Four health lessons we can learn from the diets and habits of people with extraordinary careers

Looking to switch up your diet, or make a few changes to your lifestyle? Take inspiration from beyond your social circle by following the health habits of people in extraordinary careers.

You may not be planning to run a marathon, climb Everest, review restaurants for living or venture into space any time soon, but there’s plenty you can learn from those who do if you want to remain fit and healthy.

Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting getting in training to attempt an assault on the world’s highest mountain. But we do have four simple health lessons we can all take from people with extraordinary careers. Here they are.

1) Watch your alcohol consumption before dinner

Marathon runners drink alcohol sparingly – or not at all. While alcohol isn’t bad in moderation, it’s well-known that it can dissolve willpower.

According to dietitian and food writer Fiona Hunter, studies show that after a few drinks you are much more susceptible to over eating and making poor food choices. Indeed, this phenomenoneven has a name: the Aperitif Effect.

For marathon runners tackling all those miles, any extra kilogram of body fat can feel ten times as heavy as the going gets tough. They tend to give alcohol a wide berth, and it’s a sound tactic to follow too if you’re watching the scales.

2) Sitting around is like being in zero gravity

Space organisations like NASA want to know how our bodies react to being in zero gravity for extended periods. It’s too dangerous to do experiment on astronauts on active duty, so they pay people to lie in bed for weeks on end here on Earth.

Yes, lie in bed. Sounds like heaven, doesn’t it? Not really. Lying prone for so long, your body soon starts reacting as if it’s in a zero-gravity state, meaning your muscles waste away and your body atrophies.

Astronauts guard against muscle wastage by exercising like crazy – up to three hours a day, or two separate cardio sessions daily. While we might not need to go quite as hard back on the Blue Planet (what with gravity and all), it’s worth keeping any lazy tendencies in check.

So look for small ways to stay active every day. Instead of rushing for a seat on the tube, why not stand instead? Or get off one stop earlier to walk? Every little helps when it comes to exercise.

3) Eating at restaurants is delicious – and hugely calorific

Eating out like a food critic? Dining in style? Tucking a napkin into the neck of your shirt every evening? Be prepared to put on weight, because if it’s not the butter in your food, it’s the sugar, the salt and the oil too.

The late Anthony Bourdain once said of restaurant food: “[Butter is] the first thing and the last thing in every pan. That’s why restaurant food tastes better than home food a lot of the time.”

In an industry designed to maximise the mouthfeel of every mouthful, it’s no wonder chefs add in everything but the kitchen sink to make food taste great.

So, be smart when you eat out. “Portion sizes are often much larger in restaurants,” Fiona says, “so why not opt for two starters? Also, don’t be afraid to ask staff how dishes are prepared and ask for things like sauces or dressings to be served separately so you can control how much you eat.”

4) Don’t overlook the value of breakfast

In the Himalayas, there is a legendary tribe of mountain climbers known as the Sherpa people. The Sherpas are fit and hardy and often act as Everest guides for fresh-faced thrill seekers wanting to scale the mountain.

Having grown up around the mountains, Sherpas have learned to adapt to the weather and know how to get their bodies in motion from the wee hours onwards.

One of their favourite things to do is to start the day with a big serving of breakfast. They eat roasted barley, which is a bit like porridge, with hot water or tea, and tuck in to big servings to make sure they’re satiated.

Though we’re not all climbing mountains every day, we shouldn’t overlook the value of breaking fast properly. Besides, if you skip breakfast you’re more likely to find your hand in the biscuit tin, says Fiona. “A healthy balanced breakfast should provide between 20-25% of your daily energy requirements,” she concludes.

Check out the full article on TechTalk for more insights from Fiona Hunter.

Photo by Brooke Lark