Healthy Health Span Habits: The Journey So Far
I have a long way to go before I’m happy with my health span habits, despite solid progress in 2022.
Not great, but solid.
This blog post has two goals. Firstly, to show you what is possible in a year (even if you are health-conscious to start with). Secondly, I’m going public with where I am as the Age Well Times goes live.
This will be a benchmark for my updates on new longevity habits. That journey of discovery will appear here each month in 2023.
For those new to my blog, I’m in my early 50’s (so please give me a break on my fitness!).
Longevity Habits I Developed in 2022
#1 – Food / Healthy Eating Habits
I have been skipping breakfast, eating a salad for lunch, and battling with my #1 demon – sugar – for around three years.
Then in 2022, I systematised things.
Firstly, I committed to Intermittent Fasting. I developed the habit of eating between 12pm and 6pm, five days per week. Along with this, I have no simple carbs until my evening meal – focusing on a big salad full of leafy greens. Friday is ‘cheat day’ when sugar and carbs are devoured. The other day is flexible, though usually Saturday – allowing for some socialising.
Here are the habits I developed around food during 2022:
- Buying ‘freshies’ in batches twice a week, then immediately washing and storing them. This lets me make a salad easily each morning – reducing the effort and turning it into part of my routine.
- Planning my salad toppings in advance. They range from falafels to fish and my favourite, a cheese / kalamata olives combo.
- Batch cooking main meals once or twice a week (freezing one portion if I make enough). This helps with not always wanting to cook a healthy meal after a hard day of work.
- Cutting down on simple carbs significantly. Small portions of brown rice or potatoes only with my evening meal. Experimented with cauliflower rice. I have coeliac (celiac) disease, which means anything with wheat or barley is already strictly off limits.
- Added raw broccoli, watercress, and raw red cabbage to my salad lunches.
- Switched from cooking with seed oils to olive oil. Actively avoiding foods containing rapeseed, sunflower or corn oil.
- I stacked drinking a big glass of water with making my salad each morning.
#2 – Fitness Habits
Big progress on fitness this year. Though I still have a long way to go before I’ll be happy.
At the start of this year, I did a mini workout at home four times a week on average. When life got in the way, exercise was always the first thing to go. I was continually in catch-up mode.
Here are the habits I developed:
- Morning Extra: I stacked doing two things from my routine each morning before my shower (immediately on waking up). For example, 30 push-ups and a 2-minute plank, or 20 squats and some mason twists. This is now embedded, on a recent trip I did it in the hotel before my shower… it felt wrong not to do it.
- Evening HIIT / Resistance: Five / Six times a week I work out in my study at home. This involves some resistance training, push-ups, squats, planks and even burpees. My goal is to raise my heart rate – and maintain my strength.
- Running: This has been stop-start (I’m blaming to the UK autumn weather). I ran for many years, including fun races up to 10k. Restarting now, with the goal of two morning 5k runs per week. Will report back on this in my next update.
A lot of improvement possible here. Better tracking, and some stretching (yoga?) are next on the list.
#3 – Sleep Habits
I have been working hard on getting better sleep. If you have not yet read Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, then this is recommended.
Here are the habits I fine-tuned in 2022:
- Less Booze: We don’t sleep well with even a small amount of alcohol. Instead, you are sedated into light sleep, which is not restorative. I’m pleased with my reduction in quantity this year, which I have swapped for better quality wines.
- Regular Routine: I now start my night-time routine at 10:30pm. Work to do here, though lapses are less frequent and shorter. I do not set an alarm, with most sleeps between 11pm and 7am (ish).
- Yellow Glasses: Blue light blocking lenses get clipped on to my regular glasses at around 9pm. I stack this with my normal evening reading session (all focus for work has gone by 9, so I like to read).
- Morning Sun: This one made a big difference for me. Get some sun each morning, the earlier the better. Walking to work at around 8.30am is the perfect solution, with more effort needed on non-working days.
- Stop drinking liquids at 8pm: This new habit has worked wonders. I no longer get up to use the toilet in the middle of the night. Balanced with extra hydration during the day.
Lots of room for improvement here. I need to start using the sleep tracking apps on my phone. We have blackout curtains in the bedroom and have separate duvets (I sleep cooler than my wife).
#4 – Drugs and Supplements Habits
I will to deep-dive into each supplement and longevity drug as we go into 2023. My current list comes from screening back in 2019. I need to reassess what I am short of and combine this with the latest research.
Only after I’m satisfied the risk / reward is positive will I start to take any of them.
I stacked starting my evening work session with taking my regular supplements. I do this after dinner, and so leave my bottles by my study desk. My regular supplements are vitamin C, calcium (my diet is low dairy), magnesium, collagen peptides, zinc, B vitamins, omega 3 oils and vitamin D.
#5 – Toxins, Screening and Prevention
Here is where I have the most work to do.
While my alcohol intake is lower than at any point in my adult life, I still need to work on a tendency to open that second (shared) bottle of wine on an evening in. Same goes for socialising. I’m not in crazy mode by any stretch these days – although I’m painfully aware that having just one (or sometimes two) fewer glasses of wine on an evening out would be a big health boost.
Sugar is my longevity Achilles heel, my comfort blanket and represents all my inner demons combined into one vicious enemy.
In 2022, I worked hard to cut out sugary snacks during the week. Allowing myself to binge on Friday made this possible. Friday sees me eating GF chocolate biscuits, Cadburys eclairs or even a pack of Haribo Tangfastics.
Any stress, sadness or loss of confidence still gets me reaching for the sugar.
It is toxic, destructive, and eating it accelerates aging.
I have a plan – it involves natural yoghurt and blueberries – and will document it as we go into 2023.
Since I moved back to the UK my health screening habits have ground to a halt.
This is something I need to fix – and quickly. DNA, blood panels and age-specific testing all need to be checked off the list. Coupled with the other changes, this habit will give me the confidence that I’m not optimising food and sleep, while something else is going drastically wrong.
Wrapping Up: Healthy Ageing Habits
I have a long way to go before I’m happy that my habits are supporting my quest for a long and active life.
The full journey (failures too) and a long list of new habits will be documented here in my blog.
More Blog Posts:
- Three Times my Perspectives on Longevity Science were Flipped
- The Day that Denial and Pride Almost Killed Me
- Meeting my Future Self Part 1