Dr Rangan Chatterjee
Dr Rangan Chatterjee - Feel Better In 5
Dr. Rangan Chatterjee is a pioneer in the emerging field of progressive medicine and is changing the way that we look at illness. He is known for his ground-breaking BBC One TV show, Doctor in the House, as well as his No 1 'Health' podcast 'Feel Better, Live More’.
Having released his book 'Feel Better in 5' earlier this year, the good doctor spoke to Craig Maplesden, prior to lockdown, about how his 5 minute plan to feel great for life is easy to maintain, easy-to- follow and requires only the smallest amount of willpower.
What is the ethos behind ‘Feel Better in 5’?
The ethos behind the book is bascially the idea that all of want to feel better than we do and healthier than we are, but we dont have time. So the whole point about this book is that you can change your life in just 5 minutes.
Now, that sounds like a gimmick and just too good to be true, but it really isn't. This book is based on nearly 20 years of clinical experience about what really works for people to make changes, and also the latest science in successful behaviour change, which basically tells us that the only way for the majority of us to make long term change is to start small and start easy.
So 5 minutes is the optimal amount; the sweet spot, it's small enough to fit it into the busiest day and long enough to feel the benefit from it - now that's the important bit. It's when we experience the change that keeps us going.
The second part is health. Health has become really complicated, whereby we feel we have to punish ourselves in the gym to feel better. Health should be fun, it should be something we want to engage in. Thats why 'Feel Better in 5' is simple and easy so that people can have fun, it works in the short term as well as the long term.
What are the most common mistakes people make when setting a plan for a healthier lifestyle?
Where to start. The common mistakes are that people make it harder than it needs to be. The second is that many focus specifically on one area.
Let's say that in January you want to change your diet, let's say you want to reduce your sugar or your alcohol intake. Now many people will be succesful in the first week or two, but by the end of the second week the sugar or alcohol intake has crept back up to where it was before.
For many, stress will be the driver of this increased intake and their way of coping with the stress in their personal or professional life will be to have a glass or two of alcohol, or eat sugar in the evening in front of the tele - so willpower will only last so long.
My plan focuses on 3 core areas; Mind, Body and Heart. Our minds are bombarded by our busy 21st century lifestyles. So we need 5 minutes a day to nourish our minds and empty out all the toxic anxieties and stess that is in there. There are many techniques that we can use such as journalling, deep-breathing, meditation, adult colouring-in books, nature - all things that can help our mind, The second component is the body; and this is generally getting us to move our body. We know we should be moving our bodies more, but we have made things more complicated once again.
So, all the movements in the book are 5 minute workouts, they can be strength, interval, dancing and play workouts that are designed to be simple and as accessible as possible.
The final component is the heart; now the heart is probably the most important and neglected of the three. The heart is all about the connections we have with people around us.
As a medical student, we were told that the heart pumps blood all around the body. Now thats one definition of the heart, but i'm more intersted in the heart that artists, poets and songwriters have been waxing lyrical about for years. This is the connection side of heart - what it means to be human.
We are told we are more connected now than ever, but this is more the digital side of life. In fact, we are more isolated now than we have ever been.
The science tells us that the feeling of being lonely is as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. People who are lonely are 50% more likely to die earlier and 30% more likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke - which is why focusing for 5 minutes a day on your connections are so vital. That's why this book is so different from all other health books - it gives a more rounded approach and puts equal value to physical, mental and emotional health.
Also, most books don't follow the rules of human behaviour.
There are 6 tips that make human behavour stick, here are a couple:
1 - Make it easy
2 - Stick new habit onto an existing habit (for example a 5 minute mind practice while making your morning coffee).
Is the biggest cause of a broken routine/ resolution down to cost and time, and therefore, is this one of the most important aspects of the book - that it is cost-free and deals in 5 minute ’snacks'?
Brilliant question - yes it is!
Cost and time are two big factors. Anything you have to buy means it is an obstacle to get started and anything that has ongoing costs makes it easier to say no - you have to make this as easy as possible.
As mentioned, everything in the book is free and I take this seriously as a health professional. We know that if you live in certain deprived areas of the country your health outcomes are much worse -there is a social economic problem. As a GP, I want the information I give out to be
as accessible to a CEO of a company as it is to a single parent on benefits - which I am really proud of.
All the workouts in the book require zero eqiuipment, zero accessories and don't require you to get changed. Some of the pictures in the book show me doing the workouts in my jeans.
Time is the other factor. We all have busy lives whereby we may not be able to fit a 20 minute workout in - but we can find 5 minutes.
Here is a little case study. Six/seven years ago, in my practice, I saw a 42 year old man; low moods, a little bit of extra weight and low on enegry. There was no official diagnosis, he was just not thriving in his life and wanted a little help.
I felt, after talking to him, that various aspects of his lifestyle were contributing to the way he was feeling. I went through a variety of options and he said, do you know doctor I love one of your ideas of stength training - what do you want me to do? 45 minutes, 3 times a week in the gym? I said, if you can do that it would be amazing.
He left the practice feeling much better and fully motivated. So we arranged to meet up 3 weeks later. When I asked him how he got on at the gym, his body language changed, his voice went a little lower. He said, you know what Doc, its been very busy at work, the gyms quite expensive and it's not near work or home - so I haven't gone yet. At that moment, I realised I hadn't given him a solution that could work for him. I then took off my jacket and said, right I am going to give you a 5 minute strength exercise that doesn't reuqire any equipment, it doesn't cost anything, you don't even need to get changed.
I taught him the 'Classic 5' workout that's in the book - and he loved it. I asked him to do that twice a week for five minutes in his kitchen, which he confirmed would be easy for him to do.
We met back up four weeks later and his bdy language had changed. He told me that he loved the workout so much he now does it for 10 minutes every day before his evening meal. So this chap now does 70 minutes of stength exercise a week and has done for the past six
or seven years. This guy has ownership of this workout and has fomed his own habit.
I'm really passionate about these 5 minute changes because I have seen it work, over and over again.
"Anything you have to buy means it is an obstacle to get started and anything that has ongoing costs makes it easier to say no - you have to make this as easy as possible."
Now I don't always use a pharmacutical fix, but empowering the patient to be the architect of their own health by lifestyle changes. Now it's not all about prevention, if you already have an illness, and a diagnosis, adopting this plan may help reduced the symptms and the medication you need. If you are trying to stop getting ill in the future, this approach can help you. So I'm passionate that this plan can help every single one of us.
With 20 years of medical expertise behind you, are many of the ailments you see preventable and are they sometimes caused by trying to cure the illness, rather than the cause?
Absolutely. 80% of what I see everyday as a GP is connected to our modern lifestyles.
Now I am not putting blame on people, as we are all trying to juggle our busy lives. But it is this busy, modern, lifestyle that is causing a lack of sleep, stress, the fact that we are inactive and eating poor quality food. We are addicted to our devices where we don't nurture a physical connection - that's having an impact and its not just on obesity and type 2 diabetes, its also things like anxiety, depression, inability to concentrate, hormonal problems, high blood pressure. The point is, that all these things are driven by our modern lifestyles.