In the fast-paced lives we lead, especially here in the UAE, finding a balance between a hectic schedule and a healthy lifestyle is an ongoing struggle for many and a journey I personally still continue to take.
As a doctor in nutrition, I always advise my patients on the importance of having a 360-degree approach to wellness, improving performance, and taking into account how all areas of life impact overall wellbeing and success. With many of us focused on our careers, we often compromise other aspects of our wellbeing. But in order to truly thrive, there needs to be a variety of supportive techniques that balance proper nutrition, a commitment to fitness, self-care, rest, and mindfulness, as well as continued learning and evolution. Remember that we are multidimensional beings and work at our best when we feed our whole selves and do so consistently. This includes not only our careers but relationships, self-care tactics, interests, and passions.
We tend to lose ourselves in daily life pressures and forget to address the bigger picture. Having said this, we are all on a personal journey with different passions, objectives, and life demands. Finding a balance between performance and mindfulness is not a cookie-cutter approach and this is where the support of health and wellness professionals, such as myself, and programs come in and can be tremendously helpful in creating a firm foundation with long-term results. This can sometimes mean a tailored approach to hit target areas of improvement, with results, which fit into your schedule, is sustainable, and is enjoyable for you at the same time.
That being said, we must remember that there is no magic solution to living a healthy life, which is why I am uncompromising in my quest to find the best result-driven solutions that help my patients achieve their goals, without neglecting any aspect of their life, and this starts with forming healthier habits. Every established habit starts as a single action. Repeated over time, they become second nature. So with this in mind, here are some simple steps to help you start making small changes to your lifestyle to improve your overall health and wellbeing, whilst leading a busy life.
Don’t go it alone, find your support team.
Research has proven that practical and emotional support is crucial for success in leading a healthier lifestyle. Let your family and friends know how they can help and surround yourself with people who understand your journey, can develop your powers of expression, enhance your body’s capabilities and help you discover new things that ignite the senses.
Use the science of habit formation.
A habit is something you do automatically. Habit formation science shows that replacing old habits with new positive ones is much more effective than simply trying to stop an old habit, especially if the new habit makes you feel good. This reinforcement makes you want to repeat the new behaviour again so it’s more likely to become a habit. What new habits could make you feel good and be great for your weight loss efforts?
Sort your surroundings, to make healthier choices easier.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to make huge changes to eat healthier. If the nutrient-rich, healthier choices are in your vision and easy to grab (with the less healthy choices tucked away in the pantry where you can’t see them), it’s human nature that you’ll be more likely to reach for them. Set yourself up for success and think about the small changes you can make to your environment; home, workspace, and even your car. Over time, these small changes will make a big difference to your health and will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Planning is a key part of staying on track. You can choose whether to do this each day or each week. Plan what meals you will have, what snacks, and the timings and amounts. This will allow you to prepare some meals in advance to make it easier. Make sure you have the foods or ingredients at home that you’ll need, making you less vulnerable to poorer choices if and when you get hungry.
Keep mindfulness front and centre.
For many, mindfulness is often a component missing from the toolbox. However, it can be helpful to understand your emotions and triggers for unpleasant emotional states including stress, sadness, and even boredom. This, in turn, can help you put plans in place for managing these emotions in a healthier way such as making a list of distraction techniques for when boredom strikes, or soothing activities for a stressful day.
Make sure to get a good night’s rest.
Getting quality sleep is crucial to feeling your best, doing your best, and living your best life. A lack of sleep can make the challenges of day-to-day life more difficult to manage which may also make it harder to balance performance and mindfulness with other commitments. A lack of sleep can affect mood and brain function, and lead to poor decision-making. Evidence has also shown that consistently getting less than six hours of sleep a night may alter the hormones that regulate your hunger and appetite, and influence your healthy eating habits.
Celebrate successes – big and small.
Plan how you want to reward and reinforce the amazing changes you are making. Make a list of rewards for each victory, which could be as simple as a magazine you love to read, a walk listening to your favourite podcast or something more special like a new outfit or a holiday.
With all this said, always remember that the simpler the plan, the higher the likelihood of success. Nothing is written in stone, but through consistency, planning, support and simplicity, you can achieve your goals.
By Maha Shahin, Clinical Nutrition, Consultant at Allurion Dietitian Board