Great practices aren’t built overnight – the process requires bountiful ambition, tireless work habits and relentless self-promotion. One element in the recipe to success that is often overlooked, however, is ensuring you are in your best physical and mental form.

“There are so many different risk factors: alcohol, [lack of] exercise, smoking, diet, stress levels – when they all are put together they can significantly shorten your life,” says Dr. Mary L’Abbé, who is the Earle W. McHenry chairwoman of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto.

Many of these risks factors are heightened for financial advisors, given the stress associated with the job, and the amount of time they spend sitting in client meetings.

Diet plays a particularly important role in your overall health. With about 37% of Canadian adults overweight and 25% obese, L’Abbé says everyone needs to take a critical look at their diet.

“People that work in high pressure, sedentary jobs, like financial advisors, and are obese, are at a much higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and many forms of cancer than if you were normal weight,” L’Abbé says.

“We need to look at how to eat healthy, not just how much to eat,” she adds. “Like Canada’s Food Guide says: ‘Make each serving count'”.

She recommends eating one dark green and one orange vegetable per day; avoiding adding fat or salt to anything; incorporating whole grains; and avoiding high sugar foods, like cookies, cakes and pastries.

An effective way to eat healthier is to develop a weekly menu and plan ahead, says Daphna Steinberg, a registered dietitian with the Schulich Heart Centre at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. Properly scheduling in time for breakfast and lunch, she says, is a good way to “avoid the fridge raid at the end of the day”.

Diet, however, is only one aspect of a healthy lifestyle.

Steinberg says you need to keep active – roughly 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week, in sets of 10 minutes or more.

“You should break a sweat and be breathing harder than normal – that will help you decrease the risk of things like heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure,” says Steinberg. “Activity can also lead to improved mental health.”

Sarah Hamid-Balma, director of mental health promotion at the Canadian Mental Health Association, B.C. Division, in Vancouver couldn’t agree more.

“Exercise is huge in helping lift your mood and relieving anxiety,” she says. “However, it is often the first thing to go out the window when people get stressed.”

The key to exercising more is to integrate it into your routine, even if it’s just getting off the bus a stop early or going for a walk at lunchtime. While that might be easier said than done, taking a cerebral approach could make a difference, Hamid-Balma says.

“We often suggest at the beginning of the year to add a mental health goal to your physical health goals – you’d be surprised how often those goals work together and are achieved,” she says.

For example, you might find it easier to quit smoking or to exercise more frequently when you feel less anxious, stressed or depressed. How exactly can you do that?

Hamid-Balma suggests looking at diet, physical and mental health as part of a broader holistic approach and not as individual parts working in isolation. She stresses that mental health is a much broader issue than you might think, and it should be taken seriously.

“Mental health is more than a polite euphemism for mental illness,” she says. “When we talk about mental health we are talking about mental well-being; which is about feeling good, energized and positive about your contributions to the world. You can’t think yourself out of it and snap back.”

With the high stress job of being a financial advisor, sometimes something as simple as a good night’s sleep can help pull you out of a slump. However, as a rule of thumb, if you feel unwell persistently for a few weeks, she recommends seeing a doctor or talking to someone you trust.

Often that first step can be the hardest, but Hamid-Balma says you need to be mindful of the bigger picture: “At the end of the day you have to ask yourself: are you getting the most out of your life? If you aren’t – then how are you going to change that?”

How to cut your calories

Looking for some quick and effective ways to cut your calorie intake in 2013? Our experts have offered up a few suggestions for busy advisors:

  • Make sure you have breakfast: Instead of a granola bar, which is typically loaded with calories and sugar, try a bowl of corn or bran flakes with milk.
  • When you are at a networking or client appreciation event: Stick to vegetables or hors d’oeuvres that aren’t deep-fried. Healthy options are usually available.
  • When eating out: Keep dressings and sauces on the side – that will help to decrease your fat and salt as well as your caloric intake.
  • Look for high-fibre foods: Fruits, grains, vegetables and other high-fibre options will help to increase satiety and lower blood pressure.
  • Try to avoid deli meats and boxed or canned foods as much as possible.
  • Spend your calories wisely: Think of it like a debit/credit ledger. Every morning you have an allotment of calories, perhaps somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000. If you overspend, you are going to gain weight. Try and aim for a profit!

This is the second article in a three-part series on best practices for 2013. Next: How you and your practice can benefit from being more mindful in 2013.