Articles

Winning @ life

Riaan van der Walt

BSc Sport Science, BHons Sport Science

What is it to be successful? Well, we all have our own definitions, and almost all of those are blends of a few things. The most common are predictably business or financial, relationships and parenting, and freedom to travel or pursue personal goals. Having said all that, I have noticed a trend in media like books and documentaries…there seems to be a suggestion or implication that there is a mysterious secret out there about what is causing many people to fail in their goals like careers, their marriages and in their pursuit of happiness in general. When I speak to my clients, it seems to ring true that most people just are not connecting the dots on the fundamental issues that most of us face.

Now, the answers here just are not simple because the problems can be very multifaceted…these range from education to social media to consumerism and so much more. The list is obviously long! I hope it also goes without saying that anyone simplifying these complex issues is at best naive…but what is bothering me here is that very few people are seeing the rather obvious link between the problems that they face and their health.

You see, we really do live in extraordinary times! The rise in disease rates is so ridiculous now, that any quote of a stat on the matter seems like alarmist fear mongering and must be exaggerated. One point of reference is that in 2018 the Obesity rate in the USA was 42,4%. Let that sink in for a moment…4 out of 10 people…not overweight, but obese…pre Covid! Now I’d love to tell you that South Africa falls far behind these types of statistics…but I’d be lying. As a further point of reference, 2 out of 3 SA women are overweight or obese, elevating their risk of illness beyond that of USA women. An example is that SA women are at 150% the risk of Cardiovascular Disease compared to USA women.

So what does health have to do with goals? Well, kind of everything! which is a rather obvious point that many might feel is not worth exploring, but we are not only living in times where disease is extremely high and rising, but also in times where discussing these critical issues are more and more taboo. The ideas of #fatshaming and ‘Healthy at any weight’ may be fringe to you, but they are mainstream ideas globally and that means they are likely already where you are or about to land.

Let me also be clear that as a dad of 2 girls, I am incredibly sensitive to bullying and a culture of criticising people based on their appearance…which obviously includes their weight. But to conflate that with a sincere discussion about health and its influences on your life is a cheap way out of facing uncontroversial facts….So lets get going:

Personal Impact:

I think the most noticeable and easy to relate to issue with poor health and your personal life is the matter of energy. Having energy vs not having it is, I feel, better described as feeling young vs feeling old. Make no mistake that you control your energy levels in the majority. Your food intake, the substances you regularly use from caffeine to alcohol to nicotine, your fitness or lack there of, your weight, your sleep habits…these are all fundamental contributors to your energy levels.

With this said, most personal aspects of life require time spent at high energy. From relationships to parenting to personal pursuits, it really is just a matter of how much of your day you can put towards anything at high energy. Think of parenting after drinking too much the night before, think of working on a relationship after a busy work day has drained you, think of working on that hobby you hope to master after not enough sleep…the point I hope I am making here is that good health truly is the foundation on which you can attempt to build a successful personal life.

Career:

Again, I hope not to be guilty of oversimplifying here, because the variables that make us good at our careers are so different and each example is obviously going to be multifaceted…but there is bedrock upon which skills develop, careers progress and achievements are made possible.

Lets start with the ability to concentrate for long periods…I can’t think of a career that isn’t influenced by that, and the mental clarity that we all crave is achieved by stable…thats right STABLE Blood Sugar Levels. Thats a function of healthy eating, limited alcohol and being lean. Simply put…health.

Chronic Illness…either physical or mental have a serious impact on your ability to progress in careers and in business. Now of coarse there are a few good examples of chronic illnesses that are not of your doing, but the vast majority of these from High Blood Pressure to Diabetes to Depression are caused by, or dramatically worsened by lifestyle. Even if you suffer from one, and its your fault, you should see this as good news! It means at best, you may be able to reverse your ill health completely with a serious shift in how you live and at worst, you will be able to manage your illness to the point where it is a small or insignificant impact on how awesome you can be at your job!

One Day When I’m Big, I’m Gonna Make A Difference:

Most of us have some happiness goals we have always dreamt of getting too. These obviously range massively from noble goals like battling climate change, to big dream items like serious sporting events or international travel…I for example dream of a ridiculous range of goals like impacting ocean health and also surfing one of the worlds hardest waves. I know, I know…silly dreams from a silly guy! But the world can’t only be full of well intentioned people and no-one who acts. We need people to inspire us to do better, reach higher and go do the difficult but important things. Any such pursuits, whether they be physical or not become infinitely more achievable for any of us with good heath as the backbone of our efforts and doomed to a radical increase in failure if disease rates continue the way that they are going now.

In closing, I guess what I’m saying here is that we simply have to start facing the uncontroversial but offensive truths in our lives. We control more than we pretend we do, and the root of many of our problems can be found in the way that we live. Now these things are difficult to change, let there be no doubt! But I hope the point I am making is that lifestyle is more important than it is difficult.

I wish you the very best in health!

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