As cliche as it sounds, we really do learn from our mistakes.
This is especially true when it comes to your health. I should know. I've made plenty in my life, and probably have plenty more to come in the future.
I’ll bet you’ve screwed up a few times in the past, too. It’s all good. No one gets it right first time. And with so much information out there these days, making mistakes is easier than ever.
But you know the great thing about mistakes? You can also learn from other people’s.
That’s the reason I’m writing this short article today. I want to tell you the biggest health and fitness mistakes I’ve made in the past, so you don’t have to suffer them too.
Here are 8 of the biggest ones I've made, so hopefully, you don't have to.
Eating too much protein
I think we’ve all made this mistake at some point in the past.
Before I learnt the truth about protein, I fell into the usual trap of eating way too much of it because the supplement industry told me that’s what I should be doing. I now know that all those protein shakes, protein bars and protein muffins were just a waste of my money.
The reality of protein is that there's an upper limit to how much we can absorb at any given meal, or during any given day. You'd be surprised how easy it is to reach it, even without the need for supplementation.
So read this article and see if you’re eating too much protein. Chances are, you probably don't need as much as you think.
Avoiding lentils and beans
Remember all the hype that surrounded the paleo diet a few years ago?
Well, I fell for it. I was tricked into believing that legumes such as lentils, beans, and chick peas were bad for you. Even though I loved the taste of those very foods, and they made me feel great when I ate them. Go figure.
The thing is, those paleo folk made a pretty convincing argument. The theory that legumes are loaded with phytate and lectins (which make them hard to digest) is hard to ignore. That is, until you realise that you can neutralise these compounds simply by soaking legumes overnight in water.
So now I’m back on the legumes and feel better than ever. They taste great, they’re loaded with minerals and fibre, and they’re the cheapest and most sustainable source of protein on the planet. Just make sure you soak them properly and cook them until very soft, and you’re good to go.
Not listening to my body
Following on from the previous point, there was a time not so long ago where I would completely ignore everything my body was telling me.
I didn’t listen when it told me what foods made me feel good, nor did I listen when it told me what I should be eating less of. Instead, I listened to health ‘experts’, fitness bloggers, and PubMed studies. I was doing everything they told me, so why wasn’t I making any progress?
Looking back, I now realise just how silly this was. I now know that there is no such a thing as a ‘one size fits all’ diet or fitness plan. We’re all different, and if we don’t listen to what our bodies are telling us, we’ll never reach our true potential.
By all means, use the resources you have available as a guide. But your body will ultimately be the judge of what works best for you (and what doesn’t.)
Not eating enough
I under ate for years, but I had no idea I was doing it.
Here’s where I was going wrong. I focused too much on eating super ‘healthy’ foods, but not enough on eating the ones that actually provided me with energy. I’d swap a baked potato for an extra side of green vegetables, or good old basmati rice for hipster cauliflower rice. Sure, the foods I were eating were ‘healthy’ on paper, but in doing so I wasn’t getting anywhere near enough energy to fuel my body correctly.
Without knowing it, I was probably only eating around 1500 – 2000 calories per day. This is nowhere near enough for a twenty something year old male who trains 5 - 6 times per week.
These days, I eat way more food than ever before and feel much better for it. Double win. If you feel like you’re eating super healthy but you’re not reaching your true potential, I’d urge you to slowly start bumping up your calorie intake. It’s scary at first. But as your metabolism starts to rev up, you’ll be amazed at how good you start to feel.
I now look at the human body like a car engine. You can put the world’s best organic, gluten free, fair trade petrol in the tank; but if you don’t actually fill it up, you’re never going to get very far.
Drinking at meal times
I’ve always struggled with weak digestion. But after cleaning up my diet and making all the changes I was supposed to be making, I still couldn’t work out why I still felt like I’d swallowed a brick after every meal.
It took me a while to find the answer, but when I did, things changed literally overnight. Every meal I ate, I would chug down a glass of water alongside it. This was diluting my stomach acid and making my food really hard to digest. As soon as I stopped drinking at meal times, I felt 1000x better after every meal. All the bloating and discomfort had vanished!
I now try and leave at least half an hour each side of my meal before drinking, and it makes such a difference.
Going low carb
I’m almost embarrassed to admit it now (as I type this article whilst a baked potato cooks in the oven for lunch), but I got suckered into the whole ‘low carb’ movement a few years ago.
But here’s what happened when I started cutting carbs:
1. My energy levels plummeted
2. My sleep sucked
3. My workouts suffered
4. My body composition went backwards
5. My hormones were tanked
6. My digestion was rubbish
7. I became grumpy as hell
Don’t get me wrong: there are certain medical conditions that require carb cutting. But for the average person who just wants to be fit and healthy, carbs are an essential part of your diet. Don’t fear them, unless you fancy signing up for a list of symptoms similar to the ones above.
As a general rule, the more you exercise, the more carbs you should eat. I like to exercise a lot, which means I can (and should) eat plenty of carbs (win).
Taking crap supplements
The reason we set up Vivo Life was to put an end to all the confusion that surrounds health supplements.
We spent years researching thousands of supplements from all around the world, studying stacks upon stacks of clinical research papers until we felt informed enough to advise our customers on the right supplements to take to improve their health. But it wasn’t always this way.
Back when I first started taking health supplements, I had no idea what I was looking for. So I went to my local health store and bought the first ones I found. Needless to say, they were packed with fillers, binders, excipients, and synthetic nutrients that do far more harm than good.
Worse still, I had no idea which ones were right for me. So I just used the typical machine gun approach and used anything and everything I could get my hands on.
Safe to say, it didn’t work. I wasted hundreds of pounds, and actually ended up making my health worse in the process.
These days, I know how to separate a bad health supplement from a good one. Sadly, there’s not many of the latter on the market. But here at Vivo, we’ve hand-picked the very best to save you the time searching.
Don’t waste your money on crap health supplements you don't need. There’s some seriously useless, and even downright dangerous products on the market right now that you need to steer well clear of.
If you're even remotely unsure, exercise caution. And ask for advice.
Trying too hard
I deliberately saved this one til last, as I honestly think it’s my biggest mistake of them all.
So here’s the thing. I work in the health game, which means I’m bombarded with information every single day. Over the years, I’ve learnt to filter most of it out. But it wasn’t always that easy.
Like many people these days, I got bogged down in a huge swamp of information overload. My daily healthy habits morphed into an endless ‘to do list’ because someone somewhere told me it was healthy. But as it turned out, being so ‘healthy’ was actually holding me back.
Over time I’ve learnt that I’m at my healthiest (and certainly my happiest) when I don’t overthink things. When I focus on the smallest changes that make the biggest difference. And when I stop trying to be ‘perfect’ all the time.
I still make this mistake, by the way. Often I have to check myself, and take a step back when I realise I’m trying too hard. It’s not easy, especially in a world where people wear ‘perfect’ like a badge of honour. But I know deep down that ‘perfect’ doesn’t work for me – and it probably doesn’t for you, either.
Remember that 'health' goes far beyond the food you eat and the exercise you do. Yes, it’s about being active and vibrant. But it’s also about living a life without limits or restrictions.
So there are the biggest health mistakes I’ve made. What are yours?
Don't forget that mistakes are part of the process. Stepping stones on your journey to being the healthiest and happiest that you’ve ever been. So don’t be ashamed of them. Learn from them, and use them to move forward.
Just promise me you won't make the same ones I did ;)