Health

How eating, moving and sleeping are interconnected

The author of Eat Move Sleep shares his simple (yet effective) tips for balancing this trifecta of health.

Close up of pretty young woman sleeping in bed

How you sleep has a direct correlation with how you eat and how you move too (Photo Masterfile).

In his new book, Eat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes, Tom Rath explores three key components to living a happier, healthier and more balanced life. By focusing on eating, moving and sleeping, he hopes to undo “our sedentary, sleepless and fast food lifestyle.”

Rath, a bestselling author and speaker, has been battling cancer for 20 years, and his own experience has prompted him to maximize his commitment to optimum health. Eat Move Sleep focuses on the small changes we can make to live longer and healthier, and how making key changes in all three areas is actually easier than focusing on one in isolation. His website offers several tools, including a personalized plan, in accordance with individual habits and needs, a 30-day challenge, and discussion guides.

Here, Rath explains why eating, moving and sleeping go hand-in-hand, and offers tips on how to implement better habits.

Q: Explain to me how “eat, move and sleep” are the three keys to living a better life. 
A: While it might seem easier to compartmentalize parts of a new regimen, the research actually shows that it’s easier to succeed if you’re working on those three things in conjunction. There’s an interaction between eating, moving and sleeping that makes it easier to do better in each area. If you get a good night’s sleep, you’re less likely to skip your workout or crave carbs. If you eat right and get moving, it helps with sleep quality.

Q: How do you define those things in terms of what’s optimal?
A: A lot of people have a short-term definition, especially when it comes to eating. A diet, or eating for weight loss, isn’t optimal. It’s more about making healthy choices on a regular basis. With moving, the research indicates that it’s not so much about exercise; it’s more about being active in little bursts throughout the day. Even if you get 30 minutes of exercise in the morning, it doesn’t make up for sitting the rest of the day. For sleep, I define it as high-quality sleep without a lot of disruptions that lasts for seven or eight hours.

Q: Most of us already know the basics of being healthy but have a hard time actually doing them; why are we so challenged to do the things we know are good for us?
A: We’re typically challenged for time and hours in the course of a day, and we typically view these things as items that can be cut to make room for other things. Instead of looking at them as the investment required to feel better, be a better partner or parent or be better at your job, we push them to the back burner. We need to make a change and put our health first, even if only to help serve other people and make a contribution to the world.

Q: Do you have any tips for implementing better eating, moving and sleeping habits?
A: The most practical thing I’ve learned is to figure out how you can structure your day so you have short-term incentives to make the right decisions. I have a predisposition to many types of cancer, but that’s not a great motivator to skip a cheeseburger. The trick is to ask yourself what you can do that morning that will have an immediate impact on your afternoon. I exercise in the morning because the research shows that exercising in the morning gives you a mood boost three, six, nine and 12 hours later. I know that if I have an unhealthy lunch, I won’t have the energy to take my kids to the park later that day — and that’s a great motivation to pick a salad. It also helps if you can structure your life so that you’re not depending too heavily on willpower day-to-day. For example, making healthy choices at the grocery store means that it’s easier to make healthy choices at home.