You Have to Want It: Your Best Body Now
Aya Fubara Eneli, M.A., J.D.
Aya Eneli International
This article is in response to the inquiries I have received and comments I have heard about what it takes to lose weight and be physically healthy. It is also born out of statistics that speak to our growing inability or unwillingness as a people to make our health a priority, sometimes until it is too late.
According to the World Health Organization, globally, over 1 billion adults are
overweight, and at least 300 million of them obese. And this epidemic is not
limited to adults alone; in the United States of America, an estimated 17% of
all children are overweight and that trend is being mirrored all across the
As one who has made a commitment not just to maintaining a certain weight, but actually
being physically strong and healthy, the benefits of taking care of my body and health far outweigh any temporary discomfort the discipline of a healthy diet and regular exercise may cause me.
It should come as no surprise to any of us that being obese and overweight puts us at major risk for chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke, and certain forms of cancer.
While we may seek to deny the truth by hanging out mostly with people whose health habits are identical to us (misery loves company), or convincing ourselves that we just have big bones, being overweight or obese is primarily caused by increased consumption of energy-dense foods high in saturated fats and sugars, and reduced physical activity. Blame your weight on genetics if you will, but a more likely culprit may be cultural eating and exercise habits that run in your family that pre-dispose the entire family to being physically unhealthy. The bottom line is that obesity is a complex condition, that carries with it serious social and psychological dimensions, and affects virtually all ages and socioeconomic groups, and limits our physical abilities while shortening our lifespan.
The prevalence of overweight and obesity is commonly assessed by using body mass
index (BMI), defined as the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters (kg/m2 ). Or for those of us not using the metric system, your BMI is calculated by multiplying your weight in pounds by .45 and dividing that number by the number you get when you multiply your height in inches by .0254 and square it. (There are Free BMI calculators on the Internet; you just need to know your weight and height.) A BMI over 25 is defined as overweight, and a BMI of over 30 as obese. These are basic benchmarks, please see you healthcare provider for more specificity for your health. Get an annual physical.
So, what do I do as a 40 year old mother of five children to stay healthy and
physically fit? First and foremost, I have decided in my mind that physical fitness is not an option for me; it is a necessity. That mindset alone means that I am committed to doing whatever I must to eat healthy and exercise consistently. If you are still convincing yourself that you look great, comparatively speaking, or that it is unrealistic to be fit after a certain age, you will not commit with any consistency to any regimen that will result
in a healthy weight and overall good fitness level. You will probably be prone to the yo-yo dieting that is so common in our world.
Secondly, I monitor what I eat and drink. There are so many empty calories in soda,
juices, alcohol, smoothies, etc. Fall in love with good old water again. It is great for your body and has no calories or artificial sweeteners like in the diet sodas which just increase your cravings for sweets.
Eat frequently, ideally 5-6 times a day, but smaller portions primarily consisting
of protein (like fish and poultry without the skin), green vegetables, and complex carbohydrates like brown rice and oatmeal, limit fried foods, and cut out late night snacking (this presents a challenge for me when I pull all nighters), limit your sodium intake.
Did you know that your weight is based on 10% genetics, 10% exercise regimen, and
80% nutrition? Don’t underestimate the importance of healthy food choices. To improve your probability of eating healthy, plan your meals in advance. Figure out what food stuff you need in your home (and what to eliminate) to make better choices. If you are not primarily responsible for buying groceries and cooking the food in your home, articulate your needs to whoever is in charge. If you eat out a lot, avoid buffets and fill up on veggies first so that there is less room for junk. The Bible admonishes us not to be gluttonous. Find a different form of entertainment or means of bonding with others without the focus on alcohol and unhealthy foods. Daniel, in the Bible, proved the impact of a healthy diet even on the functioning of the mind. It is worth emulating.
A typical breakfast for me consists of ½ a cup of plain steel-cut oats (no sugar, milk, etc.), three egg whites and one whole egg scrambled with pepper and herbs and no salt. Lunch may be 4-6 ounces of skinless chicken breast with no added sodium, a cup of broccoli or other green vegetable, and ½ cup of cooked brown rice with no salt. Dinner mostly consists of fish and vegetables. For snacks, I prefer protein shakes, protein bars (but watch the fat content), grapefruit, apples, and raw almonds. Once a week, I eat whatever I like, but in moderation.
Do I always adhere to this diet? No, but most of the time I do and I get creative with spices and my vegetables. I still eat a lot of Nigerian soups, but I load them up with veggies, cut down or eliminate the oil and will have the soup and meat alone for a meal or with very little fufu. Do I still eat chips, chin-chin, pistachios, peanuts, meat pies, cakes and pies? Yes, but eating them is an exception and not the norm for me anymore. The focus is on fueling my body for optimal performance, not just eating to eat.
How about exercise? A combination of weight lifting, cardio and stretching is necessary especially for those of us who are over 30 and will experience muscle loss if we neglect lifting weights. Lifting weights does not mean that you will bulk up; it just helps to keep you toned and counteract the natural loss of muscle mass that will occur otherwise. Those athletes with really muscular frames are people who are lifting at a much more intense level for that strength and appearance.
I aim for 30 minutes of weight lifting at least 4 times a week, and no less than 20 minutes of cardio 5 times a week. To prevent boredom, I vary my cardio between the stair mill, Stairmaster, treadmill at a 12-15% incline, cycling, the elliptical, going for walks or bike riding with my husband and/or children, taking fitness classes, or doing Taebo and other cardio tapes at home.
Whatever you do, get educated about your body and your health. Consult with your doctor,
and don’t accept any excuses of why it is okay for you to be overweight and unfit. Check out the Internet, not for the quick-fix pills and drops, but for information on creating and sustaining a healthy lifestyle. Shape.com, oxygenmag.com and mensfitness.com are some good sources.
This next one is a no-brainer, but bears repeating. Eliminate smoking, illicit drugs, and alcohol.
Finally, get sufficient sleep typically defined by the experts as 8 hours of sleep. I rarely get 8 hours of sleep. Between a writing goal that I cannot always meet in the daytime, raising five still young children and conditioning from years of sleep deprivation, on a great night, I get about 6 hours of sleep and I seem to do well with it. Our bodies do require the downtime for repair, so I will suggest you follow the experts and not what I do on this one.
The bottom line is that we have just one body and one life; take care of it. The Bible says that our body is a temple for God. As a parent, I dream of living a long life and seeing my children grow and prosper. I imagine myself playing soccer with my grandkids instead of leaning on a cane or being dead and buried. I see myself travelling widely and making a difference across the world. I need energy, good health, strength and stamina to accomplish all of this. I also want to set great examples for my children so that they understand and practice taking care of their bodies. How much is your life worth? How much is you living strong and healthy worth to you? The choice is yours.
Aya Fubara Eneli is a best-selling author, Christian Life Coach, Motivational Speaker and Attorney. Her life’s purpose is to empower and equip people to live up to their highest potential. For more information or to book her for your next event, visit https://www.ayaeneli.com, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.