As I end the series on Planning for a Fulfilled Life, what have you learnt so far? Remember, we have looked at building a relationship with our Maker, building a lasting relationship with our spouse, making time to shape the thoughts and behavioural patterns of our children and learning the art of handling money. These are major areas in life we should respectfully plan to achieve. I trust all the information received have been of an immense blessing to your life. Today, I close this sequence on the last sub-heading that is so dear to my heart – that is our health. Let us look at it:
Relationship with our Health
Success does not only have to do with the acquisition of material possessions or the recalling of your divine assignment, but it also has to do with staying healthy. Remember that success is a journey and those seriously embarking on this journey have their health needs in check. It is known that a great mind stays in a healthy body. Your health is of great importance for it aids lengthening your life span so that you can energetically be of great help to countless number of people. There is therefore the urgent call to be cautious of your health. The other simple reason for this statement is, health is the physical foundation for your stay on earth. In prioritizing your health needs, there are three important areas you need to focus on:
- Proper eating habits
These areas are discussed as follows:
Ask any successful leader in any field of endeavour or any purposeful person about the secret of his success and you will be glad to hear them say that after each achievable event they reward themselves with enough rest in order to rejuvenate their minds. It suggests that if you do not rest enough, you can easily break down. If you are overly anxious to get more money at the expense of relaxing intermittently within the year, then the accumulated fatigue can seriously have a negative toll or ding-dong on your health. It is important to take a rest after a heavy energy sapping assignment. Do you even know that after God created everything, He rested? Yes, He did! It means He is teaching us the relevance of rest.
“And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made” (Genesis 2:2).
If God rested after a heavy assignment (creation), it is a suitable principle to follow. Rest involves having time to sleep, visiting attractive and educative places, having fun with your family, sightseeing, swimming, and all the fun you can think of. Of course, good fun and not the one that leaves you with heavy weight of guilt! It is advisable to sleep on a planned routine to help adjust your body so that you would not be sleeping anyhow.
Sleep gives your body a chance to heal and regenerate; having a stable sleep routine will help keep your body under check. The other significant feature of rest is how it reduces the causes of stress and depression in your life. Learn to cope with stress by trying different relaxation techniques. Take deep breaths during most of your stressful moments and learn to free your heart from trepidation, apprehension and uncertainties. Remember this: healing comes from God but man has a responsibility to stay strong and healthy.
Most people lead busy lives because of the nature of the global economic system but the benefits of exercise usually tone the body in all areas of life. The gradual introduction of exercise leads to longer patterns of fitness rather than adopting a harsh work out period at the start of each New Year in a gym. A simple way to start, according to most health experts, is to walk. Walking programmes can be adapted to suit any age or fitness level, and fortunately it is less likely to cause injury or wear and tear on the joints.
Walking can also seem far less intimidating to the aged than embarking on a strenuous exercise pattern. Brisk walking is the perfect choice for weight loss as its aerobic demands are similar to those of a running programme and yet it’s much kinder on your body with almost 50 percent less impact of wear and tear on your joints.
Brisk walking also provides you with a challenging cardiovascular workout that will quickly improve muscle tone in your entire lower body – bottom, thighs, hips, and abdominals – as well as upper back and shoulders. If you want to live a long and independent life then it is very important to stay fit and agile. Regular walking has many health benefits and will increase your chances of staying healthy.
Research suggests that it can cut your chances of a heart attack by as much as 50%, reduce the risk of a stroke by up to 40% and make you twice as likely to survive a diagnosis of breast cancer. Walking also helps to maintain the condition of your joints and bones reducing the risk of crippling conditions such as osteoporosis and arthritis. Studies have shown that walking two miles a day cuts the risk of death! Thirty (30) minutes of walk each day also works because it helps your body sustain a healthy weight due to intense exercise.
Proper eating habits
Most of us grow up without knowing how to eat healthily. But you need to make a difference. You do not have to consume any amount of food without knowing the amount of calories, fat or carbohydrates in the food that will be relevant to the body. Working on this particular section, ‘Proper eating habits’, I consulted a lot of health experts and biological scientists whose health tips, having put them into practice, have immensely helped me. Thus, I believe they will also be of great help to you. Let us have a look at them:
- Decide on the amount of calories your body needs on daily basis
The amount may vary greatly, depending on your metabolism and how physically active you are. If you are the kind of person who puts on 10 pounds just smelling a slice of pizza, then your daily caloric intake, according to research, should stay around 2000 calories for men and 1500 calories for women. Your body mass also plays a part in this: More calories are suitable for naturally bigger sized people and lesser calories for smaller sized people. If you are the kind of person who can eat without putting on a pound, or you are physically active, you may want to increase your daily caloric intake by 1000 – 2000 calories, a little less for women. Also, consider that the more muscular you are, the more calories you need to function.
The bad fats are saturated and Trans-fat. Someone on a 2000-calorie diet should consume less than 20 grams of saturated fat a day; and Trans-fat should also be avoided all together. The good fats are plain fat, which you should eat about 30% of your calories from poly- and mono-unsaturated fats.
- Do not fear fatty foods
You need to consume fat from foods for your body to function correctly. However, it is important to choose the right kind of fat: Most animal fats and some vegetable oils are high in fat that raise your cholesterol level; the bad cholesterol. Contrary to popular belief, eating cholesterol does not necessarily raise the amount of cholesterol in your body. If you give your body the right tools, it will flush excess cholesterol from your body. Those tools are monounsaturated fatty acids, which you should try to consume regularly. These are the good fats, and they help lower the bad cholesterol in your body by raising the good cholesterol.
Foods that are high in monounsaturated fatty acids are olive oil, nuts, fish oil and various seed oils. Adding these “good” fats to your weekly diet can lower your level of cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease. Consider sautéing vegetables in small amounts of olive oil and grabbing a hand full of mixed nuts for a snack instead of a regular intake of a bar of chocolate or sweets. There are also various supplements that contain these good fats that you can take daily.
- Carbohydrates are important
You need to eat foods high in carbohydrates since they are your body’s main source of energy. The trick is to choose the right carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates like sugar and processed flour are quickly absorbed by the body’s digestive system. This causes a kind of carbohydrate overload, and your body releases huge amounts of insulin to combat the overload. Not only is the excess insulin bad on your heart, but it encourages weight gain.
Insulin is the main hormone in your body responsible for fat storage. Eat plenty of carbohydrates, but eat carbohydrates that are slowly digested by the body like whole grain flour, healthy vegetables, oats, and unprocessed grains like brown rice. This kind of food does not only contain complex carbohydrates that are slowly digested by the body, but are usually high in vitamins and other nutrients that are beneficial to the body and they are high in fibre which keeps your digestive system running smoothly.
- Eat heavier meals early in the day
Your metabolism slows down towards the end of the evening and is less efficient at digesting foods. That means more of the energy stored in the food will be stored as fat and your body won’t absorb as many nutrients from the meal. Most families tend to have their big meal at dinner time. The problem with this is that your day is basically over, and your body’s need for energy is not as great as it is early in the day.
This large meal (examples are; fufu with palmnut soup or banku with groundnut soup), late in the night, can also make you feel tired, and, who wants to feel extremely exhausted now that the workday is over? Try eating a medium-sized meal for breakfast, a large meal for lunch, and a small meal for dinner. Better yet, try eating 4-5 small meals over the course of your day. That keeps your body fuelled for the whole day without dumping a large amount of food into your stomach, which your body might have a hard time digesting.
- Do not skip breakfast!
Many people skip breakfast because they do not feel they need to eat it, or they just do not feel hungry in the morning. Unless you are waiting on the Lord through prayer and fasting for a period of time, it is important to have breakfast before leaving for the office. Research shows that people who skip breakfast are usually fatter than those who eat a well-balanced breakfast. Although you might not feel hungry in the morning, if you skip breakfast, you will feel extra hungry when it’s lunch time, making you prone to over-eating during your afternoon meal.
In addition, skipping breakfast makes your think that you are starving. After all, by lunch time maybe at 2pm., you may not have eaten in almost fourteen hours (that is from 12 midnight to 1400 GMT). For the rest of the day after you skip breakfast, your body will store up most of the energy you get from food, instead of allowing you to burn it, in anticipation of food scarcity. Not only will this cause you to be tired during the day when your body is not using the food that you ate, but the extra energy stored up will result in weight gain. In planning for a great mealtime, consider cereals which are great for breakfast. Combine the following:
- 4 medium-size strawberries
- 1/2 cup of skim milk or soya milk (you can get any of them to purchase at any nearby Hypermarket or any shopping mall within your city).
For protein, try substituting beans for higher calorie foods like boneless skinless chicken breasts, or tuna. Not only will you be getting additional photo chemicals from the plant-based protein, but also, it will not have the harmful saturated fat content. Remember that even an orange has more than 5% of its calories from protein!
Non-fat yoghurt can make a great snack, and its healthy bacteria can help with various stomach disorders.
Carry water with you at all times. Try to drink water in place of soft drinks and other flavoured beverages. A good rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces per day.
Consider eating organic. Organic food isn’t made with the use of a lot of harmful chemicals, or other harmful processes. Not only is organic food good for you, but it is sustainable and good for the environment too! Other foods can be extremely harmful to the environment.
Read the labels on everything you eat. Do not just buy something because it is marketed as being “healthy.” Lots of companies are actually trying to sell off their food as healthy when in reality; such foods are full of high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, Trans fats, and hidden sugars. I have come to know that reading the labels is the best way to learn about a product. It gives you almost all the information about that product you’ll ever need. If you’re trying to lose weight, try to choose foods with low calories. If you want to gain weight for a particular reason, you then choose food with lots of calories. However, too many calories, without enough exercise, and eating too much at one time, can make you fat.
Avoid processed foods. They are unnatural foods and it makes it very difficult for your body to break it down which means they will lie in your gut making you feel bloated and lethargic or lazy. Eat things which are in their unprocessed state such as raw fruits, vegetables, brown rice, whole wheat and so on.
- Make eating fun
Avoiding simple carbohydrates and fatty foods does not need to be boring. Have fun not only with the food, but with the mealtime. Eating with family and friends makes the meal more satisfying than eating in front of the TV or in the car on the way home from work. You will also eat more slowly when enjoying your meal, which gives your body time to feel full before you burst a button. There are more creative cooking resources available to you than ever. You can find great tasting recipes in magazines, books, and on the Internet. Eating baked or grilled fish two or three times a week can get boring, so go on a little recipe hunting to find more exciting ways to prepare your meals.
- Buy non-fat or reduced fat foods
This is done not to avoid getting fat, because eating fat will not make you fat. And it is not about eating fewer calories. You can stay trim when you know how to control the kind and amount of fat that goes into your body. For instance, olive oil has many health benefits, so buy non-fat or reduced fat salad dressing and add a table spoon of olive oil to the jar. You’ll have a salad dressing that tastes great, and also better for your health. So, buy the non-fat foods so you can replace the missing fat with “good” fats. Remember, you do need to eat a moderate amount of fat each day. Fat can be very deceiving. For example, if you are trying to lose weight, you have to look for food with low fat content. However, there are some foods that have good fats; these fats are like monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat.
These fats add calories from fat, and so do Trans-fat and saturated fat. It is likely these fats can combine, which can be confusing. It then becomes important to look out for meals that contain saturated and Trans-fat. If you see on a label 20 calories of fat, but no gramme of Trans fat and saturated fat, that means that there is polyunsaturated fat and or monounsaturated fat. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are good for you. They protect your heart and increase ‘good’ cholesterol. It is good to have enough good fats, but all good things have to come to an end.
- 8. Avoid alcohol
You know that heavy drinking is bad for your body, as well as your will power. In fact, a heavy dose of alcohol has the power of weakening your memory. Again, a heavy night of drinking could send you to the fridge pigging out on all the wrong foods. Do not drink to gain appetite because it has hidden calories. You can have appetizers or prepare the food in a mouth watery way so there would be no need for alcohol.
Your health is your gain. In other words, your physical longevity on earth depends largely on how you treat your body. Seek solace in the fact that once you are used to eating fresh, healthy food, you will really begin to like it instead of always looking for cookies, chips and fries. In fact, everything that causes damage to your body must be carefully examined. You will stay healthy if you strictly adhere to all these suggested health tips including what you already know. Discipline is required to stay healthy. Remember, healing comes from God but staying healthy is your choice! So, as a corporate executive, choose to be healthy now and live longer to bless the lives of people, especially your immediate family.
This article is an extract from the writer’s book, Yes, You Can Make It! Grab your copy of this book (YES, YOU CAN MAKE IT!) from Kingdom Bookshop, KNUST, Kumasi and in Accra, contact: Mrs. Justina Asempa (Phoenix Insurance, Ringway Estates, Osu) on 0244 20 88 43 and Pastor Stephen Gyamfi (ICGC, Asylum Down, 054 679 7323). In Sunyani, contact: Miriam on 054 929 89 16.
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Contact: +233 (59) 5 71 08 01
- Owusu, P. (2016). The Leading Edge, Kumasi: Streams Publishing House, pp. 277-317.
- Owusu, P. (2021). Yes, You Can Make It!, Kumasi: Streams Publishing House, p.22.
The writer is an Academic, Visiting Lecturer, Leadership Consultant and a Reverend Minister with the WordSprings City Church, Kumasi-Ghana.