Author(s): Tom Rath
APA Style Citation
Rath, T. (2013). Eat, Move, Sleep: How Small Choices lead to Big Changes. Missionday
Eat, Move, Sleep is a book for anyone who would like to live a healthier life. Each chapter is organized into simple sections with a single recommendation for improving one’s diet, activity and rest to conclude each chapter. Regardless of one’s current level of activity and sleep or eating habits, Rath’s ideas can be easily implemented. There are simple recommendations for each category such as eating more green vegetables like broccoli, sleeping without lights or electronic devices, getting a pedometer or a fit bit ( a wireless electronic device that tracks activity and sleep patterns by computing statistics in real-time such as steps taken, distance covered, calories burned, stairs climbed and active minutes), and trying to be even a little bit more active each day . There are also many apps that will measure steps per day, etc. some of which are free. Rath describes his own reasons for living a healthy lifestyle; he is prone to small cancerous tumors, which clean living can reduce. He explains that his desire to live healthier is also about being around for his wife and children for many years. Rath clearly states that he is not a doctor or an expert on nutrition but has gathered research over the past twenty years on how to live a healthier life; it is this research on which the book is based. Rath places an emphasis on the preventable aspects of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease, which kill 9 of 10 people. Implementing even some of the recommendations in the book can make these less likely to happen to you. A mistake individuals often make is to work on only one of these three modalities (Eat, Sleep or Move) in isolation, Rath poses that it is healthier and actually easier to work on all three at the same time.
2/3rds of all Americans are overweight or obese; we all need to focus on eating better if this statistic is ever going to change. The quality of what one eats is far more important than the quantity, which is unfortunately what many diets emphasize. Rath recommends trying to find foods with less fat, sugar and carbohydrates that what you are currently eating. Avoid foods with a ratio higher than five to one carbohydrates to protein and look for foods that have a ratio of one gram of carbohydrates for every gram of protein.
Try to leave fruits and vegetables in places where you can easily see and access them and place junk food in places that are less accessible. On average, Americans eat 150 pounds of sugar per year; there are obviously some opportunities to reduce this intake. Sugar has been called, “candy for cancer cells” and it has been estimated that sugar kills more people each year than cocaine, heroin or any other controlled substance. Sugar is addictive and activates rewards centers of the brain, as we consume more and more sugar, we increase our tolerance and need more sugar to activate those same pleasure areas in the brain. Recommendations for sugar intake are not more than 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 for men.
A great shortcut for eating better is green means “go”, which reminds us that foods like broccoli, bok choy, and celery have a positive impact on health, also red or blue foods like strawberries, blueberries and peppers are good choices. Rath discusses that each meal can be viewed as either a benefit or a loss. While coffee is a “net gain”, loading it with cream and sugar makes it a “net loss”; the next time you drink a cup of coffee, try it without any or at least with less cream and sugar.
Do not be fooled by organic or “whole grain” products which are frequently not any healthier than their “normal” counterparts. Dried fruits contain little nutritional value and often times more sugar than a candy bar. Using smaller serving plates will cause people to eat less and using plates which contrast the color of the food also cause people to eat less in a single sitting (30% less).
Planning ahead is also an important fact related to remaining healthy. Rath suggests carrying an apple or a bag of nuts for situations in which one is traveling, driving or in other cases in which health food options may be limited. Begin by eating the healthiest food on your plate; this will generally lead to eating more of that food and less of the other “less healthy” foods. Drinking a large glass of water before a meal helps to suppress appetite and cause one to eat less at mealtimes.
Most people spend more time sitting than sleeping in a given day. Inactivity kills more people than smoking, so any method to be more active will be a net gain. After 2 hours of sitting, good cholesterol drops by 20 percent so even standing at one’s desk is better than sitting. Try taking a meeting or a phone call while walking. Rath wrote this book while slowly walking on a treadmill (1.5 miles per hour) and easily met his goal of 10,000 steps per day (the average American takes only about 5,117 steps per day) while working, leaving him more time to spend with his family at the end of the day.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator and find small opportunities to build in activity that does not necessarily take time out of what you are doing in your day. Being active can cause up to a 40 percent reduction in the genetic predisposition for obesity, we do not have to be victims of our genes, Rath is a prime example of this.
The book suggests using a fit bit or one of many free phone apps as an easy way to track activity in a given day and set goals to gradually increase activity. Remaining active throughout the day seems to be more significant than a single workout within a sedentary lifestyle in terms of overall health benefits. Exercising early in the day has been shown to boost mood throughout the day and doing so before breakfast may also help burn additional fat.
Moving more seems to increase creativity and building breaks into one’s study time or daily workday seem to help increase brain growth and efficiency. In a study of over 12,000 adults over the age of 25, each hour of television viewing decreased the viewer’s lifespan by 22 minutes. Walking, stretching, or exercising while watching television can completely negate these negative effects. In addition to improving health, physical activity wards off depression and prevents some cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
According to a study from Harvard Medical School, lack of sleep costs the American economy $63 billion per year. Those driving with a night of sleep loss are the equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.19 (more than twice the legal limit) in terms of their ability to react. K. Anders Ericsson, who found that those who performed at the highest level needed 10,000 hours of practice (also see review for The Talent Code), also found that those who performed at the highest level slept for an average of 8 hours and 36 minutes a night (most Americans get just under 7 hours).
Getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night is a key factor related to burnout on the job. Losing 90 minutes of sleep reduces daytime alertness by 1/3rd; making it imperative that one has a good night’s sleep. According to a fourteen day study, those who get better sleep have stronger immune systems and are less likely to get colds or other ailments. Individuals with lower sleep efficiency were 5.5 times more likely to develop a cold. Getting a better night sleep will also help cement the items which were learned that day, this is especially effective when the good sleep occurs on a regular schedule.
In order to get more effective sleep, Rath recommends keeping all types of artificial light out of the bedroom including televisions, cell phones, lamps, iPads, etc., and avoiding exposure to bright light just before bedtime because this decreases the beneficial aspects of melatonin.
Vigorous workouts shortly before bed are also shown to significantly improve sleep quality. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule even on holidays and weekends helps improve the quality of sleep and this is especially important for children and teens. If you sleep more, you generally remember more and eat less, thus getting more sleep helps in many areas of one’s life.
All of these recommendations can help individuals to live a healthier life and all of them can be implemented regardless of one’s current activity level or level of health or age. Rath’s recommendations are simple approaches to extending and improving life. This is a book for everyone regardless of his or her interest in Health Psychology, and we can all benefit from the recommendations he makes by adopting even a handful of his useful life changing ideas. These recommendations need not radically change your daily life, but small changes over an extended period can lead to major life improvements.
Other Related Resources
Eat, Move, Sleep Book Website: Through this website, you can create a personalized plan (see open your class with this tomorrow activity), link to hundreds of articles which the book references, and download the 30 day challenge.
Tom Rath’s website
Office Hours with Daniel Pink: Podcast with Tom Rath
The following link is Pink’s interview with the author of Eat, Move, Sleep – Tom Rath.
Forbes interview with Tom Rath on how small changes make all the difference in your life: Focuses on improving one’s work.
Psychological Figures and Concepts
K. Anders Ericsson (10,000 hours)