The Snowball Effect Of Health

Often when people want to improve their health, it can feel like an impossible task. They look at where they’re currently at and where they want to get to, and it becomes paralyzing. You don’t know where to start, so you don’t start anything all. What I regularly try and remind people of is the snowball effect of health.

When you want to improve your health, just pick one area to start with. Say for example you decide you want to start with exercise. Work has been a dominant feature for the last couple of years and exercise feels like a distant memory. But you decide that you are going to start exercising again and commit to do something three times a week. In the beginning you may not be consistently going three days a week but with some work, you get there.

Because you’re now exercising, you decide to get to bed earlier. It’s not uncommon for you to get to bed at midnight or even 1am. Sometimes this is doing work, other times it is watching movies, sometimes it might be watching videos on youtube.

So you begin going to bed earlier. At first this might be only when you have exercise the next day, but with time it starts to happen even when no exercise is planned. You realise how much better you feel for the extra couple of hours sleep and decide to make it a regular feature.

Because you are getting more sleep, you are waking up more refreshed in the morning. You start to have more time to make a better breakfast. Previously it was a coffee on the way to work and possibly a bowl of cereal when you sat down at your desk. Now you are making yourself scrambled eggs and fruit salad each day.

The better sleep and better breakfast means you also have better energy in the evening and so are doing more cooking. You had never been much for cooking from scratch but are now doing it more and more. You’re trying out new recipes and even making double batches so you can take food with you to work the next day.

Because of these changes you are becoming more active generally. Your weekends are spent doing some cycling or going for a run or going for hikes in the National Forest.

These activities are things you look forward to and you naturally find yourself drinking less. Previously Thursday, Friday and Saturday were rather boozy affairs and waking up with a hangover was the norm. But now you are finding yourself less drawn towards alcohol because you want to enjoy your weekend rather than spend most of it in bed or on the sofa.

The progression from first getting back into exercise to spending your weekends doing outdoor activities and drinking less alcohol doesn’t happen overnight. Over a period of one or two year these changes slowly take place. But they take place nevertheless.

And what’s more, they are part of your lifestyle. They are something that is very normal for you to do; it doesn’t feel like you are on a diet or on a health kick, it just feels like everyday life.

Too often when people want to make changes, they try to change everything at once. They go from no exercise to doing exercise 5 days a week. They go from never cooking at home to trying to cook every last meal they eat. They go from drinking 3 or 4 nights a week to deciding that they are not going to drink for the next three months.

These kind of drastic and extreme changes make the person feel like they are on a diet. I always comment that you should look at what you are doing and think ‘could I envisage myself still doing this in 5 years’. If the answer is no then you’ve either changed too many things too quickly or they have set up something that is never going to be sustainable regardless of how slowly they have made the changes.

The improvements that one sees from changing their diet, exercise routine or sleeping habits, but only keeping it up for a couple of months is negligible. Sure you may experience some temporary improvements, but in terms of how it will affect your health long term, the difference is going to be minute. But when you keep things up long term, this is when the real difference is noticed. Keep something up 5 years, 10 years, 20 years and this will radically alter the trajectory of your life

Don’t start out trying to change everything at once. Focus on one area or a couple of small areas that you can change and keep up. Allow this to become a habit and then change something else. Allow the changes to snowball to make it easier for changes further down the line. Do this in a manner that is piecemeal and allows you to make changes without feeling overwhelmed.

Health is rarely about big events or big changes that people make overnight. It’s also rarely about aesthetics. It is about the stuff that you do consistently day in and day out. Individual choices are insignificant on their own, but become huge when those choices are made again and again. Start out with just one area and focus on improving it. Keep it up and allow it to better other areas of your life naturally. I promise you that in a year’s time you will be glad that you did.

Follow Chris on Facebook and Twitter.

Chris Sandel is the founder of He is a nutritionist, working with clients on a one-on-one basis, as well as creating online trainings and products about health and nutrition. He is the author of The Health Trap: Why "Healthy" Eating Isn't Always Healthy which is available on Amazon UK and Amazon USA.

Chris has three free emails series. One is on how to quit dieting. One is on simple tests you can do at home. And the other is his take on the world's healthiest foods.


  1. Bethany Takakis says:

    Thank you Chris for this great article! As a Health Promotion Officer I have always been a huge advocate of the Snowball Effect & you have explained it so clearly in this article.

Speak Your Mind