The Secret to Healthy Living


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!

New Year – New Resolutions – New You : Why I love January

For many January is a miserable month; the weather is grey (London based), longer wait till payday and most people are doing dry January!

However, for me I love January, it is my favourite month of the year (bar September – as that is my birthday month!). I love January because it is a month of hope, fresh starts and health kicks!

New Year: Hope

New year offers a time when we can start to make serious plans such as travel plans or career ideas. It is not that you cannot do this at any other point in time, January just provides a good framework of the next 12 months to make these plans. Some of the things I hope to achieve and have started making plans include visiting Iceland & Scotland and doing a 5k race!

New Resolutions: Fresh Start

Over the year it appears less and less people embark on setting new year’s resolutions with the most commonly cited reason is that they don’t normally stick to them and/or there is no area in their wheel of life that needs resolving. Personally I love new year’s resolutions and after many years of not fulfilling them, I have been able to keep mine in the last few years.

The first key thing is to think of resolutions less like resolutions i.e. a solution a problem and more as intentions. Setting intentions is saying what you intend to do and ties into the first theme of new year, hope (what is it you would like to achieve in the next 12 months?). This also explains why you don’t necessary need to have an area of life or a problem you are seeking to resolve to set a new year’s resolution or intention.

So if you are not resolving any particular area; what kind of intentions do you set? I think it boils down to lifestyle. It is important to (a) recognise the lifestyle you live from what job you do to what you eat for breakfast and (b) have a think if there is any part of your lifestyle you would like to be different, or aspire to be different. By doing this it will become clear what kind of intentions it would be a good to set. The other great thing from doing this will be you will see these changes/additions as a lifestyle rather than a specific goal which can be easy to give up on forget about once achieved. For example, lots of people start the new year saying they want to be healthy/lose weight. This is evident from the fact it is almost impossible to book gym classes between Jan-March. However, what happens? Why does it suddenly quietened down at the gym? The problem is that most people do not see health-related aspirations as lifestyle choices. They might want to give up chocolate, however, once done for 6 months think the goal is goal, or they give into craving and again the resolution is suddenly dead and gone. However, if you envisage an intention to live a healthy lifestyle, there is no end date, there is no harm in having a chocolate every so often. You end up living quite a balanced lifestyle with ups and downs throughout the year and cut down on chocolate naturally!

This is why I love to set new year’s resolutions or as I call them “intentions”; they are a good way of improving your lifestyle to a way you aspire to and by thinking of them as a lifestyle choice it becomes much easier to maintain them all year round.

New You: Health Kick

As someone that enjoys keeping up to date with health trends, gymming and learning about wellness: I love this time of year! It is great to see everyone on such a health kick, learn about new things people are doing and many retailers have offers relating to health & fitness.

So although the long wait until payday, the constant bleak sky and sudden decrease in social events, I love January. It is a wonderful time to work on you! Don’t miss this opportunity to start making plans for 2017!