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Market Bytes - March 21, 2023

You Are What You Eat

If you take the time to read this, I’ll start with a disclaimer: the intention of this post is business related, since what I share has helped me take a far healthier and therefore better view in this area and I sincerely hope to carry on in a similar vein.


I recently had a bit of health-scare and not for the first time. This was caused, in no small part, by a state of complacency, especially around what I eat and drink and this ended up being reflected in all aspects of my life. Anyone that knows me, knows that I enjoy exercise, though enjoy a bit of indulgence too and this has often tipped the wrong way and leads to yo-yos in weight and wellbeing. In other words, ‘burning the candle at both ends’ characterized my 30s and early 40s. As such, I was always talking about being in the process of getting fitter or going on a diet, but never quite getting there and it was becoming glib to keep saying the same thing to people.


Then it was time for my 6 monthly medical check up, since I am prone to being on the cusp of type 2 diabetes, plus a couple of health issues run through the family that are worth watching out for. Thank goodness for the Malaysia healthcare system that offers so many great schemes to keep tabs on these types of situations. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the doctor looking straight at me with a severe look, informing me that my diabetes was 4 x higher than borderline and my cholesterol was a whopping 6 x higher. There was no escaping the brutal truth, the data doesn’t lie and I had to make a change or face the consequences. No more excuses, this was all of my own making and I had to own it.


The resulting behavior from my side, based on this mega reality check, was a ‘boot camp mindset’: no alcohol, low carbs, high proportion of lean protein, fruit and vegetables and daily intensive exercise. It seems there is a plethora of content guiding us in this area, but effective shifts in health and fitness are all about putting theory into action and daily discipline. This is a whole other story, but what I will say is, I re-established a strong connection with my bike, the treadmill and gym ‘free-weights’. This was in conjunction with a seismic shift in the dietary habits I refer to above, which is probably the hardest part.


The better news is, fast forward 2 months to my recent check up and the readings convey that I am currently non diabetic and cholesterol is back to normal levels. For those that relate to such readings, 5.9ml for sugar and 3.2 for cholesterol. Ancillary benefits are also that I have lost 8kg and my blood pressure is down significantly. One thing that is a marvel of modern medical science is the phenomenal power of readily available data points across all your blood markers, which provide a comprehensive window on your health. What’s also remarkable is how the human body responds to external factors like diet and exercise and how the data points shift and show this unfolding story. There seems to be a breathtaking logic to nature and this has led to certain realizations about my own behavior and priorities from this point.


So how do I feel? I would say fitter, stronger, I have higher mental clarity, I sleep better, I have less anxiety, less hunger pangs, a more balanced constitution, I’m less thirsty and have a greater feeling of wellbeing. I’m excited to do more, exercise more, hit new personal achievements and goals, I want to cycle more across Malaysia and perform better in business, and be a better husband and manager. I want to be the best version of myself. I knew all these things were good and worth striving for before, but things were fuzzy and now they are clear.


If I have one thing to share based on perspective gained from this experience, it’s the following golden truth for me:


What we eat, or rather, what we choose to eat and how we nourish ourselves is the most important daily decision we make. The one vessel we get granted the opportunity to look after, respect and maintain to carry us through life, is central to existence and all things flowing from it. How we treat it should therefore be the one single biggest priority in life.


If we can’t, or don’t prioritize this way, then what have we got? We seem to over-index the gravity of the small stuff, right up until we are faced with catastrophe. One minute we spend 80% of our waking time worrying about a spreadsheet and then, the next minute, we receive the big ‘sledge hammer’ shock that we’re physically unwell and have a far more pressing, existential problem to fix. The good news for the majority, is we have the chance to fix it in advance with modern medical advances, so why not make this consideration, literally, the single biggest priority and act on it?


Once we gain perspective as to the gravity of this and take ‘self care’ seriously, then we are able to make more conscious decisions with acuity and perspective, respect and care in areas where it counts, like wisely selecting our circle of friends, how we treat colleagues and so forth. Furthermore, how can we do the best for our nearest and dearest if we are not well ourselves, or worst still, not here for them? Experience tells me we are all searching for some greater meaning and I think this can be achieved on a personal level in the midst of making the kind of improvements I refer to. I feel it’s quite easy to lose sight of this with all the distractions we are faced with and often folks that are struggling through life can initiate great improvements by reconnecting with this sense of personal priority as a starting point.