The secret to good health

I honestly think COVID-19 is a pain in the butt to put it lightly! It has affected many of us not just financially and mentally. But also, our health. It certainly has packed away our will power (HOPEFULLY NOT FOR GOOD) and has pushed our boundaries and tested our limits.

I had a patient came into the pharmacy for his prescription the other day and our conversation drifted to the issue of weight gain. He mentioned to me how unfit he felt and how much weight he has gained and the amount of visceral fat he is carrying in his mid-section ever since the start of the COVID-19 lock-down. This is certainly a problem that I can relate to myself and I’m sure many of you feel the same way too.

With the gym being closed during the lock-down period and the temptation of opening the fridge and checking out the pantry every half an hour at an all-time high. No wonder we all can be a victim of the COVID-19 weight gain.

I have gained 7 kg since the lock-down and it doesn’t help when you have a newborn baby which takes up most of your gym time and sleep time. I can guarantee you that they are the perfect formula for shaping a “dad body” if you’re ever into that.

I can remember vividly 2 weeks into my paternity leave, one morning I woke up and looked into the mirror and saw how much tighter my pants were fitting. So I told my wife that I needed to start running if going to the gym was too much of a hassle. To my surprise, not only my waistline suffered, but my fitness level had dropped greatly where I was puffing and huffing for almost the entire run which was unusual for me.

This was the turning point – I looked myself in the rear-view mirror as I was driving home from my workout and I said; “You’re not following your own words”. The next day I started my process of regaining my health and wellness again. I had to do something about it before it was out of control. Although I know my body well and how fast I can regain my fitness and achieve my optimum weight, this time around I had to eat and train a little differently compared to the past. I knew that I would not have the luxury of training for 2 hours at the gym, so I decided to train a lot smarter with much greater intensity so that I could achieve the same results with the minimum time possible while still maintaining momentum.  I became a lot stricter with my food intake and cutting down my calories (but not to an extent where I could barely function during the day). I have made smarter decisions around the food that chose to I eat with a focus on maintaining a balanced diet and cutting out refined sugar and limiting myself to only consume carbohydrates only once every 4 days. I noticed results fairly quickly and have gone back to my pre-lockdown weight and fitness level in less than 4 weeks.

Many of you might ask me – what is the secret? Can you give me your meal and workout plan?

There is no secret! You just need to put in the hard work and be patient. However, there is one thing that I believe is crucial in separating the underachievers from the achievers is the idea of self-awareness. Putting in the hard work and being patient can get your engine going but ultimately what drives you over the finishing line is self-awareness.

I believe that self-awareness is grossly underestimated in our society. The focus is being placed on willpower when it comes to achieving fitness goals. Yes, you need willpower if you are going for the short game. However, looking after your health should always be viewed as a long game, and quite frankly will power has no place in it. If you constantly rely on willpower to help you achieve great health then sooner or later you will stumble upon times where your willpower cripples.  The only two things you’ll need to help you stay in the long game are self-awareness and consistency.

Self-awareness is not about knowing that you need to do something about your health but still end up doing nothing because you hate exercise or can’t give up your cream doughnut. Self-awareness is about finding the right approach that works for you so that you will be consistently working towards your goal – a lot easier than choosing an approach that you feel forced into and not comfortable with.  Being self-aware is also about knowing that you are only human and can make mistakes. It is totally fine to steer off track every now and then but knowing when and how to get back on it is the most important thing of all.

So how do you become more self-aware?

If you don’t have self-awareness, the only way to gain it is by getting someone you trust to give you the data points. One thing that I do well in helping my patients to become more aware of their strengths and shortcomings is making every patient of mine feel safe – a very important first step. The sad thing is that most people won’t tell you the truth. When you make people feel safe, they start telling you the truth. So, it is very crucial that if you are on the receiving end, you create a very safe environment for someone to tell you the truth. You need someone to be able to comfortably to tell you what you are good at and bad at without the feeling of being critical.

To be fair, a lot of people aren’t proud of their own qualities and quite frankly they don’t want to accept that they are bad at something either. That’s why I don’t think many people are honest with themselves. We are scared of knowing the truth and are consistently living under a lie. There are a lot of things I wish I was. But I just don’t lie to myself.  Look, I know my limits, I know what I’m terrible at and what my shortcomings are. However, I don’t dwell on them but instead, I use them as leverage for me to accentuate my strengths and be better. Self-awareness is about knowing what you are capable of and choosing which path you want to go through. It isn’t only about betting on your strengths, it’s accepting all your shortcomings. The day you start to accept your weaknesses and stop lying to yourself is the day you can fly free to achieve whatever goals you want to.

Another point I notice with many people when they want to achieve great fitness and health is that there is always a romantic version of who they think they want to be or who they think they are versus who they are. Just that it looks cool to have six-pack abs (btw I don’t have one myself) doesn’t mean that’s what you need to have. Simply don’t let other people’s expectations be your gold standard. What works for me may not necessarily work for you. Being at peace with yourself and what you are capable of is such an important part of achieving anything in life not just great health.

So next time when you try to lose weight or achieve better health, try to get to know yourself first, be honest, and don’t lie to yourself. Every day you’re going to focus on playing the long game while everyone else is looking for the one miracle workout or diet plan that will change their outcome. They’ll continue to search, hoping, dreaming and playing the short game while you are putting in the work, executing and focusing on the long-term value knowing that you are on this journey for the long haul and are 100% in control of your life.

To your health goals,