Skip to Content

Summary: Eat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes by Tom Rath

  • “Eat Move Sleep” by Tom Rath explores how small, consistent choices in nutrition, physical activity, and sleep can significantly impact one’s overall health and well-being.
  • The book offers practical advice and actionable tips for making healthier choices in these three core areas, emphasizing the cumulative effects of these small changes.
  • While it may lack in-depth scientific details, “Eat Move Sleep” is a motivating and accessible guide for those seeking a sustainable approach to a healthier lifestyle.

Choices count. While there’s no one action that can guarantee a long and healthy life, there are many simple choices you can make that can increase your chances of living one. “Eat, Move, Sleep” author Tom Rath became an avid researcher of health and wellness after discovering that he had a rare genetic disorder that causes his body to develop small tumors. In this summary, you’ll examine Rath’s findings and methods for improving diet, exercise, and rest habits — and living a better life.

How you can adjust your routine, eat better, move more, and sleep more deeply to enhance your health.


  • Want to improve your health through incremental but lasting changes to your lifestyle
  • Wonder if small choices can add up to be net gains or net losses to your overall health
  • Care about cutting-edge health research

Book Summary: Eat Move Sleep - How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes


The three building blocks of better health are the avoidance of fad diets, a refusal to succumb to inactivity, and better sleep.

Fad diets rarely work long-term. While most popular diets have some benefits, they are only apparent when combined with overall healthier eating. Fad diets also run the risk of making eating well such a complicated process that it’s hard to stick to. Research suggests that the quality of food is a better indicator of health than the quantity consumed. Eating well shouldn’t be a difficult or complicated process; it should simply focus on consuming foods that provide short-term energy and longterm wellness.

Activity and movement are also essential to a healthy lifestyle. It’s not enough to exercise or work out three times a week; rather, physical activity throughout your day will have the biggest impact on your long-term health. You can work more activity into your day by examining your daily schedule and identifying space where you can work in brief periods of movement.

The final building block of wellness is sleep. Studies also show that people work best in 90-minute bursts, so in addition to getting enough sleep, take breaks to keep your mind and body refreshed and healthy.

Big Changes Through Small Adjustments

The first step to improving your diet is to consider whether every bite is a net gain or a net loss: Each sip of coffee is a net gain due to coffee’s health benefits, but if you add cream and sugar, each sip becomes a net loss, because their drawbacks outweigh the health benefits of coffee. Most meals include healthy and some unhealthy ingredients, but taking the time to calculate whether the dish as a whole is a net gain or loss helps maintain healthy eating habits and encourages better choices in your day-to-day life.

One of the biggest costs to health in today’s world is constant sitting. Studies show that sitting for two hours in a chair can lower good cholesterol by 20%. Unfortunately, it’s not possible for many people to avoid spending all day sitting. The adverse effects of long-term sitting can be avoided by using moments throughout the day to stretch, move about, and interrupt time spent sitting.

Additionally, sleep can make or break your day — a sluggish morning can mean a postponed workout, a skipped breakfast, a fried lunch, or countless other costs to your health. Getting just one extra hour of sleep can boost your productivity as much as spending an extra hour at work.

Changes to diet, exercise, and sleep aren’t easy, but they also aren’t complicated. The key to making changes and getting them to stick is to take incremental steps, such as by asking yourself throughout the day if the food you’re eating is a net gain or a net loss, finding a way to eliminate an hour of time spent sitting in a chair from your daily routine, or adding more sleep to your nightly schedule 15 minutes at a time until you wake feeling fully rested in the morning.

One Good Choice at a Time

Good choices can manifest in different ways depending on which component of your health you want to enhance.

As far as diet is concerned, people generally focus on calorie intake, but when choosing healthy meals, the ratio of carbohydrates to protein is more important than total calories; you should therefore aim to choose foods with a one-to-one ratio of carbs to protein. At a minimum, you should avoid foods with more than a five-to-one carbohydrate to protein ratio in order to avoid overloading on carbs.

Eliminating sitting time can be as easy as choosing to incorporate movement into your work, such as by purchasing standing desk, or into leisure time at home by getting up and stretching during commercial breaks. Studies show that every two minutes of leisurely walking for every 20 spent sitting is sufficient to keep blood sugar levels stable and offset the health risks associated with sitting. Standing still on your feet all day can also create stress on the body; if you stand all day at work, you should also find time to move your body and sit down. Such breaks provide health benefits to the body, but they can also improve focus and concentration.

Adjusting your diet, exercise routine, and sleep volume can also boost your immune system. Eating fruits and vegetables with dark and colorful skins is the best way to yield these benefits.

Sleep, meanwhile, is as close as we can currently get to a vaccine for the common cold: People who sleep less than seven hours a night are three times more likely to catch a cold than those who sleep seven hours or more. But as with diet, the quality of your sleep is better than quantity — the hours of sleep you get should be uninterrupted, deep sleep. You can improve sleep quality by improving diet and exercise, and ensuring that your sleep environment is dark, cool, and quiet.

Like getting adequate sleep at night, exercising in the morning ensures a better mood and sharper focus throughout the day. Twenty minutes of exercise can improve your mood for up to 12 hours; it makes sense, then, to exercise in the morning, and experience the benefits throughout your day. When it comes time to crawl into bed, dimming the lights can set you up for a good night’s sleep.

Keeping track of progress in your diet and exercise goals increases the likelihood that you will remain committed to improving them. If you have a quantifiable goal — such as 10,000 steps — you can work toward it and easily note your progress. Even if you can only do 5,000 today, you know how much more work you need to do to meet your fitness goals. Setting yourself up for success is key to making lifelong changes to your habits.

Making Smarter Decisions

Getting more protein is important, but some sources of protein are better than others. While red meats like hot dogs and hamburgers are high in protein, they also carry a number of drawbacks. Eating more plant-based and lean animal protein such as nuts, seeds, and fish can help you avoid those pitfalls and ensure that you are getting enough omega-3s, the healthy fatty acids that promote brain health.

Maintaining your motivation to exercise and eat well can be hard, especially since the long-term benefits of longer life and improved health can seem distant and abstract; this is why it’s so important to find a tangible and immediate motivator. For example, recognizing improvements in your mood and interactions with loved ones can provide you with the motivation to press on.

Health Starts at Home

Your home’s setup can also result in net gains or losses for your health. Studies have shown, for example, that the dishes you use influence how much you eat: Smaller plates that hold smaller portions reduce overeating. The color of your dishes can also have an effect: People eat 30% more pasta with white sauce when it is served on a white plate. but so does the amount of contrast between food on a plate — people eat 30% more pasta with white sauce when it is served on a white plate.

Adjusting your home life is one of the most effective ways of maintaining your healthy habits, and the data supports this claim. In a study of 6,000 people who were attempting a healthy lifestyle, 92% of them found ways to exercise at home, and 78% began eating breakfast every morning. Whether it’s developing an athome workout plan, putting your coffee on a timer to entice you to wake up, cutting down on TV time, or preparing breakfast the night before, establishing healthy habits at home is the best way to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle.

Keeping up an exercise habit at home — without the peer pressure of a trainer or class to motivate you — can seem daunting. Even the thought of exercising effectively deters most people from following through. But in the moment, we enjoy exercise far more than we dread it in advance.

Exercise can also improve sleep. If you’re struggling with insomnia, try regularly exercising for a few days before resorting to sleeping pills, which can be habitforming and inhibit you from reaching high-quality deep sleep. While earlymorning workouts can boost your mood throughout the day, late-day activity can help you sleep longer and better.

One way to stick to your goals is to make them public. Choose a goal for yourself, like having meatless Mondays, running a 5K, or adjusting your sleep schedule so that you can wake up without an alarm clock, then write it down, tell a friend about it, or announce it online. Having a sense of public accountability and encouragement will help you stay focused on your goals.

Fine-Tuning Your Routine

Eating healthy foods will improve your health, but if you are to maximize the benefits of healthy eating, you must also ensure that you are properly preparing your food. Emerging research suggests that frying, grilling, and broiling foods overloads the body’s ability to remove certain toxins. Preparing food with wet heat, on the other hand — boiling, poaching, or steaming — or eating fresh, raw plants ensures that you’re eating the healthiest possible version of a given food.

Your daily commute can also be a source of stress, both on your body and on your relationships. A Swedish study found that couples who commute more than 45 minutes a day are at a 40% greater risk of divorce. Additionally, a long commute reduces the amount of time you have to sleep, exercise, and prepare healthy meals. Exploring options like telecommuting or working a schedule that lets you avoid rush hour traffic will give you more peace, more time, and more opportunities to develop healthy habits.

Additionally, weight and sleep are closely related: Weight loss is associated with better sleep quality, and better sleep reduces cravings for fatty and sugary foods, as well as increasing the amount of energy you have for physical activity. But it can be hard to break the habit of poor sleep, poor diet, and little exercise.

One way to interrupt the cycle is to replace an hour of TV a night with an hour of sleep. Look at your schedule, evaluate how you spend your time each day, and try to find places where you can carve out more time for sleep, even if it’s only 15 minutes. Getting eight hours of quality sleep a night can change your life dramatically: You will feel fuller, be more productive, and have more time and energy to spend on your friends, family and hobbies. Getting more sleep isn’t sacrificing the things you love; on the contrary, it’s a positive investment that will help you enjoy them even more.


Eat right, move more, sleep better. These are the three building blocks of a healthy lifestyle. But they’re not individual items on a checklist to be addressed one at a time. Diet, exercise, and sleep are as intertwined as they are essential to a healthy life.

By making incremental but consistent, holistic changes to your daily routine, you can improve your ability to adequately eat, move, and sleep. Ensuring that you have access to healthy foods whenever you’re hungry, carving out time for activity throughout the day, and working to increase the number of hours you sleep will do wonders for your physical and mental health.

Changes as slight as getting 15 extra minutes of sleep a night, choosing plantbased protein instead of red meat, or getting up from your desk to take a break every 20 minutes can transform your routine into a daily net gain for your health and wellbeing.

About the Author

Tom Rath is an employee engagement consultant who specializes in wellness and strengths-based leadership. Rath works at Gallup Inc. as a senior scientist, consultant, and adviser. In addition to Eat Move Sleep, he has authored a number of bestselling books and conducted scientific studies.


Personal Growth, Nonfiction, Health, Self Help, Personal Development, Business, Psychology, Food, Healthy Living, Diet, and Fitness, Mind and Body Reference, Personal Transformation Self-Help

Table of Contents

Eat Move Sleep 3
1 The Basics 11
Forget Fad Diets, Forever
Make Inactivity Your Enemy
Sleep Longer to Get More Done
2 Small Adjustments 19
Every Bite Is a Net Gain or Loss
Step Away From Your Chair
Sleep Makes or Breaks a Day
3 Quality First 25
What Counts More Than Calories
Use Product Placement at Home
Work Faster While You Walk
4 Break the Cycle 32
Sugar Is the Next Nicotine
Substitutes Are a Nicotine Patch
Take Two Every Twenty
5 Staying Healthy 39
Judge Food by the Color of Its Skin
A Vaccine for the Common Cold
Quality Beats Quantity in Bed
6 What Counts 45
Wear a New Pair of Genes
Measuring Makes You Move More
Target 10,000
7 Refined Fuel 51
Be Less Refined
Family Style Is Making Us Fat
Burn Calories After Your Workout
8 Tuning Matters 57
Empty Stomach, Bad Choices
The 20-Minute Meal Rule
Move Early for a 12-Hour Mood Boost
9 Shortcuts 64
The First Order Anchors the Table
Realign Your Spine
Fight the Light at Night
10 Decisions 70
Prioritize Your Protein
Stop Buying Junk for Friends
Find Your Motivation to Move
11 Working 76
Keep Work From Killing You
The Danger of Desktop Dining
Working While Intoxicated
12 Quitting 82
The Throwaway Foods
Help a Quitter Win
Hit Snooze and You Lose
13 Myth Busting 88
The Butter Is Healthier Than the Bread
Don’t Eat
Your Meat and Potatoes
Be Cold in Bed
14 Home 94
Small Plates, Smaller Waistline
Staying Active
Starts at Home
Make Sleep a Family Value
15 Get Ahead 100
Don’t Be Fooled by the Decoy
Structure Exercise for Enjoyment
A Night to Remember
16 Energy 106
Avoid a High-Fat Hangover
Take Your Brain for a Walk
Try Exercise Instead of Sleeping Pills
17 Expectations 113
Stigmatize Sinful Foods
Organic Does Not
Equal Healthy
Go Public With a Goal
18 Good Nights 119
Feast at Sunrise, Fast at Sunset
Television Shortens
Your Life Span
Protect Your Final Hour
19 Think Again 125
Dried and Juiced Is Fruitless
Don’t Judge a Box
by Its Cover
Make Noise at Night
20 Your Routine 132
Less Heat, Better to Eat
Driving to Divorce
Sleeping in Only Sounds Good
21 Simple Steps 138
Buy Use It or Lose It Foods
How You Move Matters
Keep Stress From Ruining Your Sleep
22 Looking Good 145
Get a Tan From Tomatoes
Look Younger With Each Step
Sleep to Impress
23 An Extra Boost 151
Eat the Healthiest Food First
The Right Way to Get High
Sleep Your Way to a New Day
24 Reminders 157
Grab a Handful
Take Five Outside
Pay for Peer Pressure
25 Prevention 164
Eat to Beat Cancer
Get a Prescription for Exercise
Know Two Numbers by Heart
26 Daily Choices 171
Buy Willpower at the Store
Clean Your Brain and Bowels
Sleep on It
27 New Habits 176
Save the Cake for Your Birthday
Indulge Less to Enjoy More
Take Credit to Make It Count
28 Trendsetters 183
Broccoli Is the New Black
Stick With Coffee, Tea, and Water
Tame Ties and Tight Pants
29 Ideas for Life 191
Fight Risk With Food
Gain Sleep With Weight Loss
Eight Is Enough
30 Wrapping Up 197
Every Meal Matters
Put Activity Before Exercise
invest in Sleep for Your Future
Concluding Thoughts 203
Putting It All Together
First 30 Days Challenge 209
Notes 219
Acknowledgements 245


The book is divided into three main sections, each focused on one of the core elements of well-being: eating, moving, and sleeping.

  1. Eat: Rath emphasizes the importance of making wise food choices. He discusses the significance of eating nutrient-rich foods, avoiding processed and unhealthy options, and maintaining portion control. He provides practical tips for making healthier food choices and highlights the role of nutrition in preventing chronic diseases.
  2. Move: The “Move” section focuses on the benefits of regular physical activity. Rath stresses the importance of incorporating movement into our daily routines, whether through exercise, walking, or other physical activities. He explains how even small changes in our daily movement habits can make a significant difference in our overall health.
  3. Sleep: The “Sleep” section delves into the science of sleep and its profound impact on our cognitive function, mood, and physical health. Rath provides insights into how to improve the quality and duration of your sleep, including tips for creating a sleep-conducive environment.

Throughout the book, Rath emphasizes the idea that small, sustainable changes in these three areas can lead to significant improvements in one’s health and well-being over time. He also discusses the concept of “Wellbeing Microsteps,” which are small, manageable actions that individuals can take to improve their lifestyle choices gradually.

Review: “Eat Move Sleep” offers a well-researched and practical guide to improving one’s overall well-being through simple lifestyle changes. Tom Rath’s writing is accessible and relatable, making the complex science behind nutrition, exercise, and sleep easy to understand for the average reader. The book is filled with actionable tips and recommendations, making it a valuable resource for anyone looking to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

One of the strengths of the book is its emphasis on the cumulative effects of small choices. Rath highlights that making sustainable, incremental changes in our daily habits can lead to significant improvements in health and longevity. This approach is encouraging and less intimidating than drastic, unsustainable lifestyle overhauls.

However, some readers may find that the book lacks in-depth information on the scientific studies and research behind its claims. While Rath provides an overview of the science, those seeking a more comprehensive understanding may need to explore additional sources.

In conclusion, “Eat Move Sleep” is a valuable resource for anyone looking to enhance their overall well-being through manageable lifestyle changes. It offers practical advice and emphasizes the importance of consistency in making these changes. While it may not be a comprehensive scientific reference, it serves as a motivating and accessible guide for those interested in leading a healthier life.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

    Ads Blocker Image Powered by Code Help Pro

    Your Support Matters...

    We run an independent site that is committed to delivering valuable content, but it comes with its challenges. Many of our readers use ad blockers, causing our advertising revenue to decline. Unlike some websites, we have not implemented paywalls to restrict access. Your support can make a significant difference. If you find this website useful and choose to support us, it would greatly secure our future. We appreciate your help. If you are currently using an ad blocker, please consider disabling it for our site. Thank you for your understanding and support.