Ask anyone: what’s most important to you? Chances are the most common answers you’ll hear are relationships, purpose, success and health.
So, how do you show these are the most important things in your life? For me, the last one, health, has always been on my list. I am relatively healthy, but I’ve been guilty of taking this for granted in recent years.
After the sudden passing of both Mom and Dad from complications with cardiac arrest, I realized I needed to move my health up the list of priorities. I wanted to give myself the best chance of living a long, quality life.
Grief and a wake-up call for my own health
It will always be uncomfortable to talk about Mom and Dad in the past tense. I miss them.
They came to Canada in the 1970s, and I’m humbled by the fact they came to this country with just a couple hundred bucks in their pocket, yet they were able to create this beautiful life for us. They worked hard and hustled hard. While they were devoted parents who were busy taking care of us, they in turn, neglected to take care of themselves. They just got through their health hurdles. Until they couldn’t.
Dad had an unwavering belief in my potential. Mom championed an important question of self-reflection for navigating big life decisions: Will this bring you joy?
My parents’ sudden passing was my wake-up call to start being proactive about my own health.
Being proactive about health
In June 2022, I returned home from a hectic work travel schedule when my wife Lori asked, “When was the last time you weighed yourself? I’m concerned.”
Turns out, I was 20 pounds overweight, and she could see it in my gut. The following week my endocrinologist called me after my recent blood tests revealed I was borderline type 2 diabetic and suggested going on medication.
Since both of my parents died of cardiac arrest, I had been getting regular blood tests done every six months to watch for warning signs with my health. This was the moment I started making key sustainable changes.
Get a coach and stay coachable
Adopting a beginner’s mindset was the first step in this health reset. I like to think of the experts as the coaches, and my role is to stay coachable. I think it’s essential to have a coach, someone who really knows what they’re talking about, and to keep listening and taking that information on board.
It could be a personal trainer or a nutritionist; even doctors can be coaches because they give you the information you need to be the healthiest version of yourself.
Even if you can’t or don’t want to get a coach, I’ve found there are 2 key things to being proactive about health that are in your control. You might have heard coaches in sports say over and over again: control what you can control.
You’re in control of what you put in your body
I work with a pharmacist and naturopath to help me understand my dietary needs because I’m in a grey area for type 2 diabetes. Even without a specialist, it’s crucial to understand and take ownership of the foods you use to fuel your body.
In the summer of 2022, I followed the guidance of Ideal Protein. This involved taking a full inventory of what I ate daily and getting the carbs under control. The approach was simple–load up with veggies, get the right amount of protein and limit carb intake. I was a carb monster on the road, as the temptations were everywhere.
After 7 weeks on this Ideal Protein plan, I had lost 23 pounds (17 pounds of fat). Then, after 3 months, it was discovered I had reversed the type 2 diabetes risk with diet changes alone.
Simple tips that helped:
- Always eat the veggies first to line your body with fibre and minimize the glucose spikes.
- Aim to eat enough protein per day. For me, it’s around 150g per day.
- Consume the carbs last and go for high-quality foods: black beans, chickpeas, and lentils.
- Eat until you are 70% full.
- Order meals with sauce/dressings on the side.
Before this, I’d first eat all the carbs–bread, white rice, protein, and maybe some veggies. Maybe.
You’re in control of how you move your body
We know sedentary lifestyles are damaging to our health. The good news is that it’s in your control to be active. Here are some simple changes I’ve implemented courtesy of my wellness coach that have helped make a difference:
Morning movement: When I’m at home, I start my days by walking our dog Norman for about 10-15 minutes. This morning movement, coupled with exposure to daylight, has helped activate cortisol levels first thing to get my body awake.
1-mile momentum: When I’m on the road for work, no matter what time zone I’m in, I’ll start the day with a 1-mile run either outdoors or on the treadmill. I follow this up with a 15-minute dynamic stretching routine to get the blood flowing.
3 workouts per week: On average, I lift weights three times per week. Now that I’m in my 40s, my goal is to maintain muscle mass and strength.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned about my health is to discover, don’t dismiss. The body really does keep the score. I’ve been listening to my body cues when something doesn’t feel right and have been consistently proactive with outreach to doctors for checkups.
Sometimes it’s easy to have my focus on health get sidetracked with the distraction of being busy. The Men’s Health Check survey questions helped raise my self-awareness about where my health is at and where it could be.