Dr Rangan Chatterjee is a physician, author, television presenter and podcaster. He is probably best known for his TV show Doctor in the House and for being the resident doctor on BBC One’s Breakfast Show. Here I am sharing his article that was recently featured on BBC Radio 5 Live where he shares his philosophy about the ‘four pillars of health’: food, movement, sleep and relaxation.
Every part our body affects pretty much every other part. By making small, achievable changes in the four key areas of your life, you can create and maintain good health – and avoid illness. What matters most is balance across all the things you do.
The twelve hour eating window
If changing your diet and cutting foods out seems intimidating, Dr Rangan suggests an easier option: eat all your food within a 12 hour window. “Can you get more benefits if you go stricter? Yes some people might be able to! But I say if you can do 12 hours a day, tick it off, and move on to another recommendation. Try and get that balance.”
He says, “It’s a very simple change that I’ve seen be transformative for people.”
Five minute strength training
In our busy lives, it’s often hard to motivate ourselves to find time to go to the gym or go for a run, but Dr Rangan says that just five minutes of strength training twice a week can be really valuable.
“Strength training is very much undervalued in society. We talk about moving more and cardio but we neglect that our muscle mass is one of the strongest predictors of how we’re going to be when we age. Lean muscle mass is so important. Yet when we hit 30, we can lose three to five per cent of our muscle mass every ten years and that rate accelerates after the age of 50.”
Spend time in natural daylight
Good sleep is something we often overlook in our lives, but making sure we have enough high quality sleep can make our lives and health so much better. Dr Rangan has a lot of tips for getting better sleep, but one that you might not have considered is whether you’re getting enough light in the day.
Our bodies need to see different light at day and night to keep our internal clocks working. He says people should be especially aware of this in the winter months. “Many people are leaving the house in the dark, getting to work in the dark, being inside all day, and then going home in the dark.”
He suggests taking twenty minutes in your day to spend some time in natural daylight, and you may find that you wake up the next morning more refreshed.
Make time for some ‘me time’
Stress is often a part of our daily lives, and unfortunately, our technology can be partially to blame for this.
Dr Rangan says, “You get up in bed, the alarm is blaring. So you’ve gone from this nice, peaceful, restful slumber, suddenly there’s a blaring alarm clock. You’re looking at your phone, and there’s a whole ton of blue light, and alarm notifications going on…
For many of us, that continues all day and often that’s still going on just before we’re in bed at night; we’re still looking. And so we’ve just got no down time any more.”
His solution is to have at least 15 minutes a day of ‘me-time’. This should be something you do for yourself, that you don’t feel guilty about doing and that doesn’t involve your smartphone. Doing this can lower your stress levels and let you decompress without worrying about your phone.
You may initially think how can Tai Chi even begin to compare to aerobic exercise? Slow, gentle, fluid movements, versus a heart pumping energising workout? A recent study looked at this and came up with some surprising results.
It’s no secret that I love my high intensity workouts, but I also love my yoga too. As a Reiki practitioner I can really feel and appreciate the benefits in these more “gentle” forms of exercising, and I’m a great believer in combining them both. In my line of work I often come across people who have had injuries or conditions that don’t allow them to partake in vigorous exercise, but quite often workouts such as yoga, pilates or Tai Chi can be the ideal solution. A good friend of mine teaches Tai Chi here in York, and so I was particularly interested in this recent study.
Tai Chi (full name Tai Chi Chuan) combines deep breathing and relaxation with slow, flowing movements. Originally developed as a martial art in 13th-century China, the slow and graceful movements of Tai Chi are reported to be good for both body and mind. But could doing something so gentle really be as effective as a bout of more vigorous exercise? Dr Sarah Aldred, Dr Jet Veldhuijzen van Zanten and Nor Fadila Kasim from the University of Birmingham teamed up with the BBC programme “Trust Me I’m a Doctor” to find out.
They took a group of volunteers aged between 65 and 75, none of whom did regular exercise. Half of them were enrolled in a Zumba class for 12 weeks, while the other half did Tai Chi for 12 weeks.
At the beginning, middle and end of the 12 weeks, Jet, Sarah and Nor recorded the volunteers’ blood pressure and measured the flexibility of their blood vessels using ultrasound. The more flexible your blood vessels, the healthier they are.
They also measured the levels of antioxidants and other chemical markers of stress and inflammation in the volunteers’ blood. Although stress and inflammation may sound bad, they’re actually a healthy response to exercise and lie behind many of its benefits.
As might be expected, the Zumba group were all fitter after 12 weeks. Their blood vessels were more elastic and their blood pressure had dropped. Their blood results improved in line with people undertaking an exercise regime.
More surprisingly however, the results from the Tai Chi group also showed similar benefits to the more rigorous Zumba group, with improvements in blood biomarkers, blood pressure and vessel flexibility.
The answer as to why Tai Chi might have similar benefits may rest in the fact that Tai Chi might not be as gentle as it seems. Previous studies undertaken by Sarah and Jet show that people who practise Tai Chi have a similar rise in heart rate to those doing moderate intensity exercise.
Studies have shown that Tai Chi can help older people to reduce stress, improve posture, balance and general mobility, and increase muscle strength in the legs. It's also good for people suffering with fibromyalgia and Parkinson's.
Thanks to the BBC programme “Trust Me I’m a Doctor”. You can find out more here.
This is such an interesting programme that I simply had to share!
100 people took part in a recent trial for the BBC2 Horizon programme: Can my brain cure my body? It was a back pain study but with a twist, the twist being that everyone, unknowingly, was getting placebo. The placebo effect is well studied but at the same time still something of a mystery. (Placebo = Latin “I shall please”). It is an important part of modern clinical trials, where patients are given either a placebo or an active drug (without knowing which is which) and researchers then look to see if the drug outperforms the placebo, or vice versa.
With the help of Dr Jeremy Howick, an expert on the placebo effect from the University of Oxford, the Horizon team, headed up by medical journalist Dr Michael Moseley, set out to see if they could cure real back pain with placebo pills. It would be the largest experiment of its kind ever carried out in the UK, with 100 people from Blackpool taking part.
The University of Oxford's Professor Irene Tracey told the programme that just because a placebo contains no active chemicals, does not mean the effects of taking it are not real.
"The average person thinks that placebo is something that's a lie or some fakery, something where the person has been tricked and it isn't real. But science has told us, particularly over the last two decades, that it is something that is very real, it's something that we can see played out in our physiology and neurochemistry."
Among other things, research has shown that taking a placebo can trigger the release of endorphins - natural painkillers that are similar in structure to morphine.
A growing body of research suggests that there’s a link between how much people sleep and how much they weigh. If you’re not sleeping enough, the effects could be more significant than just dark circles under your eyes. Here we look at the surprising fact of how your size and your sleep are closely linked.
The rise of obesity over the last few decades is paralleled by significant reductions in the length of time we spend asleep.
At the same time, a large number of studies have reported associations between impaired sleep and the likelihood of developing obesity or diseases such as type 2 diabetes. (Note: the act of sleeping less does not in itself make you fat – after a few disturbed nights your body won’t automatically have created fat!).
We’re not talking about a cause/effect link here. We’re talking correlation. As the number of people getting less sleep has risen, so the number of people at risk of life-threatening metabolic and cardiovascular diseases has risen too. The reason for this correlation may lie in the effects that poor or less sleep may have on your behaviour and physiology. It’s these effects that can contribute to weight gain.
Inactivity – if you’re feeling lethargic and tired, you’re less likely to exercise and more likely to take shortcuts like using the lift rather than the stairs. This decreases the amount of calories you’re burning, which has a direct effect on your weight.
Mood fluctuations – sleep is vital to regulating your mood. Less sleep could see you happy one moment and feeling low the next. Low mood can trigger emotional or ‘comfort’ eating, when our bodies crave high fat, high sugar foods. When eaten, these foods trigger the pleasure response in your brain, and we’re hardwired to crave them in times of distress.
Reduced leptin levels – less of the hormone that tells you you’re full could see you overeating without realising it.
Increased grehlin levels – more of the hormone that tells you you’re hungry will have you seeking out more food and snacks, even if you’ve consumed the right amount of food for you that day.
Recent analysis conducted by King’s College London reviewed dozens of small studies involving sleep and appetite. It showed that, although not everyone is affected in the same way, on average getting less than seven hours of sleep a night led to people eating significantly more overall.
A bad night’s sleep disrupts the two key hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin and this combination leaves us feeling physically hungrier, causing us to eat more. Studies also suggest that when we’re exposed to food while sleep deprived, there is increased activation in areas of the brain associated with reward. This can lead to us choosing foods that are higher in sugar and fat, rather than selecting healthy options.
All of this can help to explain why, in the long term, there’s a strong connection between poor sleep, weight gain and health problems like type 2 diabetes. The simple solution is to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. For adults, 7-8 hours of sleep per night is associated with the lowest risk of incidence of cardiovascular diseases.
The popularity of veganism has really taken off. More than four times as many people are now opting to cut animal products out of their diet than they were four years ago. Across Britain, people are spending more money on vegan products, and plant-based diets are trending online. With major supermarkets catching on and stocking up on vegan-friendly food – and even restaurants starting to offer vegan dishes and menus for their customers, we were wondering how easy is it to go vegan and stay healthy?
A recent episode of the BBC TV programme “Trust Me I’m a Doctor” posed this very same question, and set Cambridge Neuroscience Research Associate Dr Giles Yeo the task of going vegan for one month.
Specific aspects of Giles’s health were assessed by Dr Mellor, a dietitian and senior lecturer in human nutrition at Coventry University before and after his month of being vegan. We measured his cholesterol, body fat, weight, and his levels of iron, folate, zinc and vitamins A, E, D and B12. Dr Mellor also gave Giles a list of foods to eat to stay healthy and avoid becoming deficient in key nutrients.
After one month on a vegan diet, Dr Yeo lost 4 kg and his body fat dropped by 2%. His BMI improved by 6% and his cholesterol fell by 12%. Thanks to Dr Mellor’s food suggestions, he didn’t become deficient in any key nutrients. However it’s more difficult to be so nutritionally diligent in the longer term and vegans can become deficient in nutrients you’d normally get from animal-based foods, such as iron and vitamin B12.
Essential nutrients for vegans
There are certain essential nutrients that we normally get from animal-based foods that vegans need to replace with alternative foods or supplements.
Vitamin D – Vitamin D is important for our bone health. It is produced in our body when sunlight hits our skin and is also present in a few animal products. Vegans might want to consider taking a supplement, but beware that not all of them are vegan-friendly. Vitamin D2 is always suitable for vegans, whereas some sources of vitamin D3 derive from sheep’s wool.
Vitamin B12 – We need vitamin B12 to keep our blood healthy. It is not produced by plants, but there are plenty of vegan products on the market, such as milks, spreads and yeast products, which are fortified with it.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids – These are essential for brain function and are found in oily fish. Other good sources are flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts and soy beans.
Calcium – While calcium is synonymous with dairy, there are plenty of vegan sources too. Tofu commonly contains calcium and there are calcium-fortified alternatives to cow’s milk available. Other good sources include green vegetables such as kale, pak choi, okra and spring greens, as well as almonds, chia seeds and dried figs.
Iodine – Iodine deficiency is not uncommon in the UK, even in non-vegans, particularly amongst young women. In the UK, cow’s milk is our main source of iodine, and the non-dairy alternatives, like almond drinks, have much lower levels. You can get iodine from seaweed (though the amounts are unpredictable) but you may need to take a supplement.
Protein – Some vegans worry that they aren’t getting enough protein, a nutrient people tend to associate with meat. However, eating a balanced diet with plenty of plant-based protein sources should provide all that you need. Particular foods to try and include are tofu, soy, beans and pulses.
Iron – Cutting out meat can also affect your iron levels – red meat contains a form of iron that is easy for our body to absorb, whereas the iron that you get in fruit and veg is less readily available. One solution is to accompany iron-rich vegan foods with a rich source of vitamin C, like orange juice, which helps to make the iron more absorbable.
And what does my favourite chef say about veganism?
Many argue that we should all be making a conscious effort to reduce consumption of animals and animal products for the sake of our health and for the planet. Vegan or not, a diet high in fruit and veg and plant-based food is a good starting point for a healthy lifestyle.
You can find out more about this experiment on the Trust Me I’m a Doctor website here >>
I’ve been a Reiki practitioner for the past few years now, and I’m often asked how this holistic process works and what it actually is. Understandably, sometimes people can be a little apprehensive about embarking on a Reiki treatment and wonder what they are getting themselves into! Well, here I’m happy to put your mind at rest! It’s very straightforward and simple and is usually a very relaxing and calming process – no special equipment, oils or physical manipulation is required, and it’s completely non-invasive. So just relax and enjoy …
Firstly, what is it?
Reiki is a deep relaxation technique that reduces stress and promotes healing. It re-activates the body’s natural energy system, bringing you back into balance on every level – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually – putting your body in the best position to help heal itself.
Reiki is the healing energy, with the capacity to change lives in the most positive way. It is a gentle and effective system of healing which activates the body’s own natural ability to heal itself. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to become ill, experience stress or anxiety – if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.
Reiki is a simple, natural and safe method of holistic healing and self-improvement that everyone can use. It is effective in helping many conditions, and always creates a beneficial effect. It can also work in conjunction with all other medical or therapeutic techniques to relieve side effects and help promote recovery.
The work Reiki is from the Japanese – combining rei “soul, spirit” and ki “vital energy”.
So how does it work?
The ability to use Reiki is not taught in the usual sense, but is transferred to the student by the Reiki Master during an “attunement”. This transferal of the energy then allows the student to tap into an unlimited supply of “life force energy” to improve one’s health and enhance the quality of life. Once attuned, students are aligned to the Reiki energy and can begin to channel it through their hands.
As students progress through different levels of learning, they will receive several additional attunements from their Reiki Master. Each student will have a different experience when receiving an attunement, usually a positive feeling of total peace and calm.
The treatment itself is quite straightforward. You lie on the treatment bed, fully clothed. I will ask you to remove your footwear, but that is all. You can cover yourself with the blanket if you prefer. Now close your eyes and try to relax. I will begin the treatment by laying my hands on you in a non-invasive manner, usually beginning at the head, then working down to the shoulders, hands, legs, ankles and feet.
What will it feel like and how do I know it’s working?
You may feel warmth, or heat, or tingling from my hands. Sometimes a buzzing sensation. Other sensations may include seeing coloured lights or feeling as if you are floating. Sometimes people have an “emotional release” for a little while during the treatment. I have also had clients drop off during a treatment too – it’s so relaxing! Even my most sceptical clients have experienced warmth and heat and other sensations from my hands. After the session you will usually feel very relaxed and calm. People often say they sleep better that night too. It all depends on the person really.
The Reiki tradition was founded by Mikao Usui in the early 20th century and evolved as a result of his research, experience and dedication.
Experience peace of mind and inner calm
Help to relieve and cope with stress and anxiety
Bring a sense of balance, clarity and focus
Increase your energy levels
Enhance other treatments and medications
Quicken the healing process
Let go of emotional baggage
A Reiki treatment is a process that anyone can enjoy in the normal course of their life and it can be used alongside other conventional or complementary treatments. The effects of the treatment tend to build up and gain momentum over time, usually around 4 to 6 weekly interval sessions are enough to produce a change, with an additional maintenance top-up every 4 weeks if you would like a long-term effect.
Reiki can help us cope with life by encouraging relaxation and bringing balance to both mind and emotions.
If you’d like to find out more, or discuss the Reiki process with me in more detail, please do get in touch, I’d love to help if I can!
I first met Renata in a metafit session at Shipton back in 2015, and we hit it off immediately. I was interested to hear that she was going to become a metafit coach and had recently qualified as a Reiki practitioner, and when she later offered me a Reiki taster session, I jumped at the chance to give it a go.
I had an idea of what Reiki was, using energy to “heal” through the hands, and confess I was sceptical at first, but decided to approach it with an open mind. As for the actual treatment, I didn’t know what to expect from the session and this added to the overall sense of anticipation. The Treatment Room at the Raylor Centre was a peaceful haven of purple and relaxing zen-like music filled the room. It was a Sunday afternoon and very quiet and after completing a simple questionnaire, we got down to business!
All I had to remove was my shoes. The treatment couch was surprisingly comfortable and the peace and quiet and tranquil music made it easy to relax. Using a combination of “laying on hands” and hovering her hands over me, Renata worked her way around me, starting at the head and working downwards towards the feet. Almost immediately I became aware of a buzzing sensation around my face, and there seemed to be a lot of heat coming from Renata’s hands. As she moved around, I could feel the heat from her hands and the buzzing sensation around my face faded. In certain areas as she moved around I was aware of a different prickly sensation and in other areas there was no sensation at all, or just warmth from her hands.
Specifically whilst she was working around my head, I also experienced a visual kaleidoscope of moving patterns and colours, predominantly deep blue and white. I hadn’t expected to feel or see anything like this, so was surprised by the different sensations I experienced.
The session lasted just over half an hour, and I felt very relaxed and chilled at the end of it. A cup of chamomile tea at the end of the session was a very nice finishing touch and much appreciated.
I’ve since had several regular Reiki sessions with Renata, and would thoroughly recommend her. She so obviously cares about her clients and wants to do her best for you. I find that I’m sleeping well and feel I can cope much better with stress – the sessions are so relaxing it’s a pleasure to endure!
Reiki is a deep relaxation technique that can help to reduce stress and promote healing, bringing you feelings of peace and wellbeing.
Reiki is Japanese for “universal life energy” and describes a system of natural healing. The Reiki tradition was founded by Mikao Usuiin the early 20th century and evolved as a result of his research, experience and dedication. Reiki is a deep relaxation technique that reduces stress and promotes healing. It re-activates the body’s natural energy system, bringing you back into balance on every level – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually – putting your body in the best position to help heal itself.
Reiki can help you to:
Experience peace of mind and inner calm
Help to relieve and cope with stress and anxiety
Bring a sense of balance, clarity and focus
Increase your energy levels
Enhance other treatments and medications
Quicken the healing process
Let go of emotional baggage
A Reiki treatment is a process that anyone can enjoy in the normal course of their life and it can be used alongside other conventional or complementary treatments. The effects of the treatment tend to build up and gain momentum over time; usually around 4 to 6 weekly interval sessions are enough to produce a change, with an additional maintenance top-up every 4 weeks if you would like a long-term effect.
HOW DOES THE TREATMENT WORK?
Understandably, sometimes people can be a little apprehensive about embarking on a Reiki treatment and wonder what they are getting themselves into! Well I’m happy to put your mind at rest! It’s very straightforward and simple and is usually a very relaxing and calming process – no special equipment, oils or physical manipulation is required, and it’s completely non-invasive. So just relax and enjoy …
The Welcome Process I will welcome you to the treatment room, ask you to fill out a simple form and have a quick discussion with you about your aims and objectives. The treatment room is darkened, soothing gentle music is played and some candles are lit. It looks like an oasis of calm and relaxation!
The Treatment You lie on the treatment bed, fully clothed. I will ask you to remove your footwear, but that is all. You can cover yourself if you prefer. Now close your eyes and try to relax. I will begin the treatment by laying my hands on you in a non-invasive manner, usually the head, shoulders, hands, legs/ankles/feet.
The Experience You may feel warmth, or heat, or tingling from my hands. Other sensations may include seeing coloured lights or feeling as if you are floating. Sometimes people have an “emotional release” for a little while during the treatment. I have also had clients drop off during a treatment too – it’s so relaxing!
COMMENTS FROM MY CUSTOMERS
I asked a selection of my clients to provide some testimonials and feedback about their experiences with me, which you can read below. All testimonials are featured exactly as they were written. Further feedback, testimonials and reviews can also be found on my Facebook page and website.
Renata is an extremely professional young lady with a zest for life. Her style of coaching is fun and constructive. She knows her subject and is a great inspiration. I have worked with Renata for five years and feel lucky to be part of her life. Sean Doughty, York
I am completely converted to Reiki! After a day like yesterday, I am stunned about how well I slept and how I feel rested and calm. Thank you so much. Susana Maia, York
Renata is a joy to work with and so obviously cares about her clients. I confess I was sceptical about Reiki at first, but now after several sessions something definitely seems to be happening! Despite major stresses in my life at the moment I’m certainly sleeping much better – it’s very relaxing and calming and a great way to chill out in the midst of a chaotic life. Michelle M, York