Food has become rushed in today’s world. It’s no wonder that is the case because as the paradigm shifts towards rewarding those who hustle, it creates a limited time frame for someone to detach from the threads of the daily tasks and indulge in a healthy meal.  

People are sipping coffee from plastic cups as they rush to get to work or class, eating a store brought lunch at their desk while they respond to emails, or type away a report, and eating takeout for dinners because they are too tired from their hectic day.

All this takes a toll, not an immediately tangible one, but one that catches up to you, through added weight, unhealthy weight loss, brain fog, lack of energy, or just plain “not feeling good.”

From my personal experience, having a meal without too many distractions is essential to my wellbeing — not only the physical benefit of a healthy meal, but even my mental peace.

If I’m having coffee, I sit down and really cherish that. I am not going to be running around and sipping coffee — that a) doesn’t allow me to enjoy the coffee because my attention is directed towards the street, cars, noise, and b) it creates a chance of that coffee spilling in the midst of my transit, it can potentially create a stained day.

For breakfast, I try to pair my meal with a podcast, the news, or interesting articles. The pairing of new information, or intellectual stimulation with my breakfast jumpstarts a morning routine a productive start to the day.

Lunches are difficult — you are either at work, at school, or in the midst of your day, and the last thing you need is to worry about what you’ll have to eat. This is where pre-planning meals comes into play.

Packing a healthy meal beforehand can help ease this worry. And accompanying that meal without technological distraction can allow you to be at one with your thoughts and plan the next few hours.

Alternatively, going out to grab a bite with a friend is also great because you’re engaging in a conversation, exchanging ideas, and creating closeness with someone else. Our social capital is dependent on our interactions and engagement with others, and in a busy day, lunch time can be a great way to destress, enjoy a meal, and get to know someone more.

When you pair positive things like calmness, reflection, or enjoyment with meals, you will find them that much more enjoyable. If you pair meals with the hustle,  overload, and going from point A to B, they will feel like a burden, causing you to pay less attention to the quality of your meal.

Dinners are arguably the one meal of the day where you don’t feel so rushed, and usually the one meal that people invest time in cooking. But if you don’t have something already cooked, it can feel stressful to come home after a long day and worry about cooking.

Meal prep can solve this problem — cooking 1-2 times a week for the entire week can allow you to come home and not feel so stressed, because all you have to do is reheat the food.

Given recent trends, I find an interesting juxtaposition in the conversation today: people are gravitating towards a healthier lifestyle, less burnout, and the inclusion of wellness their lives; but the speed of the world also creates an expectation for us to catch up — the grind, working long hours, and limited sleeping has been used as bragging rights for many savvy millennials and even older adults.

How, then, can we live amongst these contradicting principles; how do we implement health and wellness in a speed driven economy?

The first step, in my opinion, comes from a place of gratitude. Not everyone in the world is privileged to have access to three, or even two meals a day, and half of those that do, can’t afford to spend money to eat healthy. If we have access to eating 2-3 meals a day, we must honor that. We owe it to ourselves to eat well, to make the most of the health that has been given to us, and to continuously build on that.

The second principle comes from the commitment to leading a healthy lifestyle. You may not be eating bad things but eating at improper times or starving yourself for extended periods has not shown to be conducive to our physical and mental health.

I consider our mental and physical health to be the building blocks of all things else, and if we don’t keep both of them in synchrony and relative balance, our performance at work, school, social relationships will falter. When you commit to eating better and in a more disciplined routine, you’ll realize that all of a sudden you do, in fact, have time for it. Meals won’t feel rushed in your busy day because it becomes ingrained in your brain that you must plan the meal because you are committed to living healthier. Discipline of core beliefs is what takes us to the place where we want to go.

Motivation is a “feel good” feeling, and like all feelings, it doesn’t last. When it doesn’t last, that’s when you have grip that discipline and allow yourself to commit to the beliefs you’ve decided upon.

The last step is being one step ahead — in other words, tactful planning. You have to know what you’re aiming at and you have to create some form of a schedule or plan to get there. If you don’t know what you are aiming at, you may land in a place you didn’t even want to be in in the first place. Pre-planning my week helps me immensely — with food, exercise, and the tasks I have to get done.

When you have free time, you have to remember that your whole week won’t feel so light, so you must use the vacancy of that time as an opportunity to plan your week. Having a plan builds structure, and structure ensures stability in your day.

I am a firm believer that if we can own our day, we can own the next, and the next, leading us to own the week. Small victories multiple and translate into bigger victories.

In a digital world, the speed of life has jumped, and in the United States, where hard work and the grind is rewarded more than anything else, we find ourselves at the mercy of burnout sometimes. Our mental and physical health doesn’t get prioritized, and we feel like we are giving away too much of ourselves.

As a result, we suffer, and our network of connections suffer from our lack of quality engagement.

To combat that burnout, we can start small. We can eat better. We can sleep better. We can work out more. We can engage in good conversations.

Meals don’t have to be from plastic takeout, nor skipped, nor resorted to unhealthy options because you don’t have the time.

The truth is, you do have the time. You do have the energy. You just have to tap into your brain and not allow the weakness of the moment to grip you — combating the weakness through gratitude, commitment, and planning helps you stay grounded in the daily rhythm of your life, and that stability becomes the building blocks for the rest of your day.

The best part is that the magic rests in the freedom of being able to construct those building blocks.

Set those blocks up for success; and in the words of Jocko Willink: get after it.