The Perfect Day
Small Steps You Can Take Today to Live a Healthier Life
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The Perfect Day: Small Steps You Can Take Today to Live a Healthier Life.
Beep- beep- beep! The alarm was going off and I couldn’t take the sound of it. The night before I had promised myself I would wake up at 5 am to workout. Not today! I went back to sleep and ended up waking up later than my normal 8 am. Not only had I not woken up at 5 am, but now I was late for work. All the enthusiasm from the night before went right out the window (along with my alarm clock).
I didn’t really throw my alarm clock out the window, but I wanted to. During the rest of that day, and far too many like it, I was tired. I had very little energy for work, and absolutely none when I returned home. I felt bad. Really bad. I was getting sick more often and I was becoming depressed. As a result, my work was suffering and my home life was suffering. The solution seemed so easy: wake up early and workout. “That will solve all my problems,” I thought. Instead, the guilt of not being able to do it was making things worse. What was my problem?
The problem was I could envision what I thought would be my “perfect day.” Ah, the “perfect day!” It would be a glorious day. A day where I would wake up early, exercise, eat right and have all kinds of energy. I wouldn’t be sick, I wouldn’t be tired and I certainly wouldn’t be depressed. I would go above and beyond at work to gain that promotion. When I came home, I would take my family on all kinds of activities until they, not me, were so exhausted that bedtime would be a breeze. I would continue this routine every day until, at long last, I could run that marathon, lose that weight and have ripped abs. I would be the perfect husband and father. Truly, it was a magnificent vision! Then the alarm goes off and reality sinks in. The “perfect day” takes work. Lots of work and I couldn’t even get out of bed.
Does the “perfect day” exist? Is it even possible? Can you remember the last time you really felt 100%, like you could take on the world? Can you establish life-long habits that will change your health? This book was written in part to help answer those questions. Ultimately, the answers are entirely up to you, but it is my hope that my experiences will add to the conversation. If you can relate to any of my failures or successes and are motivated to look deeper into your health as a result, than this book will have served its purpose.
This is the story of my journey to achieve the “perfect day.” It is only my story of what worked and didn’t work for me. There are a number of approaches to better health and I do not claim to know them all. I only know what is working for me and what has motivated me. Some things are easy to achieve and can be started today. Others take a bit more time and patience. The overall theme should be that the pursuit matters. If you are going to live healthier the struggles and failures are as important as the ultimate goal. This then is the story of the lessons I have learned though those failures and successes.
Who am I? Your average Joe. What makes me an expert? Nothing. I want to make it clear, in fact, that I am not an expert. I am your everyday man. I started learning about healthy living from nothing and want to share what I have learned. Some ideas may be obvious, but they weren’t obvious to me when I began. Other ideas seem weird and not so obvious and I will share my thoughts around them. I am not here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t be doing. I only want to open the dialog and encourage the reader to find their “perfect day.”
Because my journey included trying various products, necessarily I talk about them. I am not endorsing any of these products, nor am I suggesting you shouldn’t try them. Before beginning any health related routine it is important to work with your physician and do your own research. With that out of the way, let’s begin.
Part 1 – Diet
Habits that turn into consistent action is key to any success. I certainly have some habits that have become routine. Most of the time habits are good things, in this case it’s unclear how good it is. I love to go to McDonalds for breakfast. A sausage egg McMuffin, two breakfast burritos and an ice cold Coke! I crave this breakfast. The truth is I still have this habit. I know it is not the best, but man it tastes so good. I am not even sure I want to break it. I have always known all things in moderation, but not eating this breakfast is a tough one for me.
So in addition to not being able to wake up early, when I am awake I do not eat well. This has led to the first of my experiences that I would like to relate: weight loss. I want to first share my struggles with my weight before I get into solutions: the habits that have helped me overcome much of my difficulties.
I hope you can relate to my story. Weight loss sucks! I hate everything about it. Well, almost everything. I mean, I do feel much better when I am at my optimal weight. The part that I hate is getting there. The truth is I’m lazy. I’m lazy and I love to eat.
These facts meant very little to me for most of my life. I was always a skinny boy. In fact, I was too skinny. I couldn’t gain weight. People joked with me my entire life that they would trade their body fat for mine. I even once had a body fat test and the nurse asked me if I was feeling OK. I told her that I felt fine. She then explained that according to their instrument I should be dead! Either that or I was too skinny for the instrument to read my body fat.
How silly! Looking back on those days, I developed some incredibly bad habits. Habits that have caught up with me as I get older. For a man of my size my optimal weight is 180 pounds. For most of my young adult life I was around 135 pounds. Super skinny! When I reached my adult life, I hovered around 160-180 pounds. Life was good. Then it happened – I kept gaining until I weighed 210 pounds. I now had a weight problem. One I didn’t really understand.
As I kept gaining weight over the years it never really bothered me. That changed once I hit 200 pounds. That was the first time I even noticed my weight. As I would walk my thighs would chaff together; I struggled a bit getting up when I sat down and worst of all I would be out of breath when I climbed any stairs. To make matters worse, I hated the idea of diet, exercise and most of all pills.
This is not to say that I was obese, I was just overweight. In fact, I still am. But I knew that I didn’t like the way I felt anymore. For the first time in my life I needed larger clothes and a new belt. Deep down I felt it was time for a change. How did this happen?
I have battled acid reflux for most of my life. This was caused by a hiatal hernia. I took every proton pump inhibitor known to mankind to stop the acid. Then the news came that I had tested positive for Barrettes Esophagus – a pre-cancerous condition. The good news was that if I made some changes it was treatable and even reversible. It didn’t have to end in cancer. The solution required surgery to fix the hiatal hernia.
At the time of my surgery I was 180 pounds. That was the ideal weight for my height and the most I had ever weighed. I was told that I would end up losing about 20 pounds from the surgery. I had been 160 pounds for about 5 years of my life, so a little weight was no big deal. I just assumed it would take 5 years for me to gain it back. So I ate while I recovered. Boy did I eat.
I didn’t really think about things like being older and my metabolism slowing down. Nor the fact that I was not active while recovering. Then as the months went on and I started to feel much better, I started to notice something else. My clothes were starting to get tighter. This seemed strange to me and when I weighed myself I came in at 190 pounds. This really took me by surprise, as I honestly thought I wouldn’t be back to even 180 pounds for years. Still I figured I would hover there for another 5 years and life would be grand.
It would only take a couple more months before I noticed that I could no longer fit in my pants. Again I weighed myself and now I hit 200 pounds. I couldn’t believe it. Skinny old me, now officially considered over weight for my size. I had only two choices, do something about it or buy new clothes. I decided to buy new clothes.
That worked for a bit, but as I kept gaining (up to 210 pounds), I decided I really didn’t like the way I felt. I was struggling to stand up when I sat down. I was out of breath when I walked up or down the stairs. I also started to get sick more than usual. My arms would go numb at night and sometimes my legs. All of this was new to me and I wasn’t sure what to do. This drove me to look into weight loss for the first time.
I want to make it clear, I love to eat and didn’t want to give it up. I also do not have much desire to workout. Most of all I am not a fan of pills of any kind, let alone weight loss pills. That being said, I knew I needed a change. I asked around for advice from some friends at work and that has led me on my journey.
Yucky Green Smoothies and Raw Foods:
When I say I love to eat food, I mean I love to eat food! Steak, potatoes, hamburgers, fries and soda. You name it, I love it. I have never had to watch what I eat before and it was tough to know where to begin. For breakfast, I was a cereal and milk guy and more often than not a nice breakfast burrito and egg McMuffin at McDonalds. For lunch, I would go anywhere that was close to work where I could get food fast. Burgers and fries mostly. Dinner consisted of either eating out again or BBQ’s on the patio. I haven’t even mentioned deserts and snacks that I would consume throughout the day and into the evening.
Then a friend of mine lent me a book called “the Green Smoothie Diet” by Robyn Openshaw. The idea of green smoothies made me sick, but my friend assured me it was worth my time. So like any good book, I let it sit on my shelf to collect dust. Finally, after much prodding I opened my mind to the idea and began to read.
I think the book was good for a number of reasons: first, it opened my mind to trying alternative foods, and secondly, it was incredibly positive about making changes to my diet and how to do it. So, I decided I would give it a try and you know what? The smoothies were not as bad as I thought they would be.
The book teaches about the importance of eating raw foods and the easiest way to get that nutrition is to blend it all up into a drink. That was something I was sure I could do, so I put some vegetables in a blender and proceeded to burn up the blenders motor trying to make the vegetables smooth. Not to mention it tasted like garbage. I decided I would take her recommendations a bit more seriously and follow the recipes closely. At this point, though I was all in and ready to give it a fair chance.
When I give something a shot I go all out. I decided to buy a powerful, but expensive, “Vita Mix” blender and started making smoothies as instructed. It is tough to get used to the taste of raw foods so I started by mixing half spinach half mixed frozen fruit together with water. The spinach I purchased at Costco for hardly anything as well as the frozen fruit. By doing half fruit, it really took the taste of the spinach away. It looked terrible, but it didn’t taste all that bad. As I continued to drink these smoothies every day, I was able to work my way to ¼ mixed fruit to ¾ spinach. It is important not to have too much fruit because of the sugar levels. Over time I came to not only tolerate the taste, but crave it. This became my first healthy habit.
However, I wasn’t done. I also tried to go all in to the raw foods program. This meant I drank only smoothies for breakfast and lunch, and then I would eat a salad for dinner. However, after just a week, I felt like I was starving to death, so I abandoned the raw foods diet. I did keep the smoothie habit, however. For me, the best lesson of the book is that if you do nothing else but eliminate soda, drink lots of water and start your day with a green smoothie then you will be healthier than most people. So instead of eliminating food from my life, I am keeping this basic habit: One green smoothie to start my day.
My “Perfect Day” eating routine:
I have found that drinking water first thing in the morning is incredibly beneficial. When I wake up in the morning my “perfect day” breakfast consists of drinking a glass or two of filtered water. After about a half hour or so I then drink my green smoothie and if I am still hungry I will eat some Greek yogurt. It is amazing what effect this has had on my appetite. By drinking water I am hydrating myself and letting my digestive system warm-up a bit before I attack it with food. The green smoothie gives me all the nutrients and fiber I need to really eliminate waste and feel energetic. The Greek yogurt helps me to feel full and offers probiotics to further promote healthy digestion. I am not an expert at the why, I just know when I do this I really feel good no matter what else I eat the rest of the day. I also don’t feel as guilty when I go and get my usual breakfast at McDonalds.
Lunch has been the most obvious change for me. Because of the light breakfast I am pretty hungry when it’s lunchtime. Taking a lesson from the Italians, I decided to try to have an incredibly heavy lunch. Honestly, I really don’t pay too much attention to what I am eating, I just try not to eat so much that I want to nap. I eat until I feel full and call it good. I am not so worried about calories or intake because of the light breakfast and dinner (as we will see). So why a heavy lunch? The reason I eat the most at lunch is because I no longer like to eat a great deal for dinner. As I have become more accustomed to the new eating habits, the heavy lunch is sufficient to carry me through most of the day. The Italians are on to something. So what then for dinner?
As far as food, dinner is normal just not very much of it. Again I am not as concerned about what I am eating, rather I am focused on my intake. Because of the heavy lunch I do not get real hungry at night. So I eat till I am full, which isn’t very much, and I usually try to be done by 6pm. Ending by 6pm is important because you do not want your body digesting food while you sleep. One major reason I found that I couldn’t sleep at night was because I was eating too late. My body was busy working instead of resting. As you can imagine, if you are not sleeping well at night, then you are likely to struggle waking up in the morning. This was a big breakthrough for me on the “why” I couldn’t wake up in the morning.
What do you do if you get hungry after 6pm? When that happens to me, I simply try to grab a light snack like a “Trio” bar or yogurt that will not cause digestive distress.
I have just outlined my “perfect day” eating habits. Of course, I am not always perfect, but I know that these changes have gone a long way to helping me feel better and not be sick so often. As you can see I have not given up much in the way of what I eat. I am simply trying to form good habits as a foundation for more advanced weight loss techniques. The point is to build up to healthier habits one step at a time. By adding these good habits, I am slowly eliminating bad ones. For example, I no longer eat cereal with milk for breakfast. Nor am I eating out as much. In addition, I have added essential practices without needing to give up everything at once. This may not seem like a big deal, but over time I am noticing that I don’t want as much junk food as I once did. So what have I been able to slowly eliminate that has made the most difference?
The biggest change has been eliminating soda. I love Coke! It is really difficult for me to give up. Every time I tried to give it up in the past, I would just go right back to it. Now with this healthier foundation in place, my desire to drink it has lessened. To begin, I tried to only drink one a week if possible. I also made sure not to beat myself up if I had more. As the months went on I was able to get down to one a month (with the occasional slip up). Interestingly, as you stop drinking so much I have been losing the desire to drink more. Quite frankly, when I do drink it, I am noticing I do not really enjoy it like I used to. Eliminating soda is probably the most crucial thing to get rid of if you really want to feel healthy quickly. Keep at it! It is tough to give up, but if you go slowly and with a purpose you will get there.
It took about a month for me to become accustomed to this new routine, but I feel better and better every day. I no longer have a huge desire to eat all the time. I also feel like I have more energy to go about my day. As far as weight loss, I believe this has helped me maintain my current weight. I was able to stop the upward trend. However, I wanted more than to just maintain. I wanted to get back to my ideal weight. To do this, I needed to become active.
Try a green smoothie. You will need a good blender for this (Blendtec or Vita Mix preferably, though this can be expensive). Fill the blender with ¼ water, ¾ spinach or kale and ¼ mixed fruits. You can find all of this at Costco for real cheap. Mix together until completely smooth. This should make enough for a couple of days, so store what you don’t drink in the fridge. If the taste is too much, then lessen the spinach and add more fruit. Be careful though as this will add to your sugar intake.
When you get up in the morning drink a glass or two of water to warm up your digestive system. Then enjoy a glass of green smoothie on its own or with some Greek yogurt. It may take some getting used to (probably a month), but don’t give up. Just doing this alone you will see a change in how you feel about food.
Eat a bigger lunch. You will probably be a bit hungry by lunchtime. This is the best time to eat a hearty meal. I really don’t watch what I eat here, I just eat until I am full. I even eat deserts. You just don’t want to eat too much where you get sleepy, as you still have most of the day left to perform at work or home.
Eat a light dinner. If you have had a big lunch, dinner can be light. Still good food, but you won’t want as much. Make sure to have this done by 6pm where possible. Try your best not to eat or drink much of anything after 6pm. If you get hungry have a light snack like yogurt, a banana or “Trio” bar. It is important to let your body rest while it is sleeping.
Eliminate soda. It really is poison. Start slow if needed. Try one a day, then one a week, then one a month. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip up. It is not the end of the world. Just get back to 1 a day, then 1 a week etc., until you start losing your desire for it. You will be surprised at how healthy you will feel.
This is a great foundation to still be able to enjoy food, but maintain your weight. Just a tweak here and there and you are on track to feeling much healthier. This will also prepare your body and mind for other, more advanced techniques, to lose weight.
Part II – Exercise
Run Before Walking:
Becoming more active I have found is a necessary evil. It has been difficult for me to find the desire to move. I used to be incredibly active playing basketball and soccer almost daily. I felt like I could run forever. Then I got a job sitting in a cubicle for hours at a time. To make matters worse it was almost an hour drive to the office sitting in a car. I would then top it off by coming home to sit on the couch and watch TV. The change to become more active was a significant one.
Deep down I knew in my heart I needed to be more active, so I finally decided to get my butt back in shape. Because I used to be so active I assumed I could go all out in this endeavor. That was a big mistake. My pattern was to work hard for a day or two then quit when I became sore. I would then feel bad about quitting and a week or two later I was back at it going full speed. Of course, it would again become difficult and would once again quit. Not the best method to get into shape. It was time to get serious.
The first time I really wanted to get into shape I took up running. There are no shortages of people I know who love to run. I was encouraged and decided to jog around the block with my 11 year old boy. It took him 15 minutes to finish and me about a half hour. This was because I would run out of breath and need to stop and walk most of the way. The next day I didn’t want to go again, but my boy insisted and we went out again with similar results. I did this 5 days a week for two weeks.
By the end of the two weeks I did notice something positive, I wasn’t having as much trouble breathing. I would run with him and instead of stopping to walk, I kept going. I was actually building up endurance to the running and I’ll admit it – it felt great. I couldn’t wait until the early evening for my next jog. Then something else happened. My knees started to hurt. I never had considered what effect the pavement was having on my body.
The pain became so excruciating that I could barely walk, let alone jog. So all my momentum was crushed. It took at least a month before the pain finally went away. Once it was gone, I started thinking about running again, but this time on the track at the high school. I imagined this would be easier on my knees. I was never motivated enough to make it there however, which may have been a good thing.
Almost as soon as my knees started to heal, my foot began to hurt. Apparently, having good shoes when you run is important and the effect of the running had damaged my foot. Plantar Fasciitis is the technical term for “my foot is in tremendous pain when I walk.” Through treatment along with insoles for my shoes, it has since healed, but this time I had no desire to return to running. That was too bad since I was really starting to enjoy it.
I always thought walking was a poor man’s running, but decided to look into it anyway. To my surprise, I heard that walking for at least 20 minutes or more at a time is the healthiest exercise you can do. This is probably because you do not put as much strain on your body as running. Still walking was boring to me and 20 minutes seemed like a lot. Regardless. I gave it a shot.
I began at work taking 20 minutes of my 30 minute lunch and walking around the building. I did this once a week. Then some friends wanted to join me on my walk, which made it more enjoyable. We kicked it up to 3 times a week. A good 20 minute walk turns out to be about the equivalent of a mile. I further learned that 3 times a week for 20 minutes is the minimum required to maintain your weight.
Not too bad for very little effort. So in order to change my weight as opposed to maintaining it, I could either walk for more than 20 minutes 3 times a week, or walk 5 times a week. I chose to try walking 5 times a week to accommodate my lunch hour. The most interesting thing that happened was my desire to get moving increased. It took about a month, but my tolerance for walking increased and I wanted to keep doing it. I also started to notice less aches, pain and fatigue.
As I achieved consistency with walking my desire to do more also increased. I decided I wanted more and did something crazy. My “go all out” instincts were in high gear. A friend mentioned that a group at work were all going to buy the P90X3 and workout every morning before coming to work. No thanks! I had seen the commercials and it did not look like a lot of fun. Further, it was an hour and that seemed too long. He then explained that the new P90X3 was only 30 minutes. That was enough to convince me, so I forked out the $300 for the set with a determination to do it.
My goal was very simple: Take it extremely slow. I wanted to wake up at 6 am and walk through the routines for 90 days. The goal really was simply just to finish the 90 days any way I could and say I did it. Spoiler alert! I didn’t make it, though I lasted longer than anyone in my work group. Further, I learned a great deal on the way though.
With the P90X3 program, the first thing you do is take a physical exam to see where you are health wise. You do all kinds of things like push-ups and pull-ups and sit-ups. It is recommended that you meet a minimum requirement before beginning the actual workouts and I failed miserably. I decided to do it anyway, as the group from work was starting the next day and I didn’t want to be behind.
So I woke up at 6am, drank some “Muscle Milk” for protein and began the workout. I made sure to go very slowly, just walking through the routine more than actually working out. At the end I felt great, like I had really accomplished something, and I had. I had gotten up early and exercised. I was even able to follow this routine for the entire week.
As far as my weight I was one week down and no loss, but that was to be expected because I wasn’t really working out that hard. The program repeats the same routine for 4 weeks, so each Monday I tried a little harder to do more. It actually was fun, and not too strenuous. I want to emphasis that I was not pushing myself like they do in the videos. I simply wanted to accomplish a goal to feel good about myself.
Soon enough a month went by and instead of losing weight I was gaining it. This seemed strange to me so I asked around. It appears that once you start toning your body, the fat turns to muscle and that creates an initial increase in your weight. I never knew. Still it was a bit demoralizing and after the 2nd month I went from 210 to 213 pounds.
There was something interest that started to happen though. People at work started asking if I was working out. Something looked different about me. When I told them what I was doing, I was some super hero workout guy. I would tell my harrowing stories of strength at lunch time. They would say things like how they wished they had the mind set to do what I was doing. I could only chuckle as I knew I was only going about half speed through it all. I felt like I was gaming the system. Truth was, even just doing it a little was enough for others to notice. It really doesn’t take much to change is the lesson.
The best part about the program was that I was not killing myself in the process. It became like a nice walk in the park for me. Then came the 3rd month. I was on fire and felt good, so I decided to go all out. I felt I was ready to conquer the world. Well, that was my mistake, as my body wasn’t quite ready for me to do that and I injured my back. I missed out on finishing by 2 weeks. 2 weeks!
Disappointing. I was so excited to finish and came up short like I always do. And I was still 213 pounds. I was Heavier than when I started, with no more momentum to continue. But walking for 20 minutes was still achievable, even with a tweaked back, so I kept that up. I made sure to continue to walk at least 20 minutes 3 times a week to maintain my weight.
As the weeks went on I started to notice that my weight was gradually decreasing. I thought I had missed my chance, but instead I started to see some losses. These losses have continued and I am now at 200 pounds and maintaining. I still have 20 to go, but I am moving in the right direction. With hindsight as my guide, I believe this has made a significant difference in the way I feel. I consider this failure a success, because it shows even a little effort will help return positive results. The key is to take it slow and be consistent.
My “Perfect Day” Exercise Routine
As mentioned in the intro I have a hard time waking up in the morning. Ideally, I want to be able to wake up at 5am to kick start the day. However, building up to it is necessary and I was able to compromise by getting up at 6am instead. Once my body was used to this time, I found I really enjoyed the peace the morning brings. By the time I was done working out my kids were waking up and I realized I wanted more time for other things in the morning. So 5am is my “perfect” start time.
For the first 90 days I follow the exercise routine that is recommended by the folks at P90X3. It consists of warming up, the workout and then a cooling down. This takes 30-35 minutes or a little more if you need to pause and catch your breath. I go at my own pace, there is no reason not to. After the 90 days you can mix up the routines any way you would like for variety. Consistency is the key and your body will begin to adapt to the new schedule.
At work I take a 20 minute walk, preferably with friends. This is a great time to get away from the job and relax. I am at the point where I look forward to the walks more than just about anything in my day. If I can’t get away at lunch than an early evening walk with the family is a great way to wind down in the early evening.
I like the simplicity of this exercise routine. You go at your own pace and it is achievable. The most surprising thing about it was that I have more energy and feel more active. Sometimes it’s not over-thinking things and focusing on the simple that make the biggest difference.
Walk for 20 minutes at least 3 times a week. Start with once a week and increase from there. It is more enjoyable with a buddy, but listening to music is also helpful. Try to get to the 3 day minimum. Once there stay there until you feel like you can do more. Perhaps go to 30 minutes a day or try 4 times a week. Walking is great for your bloodstream and not as hard on your body as running. If you try nothing else to become more active, please try this.
Once you become active, it is likely you will want to do more. If you decide to run, please make sure you buy proper gear. Running is very taxing on your body, and if you don’t have the right shoes you will end up like me. Running can be very enjoyable, but make sure you prepare yourself to avoid injury.
I am not affiliated in anyway with P90X, this has only been my experience with them. The system works, but it is not an easy workout. I like the P90X3 because it is only a half hour of your time. Also, remember I went really slowly for the first month. I then went half speed the 2nd month. This worked really well for me because it got me in the habit of waking up early and moving.
Try to take slowly until you build up more strength. I didn’t make it because I ramped up too fast, which caused injury. If you can just go slow and get through the 90 days, then I think that would be a remarkable foundation to then start going at a higher level. Just do not be discouraged by the pace on the TV. You work your way up to that, you do not begin there.
Part III – Psychological
Life Changes: Habits and Tips
It is my opinion that healthier living is about changing behavior. There is a certain psychological aspect that can impact your desire to, for example, lose weight. If you are depressed you are less likely to want to make any changes. If you start to feel good about yourself, this feeling will snowball into a desire to do more. I believe these habits are as important as diet and exercise in achieving your “perfect day.” I have developed a number of these habits over my lifetime and they have increased my happiness. I hope you can tailor them to help you as well.
This section is a bit different as I am only giving tips for your consideration. You may not agree with any or all of them, but the discussion is important. The list below provides good habits to achieve and bad habits to avoid. This list is not exhaustive, but I hope it leads to more discussion around what is most important when trying to live healthier lives. If you can work on some of these, your emotional health is certain to improve, which leads to a willingness to eat right and exercise.
Sleep – Sleeping has always been incredibly difficult for me. I never seem to be able to go to sleep and I can’t seem to wake up on time. As I changed my eating habits, this began to change. As mentioned in an earlier chapter, I started to eat less for dinner and nothing after 6 pm. I believe eating late was the cause of much of my insomnia. My body was working to digest food, instead of resting. Since making this change my sleep has improved noticeably.
Sleeping in, or waking up at different times every day is hard on the body. Forcing your body back to sleep when it is ready to wake up also creates a great deal of fatigue. It doesn’t matter what time of day you decide to wake up, but I think it is essential to wake up at the same time every day. Training your body to do this will take around 3 months, but you will see a difference. No matter what time you go to bed, you should wake up at the same time – even on weekends.
Occasionally, I will still struggle to go to sleep. When this happens I take a small dose of melatonin. You can get this over the counter at most stores. 1 or 2 pills should do the trick about 20 minutes before bedtime. Be aware though, that if you take this too often your body will get acclimated to it and it will lose its effectiveness. So, I only take it on the nights I am really struggling.
Consider only going into your bed when it is time to go to sleep. If you can avoid reading or watching TV in your bedroom, you can train your mind to know that when you get into bed it is time to sleep.
Finally, try to avoid Caffeine and Alcohol. These are known to cause anxiety and restlessness. If you must drink Caffeine then earlier in the day will make it less likely to cause trouble in the evening. Alcohol is poison that should be avoided at all costs.
Fixing your sleep will help increase your energy and willingness to be active and take walks. Sleep is important enough that you should try to get 7 to 8 hours a night. Your body will be healthier and recover faster.
TV – I don’t want to harp too much on the television. I certainly enjoy watching TV and it can be really relaxing. That being said I am trying to cut it out of my life. I am down to sit-coms and sporting events. Television can be incredibly negative and shape an unrealistic image of who you are. Only you know what is best for you and it would be a shame to let your self-worth be persuaded by Hollywood.
News, ads, sports, gossip, violence, you name it, TV has it. TV purpose is to persuade you to believe you are something you are not. Ads are meant to make you feel like you need the latest product for your self- image. All of it is a lie and wasteful. I am not saying you should stop it all together, but just know what you are going up against. If you start to feel down about yourself, turn off the TV and go for a walk. I bet you will find that you will start feeling better almost immediately.
Computers – Internet is the new TV. The same rules apply to the internet and maybe even more so. Be very cautious about the messages you are listening to from the internet. Your reality is with the people in your life who love and care about you, not some social media “friends.” The less time you spend online surfing, the more likely you are to see things as they really are. You are also more likely to pay attention to the people who matter most. Again I am not suggesting no internet or TV, just be careful what influences you choose to bring into your life.
Friends -Friends are great. The ones who love and care about you that is. We all have friends who tend to bring us down. Complaining, gossiping about others, you don’t need it. It may be hard to give a friend less of your time, but if they are negative then what choice do you really have? You should surround yourself with people who are positive; people who lift you up and are happy for your successes. If they don’t, then life is just too short. Remember, the goal is to achieve your “perfect day” and it is much easier when you are happy and healthy.
Meditation – It is important to take a few minutes each day and relax. By setting 5-15 minutes aside each day and focusing on your breath, you are able to let go of stress and prepare your mind to think. I like to pick a few classical music pieces to listen to. As I do, I close my eyes and take deep breaths through my nose and release them through my mouth. As thoughts come into my mind I recognize them, but do my best to refocus my energy on my breath. It will seem a bit daunting at first, but over time you will come to learn of just how relaxing focused concentration can be. You will also be training your mind to focus on the task at hand without becoming distracted by other things.
Books – Reading is so incredibly important to your mental well-being that it should be regularly scheduled into your day every day. I like to make a goal to read for about an hour a day. I tend to read spiritual books or classics with good messages. In addition, I read any subject that I find interesting: history, economics, biographies etc. My only rule is that it should not have a negative message. In other words, it has to add value to me as a person or I am not interested. The mind is far too important to not exercise it with good books that push you to think about things in a new way. Too many people use TV to do their thinking for them. I believe the best way to a proper education is to read as much as you can on anything the subjects that interest you. Soon enough you will be an expert on those subjects and able to give an opinion that is not formed by others.
These are just a few habits that I have found helpful in my life. I am sure there are many more, but the point is that in addition to diet and exercise, it is as important to focus on your mental well-being to live a completely healthy lifestyle. All of these combined will lead you to find your “perfect day.”
I hope by now you have seen that by doing simple things consistently over time you begin to establish a solid foundation for more advanced growth. The “perfect day” is not about being perfect every day. It is about starting little by little with your end goal in mind as to what you want to achieve. As mentioned throughout the book, I struggled with waking up early, eating right, energy and laziness. I tried over and over again to find solutions, but ended up reverting back to my old habits. Only when I took some time to think about what I wanted my “perfect day” to be did I start to discover what worked for me. I found that taking little steps was the most effective, while not beating myself up when I didn’t live up to others expectations. It’s OK to fail, it’s OK to feel inadequate just as long as we pick ourselves up, learn the lessons from them and move on.
I have given my experience for what has worked for me. I hope it will be useful to you. Below is my final “perfect day.” This is still a goal that I am working toward. Some days I reach it, other times I fall short. The journey is what is making all the difference and I am feeling as healthy as I ever have before. I hope you will use this as a guide to find what is best for you and go for it.
My “Perfect Day”
5 am Wake up
Drink a glass or two of water and prepare to workout
Workout for 30 minutes – P90X3 inside my home
After workout drink some muscle milk for protein and cool down. This is a great time for me to put on some classical music and focus on my breathing. Meditation helps prepare my mind for the rest of the day.
I next sit down for breakfast – a green smoothie and some Greek yogurt. I also drink more water. I take an “Alive” multi-vitamin and a probiotic with my meal. Those are the only pills I really ever put into my body if I can avoid it.
6 am this is a great time to read something uplifting. I begin with scriptures and then another finish with another book I am reading at the time. I also like to take a few minutes to think and write about what I have read. I am now ready for the day.
Lunch – I eat a big meal, just about anything. The only rule is not so much that I get sick or want to nap. I then head off for a 20 min walk (about a mile).
Dinner – Again I eat whatever is in front of me, though I try to keep it light. More important is to be done eating and drinking by 6pm, so your digestive system can take a break before you go to bed. If I get hungry a banana, yogurt, or “Trio” bar does the trick.
9 pm – wind down and get ready for bed. If I am really struggling with sleep I will take a melatonin to help.
It’s really that simple and it works! I know you can do it!