Just a few days ago, I received terrible news – my best friend of almost 30 years, who is about my age, suffered an acute heart attack. His co-worker called me from a hospital in Tagaytay and asked me if I could come right away. I was needed to make important decisions, as he was too weak to communicate.
As I went about canceling my commitments for the afternoon, feelings of panic and regret washed over me. I have owned a health food delivery company for over a decade, and many people consider me as one of the most well-known advocates for healthy living in the Philippines. How could I have let this happen? I had barely seen my friend over the last couple of years because of his hectic schedule. Was there anything more I could have done or said to him that could have prevented this?
Needless to say, lifestyle choices such as our eating habits directly impact our health, but it's not just about what and how much we eat, and exercise. Getting enough rest is actually as important as all of that. It's not uncommon for some of us to push our bodies to the breaking point to not miss that deadline or not let other people down.
I remember when I was a teenager up until I was in my twenties, I thought nothing of accepting back-to-back tapings and then flying to another city for a concert without any sleep. That's simply the price of being in-demand as a singer-actress, I thought. Even when we are bone-tired, we power through because we want so much to succeed in our jobs, and as wives, husbands and parents. We imagine having all the things we dream about if only we push ourselves a little more – unfortunately, sometimes, at the expense of our health. (READ: 6 secrets to staying young)
Loving our bodies means always being conscious of the food we eat and how it makes us feel. My sister Chef Barni Alejandro-Rennebeck and I recently launched our second cookbook of healthy recipes and lifestyle tips. Now more than ever, the words I wrote in the book have become relevant to me. In the Love chapter of Eat Clean Love, I wrote:
"Sadly, there a number of people we know and love, some very close to us, who have not taken such great care of their health. Bad eating habits have taken over their lives. The resulting illnesses have caused them to miss out on some of the best things: the freedom to go anywhere they want and take advantage of all the opportunities life can offer.
It's almost as if there is a disconnect between mind and body. You cannot continue to satisfy your cravings, eat whatever and as much as you please, and expect for there to be no consequence.
Because I love my body, I listen to it. No matter what, I get enough rest. I treat myself to a massage when I feel I need it. I don't scrimp on the quality of my food. I never try to save money by choosing the cheapest possible meal option. I avoid keeping junk food around the house because I know if I see it, I will stuff my face with it."
I would be dishonest if I said I don't occasionally overindulge in rich food and wine when I go to my favorite restaurants or when my Lola makes her famous lasagna and roast beef. People who know me can tell you I can eat – a lot. They wonder where I put it all.
The problem is that people think that if they commit to eating healthy, it means missing out on all the good stuff: family dinners, celebrations, enjoying the local food when we travel. They keep postponing to start their new eating plan because they are too busy to go grocery shopping, have that wedding anniversary or weekend out of town coming up. Well, guess what? We will always be busy and people around us will never stop having birthdays, etc. We just have to figure out a way to incorporate proper nutrition into our daily lives. (READ: 6 healthy habits for busy people)
The fact is – if we are not mindful of how we treat our bodies, if we continue to abuse it, we will miss out. As we get older, our movements could become limited by a health condition. I love to travel so I can't imagine what it would be like not to have the ability to walk around and explore all day, or participate in any activity my destination has to offer. I can't fathom being at my prime age, but not physically able to climb and see that breathtaking view of Lake Kayangan in Coron.
Photo courtesy of Rachel Alejandro
P.S. As I am writing this, I get a text that my friend is on his way to recovery. I mentally do a dance of joy. Thank you, God. We live to fight another day.
Rachel Alejandro is a singer-actress and co-owner of health food delivery service The Sexy Chef. She has co-authored 2 books: The Sexy Chef Cookbook and Eat Clean Love, now available at bookstores and news stands nationwide and for order at thesexychef.ph. Follow The Sexy Chef on FB, @thesexychef on IG and @thesexychefph on Twitter.