Why looking after yourself starts with a healthy diet and exercise

We often push our needs down to the bottom of our list of priorities - to the detriment of our health and wellbeing. This week, we’re going to share some simple tips to help you take control of your time and nurture your brain, body and belly. 

It’s Self Care Week and you may be wondering what that’s all about. So, let’s start with a simple definition of self care (and why it’s important) before we dive in to why looking after yourself starts with a healthy diet and exercise.

What is self care?

Self care is the practice of looking after yourself. Sounds simple right?

It’s a series of daily activities and attitudes we hold; reducing stress, in order to not only maintain good health and well being, but to thrive. Practicing self care means taking the time to recognise when your energy and coping mechanisms are running low, and replenishing your vital reserves with whatever they need to get back on track.

This could be, for example, making sure you eat something before rushing into another meeting, or taking ten minutes to stretch your legs outside in the sunshine.

Our framework for success (and theme for Self Care Week): brain, body, belly

When it comes to self care in our personal lives, there are three key areas we should focus on: our brain (mental health), body (physical fitness) and belly (the nutrition we need to stay healthy). By balancing our brain, body and belly, we’ll enjoy a better quality of life.
Why looking after yourself starts with a healthy diet and exercise1

Why is self care important?

Self care is important because we often treat ourselves very poorly in comparison to how we treat others, sacrificing our needs in order to tend to the needs of everyone else. We over-commit our time, juggling 101 items on our to-do list. This stems from our need to try and please everyone, but it quickly leads to us feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

In today’s fast-paced society, effective stress management is more important than ever before. A recent survey in the UK, involving 2,000 participants, found that: 

  • 85% of UK adults experience stress regularly
  • 39% of participants feeling stressed on a daily basis
  • 54% of these participants were concerned about the impact of stress on their health
  • 32% of people listed exercise as the best way to overcome stress

Learn about some of most common causes of stress and why some people are more easily prone to stress than others. Read our article, Are you genetically predisposed to stress and anxiety?

Practicing self care helps you to:

  • maintain a healthy work-life balance
  • keep your stress levels under control
  • ward against conditions like burnout, anxiety and depression

Both diet and exercise play a huge role in nurturing your brain, body and belly. Below, two of our DNAfit experts explain how diet and exercise relate to self care and share some tools to help you optimise your fitness and nutrition.

Why a healthy diet is important for self care

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is one of the core elements of self care. This is because our bodies need sufficient nutrients and hydration to exist. You may be familiar with the saying “you are what you eat”. Well, that isn’t far from the truth. Our daily food choices affect our overall health and wellbeing - both in the short and long-term. What we eat and when can have a huge impact on our mood, ability to cope with stress and our overall physical health and wellbeing. 

Salad in bowl | DNAfit Blog

If you’d like some tips on how to maintain a well balanced diet, you can download our eBook, The Beginner’s Guide to Healthy Nutrition. Inside the guide you’ll learn why we need certain macro and micronutrients in our diet, as well as learning about various different diets. You’ll also find out how even busy people can follow a healthy, balanced diet with pro tips for meal prep.

Download Guide

Eating too many of the wrong foods can lead to things like weight gain and chronic illness (such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease). Healthy food choices, on the other hand, give our bodies the fuel they need to thrive and fight off disease. On the opposite end of the spectrum, undereating can be just as dangerous, depriving our bodies of these vital nutrients.

Amy Wells (head of the DNAfit wellness team) writes, “A well balanced diet ensures the inclusion of a variety of foods. The greater the variety of foods, the wider the range of nutrients. This is what we need to function. Restrictive or unbalanced eating may lead to mood shifts in the late afternoon or even feelings of lethargy. When we are tired we tend to eat more, feel more easily stressed or anxious, and are also less motivated to exercise.”

Why making time for exercise is important for self care

Making time for exercise is a second core element to self care. This is because exercise not only helps to prevent disease, but also promotes the release of chemicals (endorphins) which combat stress and help us to relax.

Endorphins and stress response

There are two main endorphins involved in our stress response: anandamide and serotonin. Anandamide is a chemical associated with stress regulation. A lack of it increases your likelihood of stress. There’s also evidence that anandamide may be associated with brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is essential when it comes to maintaining healthy neurons and creating new ones. Serotonin is your feel-good chemical. Low levels of Serotonin are linked to developing conditions like depression. A boost in serotonin can mean everything when it comes to remaining motivated and feeling happy, and it just so happens that exercises promotes the release of it.

Andrew Steele, (Olympic Athlete and head of product and professional sport at DNAfit) writes, “Exercise is crucial for health and longevity, as it’s been shown as vital in reducing your risk of developing certain diseases and improving your quality of life. Fitness can help increase cardiovascular health and respiratory function, promotes strong bones, muscles and joints, and of course helps maintain a healthy weight. Exercise also boosts your immune system, and helps improve your sleep quality, energy levels and mood.”

The DNAfit Sweet Ab Challenge 

We don’t just give you advice to stay healthier - we practice all of these tips ourselves to ensure our team stays healthy, happy and productive. Our wellness team challenged the South African team to get in shape in time for Summer, by undergoing the “Sweet Ab Challenge”. And you can participate too! Read our blog on DNAfit’s Sweet Ab Challenge for all the details (including foods to avoid and training plan) and then tag us with your progress on social. #DNAfitSweetAbChallenge

Sweet ab challenge | DNAfit blog

What articles you can look forward to during Self Care Week

Over the next few days we’ll be sharing some expert tips to help you nurture your brain, body and belly. We’ll cover:

Get Health Fit to insights on how to better care for yourself. This is our most comprehensive plan with your nutrition, fitness insights plus your sleep and stress reports. 

Get Health Fit

Let us know how you nurture your #BrainBodyBelly by tagging us social with a list of your top tips for Self Care Week.


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