How to change your life for the better

We spoke to Abu Dhabi career, health and lifestyle experts about how to be better at... Everything

Do, you think you’ve got it all worked out? Life might be going swimmingly for you here in Abu Dhabi, and there is always lots to be happy about when you live in one of the coolest cities on the planet, but, take a long look in the mirror (we will, too), and you might see there are still plenty of self-improvements to be made.
Thankfully you don’t have to do it all by yourself. Whether you want to change up your eating habits (alternating between pizza, burgers and Indian food for takeaway doesn’t count as a balanced diet, we’ve checked), finally get into a proper gym routine or keep your life and career goals in firm focus, we’ve enlisted a team of experts to help you do everything that little bit better.

Sort out your career

If you are reading this, the chances are you aren’t a 9 to 5, clock-in, clock-out kind of employee. A vast number of workers in the emirate have uprooted not only themselves, but their loved ones, thousands of miles to chase a career and lifestyle dream in the UAE. The stakes are high in the workplace when your whole way of life depends on having a job to go to everyday, so it is vital to make sure your current job works for you.
We took a lunchtime meeting with Leith Ramsay, managing director in the Middle East for global recruitment firm Michael Page to find how to keep your footing on (and work your way up) the career ladder. Here are his tips to the top:

Show respect
Q: Should I be particularly aware of different cultures, modes of working in the UAE?
A: The main word here is respect. Show it at all times to everyone.

Dress to impress
Q: How important is it to make a good first impression, such as by dressing smart to the office and being punctual?
A: Essential. At an interview, dress to impress ensuring you are in line with your (future) company’s culture. A bad first impression will have you at an immediate disadvantage in a job interview. Being inappropriately dressed and running late is a career killer!

Be more than average
Q: How important is it to volunteer for projects and show you'll go the extra mile in your job?
A: It depends how high you want to go in the company. There are some very competitive people in the professional world who are always prepared to do more than the average. If you want to get to the top you have to be prepared to do more, all the time.

Deliver results
Q: It can be easy to get lost in the crowd in an office. How do you go about standing out from your colleagues?
A: By consistently achieving results, both as an individual and part of a team, you will become a standout. Delivering all this while remaining cool under pressure will elevate you from your peers

Actions speak loudest
Q: It can be daunting to begin building up relationships with senior management figures. How should you go about forging these relationships?
A: Actions speak louder than words! Ultimately senior and executive level bosses look for loyalty, integrity and results. If you keep your head down and deliver in all these three areas you will stand out. More often than not they will seek you out if you are a true top performer and demonstrate loyalty and integrity. The relationship then builds from that point onwards

Aim high

Q: Many people talk about setting one-year and five-year plans. Is it a good thing to get in this mind-set and have a clear planned-out career path in mind?
A: If you want to have a genuine high flying career you must have a plan and review it year on year. You need to find the balance of realistic targets and stretch targets. I have always liked the saying; ‘better to aim high and just miss, than to aim low and just get it’

Social climber
Q: It’s easy to stand still in any field. How can you developing your skills and stay relevant? A: Social media is the new norm. Plug yourself into all the subject matter experts in your field and stay ahead of the competition
Michael Page, Tower A, Al Jazira Sports & Cultural Club (02 611 9200)

Sort out your fitness

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Loads of us have gyms in our building that we rarely use. Somehow something (usually very important, obviously) always gets in the way of a good workout. That boxset won’t watch itself after all and it would rude to not visit that new restaurant that just opened up near you. But with so many of us chained to our office during workhours, and the raging heat making outdoor exercise difficult, it really does make sense to get into a fitness routine. If you don’t trust yourself to stay motivated, you can always get someone else to do it. Working with a personal trainer is a great way to reach your goals. We packed our sportiest attire and headed down to Haddins Fitness, in Zayed Sports City, to get some expert advice from Lead Fitness Instructor Sam Bolger. He was crowned the UAE’s fittest personal trainer last year, so we were happy to let him weigh in on the conversation.

Sam’s top tips for getting fit
Take it personal: “A personalised programme is beneficial for a number of reasons. Firstly the programme is designed for you, therefore it takes into consideration your specific goal. This could be fat loss, strength goals, preparation for your first 5k race, improve technique on olympic lifts and so on. Having a trainer alongside you will mean you will be able to train in a safe environment, perform each movement correctly and be educated on why, and how, we do things so that eventually a personal trainer is no longer needed.

Enjoy your workout: “An easy way to keep a client motivated is by creating a programme that they enjoy doing. Of course there are moments where it is tough but overall you want them to feel that they are seeing progress and that training is becoming a sustainable part of their life. At the end of the day there are enough stresses in our life, therefore the gym shouldn't be another one. But is should be a time where they can get away and think about themselves for the hour whilst having some fun.”

Keep on the move: “I think everybody should be looking to move around five times a week. This does not necessarily mean at a high intensity, but it could mean a long walk, run, swim or playing a sport that you enjoy. In terms of personal training sessions you should look at a minimum of two to three sessions a week and then a trainer could give guidance on what you can be doing on the days that you don't see them.”

Fuel your body right: “Nutrition is obviously very important and will help people get to their desired results a lot quicker whether that it is fat loss or gaining weight. It is important to gradually change aspects of people’s diet rather than drastically change it. You do not want to overwhelm people and change their whole life on the very first day that they come to see you.”

Work towards goals:
“The majority of people have goals of losing weight, fat loss and to generally look and feel better. They will only concern themselves with the scales and checking themselves out in the mirror as a measurement of progress. I would advise people to work towards achieving small fitness related goals, for example trying to achieve your first un-assisted pull up or lifting heavier on a back squat or getting a faster 500m row time. If you concentrate on achieving these fitness goals then the initial aesthetic goals you had will come as a result of this.”
Haddins Fitness, Zayed Sports City (02 403 4233).

Sort out your diet

You are what you eat, so they say. If that’s true, a lot of us will probably end up looking like grease-soaked pizza boxes if we don’t change our culinary ways. Getting out of bad eating habits isn’t easy, so we got some extra food for thought from Suzan Terzian, a certified nutritionist and health and wellness consultant at Bodytree Studio, who was happy to dish out some insightful advice that will make your next meal time a whole lot healthier.

Terzian thinks nutrition is about much more than what we eat – it is about how we live and think, too. She says: “I believe that sometimes people are stuck in an unhealthy cycle and may not know how to get themselves out of their rut. I have an immense passion for helping people reach their full wellness potential and truly believe that everyone can integrate steps to becoming a healthier, happier and more positive version of themselves.”

Her approach is built around highlighting negative eating habits and identifying their root causes, and addressing inaccurate perceptions about food.

She continues: “I provide the tips, tricks, and tools to feel great about yourself. I work with my clients to co-create a bespoke journey to transform dietary thoughts and habits into a successful, healthy future.”

The expert nutritionist says preparing food at home is the best option, as you know what is going in your meal, and advises that even when eating out, you can make healthier choices, by looking for menu options that are not deep fried, plumping for salad and vegetables and even asking waiters what type of oil is being used for cooking.
The recipe for success, Terzian adds, lies in keeping it simple and gravitating towards food straight from Mother Nature, rather than processed or from a factory.

Terzian says:
“One of the key things is to eat mostly plant based food. We want 70 to 80 percent of our food intake to be plant-based – vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds and nuts.

“I sure do love my greens. I eat them like they're going out of style,” she says. “I make sure they are well seasoned and taste fabulous, so I don’t want to hear any of those ‘boring and tasteless’ thoughts please. Some plant chemicals can reduce inflammation and eliminate carcinogens, while others regulate the rate at which cells reproduce, get rid of old cells and maintain DNA.”

Terzian encourages people to stay away from fad diets, which she says can only provide temporary results at best. Depriving yourself of food is not the answer, but understanding why you may overeat or consume the wrong kind of products is key.

The benefits of healthier eating, she argues, are wide-ranging; from reducing risk of chronic disease to feeling more energetic, confident and happy at home and at work.

Terzian adds:
“We are what we eat. Every cell, every membrane is made up of the foods that we are eating. Once you start thinking that way, how could you not give your body food that will strengthen, nourish and feed those amazing, beautiful cells that are keeping you alive and well.”

A healthier menu
While Suzan does not believe in telling people exactly what to eat (each client has different needs) she has helpfully provided an example of a healthier culinary itinerary to get you through a normal day.
● Drink some warm lemon water or herbal tea upon rising.
● Start your day with breakfast when you are hungry, such as eggs with vegetables such as spinach or mushrooms
● Lunch and dinner should be vegetables, a protein source and healthy fat, and some complex carbs like chickpeas or beans or quinoa.

Suzan Terzian is the certified nutritionist, health and wellness consultant at Bodytree Studio. Email or call 02 443 4448 to book your first consultation.

Dig out a discount

Life can sometimes get a bit pricey when you live in one of the best cities in the world. But don’t let the glittering hotels, swish restaurants and massive malls give you the wrong impression, this is a city where a bargain can be had. Here are three ways to save those dirhams daily.

Happy hours: Hello, where have you been? Did you not get the memo? Paying full price for drinks is just not the done thing here in 2017. Pretty every spot in the city – from cozy pubs to super cool bars – have happy hours running throughout the week. Plus, it’s important to remember that happy hour can be a misleading term. Some pubs have happy hour deals running all day, while the girls can take advantage of free-flowing drink offers on ladies nights. These are mostly held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but you can hunt out events held on other days of the week, too. You know it makes sense.

Hotel deals: Look before you book is the key here. That goes for the capital’s impressive roster of five-star hotels and when organising a staycation away from the emirate. Some of the glitziest places in the city have great deals to coincide with your stay, including automatic room upgrades, free theme park passes, savings on room rates and dining credit at restaurants within the hotel. Make sure to scour the offers section of the website of the hotel you are looking to stay at for deals or ask if there any perks when you phone up. Never have any reservations about making a saving.

Shopping savings: Understandably, your eyes will light up when you visit sprawling malls crammed with luxury brands. Spend too long (and too much) at these high-end brands and your wallet will be lightened in double quick time. That doesn’t mean you can’t shop til you drop, just keep an eye open for mega sales at malls and at particular stores. Also, make sure to plot a course for a souq, where you literally can haggle over the price of fish and any other hidden treasure you might find in the colourful collection of stalls and independent traders.

Sort out your home

A cluttered room can lead to a cluttered mind. But a shortage of space, allied to a lack of time, can make keeping your Abu Dhabi abode tidy a troublesome task. Every square inch counts – particularly if you are living in a studio apartment - so for those of us struggling to get things organised, step forward professional organiser Shelina Jokhiya, the Managing Director of DeCluttr Me, a company dedicated to organising and clearing our living and working spaces. Here she clears the way for a more ordered future.

Avoid a “clutter build-up”: “How many times, have you looked at a pile and sighed, felt overwhelmed and thought about clearing it another day? That’s what clutter can do to you. Start putting in processes such as making sure everything has a place in your home or office, have a basket or bag in a place, such as next to your wardrobe, and fill it with everything you don’t like, don’t wear, is ugly, never used, and so on. Once the bag is full, you can donate it .”

Should it stay or should it go? “With clients, we work together to decide what should stay and what should go. For clothes there is a set list of reasons why the items should be decluttered. Does it fit? Does it look good? Is it broken in some way? Do you wear it? Is it plain ugly? If any of those replies is in the negative, the item can be decluttered. I find that once we start the process of evaluating why the item should stay or leave, the client removes more items than expected.”

Work with your space: If you are living in a smaller space (such as a studio), you have to accept that you won’t be able to buy bigger bulky furniture that takes over the room. It is also quicker to start feeling you are living in a cluttered space, so review the space and your items at least every month and declutter thse that you do not have a place for.”

How does DeCluttr Me work? “The client will talk to me over the phone and tell me about their life currently and how clutter is affecting them. We will establish which room is causing the most amount of pain. They then usually take photos or a video and I can see immediately how long it will take to organise the space. If it is not clear from our consultation and the pictures of how big the issue is, I will conduct a home visit, review the area and talk to the client further.

“Once the initial consultation is complete, I advise how long it will take to clear the clutter and organise the space and we then book the first session. I usually say one day, one room but it does depend on the amount of stuff in the room and also how the client works with me to clear the clutter.”

Make a clean start: “Once you have decluttered, the stuff you have left will all have a place to live. You will feel light, able to make decisions easily and feel unburdened both physically and mentally.”

For more information on booking a decluttering consultation, visit or call 055 889 0751.

Learn to cook

If the closest you get to the oven is when you are reaching for the takeaway menus stashed in your kitchen drawer, it might be time to get some help. A diet consisting of deliveries and dining out can see you piling on the pounds and shedding plenty of dirhams, so learning to be the master of your meal time can be healthier for your wallet and your waistline. We got the recipe for culinary success from Peter Green, development chef for international chain, jones the grocer.

Peter’s key ingredients
A generous helping of preparation:

“It is all about preparation these days. Plan in advance over the weekend for the week ahead by making your own meal kits. It allows for families to spend time together in planning their meals for the week ahead, ensuring they have all the ingredients they need for each meal, and naturally allows for a healthy, balanced diet. Plan meals in such a way that you are using short-life ingredients at the beginning stages of the week, such as salmon for a Teriyaki rice noodle dish on Sunday and using longer-life ingredients later in the week such as beef for a goulash on Thursday.

A simple starter: “One-pot wonders have proven to be a revelation for novice cooks as they are straight forward to make, are versatile and can provide a complete meal. For example, chicken, veal chorizo, smoked paprika potatoes and peppers or cod, new potatoes and vine tomatoes can all be cooked in one pot and are delicious.

A mix of flavours: “As with most things in life, balance is key to flavour. Always aim to achieve a balance between saltiness, sweetness and acidity. For example, in a stir-fry you would use soy sauce for saltiness, sweetness would naturally come from your vegetables and you would balance the dish with a squeeze of lime juice for acidity.”

A dash of fun: “Food is at the core of our daily lives and therefore cooking should be an enjoyable time to relax and unwind. The more pleasure you get out of this, the more interest you will take in the preparation and inevitably the more you will enjoy your food.

Don’t boil over: “Keep things simple and remember that preparation is key. When planning your dishes, try to choose recipes that have some techniques that you already know or that have elements that can be prepared in advance so to reduce the level of pressure. Remember that your confidence will grow with every dish you successfully make.”

Let’s get cooking
If our top chef’s advice has whetted your appetite for setting sail on a culinary adventure, why not try out a cooking class at jones the grocers? The Australian chain hosts cooking classes at their outlets across Abu Dhabi, with seasoned professionals serving up top tips to help you conquer all in the kitchen. The next series of classes will teach cooks how to make meal from a whole sea bass and serve it with homemade linguini. Now that sounds delicious to us.
All classes start at 7pm and cost Dhs275. Aug 26, Garden Plaza, Al Raha. Sep 9. Peal Plaza Tower, Khalidiya. Sep 16, Al Mamoura Building, Al Mamoura. Sep 23, Garden Plaza, Al Raha. Book at

Life hacks – make everything simpler

Have you ever added up how many hours you spend washing, drying and ironing your clothes? Now add in the hours it took to work out how many hours it takes to do all that and things quickly get out of hand. Instead, why not make use of a laundry service where you can get your clothes picked up, washed, dried and pressed with the minimum of fuss.
Try this: Handy app Washmen will clean and press an individual shirt or blouse for Dhs7 and even wash, dry and fold a wash bag of around 40 items for as little as Dhs65, straight to your door.

If you are pondering whether you should start to watch your weight a bit, then you probably should. We know, it hurts us to hear it, too. Put down the takeaway menu and try out a calorie-counting app on your phone. A host of helpful gadgets are out there, helping you to track what you have consumed and telling you what your ideal fighting weight should be.
Try this: MyFitnessPal tracks your weight and calculates a recommended daily calorie intake, logging how much you’ve consumed during the day and how many you’ve burned up by exercising. The app also has a huge nutrition database, containing over five million foods.

No, it no longer counts as keeping a New Year’s resolution, it’s nearly September. Step up your efforts by using a handy app which will give you routines to work to and goals to meet. We’d advise you to still go to the gym, too, but this is a nice addition to your fitness plan.
Try this: The free Sworkit app features an extensive video library of workouts, covering everything from cardio, yoga and strength training, plus you can ask personal trainers questions about fitness.

Struggling to get a good night’s sleep? Don’t just roll over and accept it. Our hectic lifestyles, not to mention the hot weather, can make getting some solid sack time pretty difficult. But rather than just counting sheep, there are plenty of forward-thinking apps that are already wide awake to the problem.
Try this: The Sleep Better app gets to the bottom of why your head isn’t resting so easily on your pillow. It tracks your sleep duration, cycle and efficiency, combined with your daily habits, such as caffeine consumption, before working out what the connections are and what you can change. Free on iTunes

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