Start today for holistic wellness! 

Express News Service

Small steps can lead to big changes. That’s the key message wellness experts offer us on this World Health Day. 

A little effort — shoving aside that ‘too hectic, no time, no mood’ excuse — can go a long way in boosting your as well as your dear ones’ physical and mental well-being. So, let’s get started with the basics: 

Respect the gut, eat right 
Eating right should not be misinterpreted as a “strict diet”. Rather, it is about cultivating a healthy habit of consuming a well-balanced diet. Kochi-based wellness guru Rajiv Ambat explains that it essentially means “a good combination of protein, fat, carbohydrates and various other nutrients, and vitamins”. 

“I am against fad and restrictive diets, which totally block out some food items. For instance, fruit intake is limited in the keto diet. There should be a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet so as to ensure a consistent supply of multiple nutrients,” says Rajiv, who heads NuvoVivo Centre for Obesity, Lifestyle Disorders & Research. 

“Also, eating right does not mean bringing down carbohydrates and increasing intake of more protein, especially for the 30-plus age group. And there is nothing wrong in indulging in cakes, ice creams and sweets once in a while — as long as your doc has not advised a blanket ban. No point in living every day for tomorrow, and never living today! Be sensible, keep a tab on the quality and quantity of the intake. That’s all.”

Dr Antony Paul Chettupuzha advises to “respect the gut” and consume food on time. 

“Skipping meals – a common issue these days – can disrupt your digestion, leading to other concerns like headaches, gastritis and even body stress,” cautions the senior gastroenterology consultant at VPS Lakeshore, Kochi.  

“Never skip breakfast and lunch, and have them on time. Dinner should be light, ideally taken by 7pm. As per the old rule, an ideal diet was 30 per cent carbohydrates, followed by protein, fibre, minerals, fats and vitamins. But, for the present lifestyle, about 50 per cent of diet should be made of fibre, especially fresh fruit and vegetables.” 

Dr Antony adds that there is no concept of a magic bullet solution for a healthy body. “Knowing what you eat and correcting deficiencies is vital,” he says.  “Not only skipping food, but mental stress can also disturb your gut. Smoking, and consumption of caffeine, alcohol, citrus fruits, etc., can cause acid reflux. Never overfill your stomach, and ensure dinner is taken at least three hours before sleep.”

Gastric issues, Dr Antony notes, are on the rise. The primary reason is improper food habits, he says. 
“For instance, milk is good until the teenage. After that, the levels of enzymes that help digest milk start dipping. Thus, some people develop lactose intolerance, bloating and diarrhoea. The majority of lactose intolerance issues can be eliminated by limiting the intake of fresh milk.”

Dr Gayathri L K puts forth similar advice. “Fill only 80 per cent of your stomach with food, and drink the right amount of water,” says the assistant professor of community medicine at Government TD Medical College, Alappuzha. 

“In breakfast and lunch plates, add a quarter portion of protein, a major portion of fruits and vegetables and a small portion of dairy products such as yoghurt or curd recommended. Avoid saturated fats and trans fats. Snack on fruits and vegetables for hunger quick-fixes.”

Sitting is the new smoking
Fitness is not = hitting the gym. It’s more about bodily activities that move all the muscles in one’s body, say experts. Physical activities should be practised based on one’s age and body nature. Finding time for exercise is vital for good health. Do not ignore, warn experts. Lack of exercise, they underline, can lead to poor mental well-being, too.  

“Walking is a great activity to start off,” says Rajiv of NuvoVivo. “However, youngsters, especially, should add cardio exercises or yoga to their daily regimen. The next step would be low-intensity workouts. This is critical, considering post-Covid concerns. For a beginner, 30 minutes of exercise a day is advisable.” 

Dr Gayathri warns that people engaged in sedentary work have a higher possibility of lifestyle diseases. “In fact, a sedentary lifestyle is affecting children, too, these days. Sitting is the new smoking,” she says. 
“Stretches and body movements like walking or cycling can be greatly beneficial. The World Health Organization recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week for every grown-up. 
“Hitting a gym may not be sustainable and affordable for all. Start with easy targets like 10 minutes of jogging, walking, etc. These are sustainable and can increase gradually. Parents should ensure children take up physical activities – aerobic exercises, perhaps – during this vacation.”

Destress, sleep tight  
Sleep plays a critical role in our health. Experts say eight hours of sound sleep is a must, especially considering the rising incidence of stress and hypertension issues. Sleep deprivation, they add, can even lead to obesity, heart disease and accelerated ageing. And studies have shown quality sleep is essential to tackle mood disorders. 

Maintain a proper sleep timetable. Avoid screen time just before sleep – keep that phone away for at least half an hour before hitting the bed. Keep the room dark. These are the basics that some of you might be already aware of. 

Besides good sleep, destressing is paramount for one’s mental and physical wellness. And the best way to do so lies in Vedic wisdom – yoga and meditation. Deep breathing for a few minutes is a simple and effective way to calm the mind, and also help in problem-solving, says Dr Gayathri. 

“A deep breath when you feel stressed or angry can do wonders. Anger, stress, and anxiety are more common among children and youth. Deep breathing and meditation help alleviate them,” she notes. 
“In the case of children, parents should encourage them to socialise with other children, engage in activities. We all know gadget addiction can make them inactive and stubborn, and lead to other issues as they grow up.” 

Healthy relationships
Positive emotions such as love, peace and happiness play a major role in one’s holistic well-being. Be it any relationship, these emotions, and mutual respect are essential. Good relationships enhance mental well-being, says Kochi-based life coach Koruth Varghese. One’s approach to relationships is important, he adds. “In today’s world, we should not take any relationship for granted,” says Varghese. “Respect each other – spouses, parents and children, teachers and students, lovers, and friends. The idea of love must include respecting and trusting the partner, with defined boundaries. Understanding this can eliminate over-possessiveness, toxic relations and even love crimes.” Varghese says there should be more social emphasis on empathy, trust, respect, open-mindedness, etc. “Children must be taught about setting personal spaces and respecting others’ boundaries,” he adds. “Parents should consciously avoid excessive rigidity and control while dealing with children.”  

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