The 4 Pillar Plan by Dr Rangan Chatterjee
Dr Rangan ticks all of the boxes with his fantastic ‘The 4 Pillar Plan’ book. The front cover says ‘How to Relax, Eat, Move and Sleep – Your Way to A Longer Healthier Life and we wouldn’t argue with this. The holistic approach is what marks this out from other ‘healthy lifestyle’ books – it’s not just about what you eat or doing the right exercise, it’s about small, simple changes you can make that will fundamentally impact your life.
The Introduction covers GP Dr Rangan’s theories and philosophy about the interconnected nature of the body and for the need for the medical establishment to consider cause rather than simply to treat symptoms. This resonated strongly with me as he discusses causes and treatment of depression and eczema both of which we have experienced in our family. Popping a pill or smearing on a cream for short term relief is not the answer when investigating the plethora of root causes and considering lifestyle changes can solve the issue for good.
The aim of the book is to provide a simple, actionable plan to enjoy a lifestyle rooted in health promoting behaviours. Getting a balance across the fours pillars, Relax – Eat – Move – Sleep is the basis of a healthy lifestyle. Right at the start the super simple table has 20 suggested actions spread across the four pillars – see below:
Dr Rangan recommends aiming to score 2 in every pillar rather than focusing on one pillar – the objective is get a balance. I love this, especially the prioritisation of relaxing and sleeping which can often fall to the wayside. Of course if you have strength in say eating and sleeping then you can put more focus on the moving pillar and take more action in this area. So straightforward and easy. The rest of the book looks at each of these actions in more detail with suggestions for how you can introduce them into your lifestyle.
Here are some of my favourites; the actions that really resonated with me.
Give Yourself Permission To Relax
How great it is to read those words! So many of us see relaxation as an indulgence when it is actually critical for our health; the compelling benefits are explained in detail. The relax pillar starts the book quite deliberately as Dr Rajan believes it is the one most often ignored, something I entirely relate to. The recommendation is to give yourself at least 15 minutes of me time every day; recognising that it is just that. There are 3 rules to follow to make sure it is genuine me-time (including switching off devices) and some great ideas for what to do; from reading a book to have a drink in a cafe, all eminently achievable. I’m making this change immediately.
Weekly Screen Free Sabbath
Other suggestions in the Relax pillar include allocating specific chunks of screen free time and even recommends a 7 day digital detox. I really liked some of these recommendations and will implement them as a family:
I’m not sure we’ll be able to have a completely screen free Sunday (especially as we work for ourselves and have kids doing homework) – but we’ll certainly look to having a good few screen free hours.
So this is something that particualrly interested me, running a business like Troo. Dr Rajan suggests removing all sugar from your cupboards and getting into the habit of reading the sugar content on food labels. We can’t agree more with this. Our Troo Granola is less than 3% sugar, in reality that means just over 1g per bowl. Other ‘healthy’ cereal is move than 15% sugar, it can be shocking. Don’t be fooled by the words ‘No Added Sugar’ either – some products stating this are more than 16% sugar from dried fruit and other sweet ingredients.
The book has practical strategies to reduce your sugar intake and details the risks if you don’t. It makes very convincing reading.
There is a large section on unprocessed food and gut health. Of course I found this fascinating and in fact initially this was the reason that I bought this book. It is really comprehensive and explains why we need to eat a wholefood diet.
Yes, it’s that simple. Aim for at least 10,000 per day. There is actually a lot more to it that this – it’s just a start point to get us being more active. The book shows how the benefits for your physical and mental health are immense and how it is so easy to do, you just need to change your routines so that it ‘happens’ without you trying. We now go for a stroll most mornings; sometimes it’s an almost spiritual experience!
There are many other suggestions within the Move section that encourage you to get active. More than I’ve seen in many other ‘lifestyle’ books and so do-able; one of the things that makes this book a must-have.
Embrace Morning Light
This is in the sleep section. You can combine it with the ‘Walk More’ for the best start to the day. Dr Rajan suggests spending at least 20 minutes outside every day (without sunglasses). Exposing ourselves to light (even on dull days) apparently has amazing effects throughout out body. I do agree with this; I just feel so much better for being outdoors in the morning and embracing the natural world. There is science behind it (all in the book) so well worth it.
It’s Up To You…
At the back of the book there is a section with all of the sources used in writing the book as well as further reading. I’ll certainly be reading more. For now I’ll keep this book on my desk to refer to when I’m getting sucked into my bad habits and routines.
The message of the book is loud and clear – it’s up to you. If you want to live a long, happy and healthy life there are simple things you can incorporate into your everyday life to make this a more likely outcome. I’m up for that…
THE 4 PILLAR PLAN
DR RANGAN CHATTERJEE