Fuel your life: physical energy is what keeps you alive & functional
Eating more fruit . Picture © Catherine Morisset.
Welcome to the energy series! This is the second of six posts that describe how you can refuel energy so you don’t have to rely so heavily on stress to take you through your days. Why? Because relying on energy as a life fuel gives you more performance, productivity and feels so much better than relying on stress…
In my last blog post, we focused on one simple action that fuels all five kinds of energy and gives you a super boost. Today, we explore how to fuel your life with physical energy. Whenever I introduce physical energy, I can almost feel the eyes rolling: you know that stuff, don’t you? We all know. But the real question is: do you do it? You fuel your car and you feed your dog – no question. Do you fuel yourself enough? If you’re like most Canadians, no.
Food, water, fresh air, sunlight and movement are the fuel of human life – not rewards for getting through your to-do list. A few drops won’t fill up your energy tank; you need to fuel enough, and often. And this is where we most often derail; we fuel on holidays sometimes, on weekends, or when we have time… But fuelling yourself is not a reward, it’s what you need to get going. Think of it this way: your dog or your car don’t get fuel as a reward; they just can’t go on without fuel. Neither can you.
In every group session I give, I ask participants two simple questions specific to physical energy fuelling: did you get 7 hours of sleep last night, and did you eat 3 cups of fruits or vegetables in the last 24 hours. If I’m lucky, I get about 4% who say yes to both, and 25% who say yes to one of the two questions. Not amazing. And why these questions? Because world-wide research confirms that this amount of sleep and fruit/vegetable intake make the most difference on physical health (and mental health, unless you believe that your brain can survive without your body). You’re having less than the minimum? Not a problem for me, but you are definitely aging faster than you should, because you don’t have enough materials for both function and repair. You might feel fine for a while, but you’re letting your body fall into disrepair, and one day you wake up with clogged arteries, high blood sugar, colds that turn into nasty infections or simply, super-duper exhaustion.
You don’t wake up suddenly with a heart attack: you build up your clogged arteries, one day, one choice at a time. You don’t “cheat the system”, you’re cheating yourself of health and life. Sad. I’d prefer you to feel younger and full of life, and to stay alive and well. The solution? Take care of it and fuel what you can, starting right now. It’s your responsibility to care for your health and for your life; no one will do this for you. The medical system tries hard, but as you well know, it’s not enough: you need fuel to repair and to function well. Welcome to Real Life.
For today, let’s keep it simple and focus on what delivers the best results for the least investment or disruption for you. Making small changes to your lifestyle, such as eating a little better to fuel yourself, is not about suffering through food that tastes like cardboard, but about learning how to make nourishing food more tasty – which most of us don’t know how to do (so look below for a simple recipe – a good first step).
But aren’t these changes too small to make a difference? Shouldn’t you do more to get healthier and have more energy? Oh yes, of course you could, but would you? I’m not proposing perfectionist approach, because it never works for long – it’s impossible to maintain in real life). Instead of waiting for a perfect day when everything will just magically fall into place (does it exist?), start small and do something right now. For a small effort, small changes like the ones suggested below improve your energy and your quality of life exponentially. Try them – small things that you can maintain effortlessly and weave into your days give you the best results.
- Get one cup of fruit/vegetables at every meal OR a total of 3 cups a day. Keep it simple, easy and tasty. If you love apples and asparagus, go for them, but if you hate these, choose instead something you like! You don’t know how to prepare veggies? Look below for a tasty, simple recipe you can adapt for most veggies. Prefer fruit? That works, too. Make a list of your favorites and have them on hand. Make it easier on you to refuel.
- Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep most nights, if not absolutely every night (for more on how to get started, read my last bog post).
- Get out in fresh air and natural light for at least 10-15 minutes every day. You don’t even have to do anything; just get out and stay out. If you really must, then take a short walk, as slow as you feel like. This is not a race or a workout, and even just standing in daylight and fresh air gives you back energy – and maybe then you can use that for a workout!
Cooking veggies: make it simple and tasty (6 minutes total time, or less than driving out to get takeout, order and wait in line; and much less time than getting food delivered). Choose one or more veggies you like: go to a produce store and go crazy. Choose what you like: orange veggies (choose from carrots, yams, sweet potato, pumpkin chunks… ), green veggies (choose from zucchini, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage, broccoli), or any other colour (purple beets, white cauliflower, etc..), or a mix. They all work. Why so colourful? Because it seems that veggies goodness and nutrient content is based on how vibrantly coloured they are. Wishing you that vibrancy, too…
Here is the recipe: wash the veggies under cold water (it takes 30 seconds). Drop then in a pan with a lid, leave them whole or cut them in chunks or whatever shape you want. Add 2 tablespoons of water, and steam on high heat, then turn down to medium heat and cook for 2-5 minutes, until you feel they’re done. If water has evaporated, add a couple tablespoons more so your food doesn’t burn That’s all. Doneness is to your taste: your decision. Most people prefer veggies slightly undercooked than overcooked into mushy gray-ness. Then flavour with a tablespoon good olive oil (extra virgin oil is great), salt and pepper. If you like the flavour, you can add a bit of lemon juice, or a pinch of sugar. Eat. You’re welcome.
Let me know what you try this week… I’d love to hear from you!