Have you ever wondered what life is really like for a functional medicine practitioner? What they actually eat for breakfast and how their own daily routine pans out? We’re thrilled to be able to share with you this refreshingly honest account of ‘A day in the life of Alex Manos’.
Alex is one of only 13 practitioners in the UK to have completed his functional medicine training to become a fully certified Functional Medicine (IFM) practitioner. We’re also thrilled that Alex will be joining us in London on Saturday 13th May for ‘Functional Medicine in Practice: The Reality’. On this day, Alex will be sitting alongside 6 of his fellow UK functional medicine practitioner colleagues to form a panel of experts ready to answer your questions and share with you their vast depth of collective clinical experience. We are pleased to announce that this event has IFM Educational Partner status!
What we have found particularly valuable about Alex’s account is his own reflection on his routine. His healthy habits haven’t happened by chance and on reading his story you soon become aware of the many layers of positive changes that have accrued over time; a particular book that has set him on another path or a new piece of research that informs how he starts his day. It takes time and patience to nurture new habits like this and Alex’s story is a real world example of what happens if you are prepared to keep moving forward, one step at a time.
Down to earth and grounded, prepare to be inspired by a day in the life of Alex Manos…
There was a time when, if I were to have been writing this article then, it would have been filled with sixty minute meditations first thing in the morning, plenty of gym sessions, and being in bed at 21:30. Many of you will be glad to know that isn’t the case anymore (is it just me or do you find reading about people’s ‘perfect’ routines frustrating and sometimes disheartening?!).
But before we get in to what a day in the life of me looks like, I’ll introduce myself. I am a Functional Medicine Practitioner having completed the certification programme with The Institute for Functional Medicine. My background is in Nutritional Therapy where I have an MSc in Personalised Nutrition and a 1st class degree in Nutritional Therapy. I have various qualifications in Personal Training, Performance Enhancement, Corrective Exercise and Movement Analysis and I am currently finishing off my Diploma in Transformational Life Coaching. It goes without saying I am interested in all things health – the mind, the body and the spirit.
I am definitely a creature of habit so when I was asked to write about my day and my routine I am not ashamed to say I got a little excited! I am an introvert, I love the familiar but I do have a tendency to over think….most things. As a result, I have to ensure that my routine includes some down time. I often place this in the middle of the day as a way to recuperate and prevent burning myself out by the evening, If I am not mindful I can easily sit at my desk 12 hours a day reading, e-mailing clients, and keeping busy. When this happens I have nothing in the tank by 18:00! Doing a 30-minute meditation session or popping to the gym and having a quick sauna after are therefore crucial parts of my self-care routine.
Having recently moved in with my girlfriend, my routine is no longer just about me. I still have my key practices, which happen most days, it is more the order of when I do these things that has changed.
So we wake at 06:00 as Katie leaves the house at 7:00. I am often awake by this point now as my body has adjusted to this time. I keep the same waking time seven days a week (read Sleep by Nick Littlehales if you haven’t already!) as I wholeheartedly believe the body loves routine and our health can thrive from having this. I often discuss this concept with clients and feel the greater the dysfunction in physiology, the more important routine is. Spend a few hours on Pubmed reading around chronobiology, chronotherapy, chrononutrition and circadian rhythms, if you haven’t already, and I am sure you will agree!!
The first thing I do each morning is check my heart rate variability* (HRV). This guides me in some of my daily practices – for example how much exercise or meditation may be best based on my HRV score. After that I head downstairs and make Katie’s lunch….then her breakfast (am I a good boyfriend or what?)
Once she is out the door I have a little me time. I truly thrive being on my own – I love Katie, I love my family and friends, but the peace, the quiet, and the stillness is where I feel most present, most ‘connected’ with myself. So I make myself a coffee using my beloved aero press (if you are a coffee person, you need one of these in your life), and I sit down to write in my gratitude journal and set my intentions for the day. This isn’t a long process, usually done in a matter of five minutes.
Fortunately, my business is 99% online these days so I have no need to leave the house and have no commute. I often will do a couple of hours work and then have a late-ish breakfast. Breakfast is often a low carb, high fat option so may include eggs, avocados, or some oily fish. Other days I may simply fast and have a brunch or a light snack and go through until lunch.
I’ll then either be speaking to clients, and if I don’t have clients booked in, I am more often than not researching a topic for a client, or, writing some content or creating a presentation for a forthcoming lecture.
In the past I haven’t prioritised lunch (even though I know I function best with three square meals per day!). This was partly down to doing my MSc, while running my own business, staying on top of the Functional Medicine curriculum to ensure a successful exam and quite simply my passion and thirst for knowledge!
So lunch was often a smoothie or I would fast (my favourite recipe being a protein powder, 1tbsp of ground flaxseed, 1 tsp of nut butter, a large chunk of ginger, 1 tsp of cinnamon, 30ml kefir, half a banana, 1 avocado, 2 handfuls of frozen mixed berries, half a pot of pomegranate seeds, and some water).
Then it was back to work!
More recently, I have been focusing on giving myself time in the day for lunch – reminding myself it is an opportunity for a little reflection, mindfulness and presence. With Greek heritage, lunches are often a big Greek salad with a source of protein. It’s in this lunch break that I may pop to the gym for a quick workout.
I must say currently I don’t have an official end to my day – I’ve been fortunate that I have had clients who are often available during the day so often I will be finished with clients by 16:30 on average. If I haven’t been to the gym I will head there at the end of the day, if I have, I will normally have a couple of hours of admin to do – programmes to write, e-mails to send and telephone calls to make.
As the one who works from home I seem to have taken responsibility for shopping and cooking so around 18:00 I start prepping dinner and aim for it to be ready for when Katie gets home so we have a good amount of time after dinner to relax.
So dinner is often around 18:45 and is where I have the main source of my carbs. As an example, yesterday’s dinner was a fillet of salmon pan-fried with some ginger and garlic, a portion of wholegrain rice with broccoli, peas, roasted tomatoes and asparagus. Dessert is pretty much always a couple of squares of dark chocolate – I remind myself of the polyphenol content!
I am not ashamed to say I love good TV and movies - getting lost in some fantasy world has always been something I have loved. So we often watch an episode or two of our favourite TV show in the evenings. Often around 20:45 the TV is turned off, Katie goes and has a bath and I will do something to relax – stretching or breathing work for example, followed by a game of scrabble (I am so cool, I know). Lights are out by 22:00.
Before Katie moved in I would wake every night to go to the toilet. Since moving in, I can count the number of time this has occurred on one hand (we have been living together for 3 months now). I put this down to a couple of things: firstly, having a very specific routine of waking at 06:00 every day, and secondly, simply waking up earlier. As a result, my body clock is better and I sleep deeper.
As many of you will have also found– clients often find great value when I ask them to e-mail over a little ‘life story’. This is my way of applying the Functional Medicine Timeline to my clinical work. Often clients report back saying it was useful to write this down with comments like “I didn’t realise just how much I have going on right now!”. Writing these things down helps us view our life through a more objective lens. So what are my reflections on my day?
Well I do feel I can compartmentalise better – the best example is probably closing my e-mail account and having specific times of day I check and reply to e-mails. Such a simple concept that I am sure many of you already practice! When speaking to clients about changing their daily routine I often (a) ask them when are they at their most productive/focussed (so we can utilise this time most effectively) and (b) discuss how we can attach new habits on to current ones. This latter concept comes from Charles Duhigg’s book ‘The Power of Habit’. Another must read for health coaches.
One of the biggest concepts for me is not to view relaxation/meditation/mindfulness practice as having to look a certain way. We don’t need to be sitting in a traditional pose or be in wilderness. We can bring mindfulness to our commute, to our conversations, to our e-mail responses. When we do this, the concept of ‘stress management’ almost becomes redundant.
So this provides a day in the life of me. Not all days look like this however! For example, I have recently started some work in London – this means out the door at 06:45 and home around 20:00. On these days I fast in the morning, having just a coffee. Prep my lunch the night before and ask Katie to take responsibility for dinner.
I hope you have enjoyed reading around what a typical day looks like for me, and hopefully some of you feel you found some benefit from it!
About Alex Manos
Alex has an MSc in Personalised Nutrition, during which he wrote his dissertation on glucocorticoid resistance in chronic fatigue syndrome. He is one of thirteen fully certified Functional Medicine practitioners in the UK (as of January 2017), having completed his studies with The Institute for Functional Medicine. He lectures on both MSc and BSc programmes and is also currently certifying as a Life Coach and has been a personal trainer for over a decade with numerous qualifications in movement assessment, corrective exercise and performance enhancement. With this breadth of knowledge Alex is fortunate to work with a wide range of clients from professional athletes to those suffering with chronic health conditions. He has a particular interest in the gut-bran axis and PNI and loves coffee, dark chocolate and apple crumble!
*Heart Rate Variability (HRV)
The Institute for Heartmath describe heart rate variability as "the change in the time intervals between adjacent heartbeats, and it is directly related to the body's interdependent regulatory systems and ultimately, their efficiency and health". Roger McRaty states: "An optimal level of HRV within an organism reflects healthy function and an inherent self-regulatory capacity, adaptability, or resilience,"