How does Mahathir do it?

APRIL 28 — I grew up under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s premiership. Even back in the early 90s, I was impressed with his health and fitness level.

As the prime minister, he had to travel all over the nation and even the world while keeping a tough schedule.

Sure, he had some surgeries too (including a heart bypass) but he bounced right back as if nothing had happened. And it is not as if he simply "phoned in" his activities. No, he was always at the top of his game.

It is mind-boggling to note that Tun Dr Mahathir stepped down from his top job 15 years ago! Even then, he remained active and now he’s the leader of the Opposition.

At 93 years of age, this is more than remarkable. As a person of middle age myself, I wonder, how he does it.

When one is young, one feels invincible. I remember being able to pull all-nighters before exams and still be able to perform relatively well the following day. 

My tummy was also made of iron. I was able to go to the dodgiest of makan places and come out unscathed.

As I recall, there was only one place where I fell — the stalls at Damansara Utama before the Uptown hawker centre was put up. This was in 1994 and I spent the whole night going to the toilet.

Now I am in my early forties, I can no longer pull all-nighters unless it's to binge watch some TV show. If it’s for work, I find myself getting sleepy very early!

I can no longer have a heavy meal without feeling sleepy afterwards. And I definitely cannot go to just any takeaway without paying the price.

So how does one attain Tun Dr Mahathir’s level of health and fitness? I tried finding out but to no avail.

However, I have looked into various alternative streams of thought regarding health and fitness and find there are a number of practices which can slow down or even reverse the effects of ageing to a limited degree.

Disclaimer: The following represents my explorations into the realms of alternative health and medicine. It is not intended to be medical advice.

The first thing we should note is the body is not an unintelligent machine. It is the biological extent of our consciousness and therefore knows how to survive.

It actually has ways to assist us in doing so but unfortunately, through unhealthy and artificial living, it was forced to become mute.

Case in point is our appetites. We actually have mechanisms which make us feel hungry or satisfied but if we consume fast food, the chemicals they contain tend to overwhelm these mechanisms and we find ourselves hungry.

The second thing to be considered is that our body does not need as many calories as we are normally told.

In fact, calorie restriction can actually be a good thing. Intermittent Fasting has been gaining momentum as an actual movement.

Fasting is not something new. In fact, most cultures throughout the world practise some form of it. The idea that we need three solid meals a day is actually new, relatively speaking.

I tried Intermittent Fasting and found it to be most helpful. I first started with the standard 16-hour fast and have worked my way up to 22 hours.

During the fast, one is allowed water, coffee and tea. I myself stick to water as it facilitates detoxification.

I was surprised to learn that I am able to function on one meal a day. It really is all about training the self.

The last thing I would recommend is thinking about what we eat. While I do practise veganism and find it physically rewarding, I do indulge in meat from time to time.

Veganism does not deprive one of anything. There is practically no meal for which there is no vegan substitute.

Of course, sugar was a bigger enemy for me. Thankfully I have been able to overcome that addiction (let’s call it what it is!) before it could do too much damage.

Health takes work. It simply does not happen by itself. If I learnt anything, it is certainly that.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.