Something clients often struggle with is seeing that ‘diet-for-weightloss’ mindset and ‘diet-for-health’ mindset are the same thing. That little health bug in your ear, telling you something is unhealthy or shaming you for not eating more vegetables is just as unhealthy as the one that tells you to eat for a particular body type or weight. Either way they’re external food rules and no matter what the motivation, external food rules lead to feelings of deprivation, bingeing, guilt, shame and confusion around food choices.
But we know from past diet experiences, and we hear from advertising, that eating a particular way can give us more energy. One of the most common things clients say to me is that they want more energy. The thing is, if you do it by changing your diet externally, which is not sustainable, then even if you get more energy in the short term, if you can’t actually stick to it then what’s the point?
There are other ways to get more energy and feel great in our bodies without changing our diets, so let’s explore:
- Eat according to hunger and satiety – our bodies have in-built mechanisms to flush out food and digest well, and it regulates these itself. So listen in to what it has to say.
- Get 8+ hours of sleep. If you think you do, but you’re still tired and lethargic, then keep a sleep diary for 2 weeks (or even better, a month). Not only will it motivate you to want to put in the bigger numbers, but you’ll get an accurate picture of whether you’re really getting the right amount of sleep. Generally, for our body to work best, we want to be asleep by 10pm and wake up no earlier than 6am (ok so I’m a personal trainer and I only wake up after 6am on Sundays, but if I’m feeling really tired despite 8 hours of sleep, I’ll know it’s because of the super early morning and not some diet defecit). Going to bed at 2am once a week, even if you sleep a lot the next day, can have a huge impact on how tired you feel during the week, it’s not as easy as catching up those long hours through a Sunday sleep in so keep the massive nights to a minimum.
- Drink 2+L water a day. Dehydration accounts for a huge amount of sluggishness, so make sure you’re getting the H2O.
- Not eating enough. This plays into #1, but I often hear clients who get the 3pm crash who have barely eaten all day (despite hunger).
- Watch your caffeine. The jury is out on how much is ‘healthy’ but the way caffeine acts is to block the receptors in your brain that receive a message that you’re tired. The neurotransmitter sending that message doesn’t stop being produced though, so when the caffeine wears off you get a huge rush of ‘I’M TIRED’ into your brain.. so while caffeine is useful sometimes, it’s not a good one to rely on or to overdo.
- Move your body every day. I’m not talking about structured exercise, I just mean intentional movement. However you chose to do it. And with that, increase your unintentional exercise too – take the stairs, walk to the photocopier every time you print, go talk to colleagues rather than send an email, go for a walk at lunch, stand up and stretch every hour or so at a desk.. you get the drill.
- Watch your alcohol intake (and stop the recreational drugs). The way any drug (nicotine, caffeine, stimulants, alcohol…) works, is to block or excite particular areas of the brain. Basically, they interrupt your normal brain functioning. And your brain likes to be in balance, so getting it back to ‘normal’ is hard work! They can deplete particular energy neurotransmitters too, that take a while to be regenerated, and processing alcohol and drugs takes a lot of work from the liver so naturally, you’ll feel pretty shattered while it detoxes.
- Find purpose. Really? Yep! If you’re in a job that’s boring or working with people you don’t like, how stimulated are you going to feel? If you’re over-worked and constantly rushed, is it surprising you feel exhausted? Find a purpose and follow it. If you have to do your current job, then do so, but find a purpose outside of work to keep you excited and motivated.
- Meditate. Thinking is exhausting. Sometimes a little switch off from the judgmental, critical thoughts is all we need to feel replenished (and the bonus relaxation isn’t bad!)
- Check who you spend time with. Draining people are draining (der). They are hard work, suck your energy and drain your emotions. Think about the people you spend the most time with, do they mostly add to your day or take from it? If the latter, start to think about why you have them there. If they’re family, think about ways you can build boundaries so that you’re not constantly being taken advantage of. Regenerating people regenerate, so collect them and keep them close.
Most of all, remember that food is not the only pathway to health, energy and vitality. Focusing on food takes up so much time and energy that the rest of the important stuff tends to fall to the wayside. Being in a caloric defecit in and of itself will make you lethargic and tired. So next time you’re feeling sluggish, give these tips a go and see immediate results that last forever.