Unexpected Health Coaching

Papi 1

This morning I bumped into Papi (not his real name) at the Church’s entrance and once again, it seemed like I was just there at the right time and place for he was looking for someone to help him climb up the ladder to change some light bulbs he had just bought.

After that, he invited me to their Samoan Legion of Mary meeting. Following that and some nice tea, he asked:

“John, what are you doing today?”

“Oh nothing much, I’m still on holiday :)”

“Want to go for a ride?”

“Of course!” I heartily agreed as I haven’t done much sightseeing since arriving.

Papi was fetching Mata’u (Samoan chieftain) down South to a tailor shop to where the Church choir got their Coats made.

We had a pleasant ride and good long chat.

I even spotted a huge mass of migratory birds! This was my first time seeing them fly in formation and I was in such awe, lost in the moment, that I did not think about taking out my phone to capture it until Papi asked me if I wanted to!

After dropping Mata’u off, Papi drove me back and decided to “shout” for lunch. Shouting in New Zealand is a peculiar way of saying one would like to give a treat or pay for everyone’s meals.

“By the way John, what do you think I should do?” Papi gestured to his body.

I’d been thinking of offering him some health advice for some time now but wasn’t sure how to approach the topic without offending him. So boy was I glad he had asked!

“Well, tell me what you normally eat in a day?”

It is tempting to jump straight into advice like eating more salads and cutting carbs but from experience, it can be overwhelming for someone to make such a large overhaul of their diet. 

I found out for breakfast, he would always have whatever’s leftover from his daughter’s cooking from the previous night. He hates wasting food and will finish everything. It doesn’t help that those leftovers aren’t the most health promoting foods as I will get to below.

For lunch and dinner, it’s the usual pacific islander style dishes like lots of rice or taro paired with plentiful meat and some veggies. In my mind I was thinking:

“hmm, that’s pretty easy. I guess I can suggest cutting down on the refined carbs and meat and replacing it with more salads”

Then I learnt about his achilles heel.

“Oh, I love mayonnaise. Do you have mayonnaise in Singapore?
I like to put it on everything!
I spread it all over my fish, I put it on top of rice to bake like butter, I love mayonnaise in pasta too!”

“Ahhh… ”

Now you see, sometimes it’s good to remain silent and not jump in straight away with a list of recommendations. That’s how you hit the jackpots.

Most of the time, I think people innately know the answers to their health problems. The hard part is taking action or finding the motivation and commitment to stay persistent for lasting change. 

Likewise, Papi knew the mayonnaise wasn’t good for him. But it was too tasty.

“You have to stop. Maybe cut down to alternative days first?
Then once a week?
I will try and find some healthier alternatives or recipes for you!”

From his reaction, I think he was glad that someone was telling him this.

By now we had arrived back in town. We drove to Countdown where I showed him where to find the basic ingredients to make a simple daily Salad Bomb.

From the vegetables section, I pointed out the bags of pre-cut and washed salad leaves and coleslaw. I told him to look out for the “reduced price” ones that expire in 1 or 2 days as these usually cost only $1 to $2!

Then I warned him not to buy the salad dressings lining the shelves nearby as these are often laced with additives and hydrogenated vegetable oils.

I took him over to another section and pointed out the shelves for olive oils and various vinegars like Balsamic and Apple Cider vinegar.

“Just mix 3 tablespoons of oil to 1 tablespoon of vinegar and you are good to go!
You can also squeeze some lemons, add some fruits like apples or bananas, nuts and seeds to make it tastier!”

For today, we just went to the salad section and ordered two small containers of prepared salads each.

I taught him to look out for and avoid those salads with lots of pasta and white potatoes or sauce. Instead he got the broccoli and greek salads and I got the greek and Thai kumara ones.

Lastly, as we walked past the Tuna section, he asked if we could get a can of Tuna to go with the salad. I guess I’ve been too used to not eating meat and hadn’t considered how he wouldn’t be used to a meal without meat yet. I showed him how to look out for “Sustainably Caught” brands and we got a can to share.

We thoroughly enjoyed our little salads back in the car, in a nice spot of the parking lot next to some trees. I also discussed some ways he could include more physical activity into his life.

He had a bad accident 20 years ago and ever since has had much difficulty walking. That’s another reason he gains weight so easily. He used to walk a couple of kilometers every day to work and back. These days he mostly does static exercises at home.

Papi kept thanking me for the advice. I kept thanking him back for the sightseeing and for the meal.

It was a fine day 🙂


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