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What is Health + Wellness Without Gyms and Diets?

Health and Wellness Lifestyle

August 2, 2023

Several weeks ago, during my daily TikTok binge, I stumbled across a video that made me think. In the short clip, a user (@ciaoamberc) shared her thoughts on the difference between health and wellness in Europe compared to America. Europeans, she explained, eat higher-quality foods, move more throughout the day and live in more community-oriented towns. In America, where desk jobs and fast food have become synonymous with our culture, it takes supplements, vitamins, specialty health shops, gyms, mental health providers, etc. for us to make up the difference.

As a young professional, I still struggle to understand how to manage my days against all the activities of adulthood. Let’s work backward — if we’re prioritizing sleep, eight hours minimum, our 24 hours in the day have quickly been reduced to 16. Next, we reserve eight hours for the workday, which means we’re left with only eight. Two hours to get ready and unready, one hour for transportation, two for meals — three hours remaining. How do we spend it? The options are endless. Connect with friends? Maybe volunteer in the community? How about taking care of my dog and giving him the exercise and attention he deserves? What about the exercise and attention I deserve? Or the attention my household deserves?

Evening View 

This can feel like an impossible challenge and health and wellness can easily fall to the bottom of the list. And we’ve only measured our needs on the scale of time, but what about money? Gym memberships, health supplements, protein powers, high-quality groceries, mental health services, sleep aides — my young adult budget cannot afford it all.

Lately, I’ve been convinced that there must be another way. When I came across the earlier TikTok video, it encouraged me to start thinking about how I can incorporate health and wellness into every aspect of my life. It’s the difference between living a healthy lifestyle, rather than thinking about health and wellness as an add-on to my existing lifestyle.

With the help of The National Institute of Health, an office of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, found Your Healthiest Self: Wellness Toolkit, I reflected on the essentials of a healthy lifestyle. The need-to-haves vs. the nice-to-haves. Starting small with consistency in mind, here are the lifestyle changes I’ll be making:

Lifestyle Changes for Your Body and Mind

Walking as a form of transportation

This may be easier for some than others. I live in the Historic East Village and work in Downtown Des Moines. During the weekend, I’m always eager to take my dog on long walks — it feels like an occasion. One day it dawned on me — why should I drive when I could simply walk? Cars have become my default form of transportation and I’ve overlooked walking, or even biking and public transit. Being thoughtful about ways I can use my car less and my legs more, is a small change I can commit to — taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking from the parking lot instead of taking the shuttle. Being thoughtful about ways I can use my car less and my legs more. Weaving walking throughout my day rather than always feeling the need to set aside time for walking exclusively.

For the times when dedicated walking time does fit into your schedule, here are a few outdoor spaces downtown to visit:

Outdoor Recreation and Trails in Downtown Des Moines (dsmpartnership.com)

Shopping locally and sustainably

My second a-ha moment was around shopping for healthy and quality foods. I visit the Downtown Des Moines Farmers’ Market most Saturdays like many of my neighbors, but it always feels like an occasion — more like a social event. Then I thought to myself, what if I view The Market as my primary source of food — a replacement for the grocery store? The food is often cheaper, higher quality and fresher, and you have the assurance that you’re supporting a locally owned business. Although the Downtown Farmers’ Market is the most well-known, there are plenty of other markets across the region. The Des Moines Mom does a fantastic job of outlining them all in an article here. As a bonus, The Collective is another favorite of mine to shop for household products and bulk refills for vegan and ethically made low-waste goods.

Kale at The Market

Making space for friendship

As a Des Moines transplant, finding friends has been a journey. Adult friendships are hard — they require much more effort and intention than this recent college graduate is accustomed to. For those who are new to the area or are simply looking to meet new people, try Bumble BFF! We’re all familiar with Bumble for dating, but did you know there’s an option to swipe on potential friends with shared interests? I signed up on a whim during my first week in town. Sure, I experienced the usual ghosting and unmatching, but the first person I connected with is still my friend, nearly two years later.

Once you’ve made a new friend, there’s an abundance of opportunities to fellowship within the community. It’s one of my favorite things about our city. The Greater Des Moines Partnership and other organizations are great at organizing and highlighting upcoming events. Checkout my go-to sources:

In the process of writing this article, I’ve realized that maintaining good health is not effortless. There is no secret way to take care of your body without any additional time or care. I’m sure you would agree, however, that it can be easier than we make it and that the time we spend is more than worth it.

What are your tips on integrating healthy lifestyle practices into your day-to-day routine?

Young Professionals Connection (YPC) aims to attract and retain young professionals in Greater Des Moines (DSM) by connecting emerging leaders to each other and to the community through social, civic, charitable and professional development endeavors. Learn how you can get involved.

McKenzie Ariana Kerry

McKenzie Ariana Kerry is a Fellow with the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s DSM Fellowship Program. She is a Leadership Development Program Associate at Principal Financial Group and is Miss Des Moines USA 2023.