start of your journey. However, I found his specific comments a bit generalist, hard to maintain in reality and unnecessary. In my opinion, the secret to healthy living is two words: fun and convenience! I will explain this with particular reference to every quadrant below but the general idea is if you want a healthy lifestyle make it fun and convenient to YOU. This will become clearer as I discuss the quadrants below.
So “Eat”, rather than always finding ways to abide by rules such as have I added something green in my plate. Sit down and have a real think, for every meal of the day what are things you like to eat. For example, I really enjoy pan fried fish and veggies at dinner. After you have done this, go through the list and cross out those that are unhealthy such as say fast food, pizza etc. Finally, with the food left over put a star next to the ones that are convenient to organise. For example, if you enjoy a couscous salad at lunch, (this would not be crossed out as it’s healthy), is this convenient for you to organise? My answer would be yes, the night before it takes 5-10 mins to make it, as couscous grains need to just be added to hot water for 2-5 mins. Remember, this has to be specific to you, Pavelka, me or anyone else cannot give you this list. You can then use that final short list of food to prepare meals for say 60% off the time. When I used to be really into health and fitness about two years, I would clean eat using the foods that were healthy, tasty and convenient for me for two days and then have one day of where I eat what I like, the cycle would continue.
I think Jessi’s ideas on Sweat are not particularly challenging or ones that you would actually see real results from because you need to be constantly assessing small things to add and subsequently either forgot to add anything new or give yourself too much. I think the way to make sweat for you is to understand yourself and your body (this is why I think healthy living has a lot to do with finding yourself). What is it that you enjoy doing that is physical? And nothing is a definite lie. Do you like lifting weights? HIIT sessions? Circuit training? Dancing? Yoga? There is only one way to find out what you like – try them all. This is exactly what I still do till today, I try something new once a month (of course when you start out you will probably try new things every week). Last month I tried “Beyoncerobics” out, an aerobics/dance class to all Beyonce tracks and I had a ball! Also, another important thing to remember is just because you did not enjoy say running or lifting weights does not in the future or as your grow these preferences would not change. When I first got into gym-ing, I hated yoga, I found it slow, boring and ineffectual on me. However, now three years later I love yoga, probably because I discovered this great yoga school, dedicated 6 consecutive weeks to it and since that point my goals have become more about well-being than body transformation.
Once you start discovering what you enjoy, what is fun for you, you can seek to put these into your routine. In order to do this in a sustainable way, make it convenient for you to do. When I was a student living at home, my gym membership was at a local gym. Then I started working (about 40 mins tube away), I realised my gym attendance tailed off. The reason being it was too much effort for me to make it to this local gym even though my favourite body attack class was held there. Thus, I moved my membership to a gym near work. So my exercise became part of my workday, I did it after work and then went home. I went on a learning curve of discovering new classes, for example spin at this gym was awful so I no longer went spinning.The combination of exercises you enjoy and the convenience of participating in those exercises, is going to make you sweat and add more than adding a small walk at lunchtime.
The third quadrant Jessi was pretty vague on as I mentioned before. This is an interesting one because when I started off my journey into health and fitness, the only mindful activity I engaged in was praying. I believe in God so praying and lighting a candle every night was part of me. I never did this as part of my lifestyle as I have done this for over 5 years now; I never even concerned this to be part of mindfulness. Over the year, I tried things like ‘Headspace’ app out but nothing really sustained until it dawned on me that my act of praying is how I got my peace/mindfulness. The point being, I think this is a personal quadrant and again I will stress the need to dabble in different programmes till you find that part of your routine that gives you peace and space. It could even be that extra 10 minutes early you wake up to have tea and sit in silence or a meditation track you listen to on your way to work.
The last quadrant is “Connect”, I would go one step further than Jessi on this one. I think we all are time scare with pressure to do lots of different things. Healthy living is another pressure on your time from meal prep to exercising. That’s why i think a more extravagant strategy should be opted in the connect quadrant. Think about who are the people that are adding positive value in your life or are living a lifestyle you admire/connect to. Hold onto those people and focus on those relationships. Any relationships where you see the person’s views as backward looking or not bringing any positivity in your life, just cut it out. As an absolute I say this, there is no need when we are all time-scare to waste time on such people. If that leaves you lonely or bored or feeling like you have empty time, great! Look online, find events, meeting-ups and happenings around you! This is great way to surround yourself with thoughts, people and ideas that you aspire to or want to be a part of. Eventbrite is great, I habitually find events that look interesting and sign up, and the best thing is you can filter by location and time so as to make it convenient for yourself!
So remember the secret to healthy living – make it fun and convenient for you to do it! Make it specific and unique to your characteristics and needs and remember this will be continually growing and changing, so have a refresh once in a while!