Photo by Gustavo Fring:

Everyone knows health is wealth. But is it? Do you actually believe it? Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, there live a king. He enjoyed hunting and would often go for hunting spree of several days along with his soldiers. Once, he went for hunting in a remote forest. The weather was hot and he felt thirsty. He looked around to find his soldiers, but couldn’t see anyone. He realised that he had lost his way. He was feeling thirsty and lost all at once. Soon he heard some sound coming from the forest. He started approaching the sound and found a wood cutter who was busy cutting off the trees. He asked him to give him some water. The woodcutter recognized the king and bowed to him. He ensured him,” Your highness, I am at your service. Please let me know how can I serve you?”

The King replied,” Give me some water and show me the way back to get past this forest.” The wood cutter gave the king some water to quench his thirst and led him to the way out of the forest. The king was pleased with the wood cutter and told him,” Whenever you visit the capital city, do come to the palace and I promise to give you a magnificent prize.” The wood cutter bowed again at the King as he left for the Palace.

It was evening and the woodcutter got his pile of sticks ready and started his journey back to home. When he reached home, he narrated the incident of meeting the King today in the forest and also that he promised to give him the prize. After listening to him, his wife suggested him to leave for the palace tomorrow itself and meet the King.

So, the wood cutter decided to visit the Palace tomorrow. The next morning, woodcutter reached the Palace and asked soldiers to let him meet the King. The soldiers informed the King about the woodcutter and he was at once welcomed inside the Palace.

The King saw the wood cutter in old and dirty clothes. He started wondering, how can he help him in the best possible which can improve his life. After pondering for a while, he decides to gift him a Sandal wood garden which has hundreds of Sandalwood trees. Thinking that the woodcutter would have knowledge about the sandal wood trees, he gifts him the beautiful Sandalwood garden. The woodcutter was more than happy to receive his prize. He happily went home and told his wife.

He started taking care of the garden. Being a woodcutter by profession, he only know about cutting the trees. So he cut trees and made coal out of it. He started selling coal. This way gradually most of the trees were cut and sold out as coal. One day the king thought of visiting the Sandalwood garden and meeting the Woodcutter. He thought he might have preserved the garden beautifully and might have made it even better. When the King reached the garden,he was shocked to see its condition. The garden was completely destroyed, most of the trees cut, piles of coal stacked around. He was puzzled. He asked the woodcutter,”What happened?What have you sine to this garden?”

The woodcutter replied,”Thank you, your Highness for gifting me this garden. I turned the trees into coal and sold them. My family is now in slightly better financial condition. We were so poor, but because of your blessings, we are doing fine now.”

The King understood that the woodcutter was not aware of the fact that it was a sandalwood garden and destroyed most of the trees and didn’t say a word further. He picked up a piece of wood lying around and gave it to the wood cutter.He said,” Take this small piece of wood and go sell it in the market.”

The woodcutter did as the King said. He was surprized at the price he received from that small piece of wood. He understood that it was a very precious wood that he sold at the price of peanuts. He ran back to the king and started apologising to the King.He said,” You gave me a diamond and it turned it into coal. Please forgive me.”

The above story is not about the ignorance of woodcutter, the king or the sandalwood trees. The story is about you and me. Our body is the Sandalwood garden. We are privileged to have a healthy and well functional body. If we don’t value it and take proper care of it, this sandalwood garden may get destroyed with time with only few trees left. Then, the time might have slipped from our hands and it might be too late to rebuild it. So, now is the right time to nourish our body and maintain it to the optimum levels of functionality. I will be discussing how to do so in this chapter.

Everything in the universe is running in cycles and has some kind of symmetry. The earth takes 365 days to orbit around the sun, the nature woks its cycle of seasons such as autumn, spring, summer, monsoon in a regular fashion. Hence, it is the basic nature of life to work in an organized way, then how can we humans just live our lives by going with the flow. We are capable of creating our own flow and live more consciously by developing a proactive approach. We just need to figure out the answers of these two simple questions:

  1. What I want in life?
  2. What I want from life?

Having a healthy mind and body is the priority of every human being. Our 20s is transitional phase in our life. During the early 20s we have just stepped out of college, or are probably studying or have just started working as a professional. Most of us aim for what others have already achieved and just want to go few steps ahead of them. If our senior has become VP in 10 years, you want to achieve the same goal in a relatively less time, if someone has stated a company which has become unicorn firm in 5 years, then probably you are aiming for releasing the IPO in 5 years. If someone has bought a home and settled down, you to want to do the same. All we want is to get a notch higher than what we already have known or seen around us. While running in this rat race, we often get caught up so much that we forget to prioritize our physical and mental health.

Whether, you are already spic and span fit or you want to be one, lets first look into the reasons for taking care of your health and having a fitness routine during your 20s when most of you believe that everything is working fine for you.

Why working on physical fitness is important when you are already young?

Everyone on this planet has 24 hours to themselves and so do you. So, it is your responsibility to make the optimum utilization of the available time for your own development. Since we are already feeling healthy during our twenties, we tend to procrastinate at times and skip paying attention to the health domain of our life. I am pretty sure after reading the following reasons, you sure would have second thoughts about not working out.

  1. Our body is a temple and we need to worship it every day. If you are not trading time for your health in 20s then you need to be prepared to trade money later on in life. Regular exercising will not only keep you body and mind active, it will make you feel accomplished and joyful throughout the day. Developing the habit early will for decades to come will be beneficial in your late 30s when you start losing the muscle mass. So, make sure you choose fun workouts or physical activities that you really enjoy since you are more likely to continue them. Try cycling, jogging, running, yoga if you want to save some money or you can hit the gym, try zumba, high intensity workouts, strength training, kick boxing, dancing, swimming, martial arts if you have the money to invest in yourself. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity at least 4 to 5 times a week.
  2. It is important to know the health history of your immediate family members like your parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles and siblings. This information will be handy for you to asses your own health condition. It will aid in identifying whether you stand a chance of some hereditary disorders such as diabetes, blood pressure, certain cancers or more. So, building a health regime keeping your current health condition and is you are prone to any diseases in future depending on your genetic history will give you a leap ahead of time. This is a proactive way of living, instead of waiting for the symptoms to show up and then starting the curative procedures.
  3. Research has indicated that exercise has an immediate positive effect on your brain and improves focus. It is the most transformative tool for our brain as explained by one of the popular neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki in her Ted Talk- “The Brain changing benefits of exercise”. Working out regularly makes the positive effects last longer and it is a powerful tool that protects your brain from different detrimental conditions like depression, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. After every sweat inducing work out you are bound to experience great energy and mood boost that sets the right energy rolling for the day. This will want you to keep going back to exercise every day. Better mood, better energy, better memory, better attention are key take aways from exercise.
  4. A single workout has the powerful impact on your brain and it immediately increases levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline which is cocktail of happy hormones that boosts your mood. It also improves your reaction time making you more prompt and agile. Exercise changes the brain’s anatomy, physiology and function. It also helps in forming new brain cells, now who doesn’t want some extra brain cells? You not only get better focus and attention but the volume of your brain parts such as hippocampus increases too. Hippocampus is an important part of brain which plays major role in learning and memory. Hence, exercising will lead to long term improved memory.
  5. Dedicating time for dental health is equally important. Dental hygiene is an area often neglected by people in their 20s. Indulging into fast food, uncontrolled snacking, having no routine for dental cleansing are some of the key reasons inviting dental problems. Hence building habit of flossing or oil pulling (Ayurvedic origin technique) will be beneficial for your teeth and gums.. Oil pulling involves swishing an edible oil in your mouth to remove bacteria and promote oral hygiene.Extra virgin coconut oil is a popular choice and it can done for 5 to 10 mins daily or even alternate days if your schedule is too tight. Flossing and oil pulling will prevent the plaque build up between the teeth, prevent gum irritation and other dental infections.
  6. Exercising is great way to manage your weight. Everyone wants to look fit and fabulous not just in their 20s nut through out their life. By burning the right number of calories keeps your spirits uplifted and it further drives you achieve your desired weight goals. Obesity is one of the key reasons for inviting chronic disorders. Even when there are days when you don’t feel like exercising just psyche your brain to go for it. As even little bit of time spent exercising is better than not exercising at all. It boosts your confidence to keep going no matter what.
  7. Exercising is a boon for your cardiovascular health. It helps in proper circulation of oxygen and nutrients to all your tissues which boosts the muscle strength and endurance, making you feel energized to take on the day. A study in the JAMA Internal Medicine recorded the results captured when research participants took a fitness test and were followed up with over the years. Researchers found that performance on the treadmill test was a good prediction of heart health later in life. Every additional minute the participant handled on the treadmill was linked to a 12 percent lower risk of heart disease and a 15 percent lower risk of dying during the time of the study.
  8. Regular exercising stimulates the blood flow in your body, thus giving you a natural glow. With time, the skin adapts in a way that delays the appearance of skin aging making you look younger. You can notice the post work out glow on your skin.
  9. Many a times during exercise routines, social interaction is natural and easy. Working out together is a great way to spark friendships, build positivity around us. So developing an exercise routine during your 20s encourages improved moods over the years and encourage a long term happiness.

Research has shown magnanimous benefits of exercising regularly. As, developing healthy exercise habits will improve your quality of life not only only in your 20s but also bring happiness and keep you healthy in your 30s and beyond.

How to build healthy relationship with food early in life?

Bethenny Frankel who is an American television personality, entrepreneur, philanthropist and author said, “Your diet is your bank account. Good food choices are good investments.” Being young you do have good metabolic rate and your body has the ability to burn the extra calories you had from grande coffee, hot dogs or pizzas, but you a healthy diet cannot be ignored.In your esrly twenties, you maybe used to eating without giving much of a thought or indulging in late night fast food after a night out with friends. Such incidents are fine in moderation, however its important to ensure you are eating wholesome and healthy food the majority of time.

It's the perfect opportunity to get energy-boosting carbohydrates from foods such as whole-grain bread, oatmeal and fruit. Create a power breakfast using protein, fibre and carbohydrate combos such as fruit and yogurt, whole-grain cereal with milk. If you are fond of Indian food then delving into stuffed parathas, idli, dosa, uttapam, poha, upma are some of the options to explore. I have listed few benefits of having breakfast and the Cons of not having breakfast based on research.

1.Improves brain
function, particularly memory and focus
Damages brain and
affects cognitive
2.Protein rich breakfast boosts muscle gain
and muscle strength
Increases body’s
insulin response which increases body weight 
3.Increases energy level and immunity power
Lowers the immunity
power of the body
4.Improves the longevity and quality of life.
Reduces the craving for junk food.
Increases risk of
developing disorders
such as migraine, headaches,type-2 diabetes
5.Eating eggs, oat meals, nuts and having
smoothies improves
your skin
Takes a toll on
metabolism and
negatively affects your energy and mood

Eating right should be a lifestyle for you and not a life choice:

After having wholesome breakfast, the right tone is set for the day which will organically be carried forward if you are mindful. Having a generous dose of nutrients, proteins, carbohydrates and fiber depending on your body type and the environment you live in should help you structure your meals for the rest of the day.

Drinking 2.5 to 3.5 liters of water everyday is very important as 50% to 70% of our body weight is water. So, set hourly reminders on your phone or smart watch if you have a tendency to forget. So, how do you know you are drinking enough water? The answer is if you are drinking adequate quantity of water then you rarely feel thirsty and your urine is either colorless or light yellow in color. Drinking adequate amount of water is beneficial for the following reasons:

  • Gets rid of wastes through urination, perspiration and bowel movements
  • Keeps your temperature normal
  • Lubricates and cushions joints
  • Protects sensitive tissues

People in their 20s are often moving out and travelling for work or studies or personal reason. In such circumstances, it is difficult to stick to a particular diet plan. Hence instead of quoting what to eat and what not to eat, I would suggest know yourself first. Discover your dietary needs and know your body inside out. Which food works for you all the time and which one doesn’t. Exclude the food items that do not make you feel good or are not good for your bowel. Know your environment first- is it hot and humid or cold or moderate? What is your staple diet, the food that you grew up eating? What is your energy profile each and every day-Is it more sedentary kind or more active type? What is your metabolic rate - Does it work fine or not? Do you feel hungry frequently or seldom or never at all? What dietary need runs in your genes?

After answering the above questions for yourself, you will be able to decide what you need to eat instead of going for what you want to eat.

Choosing the right amount of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals, fibers now is a good idea. You can also consult a dietician for this purpose who would give a sustainable and healthy diet plan. This need not be a weight loss or gain diet plan. You can ask for healthy, staple diet plan which will serve you the best.

There are many books and videos on you tube channels claiming to eat proteins and fiber rich food(fruits and vegetables) to stay in shape quoting examples of celebrities. When you see those people, you admire them and feel inspired to start too, but then drop out as you do not get the desired results. The main reason is each body type is unique and what works for one won’t necessarily work for someone else. Hence, as you begin to understand your body and its dietary needs, you will start noticing changes. You will be able to understand the effect of food on your body when you reach your 30s. Hence, 20s is the time to lay a strong and healthy foundation for your future.

I can share a story of personal revelation that took place couple of years ago. I used to live in student hostel, during my early 20s. I was always in hurry to attend the lectures on time and did not get proper time to sit and eat. I used to finish all my meals in 10 minutes whether its breakfast, lunch or dinner. As a result, I was not chewing my food properly instead was just swallowing. This habit of mine lead to improper digestion of food resulting in bloating, breakouts on face and lowered energy level. When I recognized this habit and changed it by taking adequate time to chew my food, my digestive problems disappeared. It led to a shrunken belly, clear skin and I felt so good and energetic. So, changing small habits can lead to major shift in your life. Hence, know yourself inside out because having self-insights will help you in the long run.

Shape and modify your environment:

The environment that you live in, the prople that surround you and things that you see day in and day out have a powerful impact on your ability to sticking to healthy habits. If you are surrounded by people who are always motivated eating deserts, junk food, consuming alcohol, then there is a fair chance you too will end up being one of them. So surround yourself with the right people who vibe with your healthy habits and also have traits you can learn from them. Make your room inviting for healthy eating, by keeping fruit basket, displaying different nuts and healthy snacks in transparent bottles. This will lure you to eat healthy.

Keep your cheat snacks such as chips, chocolates, etc hidden and places that are not easily accessible. Of course,few indulgences will happen and its completely normal as long as you are eating healthy most of the times.

Know what’s insignificant and can be avoided:

During your 20s you will be partying, going to social gatherings and doing the fun stuff as well. But this is also the time to set healthy boundaries with substances that are detrimental for your health in long run such as tobacco and alcohol. As per NIH excess alcohol consumption over a period of time can lead to liver disease and increase the risk for cancer and health ailments. So, if you are inclined to drink do it moderately and form a healthy relation with alcohol. Further, smoking has the potential to cause cancer and may lead to fertility. The exposure to drugs is often misinterpreted to be recreational, however research shows otherwise. Exposing yourself to such drugs and getting addicted to them is inviting a big problem for yourself in future. Hence, you want to make minimal use of it and quickly transition to safer options.

20s is the right time when you start paying attention to your Sodium and sugar levels and start regularizing their intake. Most of the packages food and drinks are high in Sodium and Sugar which adds on to the unhealthy body mass of your body which you may want to avoid.

Keep a tab on your immunity and go for annual medical checkups. Young men should visit a urologist atleast once a year for any changes in the urinary system, pain or swelling for early detection of any infection or blader or kidney cancer. Every women must get PAP smear test,clinical breast examination test every year for early detection of cervical cancer or breast cancer. As it is said prevention is better than cure. A healthy life style is the only way to go.

Taking care of your mental health and emotional wellbeing

A group of friends were hanging out together to celebrate one of their friend’s birthday party. Peter arrived late at the restaurant. He seemed bit off to the rest of them. When asked how everything was going in life, Peter replied,” Everything is going great. I am having fun at my office, enjoying my job as a copy writer. My boss loves me. I have been eating healthy and working out. My relationship with my girlfriend is going good. Life is fun these days. Everyone believed what he said. The party was over and everyone went back to their respective homes.

Peter came back to his home and started crying bitterly. He kept crying on and on till he got tired and went back to sleep. Now you might be surprised by the fact that in spite of having a fulfilling personal and professional life, Peter was going through mental break down and was not in his body and mind the fullest, the way he wanted to be. He hated his job, had broken up with his girlfriend and had put himself under pressure to eat healthy and workout even though he didn’t want to. Sadly, he was not able to voice out his condition to anyone. He projected a fake happy picture of himself in front of his friends, colleagues and family. Gradually by not speaking to anyone about himself and not seeking any help he was pushing himself into depression.

Lot of people in their 20s silently go through this and either address the problem when it gets extreme or end up taking wrong decisions such as committing suicide or resorting to drugs or negative elements.

Hence, instead of getting consumed by the surroundings and more often by your own thoughts, breathe through them and prioritize your wellbeing. Set healthy boundaries with people at work place and in personal life as well. Let go off toxic relationships and value the healthy ones. Know yourself and accept it. Getting to know your strengths and weakness inside out will help you figure out which areas in your life need immediate attention and work. Ask for help.

Being mindful of the choices that you make while experimenting in your 20s is a balanced way to live your 20s.Be it journaling down your thoughts and feelings, doing meditation, choosing what fits you rather that you trying to fit in, meditation, yoga, talking to friends, trekking, traveling solo or in groups. Try and experiment with all these options and see what helps in keeping you mostly sane. The key is to increase the secretion happy hormones such as dopamine, serotonin to combat anxiety and depression. Exercise is one of the ways to do so. One must remember that every problem has a solution which is within our approach. It is your responsibility to keep your body and mind healthy.

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