Eating the Elephant: SEMM

Yesterday, I introduced you to how to sift out pseudoscience online and prioritize your health. I used this graphic to show a hierarchical approach to developing healthier habits.

The pyramid is set up this way because greater competency in the lower levels provides for greater stability in the higher ones. You’ve heard the notion that, “You can’t outrun a bad diet.” Well, it’s true.

But sleep is also important. A good night’s sleep will regulate your hormones and help you make better decisions during the day. You will eat and manage your day better.

Planning out your day will help you set time aside for daily exercise.

And daily exercise will help you eventually become proficient in body weight, strength, and sport-specific training.

For this reason, you must first establish healthy SEMM habits (sleep, eat, manage, and move). Prioritizing these before workout programming ensures longevity and vitality.

What is the SEMM Approach?

I first learned of the SEMM approach from my mentor, Chris Cooper. He taught me that the SEMM model would allow for my coaches to further personalize parts of your fitness prescription.

Here are the basic goals for most people:


  • Fulfill basic sleep quantity – Get 7-8 hours of sleep consistently.
  • Consistent sleep/wake schedule – go to bed and wake up at same time.
  • Full of energy upon waking – you don’t feel like you need/want another hour of sleep.
  • Room temperature less than or equal to 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Avoid sleep disruption – No alcohol within 2 hours, and no caffeine with 6 hours, of going to bed.
  • Wake up pain free.


  • Eat minimally processed, “real” foods.
  • Stick to healthy options such as vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds, unprocessed whole grains, beans and legumes, dairy products with few ingredients, lean meats, fish, eggs, and natural nut butters.
  • Focus on what works for your body to feel its best.
  • Drink water as your main fluid – limit alcohol, juice, and beverages with added sugar.
  • Plan ahead for success: Set up your environment to make the healthy choice the easy choice.
  • Don’t eat your feelings: Learn positive coping strategies without turning to food for comfort.
  • Eat slowly and mindfully, sitting down at a table (whenever possible).
  • Listen to your body’s natural hunger and satiety cues: Eat until satisfied, not stuffed.

Manage (Mindset and Planning)

  • Have clarity on your values and priorities.
  • Actively manage your daily schedule – this is in opposition to having a day that is reactive in nature.
  • Practice gratitude through “Bright Spots” recognition.
  • Give your time in service to a cause that resonates with you.
  • Daily habit of mindfulness – this can be meditation, deep prayer, or anything similar.
  • Join a group that has similar values and goals as you. This could be a gym with group classes, yoga studio, or a gym where social interaction is encouraged.


  • Fulfill basic movement quantity – Get at least 30 minutes of movement throughout the day.
  • Strength training at least twice a week.
  • Aerobic exercise at least once a week.
  • High intensity exercise at least twice a week.
  • No chronic pain in hips, neck, back, knees, ankles, or shoulders.
  • Able to implement good movement practices in everyday life.
  • Proactive in your posture and position throughout the day.

Daily Directive

Focusing in on and strengthening these four areas will only improve the top three levels.

Identify what needs more consistency in your life: sleep, eat, manage, or move. Then, read through the above ideas in that section in order to set a goal to develop a habit in that area.

Strive to perform that habit every day for seven days consecutively.


Other Articles in this Series:

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