The elephant in the room

elephant-in-the-roomNew year’s resolution to lose weight, be healthier and do more? Forget the cabbage soup detox diet or the pig’s testicle extract weight loss pills.

My advice? Look for the elephant in the room. In other words – take care of the obvious stuff first.

In my experience, here are the top three things that most people can do to make a difference to their health and energy levels quickly.

1. Sleep better

A large proportion of the population are chronically sleep deprived. Getting enough high quality sleep can make a noticeable difference to your quality of life and energy levels. If getting 8 hours a night is out of the question, then consider taking a short (20-30 minute) nap during the daytime.

2. Eat less sugar

Of all the diet advice out there, this is the big one. Cut out as much refined sugar as you can – and don’t forget about hidden sources, such as sweetened drinks. Reducing your intake of starchy carbs (e.g. bread, pasta and potatoes) is the next step; think about getting most of your carbohydrate intake from vegetables, with a moderate amount of fruit.

3. Lift heavy things

Getting regular exercise is associated with better health. Strength training in particular is often neglected (especially by women) and in my experience is one of the best ways to beat tiredness or lethargy. Not only does it make you stronger, but it also helps balance and regulate various hormone levels in your body and can have a dramatic effect on energy levels. Obviously, it’s important to go about this the right way – we’ll have some suggestions in a future blog for how to get started if you’re new to resistance training. In the meantime this is an excellent site, particularly for women.


  1. That all sounds like excellent advice, as one would expect,

    The only thing I’m unconvinced about is the reference to “refined sugar”. Sugar is sugar whether refined or not. For example there can be a huge amount of sugar in fruit, advertised as “no added sugar”. There’s a good video that describes the tricks used by the food industry to disguise the sugar in their products,

    1. That’s an excellent point – and I totally agree that so called “natural” sugars (for example in fruit juice) are also part of the problem. A 1 litre carton of apple juice, for example, contains the same amount of sugar as 5 creme eggs…

      I used the term “refined sugar” (a bit carelessly) to refer to sugar that’s been separated from the fibre content that would accompany it in its natural state.

  2. Does this mean I can still have a drink?! (Drinking responsibly, of course….) I’ve been doing James Duigan’s Clean & Lean and he ranks alcohol as the worst offender, although is very anti refined sugar too. I don’t eat processed foods, don’t touch fizzy drinks, lift weights 3 times a week and do Judo – would a couple of glasses of red here and there be OK?

    1. Good question, and yes, I’d agree that alcohol is another of the chief culprits. As with most things, though, a glass or two once a week on cheat day is unlikely to do much harm; on the other hand if your idea of moderation ends up not being as moderate as you’d like, then you might find it easier to avoid it altogether.

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