Four Components of a Wealthy Life — Part 1 — Health

If you happen to be afflicted with a persistent desire to do better and accomplish more I congratulate you. I also offer my condolences. The drive for continual personal improvement can be an unforgiving emotional task master.

Lately, I have preferred to look at the components of a wealthy life, and work for improvements among them all. Four components that make up the pillars of a wealthy life include health, finances, goals and personal development. Below are some simple, but powerful principles in adding to the wealth in your life. This article focuses on simple, but powerful practices to improve and maintain optimum health.

Health — the Most Important Component of Personal Wealth

“If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.”

-Count Rugen (Christopher Guest) in The Princess Bride

Taking care of yourself is the starting point for a wealthy life. This is both physical and emotional. Let’s start with the physical:

  1. Get adequate sleep

One of the first things we give up on our quest for higher achievement is sleep. That’s a bad mistake. We don’t actually get more done by sacrificing sleep, but rather function at less and less productive levels. In 2015 the National Sleep Foundation released updated recommendations by age group for the recommended amount of sleep. For adults 18–64 the recommendation was 7–9 hours.

In an interview with Success magazine, Dr. Peter Diamandis suggested eight hours should be the norm, with a 7 1/2 hour minimum.

When Tony Schwartz asked in an interview, which he felt was more important, sleep or exercise, with some thoughtful hesitation, he came down on the side of sleep.

Dr. Mehmet Oz has extolled the virtue of sleep as a key to being youthful longer.

2. Achieve and maintain your ideal body weight.

There is a simple formula developed by Dr. G. J. Hamwi in 1964. It is primarily based on height, with a slight adjustment for body frame (based on the circumference of the wrist). Here are the formulae:

Men: 106 pounds for first 5’ of height + 6 pounds for each additional inch

Women: 100 pounds for first 5’ of height + 5 pounds for each additional inch

This translates to a simple linear formula based on height and sex. (Bolded values represent the median height for men and women in North America respectively)

If you’re not at your ideal body weight, then getting there is not fun for most people. The process I used to drop my 30 excess pounds was to count calories. Gratefully there are a myriad of apps that help facilitate this process. The one I used was Lose It. This free app links to a website version. You can enter your current weight, height and weight goal, along with your desired rate of weight loss, and it will give you a recommended daily calorie “budget.”

As I used this tool to log all the food that I ate, and all of my exercise and activity, the awareness of where my calories (and hence my weight) were coming from was both surprising and educational.

I no longer track all of my calories, because I have achieved my ideal body weight. Now I weigh myself daily, with the commitment that if I exceed my ideal body weight again by 5 lbs or more, I’ll go back to logging calories until I’m back where I want to be.

As a result of this practice I realized how easy it is to gain weight, and how difficult it is to lose it. Consequently, it’s a lot easier to say “No” to that extra large dessert, understanding how much it will add to my weight, if not kept in check. Some of the other realizations included:

  • The amount of calories in most soft drinks is a significant portion of total calories, if you imbibe as I did. (I have since switched to the low-cost, zero calorie versions of flavored carbonated drinks, when I still have the urge for a soda). When I am not allowing myself an unlimited number of calories, I prefer to eat, rather than drink them.
  • Along that line was the realization of how many calories are in orange juice, my morning beverage of choice. I didn’t cut the practice out, but I did cut the quantity in half.
  • Related to that is the every growing serving size. When you’re paying attention to caloric intake, you have the inevitable awareness of serving size. When you take the time to measure an actual tablespoon of butter, it may be more or less than you would have estimated by eye. Accuracy is key when counting calories.
  • Many nutrition labels are misleading by reducing the serving size to small, impractical sizes. One small bag of trail mix, for example is labeled as two servings. In nearly all cases most consumers will eat the whole bag in one setting. It’s really not a lot of trail mix, but labeling it as two servings makes the calorie count look better on the label.
  • The proof of the pudding is on the scale. There are so many opportunities for calorie tracking variations between what you actually ingest and what you record, so the results that matter are on the scale. Weigh yourself daily and if you are sticking to your calorie tracking budget, you should see your weight dropping if you’re in a weight loss scenario.

In addition to tracking your caloric intake, starting and maintaining a regular regiment of exercise will assist with weight management. It has a myriad of other benefits as well. I recommend alternating exercise between strength and cardio every other day for six days a week. (I take Sundays off).

To see how you’re doing overall with your health, take this 10-question quiz.

James Stephenson is the author of Small Steps, Big Feat