In his book, “Run Your Body Like a Business,” SAP employee Jay Foard applies business theories to the challenge of staying healthy. We look at eight of his top health tips.
Economics and health. What do they have in common? And how do you define a “healthy” lifestyle? According to Foard, maintaining a healthy body is like running a successful business – the same economic theories and principles apply.
1. Be your body’s CEO
When we’re born, we are the proud owners of a family business that we have inherited through our DNA: our body. The decisions we make affect our lifespan and the quality of life we lead. In the same way as CEOs must act in the interests of their companies, it is our responsibility to care for our body and our health.
2. Know your “normal state”
In today’s world, stress is never far away. Unchecked, it can cause a permanent state of inner tension and unease. Cliché as it may sound, it’s vital for each of us to discover our own “normal state.” According to Foard, the normal state varies from person to person and is the point at which you feel completely in balance and relaxed. “Many people become so used to stress that they no longer realize how far out of balance their lives have become,” he says.
And, he adds, contrary to popular belief, stress and a hectic schedule do not equate with efficiency and productivity. Quite the opposite: In the long term, they damage the body and impair its ability to function. It’s up to each individual to discover what he or she needs to do to return to the normal state, whether it’s practicing relaxation techniques, participating in an endurance sport, taking a stroll, or just reading a good book.
3. Maintain stability
According to Foard, our health is built on four pillars: stress management, exercise, detoxification, and diet. These components are closely interlinked and completely dependent on one another. They are the foundations of good health. Foard compares them with chair legs: Each is essential in its own right and we need all four to ensure stability. The message here is, “Don’t neglect even one of these components for any length of time!” Also it doesn’t make sense to drill into a complicated solution for one area if you are neglecting the basics in another area. Doing just the basics in each area can go a long way towards a healthy lifestyle.
4. Develop a business intelligence strategy for your body
In operations management, you benefit from being able to draw on mountains of data that has been collected over a long period of time. You can access and analyze any part of it to help you make informed decisions that will optimize your company’s processes. Sadly, we don’t enjoy the luxury of being able to conduct a detailed process analysis of our bodies.
Foard says that the only way of monitoring our “input” over an extended period is to record it in writing. He recommends noting down what you eat and what exercise you do over a short period of days. The idea is not to put yourself under pressure, but to get a true picture of what you really eat and what exercise you actually take during that time. This, he says, is the starting point for making positive changes to your health regime. The longer you take notes, the more data you’ll have and the more accurate your analysis will be. Another positive side effect is that you’ll also get a chance to discover what is the exception and what is the rule. For example, you might find that, although you thought fast food was the exception in your life, your analysis tells you it is actually the rule.
5. Balance supply and demand
Supply and demand is one of the most fundamental economic concepts. And the theory of supply and demand, says Foard, applies as much to diet as it does to business. Are we giving our bodies the nutrients they need to produce the “output” we expect from them? He suggests that we should start by finding out exactly what is in the foods we eat. Which vitamins, minerals, and fats do they contain and in what quantities? Armed with that information, you can investigate whether your diet is actually good for you or not. Here, it’s worthwhile to study strategic indicators for foodstuffs and their constituents to obtain recommendations about the correct dietary intake for your age, gender, and weight. Finally, you can perform a gap analysis using the data you have collected – in order to discover the discrepancies between your health objectives and your actual lifestyle.
6. Make a profit
The aim of every business is to make a profit. In terms of our health, profitability means feeding our bodies with raw materials that will produce the maximum amount of energy. We should think of our body as a power unit, a macro economy that consists of multiple small enterprises. If you optimize the input to your body’s cells, you will gain maximum output and use the energy you have to the best advantage.
7. Perform risk management
The older we become, the more important it is for us to apply the principles of risk management to our health. Compare the benefits to be gained by taking a small amount of exercise during the day to the risks of choosing the low-effort option. A good example is, “Shall I take the elevator or the stairs?” “When you’re young,” says Foard, “you can afford to take bigger risks. As you get older, you need to follow a more sustainable strategy.” Don’t skimp on exercise: Your body will thank you for it!
8. Do business sustainably
Make a real effort to break any bad lifestyle habits that you’ve identified. Many of the illnesses associated with growing older are the result of decades of unhealthy living. While it’s relatively easy to find short-term solutions to health problems, our aim should be to develop a holistic, long-term strategy for our health. Work on maintaining your personal balance by ensuring that – on average – you’re doing the right things for your body and by reducing stress through effective time management, just like a CEO.
Foard, a global operations manager in SAP HANA Global Practice, holders a master’s degree in business from Duke University, in the United States, and also studied biology and management information systems. In his book, he draws on his broad-ranging knowledge of business, biology, sociology, and physics as well as on his own observations and personal health experiences.