Lifestyle changes and health

HealthlifeLifestyle changes over the last two decades have led to the emergence of a slew of health related issues.

I migrated from Mumbai, India to United States over 2 decades ago. I have been a practicing RD for several years. Lately in the past couple of years, I have been witnessing a lot of younger South Asians coming for nutritional counselling with metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes and hyperlipidemia. “What is the root cause?” is one question that I have always posed to myself. And the answer I have found is “lifestyle change”.

Let me share with you my thoughts and a comparison of the changes over the past two decades.

Life in America is always busy. Circa 1990 – it was a 9-5 schedule with an hour of relaxing lunch break. Mothers usually had a less demanding job and cooked at home. South Asian kitchens never relied on ready-to-eat frozen meals or packaged pre-cooked curries and frozen rotis. Weekend parties and eating out at restaurants were once a month. Pizzas, burgers were the kids’ favorites but was not an everyday routine on the dining table. Moms had time to prepare fresh meals daily. We wore our pride on our sleeves as we cooked Indian delicacies at home and never relied on the foods bought from stores.

Fast forward a few years with the IT revolution in the late 90s, a period that saw the beginning of a new lifestyle. This meant eating at the desk with stress over deadlines, in house cafeterias with lots of heavy unhealthy choices and of course an insignificant salad bar. No one knew that the sedentary lifestyle coupled with the food choices kicked started a lot of health issues.

A few years later with more working men and women and the ever increasing spending power, eating out from being a luxury was transformed into a necessity. Women burnt themselves out trying to juggle between their demanding jobs and taking care of the home and so frozen pizzas, readymade curries, naans and carry outs and fast foods, sodas became a regular part of their family’s diet. To de-stress socializing every weekend became a norm where alcohol was a routine drink and tasty late night meals, loaded with oodles of fat, common. Exercising was no longer a priority with this busy life style and soon dropped out of their hectic schedule.

Today, the standard of living of South Asians has increased with higher budgets for eating out, vacations and clothing. With the advent of this lifestyle change, food habits changed too as more junk foods and sodas and trendy energy drinks became common place. Drinking water is not fashionable anymore.

What can you do about this? Here are a few tips:

  • Restrict eating out to 2 times in a month
  • Don’t eat late at a party and don’t consume alcohol on an empty stomach. Stick to a glass of wine for the entire evening
  • Take lunch from home and relax and eat at the desk for 20 mins and then go outside and walk for 30 mins. Fresh air will definitely rejuvenate you
  • Educate your kids about junk / processed foods which are loaded with toxic processed chemicals. Make healthy and tasty snacks with them so they learn to eat healthy
  • Plan and shop ahead and prepare more meals at home
  • Choose REAL foods more close to nature – fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid the WHITES (white Maida, white sugar, white bread and white rice) Choose more whole grain options
  • Drink more water and choose healthier alternatives to sodas
  • Control your portions and watch what you eat.
  • EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE!!! It’s the only wonder drug we have. Exercise for a minimum of 150 minutes a week to improve your health and relieve stress
  • Sit and have a family dinner together so you can feel relaxed

Remember life is hectic and deadlines are always there but make HEALTH your #1 priority. The adage HEALTH IS WEALTH is so true. You choose because YOUR CHOICES MATTER.