The first of January marks the start date of well-meant, earnest resolves to lead a healthier life.
What is it that motivates these declarations of renewed zest for life? Perhaps its our now dulled, almost obsolete, survival instinct rearing its head? While we may not need our instincts to warn us when there is a predator lurking in the undergrowth, that inbuilt eagerness to remain alive for as long as possible could be the reason we regularly admonish ourselves for our bad habits and our self-inflicted abuse of our bodies.
The start of a new year simply provides a convenient end of chapter, where we can feel as if we can wipe the slate clean and start afresh – to draw a line under the partying, the lack of exercise and the daily cheese croissants of the past 365 days. But is it possible to draw a line under the damage you have already done to your body and start from scratch?
According to aspirational health coach Dr Richard Reyes, with each day that you let these promises to yourself go unhonoured, you are getting further and further away from the yellow brick road to health and longevity. He says, "At this time of year, its a tradition to resolve to change. But with 99 per cent of these resolutions, nothing happens. You may do it for a few weeks, but then you will be back to your old routine. Success in maintaining health is a state of mind. You need to think, ‘Am I laying the foundation for a healthy, long and happy life? Or for an early and tragic demise? Just don’t live in denial and don’t kid yourself that you are doing fine and that damage is not being done."
Dr Reyes coaches people in the best way to achieve their optimum state of health. By trade, he is a specialist breast cancer surgeon. He is also a jazz trumpeter and a keen sportsman, having competed in rowing at a national level and achieving high rankings in both judo and ving tsun kung fu. His interest and passion for sports and maintaining an optimum physical condition have led him to become the doctor for the World’s Strongest Man competition.
In recent years, his reputation has lead him to be called upon by professional athletes, as well as the world’s rich and famous, to get them to peak physical condition and health using The Reyes Longevity Programme. “On the basis that good health is something we should all aspire to, I realised that what I was doing was coaching people to good health, almost like an aspirational health coach,” says Dr Reyes.
“The concept of my programme is based on successful ageing, meaning maintaining social, mental and physical wellbeing for as long as possible. It’s not simply about how old you can get – there’s a quality of life issue here. People often cynically say to me, ‘How many extra years can you give me?’ I explain, ‘I’m not sure at this moment that you’ll even make your average life expectancy. Rather than getting you extra years, let’s look first at making sure you reach your life expectancy and maximising the number of healthy years you can enjoy.”
According to Dr Reyes, the crux of the successful ageing concept is the word ‘maintenance’. As he points out, that is the only part that you have any control over, and the word conveys a sense of long-term action rather than sporadic attempts. He says, “If in January you promise to shed the weight you gained over the holidays by joining the gym, it’s just a short-term correction. Maintaining your health would mean you would be going to the gym all the time.” He says that the better your maintenance programme, the longer you will live and the more successfully you will age. “Successfull ageing implies that you have to put effort in to achieve it. If you don’t achieve it, you fail.
And if you fail, you pay with your life.”
The simple formula
If you tend to spend your time looking for the next quick fix, or miracle cure – the tasty, herbal drink that will let you eat, drink and smoke what you like and give you the health and life expectancy of an Okinawan – stop looking. It doesn’t exist. “People would rather spend a lot of money on unfounded, unproven magic than put the work in that is necessary to maintain their health,” says Dr Reyes. He points to Greek physician Hippocrates who said that if everyone had the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we will have found the safest way to health. “That was over 2,000 years ago,” he says, “and we haven’t moved on. They knew it, and we need to realise it – the safest and quickest way to health is through exercise and nutrition.”
Dr Reyes coaches his clients to help them change their lifestyle, ditch their bad habits and replace them with good ones. The coaching is not over until the client can happily continute with their new healthy lifestyle entirely of their own volition, without risk of letting the momentum slide.
He says, “It’s a hard jump to make from being a normally unhealthy person to having a new healthy mind set and commitment. It is all about staying healthy and living longer. After all, there is nothing worse for your long healthy life than dying of a life-shortening disease. The best way to get one of these diseases is to smoke, eat badly, do no exercise and ignore your health. It’s all about building a maintenance programme to fit your life, body and needs. If you want to change the fruit, you’ve got to change the root.”
Listen to your body
Essentially we are all given a body to play with. The body we end up with at the end of our lives is largely a result of our day-to-day actions, habits and choices. If you are wondering about how your lifestyle is impacting your health, all you have to do is look at your body with honest eyes. Are you overweight? Are you always tired? Do you have a persistent cough, or are you constantly battling against the latest cold bug to steam through your office? “Your body is the most sensitive gauge of your lifestyle,” says Dr Reyes. “If you are overweight, you aren’t eating properly or you are not exercising enough. If you are in tip-top shape, your body won’t lie. The main thing is not to convince yourself that you are slipping under the radar. You may be doing fine now, but don’t try and convince yourself that you are getting away with it. An unhealthy lifestyle will catch up with you eventually.”
This rings true for many of us. It’s easy to think, ‘It’s OK, I’m doing fine. This is just a phase – I’ll change before I actually do myself any damage. Next year is going to be different.’ But will it be any different? Stop with the empty promises to yourself and actually make the changes you need to make. You can’t buy yourself a healthy, happy old age, but if you start now, you can definitely earn one.
Dr Reyes' four steps to better health
1 Do one good thing for your nutrition every day. “Decide on one change you are going to make to your daily eating routine and make a habit out of it. For example, have oats with milk and the tiniest sprinkle of brown sugar for breakfast, add some flax seed to your cereal, or swap your mid-morning caffeine fix for a herbal tea alternative. When you are used to that good habit, add another one.”
2 Do one thing every day which is exercise-based. “Decide on something active that you can fit into your daily routine – five minutes on the treadmill, walking around the block, or ten press ups. Maintain it and when you are used to it, up the amount of time, or add another good exercise habit.”
3 Cook for yourself. “One of the worst things you can do for your health is eat out a lot. You often get poor quality food at expensive prices and you never know what nutritional content you are getting. Once you get into the habit of ordering fast food to be delivered to your home, that’s convenience gone mad. The more you cook for yourself, the healthier you will be. Get back to cooking traditional, wholesome food. You’ll be much better off than existing on a restaurant and takeaway lifestyle.”
4 Take supplements. “There are four areas of supplementation: vitamins and minerals, anti-oxidants, probiotics and prebiotics, and oils. Take a good multivitamin and multimineral once a day; find a good anti-oxidant tablet; have a probiotic drink every morning; and put olive oil or flax seeds on your salads. Remember that supplementation by definition means that your diet should be alive and healthy. It’s worth knowing that although supplements are required to state their content, they don’t have to tell you the concentration of active ingredients in their products. For example, you can buy grapeseed extract for fifty fils or fifty dirhams a kilo. The difference will be in the amount of active ingredient – so with most brands, you get what you pay for. I would recommend Biocare, Bionutri and Solgar as good quality supplement brands. You can find very high quality supplements on specialist sites such as www.naturaldispensary.co.uk.”
Warm welcome to my health blog! This was introduced with an objective to educate and spread awareness among people, encouraging them to live healthier lives with longevity. Let me emphasize that our contemporary situation in individual’s life are so fast moving that we tend to neglect and spare some moments for our own health.
My inspiration has turned into passion in a health care that turned into a blog. The ample of support and response was tremendously changed into positive results.
I dedicated this blog for all those people who are very conscious for their health and life style. Hope so, I can bring differences for healthy living the fore my viewer comments are always valuable and your continued patronage is important for me. Wish you a happy and healthy life ahead!