Thursday, June 14, 2012

KEEPING HEALTHY AND IN SHAPE: YUPPIE STYLE



yuppie
noun (plural yuppies)
informal, derogatory
        a well-paid young middle-class professional who works in a city job and has a luxurious lifestyle: [as modifier]: a yuppie type from the bank


Is this you? It’s me. Well, kind of. If I had a paying job. But that isn’t really the point. In this day and age, I think a yuppie lifestyle is likely to include all the latest gadgetry (computers, smartphones); the ability to dine out frequently or an interest in cooking meals worthy of MasterChef; a vibrant social life and membership to a whiz-bang gym that can allow them to shred and tone every square inch of their bodies. The yuppie might even participate in the odd sponsored marathon once or twice a year.

Yuppies that I know attend the gym more times in a week than any other subset of the human race (excepting maybe athletes or bodybuilders). They frequently detox and even more frequently agonise about the shape they’re in. I’ve been there before: I’ve had an office job, attended the works drinks, made up for my excesses in the gym on a Monday and shrieked and squealed when my work clothes started to get progressively tighter. I felt like I was always chasing my perfect body, or at least running from the threat of increases in my overall body fat as a result of my “great” lifestyle.

The yuppie lifestyle is good, better than most of the world’s population. Maybe even a little too good. I’m going to share with you, my fellow yuppies, the key to keeping healthy and in shape Yuppie Style:

Chairs, Couch Potatoes and Calories


If you’re an office worker, I’m going to bet that you sit in your chair in excess of eight hours a day. How many of those hours do you spend moving? I’ll bet you go for a walk only to get lunch or coffee, and you might factor in a one-hour trip to gym on some of those days. I’ve got a tip for you: Reconsider your lunch. When you were a child, you’d have been panting red-faced and breathless at lunchtime and probably earned the sandwich/meat pie/packet of crisps you ate for lunch that day. Opt for a salad instead – hold the creamy dressings or croutons. Remember: “noodle” or “pasta” salads are simply cold versions of meals you’re best avoiding - salads are meant to be primarily made of vegetables.

What do you do when you get home? Sit some more? I get it, you’re tired from all the work you’ve been doing and deserve a break. But exercise could technically be considered a break from sitting at a desk all day, don’t you think? Plus, exercise is one of the most energising things you can do – you’ve just got to start the habit. I won’t lie to you, motivating yourself to exercise is a tricky task but rather than dwell on it, say to yourself “it’s just something I’ve got to do” and remember that you’ll feel 100% better after doing it than if you didn’t at all.
If you can’t muster the energy to go for at least a 30-45 minute walk when you get home, try scheduling it in the morning before work. If you have the time to fix yourself a generous dinner, to sit on the couch or at the computer, I’m going to ask you whether you agree that that time could be better spent? Try and factor in some movement: sit-ups, push-ups and burpees on the living room floor if you can’t make it outside.

The yuppie: a social being


How do you socialise? Do you enjoy Friday night drinks with workmates? Restaurant visits with a date or friends on the weekend?  I know for a fact that yuppies in Sydney like to go out for BIG breakfasts on a Saturday or Sunday morning. If you do all of those things, I’m going to have to break it to you: you are probably consuming a whole lot of excess calories. But this kind of eating and drinking regime seems normal to you, right? A couple of decades ago, gourmet eating, latte gulping and long breakfast rendezvous barely existed! We are absolutely saturated with choices nowadays and it feels like we actually have to make a choice – from what new restaurant to try to whether we’re going to stick to Vodka this Friday night or throw caution to the wind and try an array of delicious cocktails with the girls. There’s other ways to socialise that don’t involve eating and drinking to excess (and no, I am not referring to Tapas). Try scheduling a walk or a trip to the gym as part of your social activities with friends. But don’t look at it as part of a new diet or health kick you’re on: focus on the social aspect of it. I love long walks with friends because we don’t think about the exercise as we’re doing it – we’re too busy chatting away and catching up on life. In fact, I hate scheduling a time limit around it because it is always the case that our conversations could last all day and we don’t mind continuing the walk just so we can talk some more! Your mood will lift, as socialising has a tendency to do, and with the added endorphins from the exercise it makes for a seriously happy yuppie!

You won’t be surprised when I say it’s probably wise to bid farewell to your once, twice, thrice weekly (or even nightly - gasp!) restaurant or takeaway meals. Most menus don’t come with nutritional information but if they did, you’d keel over in shock! We’ve got to get used to the fact that most restaurant meals taste so much better than what we can make ourselves because if we were to attempt it at home, we might stop and question the sheer amount of fattening substances that get thrown in to make it taste as good as it does!

By assembling your food at home, you see exactly what is going into it. Fresh and home-prepared foods might be boring at first, but our tastebuds are getting way too used to the “good” stuff. Take tastebuds out of the equation and start listening to your body. Your stomach is probably the size of your fist and food portions need to be no bigger than this for you to register fullness. Your belly is likely to be overstretched, but you can reel it back in if you shave down portion sizes. The result? You’ll need less food to stave off hunger. If you listen to your body and not your tastebuds, you’re likely to make choices that will benefit your body and it’s functioning. It sounds clichéd, but don’t “live to eat”. Eat with an aim to live longer and to stave off dietary deficiency and disease. With that as your impetus, you’ll find it far easier to say no to the foods, drinks and lifestyle choices you used to revel in.

Yuppies: Informed and Curious


To get to our comfortable lifestyle, most yuppies spent in excess of three years at university. In the very first year, the yuppie to be was taught the skill of critical thinking. Regurgitating information without asking questions wouldn’t cut it when it came time to handing in essays at the end of the semester, in fact in some cases it might even constitute plagiarism, stalling the future prospects of the yuppie-to-be. With these skills surely under your belt by the time you graduate and land a decent job, it makes sense to exercise said skills when it comes to all the information that surrounds you.  Some questions you might ask yourself may include:

  • Is the nice lady who owns the sandwich bar really concerned about my dietary needs as she assembles my baguette using wilted lettuce, reheated meat and processed cheese? Or is she laughing all the way to the bank, pocketing between $8.00 and $12.00 for something I could have made for one fifth of the price?
  • Why is this advertisement on TV? Could the manufacturer be responding to poor sales? Do they care more about my health or the bottom line?
  • Does the advertising campaign for its latest packaged food appeal to my hopes, dreams and insecurities in order for me to believe in its product? Think about the phrasing, the models and actors used, the music, and generally how the advertisement makes you feel.
  • Do the vitamins/minerals added to this product appear naturally in less processed foods? If so, would I not be better off eating the latter?
Boredom is a dirty word


What do we do with ourselves when we are bored? For me, I like to engage my mind with films and books. I enjoy putting on my trainers and getting out into nature, breathing in fresh air and taking in sights I don’t get to see when I’m cooped up in my office or at home. When I was working a desk job, I used to fill my hours doing both of those things but I also developed an interest in sampling new restaurants and cafes. In hindsight, I’d even call it a hobby. Now that’s where the yuppie treads into dangerous territory. Food should satiate physical hunger and not be used as a means of distraction when one is bored or hungry for entertainment or mental stimulation.

A few years ago, I found myself needing to see what all the fuss was about when I saw a favourable restaurant review in the food/entertainment liftouts in newspapers. With more and more eateries popping up across the city, I had a huge list of places I felt compelled to go and visit. Eating a home-prepared meal became boring for me, and I know many yuppies that share this feeling. Add to this the increasing number of television shows centred around gourmet food and cooking and you can see a phenomenon begin to emerge. How did I turn this around? It happened serendipitously. I fell in love with a lovely gentleman. We literally couldn’t stop talking – to the extent that going to a restaurant lost its appeal because to shovel food in our mouths to chew meant the loss of precious talking time. Even a trip to the cinema was tough – we’d miss most of the movie because all we wanted to do was continue our conversation, much to the dismay of our fellow movie-goers. I’d say that the nourishment and intellectual stimulation I get from being with my partner makes my life interesting – I never feel bored and consequently don’t feel like I have to fill my time with activities in order to pass the time. Now I’m not saying you all need to go out in search of your soulmate, but I am saying that for the health-conscious yuppie, it might be worth questioning whether your food and lifestyle choices are influenced by boredom. Writing this blog post has kept me so busy I haven’t had time to think about food, but I know that when I am not engaged in other tasks, I can wander to the pantry when I’m not physically hungry.  

If, like me, you enjoy curling up and reading a book in your spare time, I’d say it’s well worth your while borrowing or buying books about health, in place of the latest bestseller. I mentioned before that the yuppie normally possesses the skills of information-seeking and critical reasoning, so it’s good to keep informed about matters of health and lifestyle. I’d recommend Eat to Live, or In Defense of Food as a start. I never used to spend any time in the health section at the bookstore but with every book I read, I find myself wanting to read more and implement into my life the things that make most sense to me.

The Internet: Friend or Foe?


Thanks to digital media, ten percent of photographs taken by humankind took place in the last twelve months. What does that mean for us Instagrammers/ Facebookers/Bloggers/Pinners? It means that there is an increased likelihood that photographs of you will be swirling around the Internet for all your friends (and even strangers) to see! Many of us are familiar with the dreadful feeling we get when we look at photos in family albums of our “awkward stage” in high school but luckily, we shut the album and assign it back into the cupboard at mum and dads where it rightfully belongs. But that isn’t quite so easy to do when any number of your friends and acquaintances can upload a picture of you to their facebook page. Sure, you can un-tag or politely ask them to remove the offending image or you can decrease the likelihood of cringing at photos of yourself if you motivate yourself to look and feel the best you possibly can.


The net is a bit of a double edged sword. We spend too much leisure time on it when we could be moving our bodies and breaking a sweat but, conversely, the internet is a minefield of free information and motivational tools that we can utilise to change our lives. Are you paying for a personal trainer? You don’t necessarily need to when there are thousands of fitness trainers uploading workout tutorials on their own websites and YouTube. I am a fan of Bodyrock.tv but I also like to key phrases like “abdominal circuit” or “butt workout” into YouTube.  Stuff like this costs nothing, you don’t need to waste time or money going to the gym and you fast run out of excuses as to why you can’t make your fitness goals a reality.

Similarly, there is no excuse for not knowing how to eat healthily or prepare healthy foods. There are plenty of articles and online recipes to help you learn better ways to look after your own health. Of course, if you have any kind of illness or disease, I wouldn’t recommend the internet as a replacement for the advice of a trained medical professional, so speak to them before you make any changes to your health and lifestyle.


Slow down, you’re getting fat!



What I’m about to tell you might be contrary to everything you’ve ever thought about stress. Breakups, work deadlines, grief or illness can have the tendency to turn the plumpest of us into skeletons in record time but when we experience stress or anxiety on a daily basis (i.e. through the demands of our busy lives) the body actually reacts in such a way that we end up storing fat around our abdomen. Let me tell you how it works:

In times of prolonged stress, the body continuously releases adrenaline and cortisol (known as both “the stress hormone” and “the death hormone”) into the bloodstream. Adrenaline disappears when the anxiety lowers, but cortisol lingers in the body, increasing our desire for carbohydrates to compensate for physical exertion. Our ancestors used to fight stress and danger with physical exertion (such as chasing and hunting wild animals) but because our stressors don’t generally require us to literally and physically fight or flee, we end up satiating our carbohydrate cravings without being able to adequately burn them off. Weight gain from this physical response generally ends up around our bellies as stomach cells are more sensitive to cortisol and very adept at storing energy! I won’t even begin to get stuck into the wide ranging health issues that can occur as a result of storing body fat around the belly, but I will tell you how to lower your cortisol levels naturally:
  • Exercise regularly: this will ensure you burn the extra blood sugar levels that arise as a consequence of increased cortisol levels. But only do exercise you enjoy – torturing yourself with exercise you hate increases cortisol levels and is hard to stick with anyway.
  • Switch off and sleep more! The body requires less cortisol when it is asleep. Turn off your phone and television, draw the curtains and aim to get to bed at a reasonable time. Eating too close to bedtime or having coffee late in the day interferes with your sleep cycle, so if you must have a coffee, have it in the morning and make sure your dinner is light and consumed at least three hours before bed.
  • Don’t crash diet! Dieting is stressful and boosts cortisol levels. Aim to eat a few healthy meals and a couple of snacks throughout the day. Breakfast is hugely important: aim to eat breakfast between 6 and 8am to meet the “Cortisol Crest”.
  • Find hobbies that enable you to relax: strange as it sounds, things like knitting or gardening can be empowering as they enable you to feel a sense of control over a small aspect of your life. This is important in reducing anxiety levels. If you enjoy yoga or meditation, attend a couple of classes each week. If that isn’t your cup of tea, perhaps listening to your favourite music, going a walk or reading a good book is. You’ll know what relaxes you – try to make time for these activities. 
Final words...
By now I probably don’t need to convince you that adding late nights or extra responsibilities to your hectic work life isn’t the path to good health. Embracing simplicity in your eating habits and spare time as is the best antidote to the ill effects of the over-stimulation and over-consumption that hallmarks a Yuppie lifestyle. I hope you’ve enjoyed this article as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. As always, I’m open to your opinions. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments field below.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, great post. Thanks for taking the time to write such an in depth piece. I would have to admit to being a bit of a yuppie that definitely treats eating/drinking out as a hobbie..might be time for a rethink!

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