I am so incredibly excited to introduce my first Health-Esteem King. And not just because gender diversity is a fantastic thing, but because this man is my hero and he means the entire world to me. My dad, Louis Flanagan, has had an incredible Health-Esteem journey and is an inspiration to anyone wishing to make health invoking changes. His story proves that you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it.
Louis’ lifestyle revamp allowed him to kick prediabetes to the curb and get off of the high blood pressure medication that he had been taking for 10 years (and assumed he’d be taking for life). He said goodbye to his smoking habit and gave up on his penchant for bread and sweets in exchange for better health. Today he runs 3 to 5 km per day and bikes even further; he recently participated in a 126 km bike run in order to raise money and awareness for Multiple Sclerosis!
According to his doctor, it’s far more common to be placing middle aged individuals on medication, not taking them off of it. But Louis’ experiences have allowed him to do just that. It just goes to show that Health-Esteem is for everyone, regardless of your age; our dedication to our health and wellbeing can pay off in ways we never imagined!
Meet the splendiferous Louis Flanagan:
Tell us about your health philosophy.
Eat better, exercise and learn to watch your habits. The trick is to learn to build healthy habits that work for you. Ask yourself:
What do I want and what am I willing to do to achieve it?
At the end of the day, many parts of your health are what you’re willing to make it. You can have all kinds of health issues, but you are often still able to make adjustments and improve your situation if you’re willing to put in the patience and time.
What’s your favourite part of your health-esteem journey so far?
Just knowing that I went from being a smoker who spent 10 years on high blood pressure pills to someone who cares about what they eat, runs 3-5 km a day and biked 126 km for an MS Fundraiser is a tremendous lift.
Eight years ago the idea of quitting smoking was a challenge. But I decided that I was willing to make the effort and, in the end, it came much easier than expected. That’s because I made the active choice to try my best and not give up. I’ve learned to take things one day at a time (and I had the support of a fantastic doctor and my wonderful family).
It was the same as I prepared for my bike run. You can’t go from zero to 60, but you can take that first step, which will lead to a second and so on.
I want to emphasize the fact that Health-Esteem isn’t just for young people. People in their 50s, 60s and 70s need it too.
I feel healthier now than I did when I was younger and I know that’s because I made it happen.
What inspired you to become the Healthy Foodie you are today?
When you watch your child challenge their faltering wellness and turn it all around by drastically altering their mind, lifestyle and diet you can’t help but be inspired. If you saw what Sara went through and where she is today you’d be inspired to do something or you just don’t get it.
Of course it’s important to work with your doctor, but you need to take responsibility on your end as well. I used to think that my health problems were simply hereditary and assumed I’d be on high blood pressure medication for life. After all, many of my family members have high blood pressure. But when I found out that I was prediabetic I knew that I didn’t want to sit down and do nothing about it – I’d rather try my best and see what I can do.
I realized that while my family and I may share some genes, we also shared a bad diet full of sugar and bread.
I was inspired to learn to eat better – it’s not just about your genetics, a big part of it is how you’re living and what you’re eating.
I am so glad that I’ve made the changes that I have. I never thought I’d be able to do a 3 km run and then go on to bike over 126 km all in the span of a week – but here I am at 59, taking on challenges I never imagined.
What changes were necessary in order to defeat high blood pressure and pre-diabetes?
It all boiled down to my willingness to commit to my health and make a change.
I had to:
Start thinking and caring about what I was eating
Give up on bad foods like bread, jam and sugary drinks
Learn about good foods and be willing to try new things
Find the right balance and lifestyle for me.
What advice would you give to individuals living with illnesses that can be positively influenced by diet and lifestyle?
Talk to my daughter Sara!
Apart from that talk to your doctor, find a nutritionist… create a healthcare team and work together.
Learn what’s in your food and change the way you eat. You aren’t meant to live off of junk food, preservatives and additives. These things aren’t going to help you be well. Educate yourself – learn more about nutrition and your illness.
And remember, eating better won’t hurt you. It may not solve everything, but it is a step in a better direction.
What advice would you give for someone hoping to quit smoking?
Quitting smoking isn’t easy. My advice would be this:
You have to truly want it
Get help from your doctor and the support of your friends and family. You can’t do this alone.
Remember all the chemicals that are in cigarettes – it’s made to get you hooked. Quitting is going to be a challenge and it may take a few tries. That’s ok!
Keep trying. Even if you fall off the wagon (it took me several tries).
The first step to quitting is in your mind. I can’t stress enough how important it is to not go through this alone. My doctor was a huge help.
From day 1, tell people that you quit. Your thoughts and your language will help you accomplish your goal.
And remember the reward! Now that I’ve quit I have more energy, better health, my clothes don’t stink and I save a ton of money…some of which I used to buy a mustang and a motorcycle!
It was definitely worth the struggle. You will get there!
Describe a typical day on your plate.
I make homemade oat cakes weekly (keep reading for the recipe). I change it up slightly every time, depending on what fruits we have in the house. I typically enjoy a piece in the morning, crumbled in a bowl with some almond milk and extra berries and pair it with a black tea or coffee.
I’m a huge tea drinker and tend to enjoy more tea throughout the day.
For lunch I might enjoy eggs (boiled, fried, scrambled or poached) and baked beans with tomato or maple sauce and I’m a sucker for a few slices of cheese.
One of my favourite snacks is a mix of nutritional yeast, peanut butter and molasses (don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!)
Supper changes daily, but I enjoy a nice roast or chicken with greens (especially beet greens) and potatoes from our garden. You also can’t go wrong with barbecued carrots and a homemade sub!
What is a daily health ritual must?
If I miss a run or don’t get to go on the bike I feel like I’ve missed out.
I also love taking the dog for a run in the morning. It’s a good way to start the day!
What advice would you give for someone wishing to make some health invoking changes?
Move. Do something – find a form of exercise that you like and do it.
Feed yourself well. That’s your fuel and you need good fuel to function.
You don’t have to destroy yourself with a maniac work out to be healthy. If you don’t like your work out you aren’t going to stick to it. You have to be interested in what you’re doing and enjoy it!
It’s also not all about your weight. It’s about you – your life as a whole, your habits, your health and how you feel. Don’t look at the scale for answers. Get outside, get moving, create a healthy lifestyle and eat better.
Also – try not to create a ritual where you congratulate yourself with old, unhealthy habits every time you meet a goal. I couldn’t have quit smoking if I rewarded myself with a cigarette every time I made it a few days without one. I had to change and I had to stick to it. I’m motivated to remain a non-smoker, maintain my healthy blood pressure and prevent prediabetes from returning. Old habits made that happen; new habits are the only way to avoid it.
What’s your biggest health misconception pet peeve?
That people think that pills will do all of the work to make it better.
Medication is great and I am so glad it exists but we need to do what we can to take care of ourselves too.
If you’re taking medication for something like high blood pressure, it’s acting as a band aid. You still need to ask ‘why do I have high blood pressure, and is there any way that I can help make my health better?’
Stress, diet and lifestyle are all potential factors. Listen to your body and take care of yourself.
What is your favourite health food staple?
Maple Water and Tea. My daughter introduced me to maple water when I started training for my bike run. It’s hydrating and energizing and I really enjoy it! I also love Chaga tea, especially for it’s potential to support a healthy blood pressure!
What’s your go to healthy snack?
Oat cakes. We make it weekly and I eat it for breakfast almost every day. I also really enjoy berries.
What does Health-Esteem mean to you?
Health-Esteem means having the courage to face life’s challenges and do what you can for yourself. My daughter’s Health-Esteem made me realize that I can do something for myself and my health. Her passion and drive made me realize that I could do it – that even in our middle ages, we can still create Health-Esteem and take care of ourselves.
What do you think you may be facing down the road? You watch your parents and grandparents grow old and see the health challenges that they face. And, unfortunately, you hear of more and more young people facing illnesses. It’s scary. But if you start taking care of yourself now and develop your own Health-Esteem you may change your path – you may not face the same health challenges down the road.
Finding your Health-Esteem can help you with what you’re facing now. It could provide you with more energy and you may even accomplish things that you never dreamed of before.
Please share a favourite health-inducing recipe
Breakfast Oat Cakes
This recipe is vegetarian and gluten free. (Use Maple Syrup instead of Honey if Vegan).
Preheat the oven to 325°F
9” by 13” Pan
2 Gala Apples
1 Naval Orange
½ of a Small Lemon
2 Cups of Gluten Free Rolled Oats
1 Tbsp of Nutritional Yeast
4 Tbsps of Coconut Oil
1/8 Cup of Cinnamon
¼ Cup of Honey or Maple Syrup
Combine the fruits and blend in your food processor until well mixed. Add the remaining ingredients and blend once more until everything is well combined. Grease your pan with coconut oil before adding in the mixture. Smooth with a spoon until even and bake at 325°F for 30 minutes.
Once cool, cover well and refrigerate.
We love to enjoy these for breakfast. You can crumble a piece into a bowl and enjoy with fruit and almond milk, or try it dry with berries, bananas and coconut whipped cream!
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