That good health is a priceless resource that we need to take care of is something we all know. The pandemic has only further emphasized this truth. Covid-19 has done unspeakable damage to health and public life, but it has also opened our eyes to the fact that our bodies are all that we have. Through illnesses, strain, stress, fatigue, and accidents, our bodies sustain us until the very end. We seldom take into consideration the sheer miracle of this fact.
As technology improves, health as a priority takes a back seat. Today, not only is it possible to do countless chores without moving a finger, but our uber-busy lifestyle also leaves very little time for exercise and regeneration. Consistently working out and having Insta-worthy açaí bowls for breakfast don’t really align with the lifestyle of a regular busybody who works 5 days a week. While it is aspirational, we might not always have the time or money to live that life. As the Dubai Fitness Challenge rolls in, here are 10 ways to restore and nourish your body if you’re a busy working professional:
A busy lifestyle often equates to less time in the kitchen. It’s not always realistic to cook 3 meals a day while also working a full-time job so don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for not being able to do it! Meal prepping is the oldest trick in the book to cut back on consuming takeout and time. For a few hours every weekend, prep quick, easy meals in large quantities before dividing them into reheatable containers that you can then stack in the fridge.
A few healthy, tasty options of dishes you could try out are pasta salads, quesadillas, chicken and vegetables, etc. Having a batch of fresh home-cooked meals that you could throw into your bag for lunch as you head to work will keep you from reaching for takeout options. Your pocket and tummy will both thank us!
Bring your own snacks:
Oftentimes we get peckish in between work—you know that feeling in between or after meals when you’re not exactly hungry but would like a snack or sweet. The best solution to this conundrum is to pack a little snack beforehand. Reward yourself in between the workday with yoghurt and berries, rice crackers, carrots and hummus, etc. that are both fairly inexpensive and won’t take more than a couple minutes to pack. This will give you the sweet/savoury kick that you need without undermining your craving or running to the vending machine every few hours.
For those of us who work until late evening, just the prospect of strenuous physical exercise upon reaching home is laughable. But what if I say that you could make a difference simply by walking? Research has proved that walking more than 6,000 steps every day improves one’s cardiovascular strength, muscle endurance, and stamina. While focused workouts help more in reducing weight in specific areas, it’s no secret that walking both tones your body and helps burn fat. If your office is located close to your house, instead of reaching for your car keys, why don’t you make it a practice to walk that distance every day? Parking your car farther away from the entrance, taking periodic rounds of your office, and opting for the steps instead of the elevator are small yet significant ways to increase your step count. Walking also helps to clear your head and for your body to absorb fresh air and Vitamin D.
Take much-needed tech breaks:
Nourishing your body and mind doesn’t just mean eating good food and working out. Being a working professional in today’s world means that there isn’t a moment in your day when your eyes and brain aren’t being assaulted by screens. We work on screens all day and then come back home and use our phones and TV screens to relax. Not only is this wreaking huge havoc on our attention spans and eyesight, but it’s also negatively impacting our mental health.
Every day, make it a habit to inculcate an activity that does not use technology or screens. It doesn’t necessarily have to involve a lot of time, money, or effort. A few fun examples are doing a newspaper crossword every day at lunch, skipping a rope for 15 minutes every day, crocheting something, tending to your plants, doing yoga or meditation, playing a board game or a puzzle with your kids, etc. This activity has nothing to do with being productive and everything to do with building a sacred sanctum of just 15-20 minutes where technology has no space.
“Bank” your calories:
This concept has been gaining a lot of attention on social media and for all the right reasons. For many of us, turning to rigid diets cold turkey only ever backfires. We strive hard and deserve a little indulgence every now and then. "Banking" your calories essentially means saving up your calories for the weekend.
During the weekdays, try to stick to your healthy home-cooked meals. However, during the weekends, you can use up these “saved” calories. This means that you can go for brunch with your friends or order a pizza with your family without feeling too guilty as you’ve earned this with a little self-restraint during the week. You can also use this on a day-to-day basis. If you eat a sweet at lunch, refrain from having one at night. If you’re going to be drinking alcohol at night, have a less carb-centred lunch. Without calorie-counting or starving yourself, organize the way you consume food.
Replace caffeinated beverages:
High-powered lifestyles require high levels of energy which is often supplemented by energy drinks and copious amounts of coffee. But today, these caffeinated beverages are no longer simply aiding us in our work but rather, we’ve become slaves to them. Slowly but steadily, replace coffee with Matcha, lemon tea, or green alternatives. These give you a boost of energy without that afternoon dip of exhaustion. While it is a difficult change to make, in just a few weeks, you’ll feel fresher as your body weans off its dependency on caffeine. If you cannot part with it, having it 90 minutes after waking is a good way to increase and sustain your cortisol levels (the chemical that affects wakefulness).
Grocery shop wisely:
How you buy your groceries plays a huge role in your and your family’s health. Here are a few things you can keep in mind while grocery shopping:
Healthy snacks don't always have to be bland or expensive.
On a day-to-basis, we seldom think about why we do the things that we do. Why do we choose these shoes over that? Why do we take a second serving of rice or reach for an apple instead of an orange? These choices seem intrinsic and natural, but are they really? Being more mindful and intuitive helps in getting more out of life. When you eat food, no matter the food, try to relish it without disruptions and screens. Regard fullness and what it means to you. Are you eating that cupcake because you’re hungry, need a sugar hit, or are simply bored? Are you making a bowl of ramen because you’re craving some or need a snack while watching the new Netflix series? Are you reaching for that brand of cereal because you truly enjoy the taste, or because it’s something you’ve always chosen?
So many of the choices we make surrounding health and food are done on autopilot. Because our brain is cluttered with meeting schedules and children’s doctor appointments, we trust these smaller choices to take their own course. Try to ask yourself why you’re choosing a particular food and what that food makes you feel. Without the burden of weight gain and body image, try to figure out your relationship with food and substances. Are you an emotional or stress eater? Do you use cigarettes and alcohol as social lubricants? Does going for a run ease tension in your body? There are no right or wrong answers, but it will bring you closer to your body and more intentional in your choices.
Just show up
We always fall prey to the all-or-nothing mindset which keeps us from understanding that progress is never linear. Oftentimes, we’d come back from work with no energy or motivation to do a full round of cardio. In these times, take a quick walk around your building instead. You’ll quickly realize that you’re feeling more energized and may even feel up to a round of cardio. This is because the first step is often the hardest. Chances are that once you’re in your gym gear, you’ll feel closer to your goal of cardio. But even if you don’t end up doing the exercise, just you taking the walk has ensured that you’ve maintained the streak and given your body that much movement. Investing in a standing desk, practising neck exercises at your desk, and reducing the number of smoke breaks you take are all tiny practices that gradually improve your health.
Go easy on yourself
Life is hard and intentions are always easier than actions. Not being able to adequately juggle taking care of your body and your family while also being career people often pushes us into pits of despair and guilt. We dub ourselves “bad parents”, “lazy”, etc. But we’re not superhuman and we ought to remember that we’re doing the best we can, even on our worst days.
Don’t make health a life sentence, make it fun! If you’re craving a Thai meal for lunch or are too tired to go to the gym one day, give yourself that! Don’t aspire for unrealistic models of health and beauty and never berate yourself for not looking like influencers online. Remember, that’s a full-time job and you already have one. Always keep in mind that a body’s primary function is to keep you alive and healthy—not to look ‘pretty’ or ‘slim’—and if your body fulfils that function, then you have a privilege many don’t.
Remember, good health is a series of good habits. It involves your body unlearning a lot of past tendencies and cravings. Resisting processed desserts for seven days in a row can be hard but on the eighth day, you’ll find that your body doesn’t crave it all that much. What you feel you can’t do without are simply what your body is used to. Introducing smaller, better habits into your lifestyle like taking your dog out for a walk every day or reading 2 pages instead of watching a YouTube video and cutting down on harmful habits like eating sugar after every meal will lead to a lasting healthy regime. Health rests not just in big gestures of marathons and keto diets, but also in these smaller modifications in your diet and lifestyle—all of which will be extremely hard in the beginning but will seem more natural the more you do it.
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