Health and wellness is a lifelong journey, but it is easy to become overwhelmed with the sheer number of healthier habits for us to try to implement into our lives.
Just when you think you have something figured out, you see another health trend online and wonder how to fit it into your lifestyle.
Meditation, breathwork, cold plunges, limiting alcohol…There seems to be a never ending list of habits that can lead us to a healthier lifestyle.
This morning on a run, I heard a podcast from Ben Bergeron that introduced a great framework called the “Five Factors of Health” that really helps to simplify things.
But first, who is Ben Bergeron?
Ben Bergeron is one of the most notable CrossFit coaches in the world. He is the owner of CrossFit New England and has coached both Katrin Davidsdottir and Mat Fraser to being crowned “Fittest on Earth”.
Ben has a fantastic podcast called “Chasing Excellence” which focuses on healthy habits, physical activity, and overall health.
Here is how you can use Ben Bergeron’s “Five Factors of Health” to make permanent healthy lifestyle changes..
What are the Five Factors of Health?
Factor 1: Eating healthier
The first of the Five Factors of Health from Ben Bergeron is eating healthy, which translates to avoiding poor nutrition and maintaining a healthy body weight.
How do we develop healthier habits so that we are naturally eating healthier and avoiding less healthy foods?
According to Ben, it is simple: Eat Real Foods. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.
Rather than prescribing a specific health diet such as Paleo or Keto, you will notice that Ben’s advice is as basic as it gets: Eat healthy foods.
This is because the key to success is creating sustainable changes, not a quick 8 week fix with a crash diet in an effort to lose weight.
A few tips from Ben to eat healthier:
- Eat meats, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and seeds
- Stick with 3 meals per day and avoid snacking.
- Plants should make up the highest percentage of each meal
How can you simplify nutrition in your life and work these 3 principles into a healthy diet?
Rather than overcomplicate things, keep it simple and focus on good health in the long term.
Factor 2: Sleep
A good night’s sleep is Ben’s #1 factor that will lead to a healthy life and influence recovery.
While there are many other factors that will influence how we feel each day, getting enough sleep is the foundation that everything else is built upon.
Get 7-9 hours of sleep per night to be fully recovered for the next day and to live a healthy life
One interesting thing to note is that just because we spend 8 hours in bed, it does NOT mean that we got 8 hours of sleep. A good practice is to assume that 1 hour of time spent in bed was lost due sleep patterns and waking up throughout the night.
A few tips for better sleep:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
- Limiting alcohol consumption overall
- Limiting caffeine after 12pm noon
Factor 3: Train
If restful sleep is the foundation and healthy eating gives us energy, proper training and physical activity is what gets us stronger and allows us to stay healthy.
So what is the solution to working out and how do you build it into your daily routine?
Constantly Varied Functional Movements 5x Per Week
Bergeron recommends CrossFit as prescription for physical activity. CrossFit is a physical activity methodology that focuses on constantly varied movements at high intensity.
My spin on this is that CrossFit is great for certain people, but not everyone is going to enjoy this style of training and there are many other ways to be physically active.
It can be as simple as choosing 1 physical activity habit to fit in the below buckets:
- Strength Training 2-3x/week: Some form of resistance training
- Cardiovascular Training 2-3x/week: Workout that elevates your heart rate for 30-45 minutes
- Mobility: Daily work on flexibility exercises
Just like nutrition, Training and physical activity does not need to be overcomplicated.
Start with 1 form of resistance training and 1 form of cardiovascular training to do 2-3x per week.
Factor 4: Think
Mental Health is one of the most talked about subjects in modern American culture.
Historically, the topic of better health has focused on the physical side of things: Maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding high blood pressure and heart disease, and learning how to eat better.
The discussion of healthy lifestyle choices cannot be complete without also focusing on the mind.
According to Bergeron, mindset controls our daily lives and his recommendation is simple: Don’t Whine, Don’t Complain, Don’t Make excuses.
This is a somewhat controversial take, but mindset is a key behavior change that leads to a better life.
The following tips are helpful with mindset:
- Optimism: What is the positive in this situation?
- Gratitude: What are 3 things you are thankful for?
- Be a Fountain and Not a Drain: How can you add value rather than taking it away from the world?
Can you implement any of these mindset tips into your life today and make it a normal part of your well being?
Factor 5: Connect
The last of the Five Factors of Health is Connection, which is the relationship aspect of health.
When we think of healthy lifestyle choices, it is easy to forgot about connection and personal relationships.
We’ve all heard the idea that you are the average of the 5 people you hang around with, so choose your tribe wisely.
A few tips on improving connection in your life:
- Can you build relationships tied to a hobby that you love doing (At the gym, running groups, etc)?
- Be intentional about spending time and creating memories with a family member
- Build connections outside of work
Bottom line, there is more to healthy lifestyle choices than simply eating healthy meals and avoiding fried foods.
Conclusion: Using the Five Factors of Health to Make a Healthy Lifestyle Change
Health and wellness is a complicated category and it is easy to get pulled in many different directions when it comes to options for healthy choices.
The challenging part is that each person is completely unique, so what works for me in terms of healthy choices may not work for you
How can we get around this and build new habits that work for us?
For me, following Ben Bergeron’s framework for healthy lifestyle changes is the best start. The 5 Factors are:
- Eat: Consume healthy foods (mostly fruits and vegetables) and limit caffeine and alcohol abuse.
- Sleep: Get 8-9 hours of sleep to have more energy the next day.
- Train: Move the body and be physically active.
- Think: Control your mindset.
- Connect: Build relationships; You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.
All in all, the Five Factors of Health should be thought about over the long term and the healthy choices should be sustainable for a lifetime.