by Nadia and Rene Abesamis
Having a healthy lifestyle for us came naturally through the years. When we met in university, we were both quite mindful of how we took care of our bodies, and it continued on until we became husband and wife.
A healthy and active outlook in life was probably one of the traits that got us attracted to each other to begin with. The ‘healthy lifestyle’ was even easier to do, and more enhanced when we decided to move to Dumaguete, and away from the stressful life in Manila.
We would say there are three major “push” factors that encourage us to live healthy and actively.
The first and probably the strongest influence is the health history of our families. Name it, our families have it — different cancers, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Multiple Systems Atrophy — and we have seen how these illnesses can really strain a person’s life and his family’s as well…physically, emotionally, and financially.
Since we have no control over our genes, we realized that the best way to prevent, or at least lower, the risk of getting these diseases is by controlling our diet and lifestyle.
Actively choosing what we eat, and what we do daily is easier, more fun, and way cheaper than treating the disease once it’s there. Prevent rather than cure.
The second factor is our profession. As practicing biologists, we often find ourselves scrutinizing information about good and bad food, exercise, diseases, environmental hazards, pollutants, carcinogens, dangerous chemicals, etc.
With food alone, so much information is out there telling us what to eat and what not to eat to keep our bodies healthy.
On a positive note, the information makes people more aware and concerned about their health.
On the other hand, the information may sometimes conflict with each other, leaving people confused about what to do. To eat trans fats or not to eat trans fats? That is the question these days. But what are trans fats?
The third factor is the active lifestyle inculcated in us by our families during our childhood.
We were both brought up in an environment that nurtured a love for sports and the outdoors. Our parents and siblings were big in tennis, swimming, football, basketball, or golf. Trips to the beach, camping on islands, snorkeling, and hiking were common activities during vacations.
When we were younger, we tried anything from table tennis to taekwondo, from judo to fencing.
Later in our lives, we picked up mountain biking, scuba diving and yoga — which we continue to this day.
Mixing sports and the outdoors was a normal part of our young lives, so it was easy for us to continue living like that even today.
Apart from making us healthier, the plus side to outdoor sports is that it makes us appreciate how beautiful the natural world is around us — no iPhones or iPads necessary.
So what is a ‘healthy lifestyle’ for us and how do we actually live it? Healthy living for us is what’s natural and simple. We try our best to eat food that are as close to their natural state as possible — more fresh and home-cooked food, and less processed food products.
We practiced a pescetarian diet (seafood and vegetables only), which Rene jokingly refers to as “vegaquarian”, for about eight years, but decided to put meat back into our meals when our daughter arrived, to allow her to get a fuller experience on food choices.
We believe that variety and moderation are the keys to maintaining a healthy diet.
Our exercise comes in different forms — biking, yoga, swimming, scuba diving, walking or running, taking our daughter to the beach or the local park. Anything that gets us out of the couch, away from the TV or computer, and moving all our limbs is considered exercise or activity.
Finally, healthy living for us also means using our resources wisely and efficiently. We try our best to buy only the things that we need, and not too much of what we want, to avoid having too much waste around us. Less consumption means less waste.
After all is said and done anyway, our life can only truly be healthy if the environment we live in is healthy as well.
Nadia Palomar-Abesamis is an assistant professor in biology at Silliman University; Rene is a researcher at the SU Angelo King Center for Research & Environmental Management while completing his PhD in Marine Biology at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia.
Nadia and Rene underwater in Dauin, Negros Oriental
Scaling Mt. Kinabalu in Malaysia