By: Julia Bellotti
Disclaimer: This is not a post about how to lose weight, nor is it medical advice. As with any diet and fitness recommendations you encounter, please consult your doctor to make sure you are making the proper choices for you and your body.
To begin, I want to define healthy and fit so we are on the same page.
Healthy: Indicative of, or promoting, being free from illness or injury.
Fit: In good health, particularly because of regular physical exercise.
You will notice that neither of these definitions say how much you should weigh, what your Body Mass Index (BMI) should be, or which organic food is the best to eat. Being healthy and fit is about preventing sickness, disease, and injury. What works for someone else may not work for you and that’s OK.
The two main areas people think of regarding the words “healthy” and “fit” are diet (not a crash diet - diet as in the food you consume on a daily basis) and fitness. We’ll provide strategies for working both of those into your busy schedule, as well as talk about general well-being and mental health.
You wake up at 6am. You shower, get dressed, and – Great Scott, look at the time! You throw on a jacket, grab your wallet, and leave. Sound familiar?
For far too many of us, this is the reality every weekday morning. You’ll end up grabbing a coffee on the go, not eating breakfast at all, buying a sandwich for lunch, and then coming home but feeling too tired to make a well thought-out dinner. The trick that I’ve discovered for eating healthy with my busy schedule is meal prepping.
Every Sunday, I buy my groceries for the whole week – breakfast, lunch and dinner – and I make all my meals for each day of the week. It sounds daunting but it really does not take that much time.
My breakfast is straightforward: hard-boiled eggs and Greek yogurt. I make a whole batch of hard-boiled eggs on Sunday, and in the morning I stick 2 in my purse along with my yogurt and I eat everything once I get to work.
I tend to eat the same thing for lunch most days, but you can buy several things and mix and match lunch and dinner. There are about 10,000 crock-pot recipes that really only require a little work (check out 50 of them here!). You stick everything in your crock-pot and leave it all day or night. Then voila! You’ve got 3-5 meals ready to go. My advice would be to start your slow cooker on Sunday mornings, and then Sunday evenings you can parcel out individual servings in Tupperware so all you have to do is grab and go in the morning.
Other foods that can be easily prepared on a Sunday include a roast, sweet potatoes (I just cut mine up and bake them with oregano), spaghetti squash, roasted green beans, the list goes on. I put all of my food in Tupperware and then I don’t have to worry about cooking at all during the week. My meal prep usually takes me 3-4 hours on Sunday, which is a small price to pay considering I save money by not buying lunch and/or dinner everyday, and I’m feeding my body the proper nutrients it needs with balanced meals.
Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist about what you should be eating specifically. They may recommend you eat X amount of protein, Y amount of carbohydrates, and Z amount of fat. When you’re preparing all (or most) of your own food, it’s really easy to track exactly what you’re eating. I use the MyFitnessPal app to record all my food to make sure I’m on track with my food goals.
Food is arguably more important than working out in terms of keeping your body healthy. If you HAVE to choose one or the other, prioritize food. But our next section should give you some good ideas to add a little fitness into your busy schedule.
Ideally, you would workout 3-4 times a week for at least 30 minutes each time. If you have that time, great! I recommend doing your workouts in the morning when you wake up, and alternate between some High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and strength training.
HIIT workouts are rather quick (10-20 minutes) and alternate between giving 100% effort and resting. So a sample workout could be 30 seconds sprinting and 30 seconds walking for 10 minutes. It could be 45 seconds of pushups, squats, burpees, or split jumps followed by 15 seconds of rest for 12 minutes total (3 rounds of each exercise). These workouts are great if you’re short on time and perfect in the morning to get your metabolism up for the whole day.
If you don’t have 45 minutes to block out for a workout and shower, consider these options:
You can make some simple adjustments to your life to get your heart rate up and start building some strength without spending an hour at the gym. Experiment and see what works best for you!
Not sure where to start with your workouts? Check out these resources:
Don't like to hit the gym but want personal training help? Here are some great (and mostly free!) workout program options you can do at home, including FitnessBlender - the over 500 free YouTube workout videos that incorporate a lot of HIIT options varying between 10 minutes to over an hour of exercise.
General Well-being & Mental Health
Most people think that there are 2 main components to being healthy and fit: food and exercise. But there is an incredibly important third category as well: your general well-being. You can eat healthy all you want, and exercise a ton, but are you sleeping enough? Do you have healthy relationships with friends and family? Do you take care of your mental health?
Sleep is probably the first thing adults compromise in their busy schedules, but here’s why it may be better to cut time elsewhere in your life according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH):
Sleep is important because…
NIH recommends that adults get 7-8 hours of sleep each day. And if you’re thinking that sleeping until 1pm on Saturdays, or taking a nap will make up for your 5 hours of sleep Monday through Friday, think again. Sleeping extra on the weekends or taking naps do NOT make up lost sleep hours. This is where your time management skills come in handy. Set an alarm to remind you to go to bed each night at the same time, and try to wake up at the same time every day. You’ll end up feeling a lot better and your body and brain will thank you for taking care of it.
In addition to getting enough sleep, it’s important to take care of your mental health, not just your physical health. It’s a good idea to build in short breaks during your day and longer breaks every week. This could be something as simple as listening to music, watching a favorite TV show, reading a book, or grabbing a coffee with a friend. You need to give your mind a rest, whether from work, school, or other activities. Also make sure to take a vacation every now and then. Historically Americans receive the least vacation time, and we are the worst as using it. USE YOUR VACATIONS. Take day trips, weekend trips, long weekend trips, week-long trips, it doesn’t matter. You will need a break and you should listen to your brain. Project Time Off has some fantastic research on the importance of taking vacation, including a study that shows vacation gives you the same biological benefit as meditation. You can vacation alone, with family, or friends. If you decide to vacation alone, great! Make sure that you also make time to maintain your relationships with people.
Friendships are incredibly beneficial to your mental health and overall well-being. The great thing in our digital age is that it’s very easy to maintain these relationships even on a busy schedule. However you need to be doing more than just liking each other’s photos on Instagram. You need to be able to share your triumphs, challenges, failures, losses, and successes with your friends. Schedule meeting up with friends at least two times per month. This could be breakfast, going on a run together, happy hour, etc. Get creative! The important thing is that you’re maintaining your close relationships. Psychology Today cites a study that says, “A key finding from a major study of adults’ lives was that those who had close, long-term friends fared better than those who were less social. Close friendships enhanced moods and functioning as well as emotional and physical health.”
Being an adult is hard. Being healthy and fit as a busy adult is even harder. But don’t be intimidated! Incorporate some of the strategies laid out here and you’ll be well on your way. If you have additional ideas, comment below! We’re always open to incorporating feedback to better help our readers.