By Farzanna S. Haffizulla M.D., F.A.C.P.
The crack of dawn heralds the start of yet another day at warped speed. As a working parent, the art of balancing family, career and personal obligations becomes a high reaching goal at times. This blurred, winding, theatrical reel of children, school, work, and community obligations whizzes by at its own intense pace, many times autonomously. How can you fit in health and wellness when you are constantly on the go? Throughout my own rapid pace of life and as a practicing internal medicine physician, I will outline many creative ways to punctuate your life with health and wellness.
According to the American Heart Association’s 2013 statistical data sheet, “Among Americans age 20 and older, 154.7 million are overweight or obese (BMI of 25.0 kg/m2 and higher); 79.9 million men and 74.8 million women.” Obesity is linked to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and several cancers. There is hope for reversal of these negative trends if prevention of these complications is a staunch focus. Incorporating healthy habits into your day has a ripple effect to all members of your family and close contacts. There is great synergy that naturally occurs when healthy habits become second nature.
The most important factor to be successful in your approach is to adopt the correct mindset! True health and wellness is born from a harmonized balance of mental and physical elements. Start with a positive attitude and a vision of how energized, fit and happy you will be by adopting these behavior modifications.
Get a checkup or physical exam: A regular annual physical is an investment in your future and should not be ignored. Many underlying diseases may not come with symptoms but can be picked up by an astute physician performing a thorough physical exam. Fasting labs, if recommended at your age, can also help to further establish your healthy baseline and give valuable information on your risk for diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Don’t skip meals and make healthy choices: Breakfast is essential to keeping your metabolism in check. A sit down breakfast is quite a luxury for most in our harried world, so get creative! Run out the door with a vitamin packed protein shake, prepare a breakfast parfait of yogurt, fresh fruit and granola for the road or grab a high fiber, high protein breakfast sandwich. Remember to focus on white meat proteins and fiber for your meals. Avoid refined or simple carbohydrates, additives, preservatives and high sodium foods.
Move it and lose it: Start, end or punctuate your day with physical exertion. After your physician gives you the green light, insert at least 20 minutes per day of physical activity. With a busy lifestyle, you don’t need time for the gym or a trainer to accomplish this goal! Park in a spot furthest from your destination to extend your walk, walk during lunch or breaks at work. Use an exercise video of your choice at a time that works for you, play outdoors with your children or take walks as a family at the end of the day. According to the fitness recommendations of the centers for disease control: “More time equals more health benefits: If you go beyond 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity, or 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity, you’ll gain even more health benefits.”
Fresher is better: Read food labels and stick to hormone-free, chemical-free food choices. While homegrown foods may not be available for many, education on reading food labels is essential to picking the healthiest foods for your family. Avoid processed, preserved, canned and frozen foods whenever possible. Wash your fruits and vegetables carefully and add them into your meals, then freeze and use according to proper food safety techniques. Involve your family in recipe hunting, cooking and packaging. This can be a wonderful weekend activity and will save you time and keep you eating healthy throughout the upcoming week. If you choose to eat out, ask for the nutrition facts and choose accordingly. Don’t feel compelled to eat a full portion from restaurants. Many restaurants serve army sized portions! Share or take the rest home with you.
Rest up: Adults need at least 7-8 hours of sleep per day. Taking 20-25 minute afternoon “power naps” are an alternative option for those who can’t make the 7-8 hour mark. Ideally, sleep should be uninterrupted and restful. Lack of proper sleep has been linked to depression, heart disease, diabetes and chronic fatigue.
These small lifestyle changes have such great reward. These healthy habits will ultimately help you set a strong foundation of good health, well-being and true fitness. The familiar adage “an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure” resonates with being an active participant in preventing disease and maintaining your health. Take control of your health and happiness today!

About the author: Dr. Farzanna Haffizulla is a board certified Internal Medicine physician. She founded and opened her own concierge, hybrid medical practice in 2008 after practicing in a traditional setting for 5 years. Her innovative, creative approach to medical practice allows her to efficiently fuse traditional clinical practice with technology. Her medical practice allows her to offer office visits, housecalls and telemedicine to her patients. She describes her unique private practice on her personalized website: She is national President-elect of the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) and founded AMWA’s preventive services task force which focuses on primary prevention of disease. She is a nationally recognized speaker and expert on work/life balance and published “Harmony of the Spheres: Career, Family and Community ” in 2011. She also founded and runs a work/life balance site She also authored and nationally published several articles to parenting and professional communities. She was a guest on several radio shows and she is the new on camera show host and anchor for a nationwide health program, Mission Critical Health. She lives in South Florida with her husband Dr. Jason Haffizulla and her four children.