Driving down the highway, street lights whizzing past, adding to the euphoria of being young. Entering the packed nightclub with an entourage of equally sexy and confident (nah, it’s not arrogance), a slick purchase of expensive vodka and gin and tonic for the rest and that slow motion walk to the leather couches in the corner. The day has been more than hectic: a quick shower, the traffic unrelenting, work never-ending, meetings attended and created, countless pills popped to ease the headache, lunch postponed then cancelled… such is the life of this character who thinks she will remain forever young.
I had the unexpected ‘light bulb moment’ occur during my interview with a very passionate young professional earlier this week. Up until that moment I had never really taken into account the relationship that exists between what I want to accomplish in life and my health. Health is something I have always looked at as one of those things I will have to deal with much later on in life. I mean, I’m still in my twenties, I’m considerably healthy and right now, as billboards, TV and magazines show and tell us, is the time to focus my energies on my career. Little thought has been paid to my health: why should I be concerned when I’m healthy now?
Well, during my chat with the passionate young professional, Dr. Tshidi Gule, Medical Director and at the forefront of Sustainable Lifestyle Changes, this question (and a number of others) was answered. Here is what transpired.
Amandla: What has made you so passionate about the youth and how their lifestyle choices impact on their health?
Dr. Gule: Well, I consider myself still young… (laughs). We are living in a time where the youth, in general, are engaging in risky behaviour. Health is underrated. So I ask myself, ‘how do I put value in them?’
Amandla: When one thinks about a healthy lifestyle, especially for us youth, it seems like a boring life to lead compared to the fast-paced, liquor-drinking and cigarette-smoking life. Is this so, or are we just deluding ourselves?
Dr Gule: It is hard for those with careers like ours. We are always so busy. So we [in the medical profession] have to become more creative. It’s more about one’s attitude rather than the understanding of how health impacts life. Health is no longer something you look at when you’re 50. You have to check it every moment. The youth needs to see how it affects us on a day-to-day basis. And the youth wants to be challenged, so we have to be creative and utilize personal engagement.
Amandla: Money-wise, is a healthy lifestyle cost-effective? My flatmate spends quite a lot on extra virgin olive oil, low-GI brown bread, brown rice, honey, nuts, etc.
Dr. Gule: It all depends on which kind of health fashion you prefer. The all-organic lifestyle tends to be more costly, but fresh fruit and vegetables are still the cheapest form of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Accessibility also plays a role. If you ask young children which they prefer: sweets or an orange, it is highly probable that they will want the sweets and this is because of the highly addictive sense of sweets and high fat foods. Cost is just a good enough excuse to not live healthy lifestyles. As with anything, healthy food just needs for you to acquire the taste. We need to get rid of our dependency on high fat foods and sweets.
Amandla: How can we manage our hectic lives where there’s barely any time to cook a healthy meal or indulge in a proper breakfast before jetting off to work? Is there a way to fit in healthy living into such a tight schedule?
Dr. Gule: There are generally two types of people when it comes to that: Early birds and Night owls. For early birds, the best time to plan your day is in the morning; for night owls, at night. Compose a weekly shopping diary. This is when you go out, for just a few hours on a given day, and buy healthy food. When you buy food that will last just one week it instils that idea of not wasting. Discipline is an art. And with the availability of food healthy food and that idea of not wasting it, you are less likely to be tempted to go out for junk. So when you go out to do your shopping, take the time to look around and see and even taste. Decide on what it is you like and go for it. I always advise my patients to try one good habit at a time. For example, water. After a week or so of drinking your daily requirement, it automatically becomes a habit. The body will not reject what it needs. The problem with a lot of us is that we do not even start. And when you’re at that point, ask yourself: What value am I to myself? Without health you are unable to do the things you need to. So don’t overwhelm yourself: one change at a time.
Amandla: Can you shed some light on a number of preventable diseases that are affecting today’s youth?
Dr. Gule: High blood pressure. It really is shocking. If it’s not inherited, secondary hypertension takes place. Bad lifestyle choices are the major contributor and smoking also plays large factor. The other preventable disease affecting our youth is Type 2 Diabetes. This is a disease which usually affects people in their 40s and upwards. But now it’s occurring in younger kids, some of even fourteen. When too much protein, sugar and carbohydrates (think of fast foods) are introduced too early in life, the body ends up not being able to break down these high fat processed foods.
Amandla: You also fall under the youth umbrella (Dr. Gule is yet to reach 30), any words of encouragement to those who may be reluctant to make changes in their lifestyles?
Dr. Gule: First things first, why do you matter to yourself? Who do you want to be in this circle of life? That inspiration keeps us going. So find that network of people to keep you motivated. Understand health and stay healthy. Stay proactive. We as doctors are now also available on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. You have to live long enough to fulfil that dream you have, and by not taking care of your health now, you stand to prevent that dream from being a reality.
Look at the circle you surround yourself with; whether you want to believe it or not, you are affected and influenced by it. It is time to make those hard decisions if they add value to your life. Health catches up with you. So take care of yourself now and remember that health is about persistence. It is not a destination but a journey. Learn to listen to your body; it knows what is good for itself.
Amandla: The chat with Dr Gule stayed with me for the better part of that day. And while writing this, words from the Sustainable Lifestyle Changes media release float around in my head: “Health is an invaluable commodity. You cannot put a price tag on doing the best for yourself. Choosing to live a healthy lifestyle is on its own a manifestation of one’s values and a lasting act of self-love and care.”
- Amandla Kwinana
Folloe her on Twitter: @JoziChicSA