“First we form habits, then they form us. Conquer your bad habits or they will conquer you.”
― Rob Gilbert
Copyright © 2017 Rosie Bank
When beginning a discussion about the health of active, busy professionals, a good place to start is to state what this conversation is not about. It’s not about having a perfect figure or wearing a size 0. And it certainly is not about trying to adhere to a ridiculously restricted diet or unreasonable exercise routine. We don’t need to strive to become a shape and size that is impossible for our bodies. And then there is the one that is nearest and dearest to my heart. A discussion about health is not an opportunity to judge ourselves harshly or feel bad if we are merely average in our daily practices or sometimes even make an error in judgement.
Let’s also skip over the nonsense of perfection, ultra-thinness, deprivation dieting, extreme calorie restriction, and any form of self-loathing. These are not what health is about. It is as important to know this as it is to know what your focus will be as you and your body move in harmony to greater and more sustained vitality.
I won’t tell you that you have to eat more veggies, get more exercise, and reduce your stress. I know that you already know this. But I will explain to you how and why doing so will impact your bottom line and your ability to perform at your best within your company, your business, or your job.
There are five major areas where your health, your body, and your professional success converge. Let’s focus on these.
Living your purpose
ENERGY: In his book The One Thing, Gary Keller stated that exhaustion is the thief of productivity. I am a business owner so I know that there are days when continuing to move forward is not for the faint of heart. Being exhausted is not an option for me, and I am guessing it is not an option for you. But really, do you do things that enhance your energy level? Or are there some areas where you put yourself on a slippery slope? Please be patient while I talk about food and sleep. We need to address how and if you are taking good care of your body and where and how you might be at risk. We need to look at the areas where you might be robbing yourself of precious productivity. If you are still interested in making, saving, investing, and spending money, then it is important to know how to make adjustments in your self-care habits that will impact your bottom line. I’ll talk about money later, but for now, there are two things you can do to ensure that your energy is predictable and your productivity is reliable.
1. Make sleep a priority on a regular basis. If you continue to operate without enough sleep, you may see more long-term and serious health problems. Some of the most serious potential problems associated with chronic sleep deprivation are high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure or stroke. On a daily basis, sleep deprivation is associated with an inability to concentrate, irritability, a tendency to gain weight, and brain fog. On the other hand, when you are well-rested you can make decisions with greater clarity, your creativity is enhanced, you are more apt to get involved in a variety of fun activities, and your relationships are more harmonious. For busy professionals this translates to your being able to perform better, meet the demands of your clients, and compete in the market place simply by having a regular bed time and getting deep restorative sleep between seven and nine hours per night on a regular basis.
2. The quality of your food has a direct impact on your energy and productivity levels. To make this more doable, the best place to start is with what you already know. Namely, skip the junk food, quit relying on just coffee to get you through the morning and afternoon, and put more time and energy into getting your share of whole foods in the form of plants and healthy proteins. Connecting the dots between the health of your body and the health of your business will inspire you to take action. You wouldn’t try to drive from San Francisco to Chicago in a jalopy with cheap gasoline. Similarly, you want to use quality fuel to mobilize yourself to meet the demands of your work.
Confidence: Let’s get very real about how you feel about how you look. I highly recommend a Google search for images of big, beautiful men and women. Optimizing your health includes opening your mind to a variety of shapes and sizes that are considered attractive. It is essential that you consider if you feel okay about how you look as you are. Frankly, among my clients, some very successful people have confessed to me that they are embarrassed by their girth. Think about it. If you are going to give a presentation or speak to a team, or be introduced to a client, if you have any shame about the way you look, it will siphon some of your energy and focus from the group, or client, on to yourself. Our brains can’t focus on more than one thing in a given moment. Since my objective is to support you in getting your body to support you in work, one place where you can start is being truthful with yourself about how you feel about how you look. This may not be easy. But as professionals, we are normally not limited because something entails difficulty. Another inroad to consider is if your feelings about your body negatively impact what you believe you can accomplish in your career. Tough question, I know. Framing all this to make it about how you serve others puts a very refreshing twist to this and creates new inroads for you to make some changes.
I heard a local politician speak recently to an audience of entrepreneurs. He actually referred to the size of his belly and said he was a bit embarrassed about it. Personally, I was blown away that he brought the audience’s attention to his midriff! I understand the value of his transparency of sharing his own struggle and I respected him for that. However, another perspective is to wonder how it serves him and his audience for him to point out that he is stuck with this shape and struggles with being in front of a group as an influencer and thought leader.
Mitigating Risk: My friend Pat Obuchowski wrote a book titled Gusty Women Win. Pat is a leader in and advocate of the Bigger Game system for creating optimal fulfillment in our lives. There is some overlap between the people with whom Pat and I work in our respective practices. Let’s assume you want to live a bigger life and play a bigger game. You want to touch a lot of people. You want your business to be competitive, sustainable, and profitable. The question to ask is how can you do this if your health is compromised? What if you are pointed in the direction of some awful, expensive, stressful, painful disease given your lifestyle choices? If you are, the career you have built so carefully is at risk as well. Framed positively, what is the return to you for having paid attention to your body, for making pro-health practices, and for avoiding serious issues? If you have a reasonable weight, if you do not abuse substances, if you avoid poisoning yourself with toxic inflammatory-inducing high-calorie/low nutrient food, then you are not only protecting your body, but by extension, you are protecting your business.
Financial exposure: This is an enormous topic and could be an eight-week course. Since this is about money, I’ll cut to the bottom line. It is incredibly expensive to get sick. Between rising costs, the insanity around insurance, missed work, co-pays, stress to you and your family, prescription medicine, annual deductibles and more, saying that it pays to stay healthy is a tremendous understatement. The number one cost of bankruptcy, according to researchers at Harvard, is chronic degenerative disease. Many of these diseases are lifestyle induced. It is among my most ardent personal beliefs that for those of us who work hard to keep our businesses profitable, it makes sense that we would therefore, by extension, do things to invest in our health. This would be a good time for you to fold in your health strategies and wellness practices into anything you do in planning your career and work. Is it easier to have frozen yogurt and a diet soda for lunch, and a bag of chips mid-day, than it is to make a salad and go for a walk? Does it take more time? Is it sometimes inconvenient to get to a place where healthy alternatives are available especially when you are craving something that isn’t good for you? All these challenges are real, but you overcome challenges at work every single day. I urge you to get brutally honest with yourself and identify the things you do that make you feel crummy or hate the way you look. That’s a good place to start. These are the very practices that could cost you an arm and a leg down the road.
If you want to avoid taking your hard-earned assets and try to buy your health back, the best time to do this would have been about twenty years ago. The next best time is today.
One more thing on this topic. Listen to your words when you say that you can or can’t afford things. I am referring to the expenditure of time as well as money. There is evidence that supports reduced risk to heart disease and cancer correlated with meditation. This suggests that the time you take to quiet your mind, release tension from your body, and enjoy your breath can put time, money, and productivity back in your pocket.
Living your purpose: I saved this one for last on purpose. One popular way to describe a business is how it helps people solve their problems. Whether it is helping someone to find their dream home, to manage their money, to remodel their kitchen, to have beautiful hair, to keep their pets well… all of us who own our own business or who go to meaningful job are serving humanity. Working to make the world a better place and to help others is altruism at its finest. Even if we are financially motivated, we still need to show up and serve. Gary Keller says, “Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls – family, health, friends, and integrity – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.” If you allow your health to shatter, everything else you have worked for drops. You are unable to move mountains and the people who climb them if you did a major oops when it comes to your body.
I’d like to suggest that there is one area where your efforts will reward you on many levels. At the beginning of this article I stated that optimal health has nothing to do with being super thin or strict dieting. However, maintaining an average weight does. None of us would really want to have a blubbery belly, and having an average size body may not win us a Miss Universe contest. But I cringe as I write that because, really, who cares? It may be a choice of someone to invest that kind of time into having a well-sculpted physique. But for the rest of us mortals, tummies, thighs, and chins are a part of reality. And having them does not interfere with our ability to look great, have plenty of energy, and to enjoy optimal health. But being obese and having an excess of belly fat does. Cosmetics aside, there are real risks associate with what is referred to as killer fat, which is excess, not moderate padding of fat around the belly, buttocks, and thighs.
Here is a list of the benefits for maintaining an average weight. As you consider each item, imagine the difference each benefit could make for you to work to your maximum capacity.
• Increased energy and vitality
• Less wear and tear and pain in joints
• Reduced inflammation
• Reduced hypertension, and risk for all degenerative disease
• Increase libido. (Sexual activity not only provides many of the same benefits to your heart as exercise but also keeps levels of estrogen and testosterone in balance, which is important for heart health. Sexual activity, and specifically intercourse, is linked to better stress response and lower blood pressure.)
• Increased hormonal balance
• Improvement to mood and outlook
• Reduced dependency on prescription medicine and side effects/complications
• Save money
Don’t be too busy. The time required to try to get your health back if you lose it is more exorbitant than all the yoga classes, meditation sessions, and trips to the farmers’ market combined. Don’t write your health off as “now isn’t the right time to focus on me.” Focus on you now so that you can continue to focus on others for an indefinite amount of time. Don’t say that supplements, going to the gym, and eating healthy food is too expensive. The most expensive thing
in the world is choosing food and drink that puts you in the negative column with your health. And never blame not knowing enough as a reason to persist in putting yourself at risk. You know to start your day with a balanced breakfast, including some protein, healthy fat, and complex carbohydrates. You know to take Vitamin D supplements to ward off every single disease that you don’t want to get. These, and other simple practices are easy to do. Jim Rohn says, “Success is easy. So is neglect.” You choose.
Your health, your life, your clients, your families, your assets are all in the balance. On a daily basis, one healthy meal at a time; one healthy snack at a time; one chance at a time to become relaxed and well-rested; one chance at a time to get outside and breathe, move, and sweat… this is what your life can look like. Your body will love you back and you will do better work.
Health matters. And so do you.
Board Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach