Despite having a 24 x 7 senior management job, Nazeeb Arif, Executive Vice President, ITC Ltd, decided to take charge of his health. During the lockdown, he lost 33 kg, reduced his inflammation drastically, and reversed his type 2 diabetes. He becomes an inspirational leader for each one of us working hard and putting work first, but taking the time and discipline to self-nurture ourselves back to good health. With his experience and his own health journey, he provides a practical and real perspective for those who don’t have the time to be healthy, on how to be healthy. He’s passionate about keeping his health on track and sustainability as a way of life. We at Unhurry spoke to him about what makes him tick.

Excerpts below:

As a business leader, what is your personal view on preventive health?

Like many of life’s best gifts, the value of good health is often perceived when you lose it. The good news is that the elusive elixir of a great quality of life lies in mindful preventive care of yourself. Those tiny drops of effort made every day to take care of your health can indeed build into rivulets, streams, rivers, and oceans of happiness, fulfillment, and productivity. But then, when you are young, you do tend to live life with a sense of chutzpah that you are immortal. The earlier you start gifting yourself the power of preventive care, the longer you reap the rewards of a great zest for life, boundless energy, sharper brainpower, and a genuinely happy lifespan. Why then wait, till it is too late?

How do you ensure that you have time for yourself, healthy habits, and exercise? 

Life’s pressures tend to consume almost every minute of available time. We all know we must devote some moments to a healthy regime, and most of us are quite good at leaving it to another day! I am no less guilty of such procrastination. Having said that, I have tried to mend my ways! The best way to multiply the hours available is to get up early and do a morning regime that honestly leaves you refreshed and enlightened on many counts. As a die-hard foodie, it was also critical for me to eat right and eat just that much. Good self-control is tough but immensely possible. The other thing is the realization and practice that you can weave in some walking, breathing, water intake into your work schedule and you don’t always need a compartmentalized time for completing your daily preventive health tasks. Walking 10 minutes and drinking a glass of water every 90 minutes is not the most difficult task, but easily postponed. The lesson for me was to utilize these small windows of time and not wait for that big hour. 

Have you overcome a personal health crisis yourself? If yes, how would you describe it to inspire others?

“I had everything that comes with being obese – pre-diabetic, bad cholesterol, high blood pressure, and a fatty liver. But when I began being good to myself, the healing began.”

I had everything that comes with being obese – pre-diabetic, heavy on bad cholesterol, high blood pressure, and to top that a fatty liver. And was quite resigned to gulping in the daily medicines to keep life ticking. Not that I didn’t try to fix it. Fad diets, visits to health spas, bouts of walking, going to the gym et al. Some helped, but for a short time. When I went to Rachna, that critical difference happened. In two words – ‘Lifestyle Change’. Not quick fixes, but a gradual, conscious, holistic process that would become second nature. Tough but enduring and most of all, extremely effective. So the weight counter went from 128 to 95, and I am still not done. I need to hit 90 soon. However, the weight reduction was only one outcome – the most important was that all my blood tests came out normal, and my liver started healing up. For the first time, my doctor even complimented me!!  The short point is – don’t give up, it’s possible to heal well, and the cure is in your hands. On the days I have been good to myself, I have been on top of the world. The path, however, is yours to travel and the choice is yours, and yours only.

How did you feel when you were invited to be a Jury Member for The Restore Awards?

I don’t have enough knowledge to be on an expert Jury of the caliber RachnaRestoresTM has put together. I only had my personal experience. But if that could inspire anyone to follow a healthier path, whatever that may be, perhaps it would be worth it. More so, during my healing journey, I also saw and heard so many warriors who have the most inspiring stories that can be a beacon of light to many. It is a privilege to read and hear all the stories of personal and collective endeavors and to contribute to a process that will recognize exemplary efforts that can even inspire many more. I am quite aware even before I start that every participant is a winner in many ways, and all deserve every accolade and the very best wishes that we can command.

What is the one healthy secret lifestyle hack that you will share which has always worked for you?

It is said that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Following a lifestyle-changing regime is tough, and needs the support of an entire ecosystem – your family, friends, and well-wishers. Therefore, very early in commencing with the program, I took the time to identify all the speed breakers that could derail my resolve and addressed them one by one. And these speed breakers can come from numerous corners – so it’s important to plan those pitfalls in detail and have a good Plan A and a Plan B. So it can mean everything from avoiding late dinners to packing in your walking shoes, ensuring a water bottle is nearby, healthy snacks are at hand to handle those cravings, and so on. Any of these hitting a speed breaker can stop you from reaching your goal, believe me! Each sound small in isolation but are big in becoming a barrier. However, the best hack perhaps is to look for the small windows of time to do what you must do, and not wait for that golden hour to attain nirvana. One more thing – if you have those old favorite jeans from your college days, keep them handy. If you have been obese and now can fit into it, nothing can be more satisfying!

What does sustainable living mean for you personally?

To live a life that does not cause a burden on others, and one where you leave a better future for the next generation. To do at least one small thing that can be of knowledge, help, or inspiration to others. And to invest in me-time, in me-health, in me-fulfillment – not just to create a better self but to do all the things that denote sustainable living for me. Amen!

“Invest in me-time, in me-health, in me-fulfillment – not just to create a better self but to do all the things that denote sustainable living.”