Editor's note: This article is the second in a series on wellness and gay men from Devin Wicks, ACE, AFA, who is coordinating UC Berkeley's pioneering new wellness program. See his Welcome to Wellness for an introduction to wellness and a series of starter wellness tips for gay men in their twenties.
Last week, I explained the concept of wellness—as opposed to just health or fitness—and told you a little about how gay men can improve their wellness in their twenties. To refresh your memory, your wellness consists of six areas in your life: physical, social, spiritual, intellectual, occupational, and psychological. You want to keep all of these areas on track, and in balance—but, of course, at various times of your life, some will be more demanding than others. Today, I'd like to move on to your thirties, and talk about your occupational wellness.
For many gay men, our thirties are a time when the chaos and uncertainty of our twenties have begun do settle. Whew! But now, our careers have really begun to develop. With that, our own personal wellness focus tends to shift more toward our career, leaving little time for the things that we took for granted just 10 years ago. This can have benefits, as your job becomes more fulfilling and engaging—but it will also take a toll on the rest of your life, if you don't take steps to keep things in balance. Below are some tips for maintaining a balanced life even as you advance your career and work toward your dream job.
Tips for Thirty-Somethings
Who are guys in their thirties? Often, they're all work, little play, and not too much wellness. Here's the irony many men face in their thirties—you have more disposable income and less time to dispose of it. Usually, men in their thirties tend to be in decent health, but it's also the time when things like diet and exercise may start to slip. It's not as easy to eat right and get to the gym when you have so little time—and as you age, the consequences of letting go of diet and exercise get worse. But here's some good news—it's not too late to keep yourself in tip-top shape and, since you have less time to dispose of that income anyway, why not start thinking about what you can really do with it? Here are three things you can do to keep your ship on an even keel while you work like a dog:
Eating Well: Three Tips for Eating on the Run
Follow these tips to make sure you eat a well-balanced diet, no matter how busy your day:
- Shop on the weekend and pre-pack food: Being in a hurry is deadly for your waistline. You grab something at or near the office, and it's pretty much a guarantee that you're eating excess calories. Why not just bring lunch? Make a habit of shopping on the weekend, when you can look ahead to the week and do some planning. Buy lettuce, chicken, nuts, and vegetables. Bag all these components as salads. If you're worried about moisture on the lettuce, put a small, absorbent cloth in the bag. And, if you de-stem your lettuce, it will stay fresh and nutritious longer, because the lettuce leaves will no longer be trying to feed the stems.
- Eat small, balanced meals throughout the day: It can't be said enough—you must not skip meals. As Manuel Villacorta, creator of the RealJock Healthy Weight-Loss Programs, put it in a recent nutrition article on raising your metabolism, "Every time you eat and you digest you are actually burning calories—this is the thermic effect of food—and that raises your metabolism. So, to eat more often maximizes your metabolism." Plan to eat multiple small meals all day long. Note these meals should balance fat, protein, and carbohydrates. "For example," Villacorta says, "for a snack eat an apple with some almonds and a low-fat cheese."
- Learn to order healthier food at restaurants. Restaurants don't need to be the death of your waistline—if you learn how to order strategically. See this menu cheat sheetfor some advice. One important tip: Don't be afraid to ask for what you want. If you'd like a healthier substitution (replacing mashed potatoes with greens, for instance), just ask. Also, eating is also a social activity—so try sharing more at restaurants. Split an appetizer and an entrée with a friend, rather than each getting your own.
Congratulations! With that better-paying job, you can finally afford a decent gym membership. Unfortunately, now you don't have time to use it. Or do you? There is no need to take even an hour in the gym. There are many workouts that can get you in and out in 30 or so minutes. Try, for instance, my Metabolic Workout, or my Workaholic's 30-minute Workout, designed for guys in a hurry. If you have a good 30-minute workout, you can supplement it with a few lifestyle changes and have a complete exercise program. What kind of lifestyle changes? Always take the stairs rather than the escalator or elevator. Or be green—take public transit, so at least you'll have to walk or bike to the station. A few extra minutes of this each day will add up. Better still, the money you'll save on gas you can funnel into my next tip, financial planning.
Start Planning Now
Few people in their thirties feel much urgency about planning for retirement—but really, now is the time to start. If you don't already own one, you're probably going to want a house some day, or at least to retire comfortably somewhere down the road. The more money you have invested now, the more it will earn in the future, and the sooner you have a substantial amount of money invested, the less you will have to contribute down the road to have adequate savings.
But let's start at the beginning, by clearing your debts. Pay off your student loans, and definitely pay down those high-interest credit cards and car loans. If you need help, hire a good financial advisor. You won't regret it. The best way to find a good financial advisor is to ask your friends. Failing that, try searches online at sites like WiseAdvisor.
For more resources on how to save for retirement, and how much to save, check out these web sites: