I’m an avid reader, but it’s still rare I come across a book I recommend to everyone I know. This is especially true with books about 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? There’s so many questions regarding how to live a healthy lifestyle. It’s hard to know where to start.
By Kyle Murray
As I said, wanting to live better can feel overwhelming and complicated.
“How to Make Disease Disappear” by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee is not. His book has with great advice you can use immediately on a day to day basis. You’ll see the health benefits in both the short and long term!
Dr. Chatterjee structures the book around his “The Four Pillar Plan.” The Four Pillar Plan is the UK version of the book he published a year earlier.
The Four Pillars of Health: How to Live a Healthy Lifestyle
Dr. Chatterjee tackles what he calls “the deadliest problem facing America”, chronic disease. It is the leading cause 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.”
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. They look 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, Dr. Chatterjee focuses on small changes we can make to become healthier.
A Healthy Lifestyle Plan Doesn’t Mean Drastic Changes!
He doesn’t recommend you take extreme measures for any of the pillars. You can do everything at a pace with which you’re comfortable.There are no rapid weight loss tips. He doesn’t suggest intense physical activity right away after years of being sedentary. Nor does he scold you for 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 sounds strange at first. But, in the ‘MOVE’ section of the book, he defines the concept of ‘movement’ for health. He argues for adjusting our perspective of what ‘getting in shape’ means.
That’s not to say that his advice won’t help the reader feel more relaxed, lose weight, and improve their health. Rather, the book is a handbook for daily life in undoing problematic habits.
There are five ‘interventions’ per pillar listed on page 10 as a checklist to score your wellness:
Again, Dr. Chatterjee doesn’t expect perfect adherence to the checklist. He doesn’t demand the reader to complete the book 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, the practical advice in every chapter is useful for everyone. I’m 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. Which means a lot of time on my desktop work computer or my smartphone. I check e-mails, ad campaigns, and I post on social media for work and my personal account.
It’s draining. You spend hours scrolling or worse, arguing with friends and strangers.
I start my screen-free Sundays with a nice walk in the morning with either an audio book or a podcast. Sunday is also my rest day from exercise. 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 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. Doing something like this is almost effortless for me. being a single person. I could see families with kids on their screen-free sabbath with an activity like going to the park. This could include time outside for the children to be 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: My butt needed moving.
For the past year, I had excruciating lower back pain. Particularly while running and weightlifting. As a very active person, it was frustrating. Nothing I did to ease the pain seemed to work. I saw several 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 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 exercises as outlined in the book, my back pain vanished. It sounds too good to be true, but I’m 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.
Eat: Real Food and Normalizing Sugar to Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Two things stood out for me on the topic of diet where I’m in total agreement 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, but isn’t completely necessary.
His concern about sugar is consuming foods most people wouldn’t even think contain it. 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.
Flavored yogurt. Ketchup. Sports drinks like Gatorade. Barbecue sauce. Dried fruit. Breakfast cereal.
It’s crazy how sugar is in foods we don’t expect. If we’re not checking the labels of the grocery items we buy, we’re consuming a lot more than we realize.
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 in a conscious manner (Halo Top ice cream is a personal favorite).
Sleep: Create an Environment of Darkness
I installed blackout curtains in my bedroom and removed the 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 live a healthy lifestyle. Healthy living is like making a financial investment. The smallest changes compound over time. Above all, the earlier you start “saving”, the better you are in the long-term. Dr. Chatterjee’s advice is practical, the reader applies the interventions at their own pace, and the book is an easy read. It’s full of excellent information that doesn’t get bogged down with charts and numbers. I can’t recommend this book enough for anyone with the goal of living a healthier life.