How to Live a Healthy Lifestyle to Make Disease Disappear
How to Live a Healthy Lifestyle to Make Disease Disappear
By Kyle Murray
I’m an avid reader, but it’s still rare I come across a book I recommend to nearly everyone I know. This is especially true with books pertaining to health and fitness. The advice available on those topics can be contradictory and all over the place: Low Fat? Low Carb? High reps, low weight? Heavy weight, low reps? Cardio? No cardio?
It’s understandably overwhelming and complicated.
“How to Make Disease Disappear” by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, however, is not. His book is filled with great advice you can implement immediately on a day to day basis, resulting in health benefits in both the short and long term.
The book is structured around what Chatterjee defines as “The Four Pillar Plan” (which is also the title of his previously authored book).
The Four Pillars of Health:
Based on his previous book, Dr. Chatterjee uses the four pillars of healthy living to tackle what he calls “by a wide margin...the deadliest problem facing America”: chronic disease. They are the leading causes of death and disability in America. This includes Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, and dementia.
He argues that these conditions aren’t inevitable. They aren’t part of the natural aging process nor are they inevitable.
“The health problems of the majority of patients I see--yes, the majority--are driven entirely by their lifestyle. It’s not cuts or bruises or bacteria or a fungus or a virus or some tumor or hereditary disorder that’s the source of their pain, but the way they’re choosing to live.”
Simply put, the average person is very stressed out. They’re not careful enough about what they’re eating. They don’t move as much as they should, nor do they move how they should. Lastly, the average person looks at sleep as a luxury and not as one of the essential healthy habits of life.
The book isn’t a series of criticisms about our (unhealthy) habits and never ventures into a “preachy” tone. Instead, Chatterjee focuses on small changes we can make in the important areas of wellness to gradually become healthier.
He doesn’t recommend extreme measures to be taken for any of the pillars. Everything can be done at a pace with which the reader is comfortable. There are no rapid weight loss tips, nor does he advise jumping into intense physical activity right away after years of being sedentary and eating too much food high in saturated fats. In fact, at one point, he argues that most people could do without a gym membership at all. This might be strange to read, but he clarifies in the ‘MOVE’ section the concept of what we think constitutes ‘working out’ and ‘getting in shape’ is distorted.
That’s not to say that his advice won’t help the reader feel more relaxed, lose weight, avoid sugary foods/added sugars, or significantly improve their sleep and mental health. Rather, the book is intended as a guide to be referenced in a daily routine, to be used to slowly undo problematic habits.
There are five ‘interventions’ per pillar that are listed on page 10 as a handy checklist to score your wellness:
Again, Chatterjee doesn’t expect perfect adherence to the checklist, nor does he demand the reader to complete the book all the way through before applying its principles. Think you’ve got your diet and exercise under control? Great! Skip around and focus on the relax and sleep chapters. Work on the areas in your life that need the most attention.
But, even if you’ve got a handle on things, say diet and exercise as previously mentioned, the practical advice in every chapter is useful for everyone. I consider myself pretty healthy, but I knew I could benefit giving these interventions a shot. For each chapter, here are the ones that stood out for me.
Relax: The Screen-Free Sabbath
I work in marketing and a majority of my work is on the Internet, whether via my desktop work computer or my smartphone. I spend an enormous amount of time on my phone checking e-mails, ad campaigns, posting on social media both personally and professionally.
It’s draining, especially when you get sucked into current events or worse, the arguments that result.
I start my screen-free Sundays with a nice walk in the morning with either an audio book or a podcast. Sunday is also an off-day from the gym, so my walk serves the dual-purpose of low impact exercise and learning something new. I download the podcast to my phone so I don’t need to be connected to the Internet, where potential distractions lie in wait.Afterward, I settle in with a nice breakfast, make some coffee, and dive into a book.
It’s fantastic. The effect was immediately noticeable. I felt calmer, my mind wasn’t rushing from topic to topic and worrying at a million miles an hour. I realize doing something like this is almost effortless for me as a single person. But, I could easily see families with children planning their screen-free sabbath (whichever day they choose) with an activity like going to the park or something else that allows children to be outside, active, and social.
Move: Getting My Butt In Gear
I’ve never had a problem with motivation as far as working out. Rather, take this subheading literally. For the past year, I had been experiencing excruciating lower back pain, particularly while running and weightlifting. As a very active person, it was extremely frustrating. Nothing I did to alleviate the problem seemed to work. I saw multiple physical therapists, used a foam roller, bought a portable muscle stimulator, did extra stretching. Some of those things made it a little better, but it always came back.
It wasn’t until I read Dr. Chatterjee’s own similar experience with back pain that I finally realized what was going on. I spend most of my days sitting at a desk and as a result, my glute muscles were asleep. After a week of doing his recommended daily glute exercises as outlined in the book, my back pain vanished. It sounds too good to be true, but I’m absolutely serious.
For me, it’s an important reminder to look at the human body as a whole and that “problem areas” may not be the issue at all. My lower back hurt not due to weakness, but due to carrying an extra load of work nearly every single day.
Two things stood out for me on the topic of diet where I’m in total agreeance with Dr. Chatterjee. Removing processed foods and focusing on eating real food? This is something everybody can do. I’m also a fan of his approach to sugar. His suggestion is to “normalize” intake. Completely eliminating sugar from your diet sounds great (and for some, a realistic goal), but isn’t completely necessary. His concern about sugar is consuming foods most people wouldn’t even think contain it. Eventually, the labels give you a better sense of what you can and can’t eat, and such lists are a great way to eat healthier for the long-term.
It’s crazy how sugar is everywhere and if we’re not checking the labels of the grocery items we buy, we’re probably consuming a lot more on a daily basis than we think.
By normalizing sugar and focusing on eating real food, my focus and energy levels are the best they’ve ever been. I get more done in a day than I used to for a whole week a few years ago. I eat fruits, vegetables, lean meats, carbs, you name it. It’s something we practice as a staff at Aware Senior Care as well. But all from natural sources. I eat sugar on occasion, but I do it knowingly (Halo Top ice cream is a personal favorite).
Sleep: Create an Environment of Darkness
I installed blackout curtains in my bedroom and removed the bright lights (TV, tablets) or put them on “night mode.” The effect was immediate. It used to take me 30-40 minutes to “settle” into bed before I would fall asleep. Now, it’s easily under 15 minutes.
It’s far easier for me to get to and stay asleep when the room is as dark as possible.I wake up more refreshed and hit the snooze button far less. I find myself waking up before my alarm most days.
Invest in Your Health and Live Longer
“How to Make Disease Disappear” is an excellent resource for anyone eager to learn how to live a healthy lifestyle. Healthy living functions similar to financial investments. The smallest changes compound over time and the earlier you start "saving", the better you are in the long-term. Dr. Chatterjee's advice is practical, the interventions can be applied at the reader’s pace, and the book is easily digestible, full of excellent information that doesn’t get bogged down with charts and numbers. I highly recommend this book for anyone with the goal of living a healthier life.