Laila Ali, a world-class athlete, TV host, and a home chef has spent two decades in the fitness and wellness space.
She’s been referred to as “the most successful female in the history of women’s boxing” and now runs her own lifestyle brand helping people to become champions in every area of their life, which also includes a cookbook and nutritional supplements.
As an advocate for self-care and “putting yourself first,” I asked her about her own self-care practices and what fuels her the most recently.
Expecting the usual list of taking time out, massages and long baths, her response was a pleasant surprise.
Ali says that self-care is really about nurturing what’s most important to us in our lives, instead of paying attention to all the “shoulds.” And that by giving back to others we actually get to take care of ourselves in the process.
Studies back her up, showing that when we engage in altruistic behavior we receive boosts to our health such as lower blood pressure and increased life expectancy.
The U.K. Mental Health Foundation even campaigns around the message of “doing good helps you feel good” and suggests altruism can help reduce stress, improve mood, happiness, and self-esteem.
Ali says this is how she’s led most of her life, by filling her “heart up first.” Without this, she says she just doesn’t feel balanced or settled.
For more than ten years she’s worked with Feeding America, a hunger-relief charity in the U.S. as she’s felt a natural connection to the cause.
One in six kids in the U.S. faces hunger and that number is said to rise during the summer months, when many kids lose access to school lunch programs.
Ali is partnering with Undeniably Dairy and Feeding America with a special campaign over the summer to help raise awareness and to “provide kids with the food they need to grow and thrive.”
Food poverty issues are just as pronounced in the U.K., with levels among the worst in Europe, especially for children. Nearly one in five U.K. children under 15 lives in a home “where the parents cannot afford to put food on the table.”
Ali suggests there are many different ways people can give back and it doesn’t always have to equal money. While even $1 can go a long way, she says giving up some of your time or even offering to mentor others is so valuable.
While she’s passionate about the causes she supports, she also wants everyone to know there are many baby steps to simply start heading yourself in the right direction.
She said to get started, anything from smiling at someone you pass, through to calling a friend to check in, counts as giving back. It also means when you do come across a cause to support, you’re much more open to it and you’ll be more aware of how you could help.
Ali says we can live our lives in a daze and get trapped in perceptions of who needs help or what helps look like, but there are really opportunities all around us.
Often the people who need help the most are “hidden” in that they could be making ends meet but going hungry themselves to feed their children. Sometimes all they need is love and acknowledgment Ali says.
In her own life, Ali says it gives her a sense of accomplishment to know that she’s able to help others: “When you can make self-care and service a part of your life and you’re doing it naturally, you also get to feel fulfilled and connected.”