Habit 8 from the 12 Habits of Resilient + Thriving People

Each week for 12 weeks, I’ll blog about one habit. And if you feel inclined, you can road test it for yourself. Habit 8 is about Physical and Nutritional Health.


Habit 8: Physical and nutritional health

Resilient and thriving people know that one of the best exercises for their brain is physical exercise. They’re not obsessive about it but they’re consistent. Their nutritional health is in balance with their physical health. Moving the body increases blood flow to the brain. Whatever exercise you choose as your sweat-creator, do it daily (or at least more than three times a week). Oh, and sleep is critical!


Here are some headlines I’ve seen in news feeds over the last week:

  • The anti-inflammatory iced tea you’ll want to sip all day long
  • You’re probably eating one of the five foods that cause brain fog
  • To build healthy muscle, try protein-pacing and try these supplements
  • A one-day diet to crash sugar cravings and never feel hangry again
  • The fitness world is obsessing over this summery athleisure trend
  • What the workout routines of doctors actually look like


If the objective is to confuse the consumer, then objective achieved! We’re inundated with headlines boasting super workouts, super foods, super supplements, and “if you just do this one thing” type magical fixes. Dig a bit deeper for the evidence to support their claims and you’ll come away with an empty basket.


Ben Goldacre is passionate about debunking these misleading claims. He’s a best-selling author, broadcaster, campaigner, medical doctor and academic who specialises in unpicking the misuse of science and statistics by journalists, politicians, quacks, drug companies, and more. His website is here if you want to dig into his work further: http://www.badscience.net


A Facebook friend of mine has recently lost a lot of excess weight through exercise and making healthier food choices. They said “it’s a constant fight” meaning it hasn’t been easy and they’ve had to exercise their willpower as well as their body. Exactly! And that’s the precise “little crack in your armour” that these headlines are trying to squeeze themselves into. If I could sit on my backside in a coffee shop, pop a “super pill” that would give me all the benefits of exercise plus the right amount of daily nutrition that is found in a whole piece of real fruit or vegetable, then sure, sign me up! I wouldn’t have to get up in the dark to go for a run but instead stay sandwiched in between my flannelette sheets.


That’s not how it works.


Moving your body on a regular basis is good for so many reasons. This is what Dr John Ratey says:


“I tell people that going for a run is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin because like the drugs, exercise elevates these neurotransmitters. Exercise balances neurotransmitters - along with the rest of the neurochemicals in the brain. Keeping your brain in balance can change your life.”


Exercise improves learning and mental performance. It helps prevent dementia. People who exercise regularly are less likely to have symptoms of anxiety, or depression.


The nutrition conversation goes hand-in-hand with the exercise one. Sometimes you may need to exercise your willpower muscle to say “hold the chips, I’ll have extra salad instead thanks”. And if you occasionally have the chips, just enjoy them but “hold the chips” next time.


Like exercise, the media headlines for the latest fad diets are mind-boggling. And research studies on nutrition can be unreliable given these studies need to take place over long periods of time, and they require study participants to “self-report” which can result in inaccurate food diaries.


What we do know from epidemiological studies, systematic reviews, and randomised controlled trials, is that the Mediterranean Diet reduces the risk of dementia, cognitive decline, cancers, and mortality. It is rich in healthy fats, encourages a high consumption of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and wholegrains, and is low in red meat and dairy. It does have reliable scientific evidence to support these claims.


Here’s my personal pledge to my physical and nutritional health.


“Move my body on a regular basis. Get a bit sweaty. Mix it up to keep things interesting and the muscles alert. Do some of it on your own for meditative benefits and some with friends for the oxytocin benefits. Eat whole foods as much as possible. Mix it up to keep things interesting and the tastebuds alert. Avoid junk food. Avoid too much food. And enjoy a glass or two of wine occasionally with family or friends to celebrate life.”


Not exercising or eating a healthy and balanced diet is like playing a little Russian Roulette with your old age, don’t you think? It certainly impacts our resilience and our ability to lead a thriving life right now.

Habit 8: Road test

Take note of all the headlines you see this week for new diet advice and ask yourself "where's the evidence?"

Give your willpower muscle a bit of a workout this week by choosing just one physical or nutritional habit you'd like to break/create. It could just be saying "no" to the chips. 

Develop your own physical/nutritional pledge and have it help you make good choices for your health now and later on.