By Christian Adrian Brown
Body, Mind and Quill
ABOUT THE COLUMNIST
Quadragenarian fitness model, lifestyle coach and bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Feast of Fates, Christian A. Brown received a Kirkus star in 2014 for the first novel in his genrechanging Four Feasts till Darkness series. He has appeared on Newstalk 1010, AM640, Daytime Rogers, and Get Bold Today with LeGrande Green. He actively writes and speaks about his mother’s journey with cancer and on gender issues in the media.
We’ve talked about New Year’s resolutions before, moreover, how to structure them into small, measurable goals to achieve incremental success. If you’re looking for advice on that front, you can revisit my piece in last year’s early issue. Today, though, I’d like to talk about a specific metric for personal fulfillment and success, your health. Since this is a literary column or at least one where we talk about the conjunction of wellness and literature, we’ll later talk about how you can use reading—yes reading—to enhance your health.
Covid has been a daunting global challenge. We’ll be dealing with the personal, financial and policy aftershocks of the pandemic for decades to come. Although one thing that we’ve known from the beginning—and which has been largely ignored in the panic and mania surrounding the disease—is that people who suffer from metabolic disorders are disproportionately affected by the illness. In addition to modern therapeutics and vaccines, control over our health and wellness has always been within our reach. Now more than ever, we need to be having familial, community and national conversations about health and the sovereign, personal actions we should all be taking to ease the burden on our health care systems.
As someone who has worked in the fitness industry with people of various body types, I can assure you that there is no “perfect” body. I can equally assure you that no one should aspire to be too thin or too large. Just do the best that you can with nutrition and activity and allow your body to find its ideal fat/ muscle distribution. Don’t look to magazines, social media or other coercive influences to tell you how you should feel about your body. As we begin to understand more and more about the corrosive— and not just the beneficial—aspects of social media, we learn that these places are echo chambers and often do naught else but reinforce positive or negative confirmation bias. All of this is a preamble to the discussion that we must be reasonable about our body image and perceptions of what constitutes “health” and “healthy habits”.
Almost universally, nutritionists agree that too much sugar is bad for you. Indeed, eliminating all excess sugars in the highly saturated North American diet has no downsides. Furthermore, the growing popularity of natural and commercially available sweeteners such as Xylitol or stevia blends (the former is a 1:1 granulated sugar substitute) make for a tantalizing proposition. Likewise, keeping an eye on your saturated and trans fat intake is another good place to start. Read labels! I can’t stress the importance of this enough—particularly as this is a column based on literature and literacy, so consider this your recommended reading. Perhaps you don’t know how to read labels, so two pieces of advice. First, the more ingredients, the greater the chance something untoward and unhealthy is in the product. Second, always check the quantity cited on the label. If the caloric intake and nutrients (or sugars) seem too good to be true that could be because the manufacturer has done the old bait-n-switch. A tactic where they give you the nutritional info for a portion of the product, which is generally far less than anyone with a moderate appetite will consume. So consider what they’re qualifying as a ‘serving size’ against the amount you would ideally consume.
And finally, we need to take care of the bodies we’re fueling with all this goodness. 3-5 days of vigorous exercise—a combination of weights, cardio and stretching—is generally the regime prescribed by doctors and trainers alike. And with the pandemic, manufacturers have produced a dizzying array of space saving home fitness equipment, personal training apps and weight management tools to help people through every stage of development.
A personal pastime that I’ve come to enjoy, too, is my morning “reads” while doing the cardio components of my workouts: 30 minutes of serene contemplation in the morning, watching the sunrise, connected to my body and breath, and listening to my latest Audible title. I’ve read/ listened to over two dozen books during the pandemic; a great feat considering that I’ve struggled to come anywhere near the voracious appetite and propensity I had for finishing books in my youth. The pleasure of engaging with a story also satisfies the need to unwind and unclench from stress and anxiety. Stories serve to improve our mental health and will be essential in not only leading us out of the darkness of the last two years but in helping us dream and build the systems that will allow our society to endure past this trial.
May 2022 bring you health, resilience, equilibrium and an abundance of stories to inspire and motivate you.
Article originally Published in the February/March 2022 Issue “New & Upcoming”