With so many books on health and wellness out on the market, nothing arrests attention and commands respect more than when one is written through the lens of personal experience. For more than 20 years, Tom Rath has battled a rare genetic cancer, and it was his personal journey to increase the odds of beating his disease that paved the way for Eat Move Sleep. He authored the book to show the impact that eating, moving and sleeping has on one’s overall health and has since found renewed mission in helping others do the same.
Tom’s interesting and inspiring story holds relevance to our world today regarding health and wellness. We were prompted to discuss with him Eat Move Sleep and why the book’s message is so important. Read more of his interview below.
Darling Magazine: Is Eat Move Sleep more about your personal journey or a practical how-to guide for improving the odds against disease?
Tom: It’s a little combination of both. I start out with a bit of the personal journey and weave that in along the way, but by nature the way that I write is very practical. If there is a research discovery that is very interesting to me, but nothing really different that I would tell a friend based on that discovery, I’d cut it out. What I tried to do in the book is help people connect more short term advantages. For example, I know if I get some activity tomorrow morning, I’ll be in a better mood for the next 12 hours and have more creativity and energy. I know this weekend if I skip the cheeseburger and French fries at lunch, I’ll have more energy to take my kids to the park and play outside with them. So, that is broadly what I’ve learned — some of the ways to change decisions.
DM: What would you suggest for people who feel overwhelmed by the process of having a healthy lifestyle?
Tom: I think a good way to start would be to give up on all the overwhelming goals and fad diets that are so common today in our society. I often wonder whether some of these overly ambitious diets and exercise regiments are doing more harm than good, because they are setting such a high bar. We say the goal is to eat x-amount of calories or lose 30 pounds by the next 90 days – by definition, that is temporary. So, I think the key is creating the right lifestyle. It starts by something as simple as cutting the sweet taste of your coffee and trying that for a week, seeing if you can sustain that for good which has a product that you’ll crave less sweets later on in the day. Start to build a little activity into your routine by getting up and walking around while you’re on conference calls or doing things throughout the day. That makes a real difference.
…the key is creating the right lifestyle.
DM: How has the idea of health been misconstrued?
Tom: People push really hard for the sake of external factors. There is a lot of really good research in the past 18 to 24 months showing that even if you go to the gym 30 to 60 minutes seven days a week, by no means does that counteract sitting on your rear-end for eight or 10 hours a day at work. So, build into your lifestyle getting up, moving around more and getting valuable sleep. With more research on the topic it is pretty clear to me that if you want to be more effective in your job — you want more energy as a spouse, a parent, whatever you do each day — you need more sleep to be more effective. I think we need to start prioritizing sleep as much as possible as a core individual and family value.
DM: Would you say that technology and our devices have an impact on our lack of sleep?
Tom: I think it’s part of it, and there is very clear research on electronic devices, especially before bed. If you’re reading a recent message from your boss just before you get into bed, that is a bad idea because then you stay up thinking about it for hours. The second part of it is the sheer light spectrum emitted by laptops, smartphones, and televisions in particular could suppress melatonin, which is a hormone you need to fall asleep. So, there is also a cultural component of it we need to work on and I’ve started to do that with a couple young kids around here, a 2 year old and a 4 year old, trying to help them understand that sleep is something that is valued and treasured, not a punishment. [Technology] has shifted my mindset as a parent.
DM: How do you think women in particular might connect with Eat Move Sleep?
Tom: What I’ve noticed over the years is that women have arguably a lot more ability to influence health and well being of not only their immediate family, but also their broader social networks. I’m hopeful that large networks of women in particular can be the catalyst for a lot of change. Now, especially, there is a big gender difference so far that I’ve noticed – it seems that a huge portion of women I work with and am friends with are all measuring their steps and talking about it and competing on their step count on their phones. I think that through those family and social networks we can start to fix huge societal problems. I hope that we can be influencers in family, work and socially even, to start that change in the networks.