Transcript—Get Your Spirit In Shape: Getting (and Staying) Healthy
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Joe: Welcome to Get Your Spirit in Shape, United Methodist Communications’ and UMC.org’s podcast to help keep our souls as healthy as our bodies. I’m Joe Iovino.
At the beginning of the New Year many of us are thinking about health goals. This is the year we’re going to eat better, exercise more and generally get healthier. So to help with those goals I consulted with a public health physician and a nurse who just happen to work for Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, Dr. Olusimbo Ige and Sabrina Rodgers. For fun, I asked them to review some of the remedies in John Wesley’s health guide called “Primitive Physick.”
Sabrina Rodgers responded to a suggestion of using honey on a bee sting.
Sabrina: I think honey…I’ve heard it helps with inflammation. So a bee sting, being that you have an inflammation, I think he may have been onto something.
Joe: We also talked about some of his tips for staying healthy. Dr. Ige likes his advice that walking is the best exercise.
Simbo: Exercises need to be consistent, need to be part of our lives, and a lot of people find it hard when they do something new, you know, to stay with it. And walking is something that we can all stay with.
Joe: Then we got more practical. We talked about things you and I can do today to get healthier.
Sabrina: I would say incorporate more fruits and vegetables, those green, leafy vegetables, making sure that when you sit down to a meal it’s very colorful.
Joe: Then, finally, we talked about the things the United Methodist Church is doing to help all of us stay healthy.
Simbo: We’re Methodists. In our DNA we already have health as part who we are.
Joe: So if you’re thinking about gaining some healthy habits in the new year, listen in on this fun and informative conversation.
Joe: Today my guests are Dr. Olusimbo Ige who is the Executive Director of Global Health Unit with General Board of Global Ministries, and Sabrina Rodgers who’s the United States Program Manager for the General Health Unit of the General Board of Global Ministries. Did I get those things right?
Sabrina: Kind of, sort of, but not really.
Joe: How about if I let you introduce yourselves, and let us know a little bit about how you came to get involved in the Global Health Initiative.
Sabrina: I’m Sabrina Rodgers, the U.S. Health Program Manager in the Global Health Unit of Global Ministries. I am a native of Mississippi, relocated to Atlanta 2 years ago, right around the same time Global Ministries did their transition to Atlanta. During that time, I’ve always had a passion for age, public health, and adolescent and child health as well. So I stumbled upon this position with the General Board of Global Ministries.
I prayed about finding a job or a career that merged all of my major passions together, and here I am right now, leading the U.S. health component of the Abundant Health Initiative. I couldn’t be more happier.
Joe: That’s exciting. Tell me a little bit about you, Simbo.
Simbo: I am Simbo Ige. I’m a public health physician originally from Nigeria. I started my journey in Global Health with Imagine No Malaria as a senior program manager. And then I was charged with the responsibility of helping The UMC find the next big thing in Global Health. That has been a very exciting journey, trying to figure out what will resonate with the denomination, what will people want to see the church get engaged in.
As a physician—a public health physician—I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to have the church address spiritual, mental and physical health in one fell swoop. And that is the opportunity we have here ahead of us with Abundant Health Initiative.
Joe: Lots of times when I think about the church, physical health is not one of the things that immediately comes to mind. Sabrina, you talked about how physical health and spiritual health come together. How do you think about those things?
Sabrina: I know for me, my faith helps me cope with different issues or circumstances that I encounter. I find that to be true for many people.
I’m a Registered Nurse by trade, and during patient care, I’ve found myself always fellowshipping with the patients and other staff members when they had different health issues or concerns. It always came back to their faith. Pray for me. Or what can I do? I’m going to talk to my pastor. Or, my church has been my strength or my pillar as I’ve been going through this journey or this condition. It always seemed to be something that was definitely an asset for patients that I’ve encountered. So I know they go hand in hand. It actually improved, I think, the quality of life of some of the patients.
Get Your Spirit in Shape
Simbo: People tend to think of spiritual health as different from physical health, but they are inextricably linked together. And I will describe it this way. When you are stressed, when you have mental anxiety and emotional distress, it manifests in your body. And when you are person of faith your faith affects your beliefs and attitudes and helps you become better able to cope with stress. So you see, everything is intertwined. When you have faith in God it helps you cope with life challenges, and that makes it easier for your body to cope when you’re faced with challenges.
Again, the church environment, for many people… People describe the church community like their extended family. So having that network of support when you’re going through a journey in health, and you know, ‘Oh, I’m trying to lose weight’ or ‘I’m trying to eat better,’ having that community or support reinforces our resolve, helps us along that journey towards health. So it is a very unique opportunity we have here to have spirit, soul, body, mind, body, spirit nurtured and cared for in one place. I think that’s exciting.
Sabrina: It’s a holistic approach.
Joe: And it’s one that’s deep in our roots as United Methodists. John Wesley was one who was not only caring for the soul but was also caring for the body. One of his very early ministries was caring for people. And so I want to have a little fun with you guys before you get into some of the more serious stuff, and take a look at what John Wesley wrote in his book Primitive Physick which is subtitled “An Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases.” Most of us don’t know about this book. But it was very, very popular in Wesley’s day. I think it was his best seller while he was alive of anything else that he wrote.
He gives some remedies in there, and I wanted you two as a doctor and a nurse to help us determine if these are good or not. I’m guessing many of them are not, but I just want to run a couple of them by you and see what you have to say about them.
One of his recommendations for a bee sting is to apply honey. Is there any medicinal value to that?
Simbo: Yeah, we had some fun with this one. I think Sabrina has a good story around this one.
Sabrina: I think honey… I’ve heard it helps with inflammation. So a bee sting, being that you have an inflammation, I think, you know, he may have been onto something with that.
Simbo: I’ll say he was definitely onto something. There is a body of research that shows that honey aids with healing. So he’s spot on with that one. I think that that is still true today.
Joe: Oh wow. Okay. Good. That’s good. I wasn’t sure we were gonna get anywhere with these. So we’re already ahead of the game.
For a headache he says, “Rub the head for a quarter of an hour.” You see people kind of like rubbing their head. It seems to bring some relief. But how about one of the other ones is, “Apply to each temple a thin yellow rind of a lemon.”
Simbo: That is a fun one. It’s interesting. I mean, lemon, headaches… Well, that that is going to take a measure of faith actually.
Sabrina: Aromatherapy, maybe?
Simbo: Iif you really want to stretch it you could say, Oh, when your sinuses are blocked you have the lemon. It can help you clear up your sinus and your sinus headache. But to make a direct link would be tough. But I don’t know that there is much evidence to support that one.
Joe: Okay. Just a couple more. Heartburn, he says, “Drink cold water.”
Simbo: We did a little research around that one
Sabrina: Yeah, but I don’t think there’s enough research.
Simbo: We really couldn’t say yea or nay, you know. Acid reflux, there’s a lot of acid in there. Will water put out the fire? We don’t have enough evidence to say yes to that one.
Joe: He does at one point talk about “drink slowly the decoction of chamomile flowers,” which…. I don’t know. Is this chamomile tea that he’s talking about? It’s spelled a little differently that we’d spell it. But that does have some calming effect, right?
Sabrina: It does, like anti-anxiety. It helps you rest. So, again, I don’t think it’s been scientifically proven. But…
Joe: We’re not recommending anybody try these…
Simbo: It may have benefits for some other illness, but not for acid. Helping to de-stress, helping you sleep better, calming you? Yes. But acid? Not directly I don’t think.
Joe: Okay. Then for an earache, he seems to want to do heat. He has weird ways of doing it, because one of the suggestions is to put a roasted fig or an onion in your ear, as hot as they can be, or to blow tobacco smoke into your ear. Does the heat do something? Is that what they’re going for there?
Simbo: The tobacco smoke is a big ‘no’ because exposure to second-hand smoke is and has been shown to be related to more episodes of earache or otitis media. So I would say, not try that one. Onion? Sabrina?
Sabrina: Okay. It sounds strange and then, like I said, there is no scientific basis, but onions contain sulfur. And sulfur is known to have antibacterial properties. I don’t know, John Wesley, I don’t know; he may have been onto something.
Joe: I want to give you the one that I’m pretty confident I can say has no merit whatsoever. He says that for baldness you can rub your head with onions and then with honey and somehow that’s supposed to make hair grow. You’re not gonna tell me that’s possible, are you?
Simbo: I am glad that he came to that conclusion by yourself because I know how traumatized men can be when they start losing hair. And we really don’t want to put anything out there that will further traumatize them. So, we’ll let that one pass.
Joe: All right. So our big footnote there is: Probably not the best advice you’re getting from John Wesley on how to cure…how to cure things. But he does… I’m sorry?
Sabrina: I said and maybe not the onion in your ear either.
Simbo: Definitely not hot.
Joe: He does, though, give other kind of advice on either end of this book—these remedies are in the middle—there’s a prologue and an epilogue that talk about ways to stay healthy. I’m guessing this advice holds up for the most part, some of the things he talks about. And so let me run some of those by you as well.
On diet, for example, he says, “All pickled or smoked or salted food and all high-seasoned is unwholesome.” That sounds like pretty good advice.
Simbo: That is true. Gastric cancer has been linked to all of those things. Smoked food, salted food, highly seasoned food, have all been shown to be linked to gastric cancer. So in moderation, if you must.
Joe: So, he was onto something there. He was a big fan of drinking lots of water. He says “water is the wholesomest of all drinks.” I think that’s….
Simbo: Amen. Yes.
Joe: Yeah, that’s pretty standard knowledge today. The one that hurts my feelings is he doesn’t like coffee and tea. He says they’re extremely hurtful to people who have weak nerves. I’m not sure what he means by weak nerves, but he kind of asks us to stay away from coffee and tea. And one I…
Simbo: You know, Joe, as a newcomer to coffee, there is some value in that. I didn’t grow up drinking coffee at all. We are tea drinkers in my part of Africa. So my first exposure to coffee was right before a presentation. I thought it was gonna help me. And, oh my goodness, I was in all jitters and, you know, stressed. So, I … I think there’s some truth in that. If you’re not used to coffee, don’t drink coffee.
Joe: And then he says…. I like this, too, which I think is probably pretty decent advice even today. “Eat light suppers 2 or 3 hours before going to bed.” So in other words, don’t go to bed full, kind of thing.
Simbo: That’s sound, good advice, yeah.
Joe: And then on exercise. He talks about exercise. He was a big advocate for walking. “Walking is the best exercise,” he writes, “for those who are able to bear it. And riding for those who are not.” When he’s talking about riding, I think he’s talking about riding a horse.
Simbo: Yeah. And one reason why I agree with that is that exercises need to consistent, need to be part of our lives and a lot of people find it hard when they do something really unusual to stay with it. And walking is something we can all stay with. It’s easy to incorporate into our lives. And so in that way I would agree that it is one of the best ways we can stay active.
Joe: That’s true. Walking we can do while doing other things, kinda like…Yeah, at all times.
This one got me, because this is pretty new advice. But he says, “Those who read or write much should learn to do it standing; otherwise it will impair their health.” And now we have like standing desks or….
Simbo: All of our desks at Global Health are all standing.
Joe: That’s good. And this is 270 years ago he was telling people to stand up and do their work. So…
Sabrina: Way ahead of his time.
Joe: So he may not have been great on the remedy side of things. But he did a little bit better with some of the…some of the health advice.
So one of the reasons why I wanted to talk to you guys in January is because lots of us make New Year’s resolutions or just decide now is the time that we’re gonna start to get a little healthier. And let’s talk about some changes that we can make to be healthier in 2018. And if we start with diet. What are some kind of basic things that you would advise people do when they think about their diet in a new year?
Sabrina: I would say incorporate more fruits and vegetables, those green, leafy vegetables, making sure that when you sit down to a meal it’s very colorful. Lots of reds, greens and oranges. Just making sure you have a diverse plate, and it’s healthy and nutritious. So, yeah, I think that’s a start.
Simbo: Also watch portion sizes. I think that’s also helpful. That’s something everyone can relate to. When you go out for dinner if you want to, divvy it up into two pieces. Have a a take-home box for you. And eat the other half. You get to eat what you like but maybe not as much of it as you want to eat at once.
Joe: We touched a little bit on exercise. What are some of things that you would encourage us to think about as we think about exercise and getting more healthy.
Simbo: Walk. Walk. Walk. You know, go two flights of steps, if you can, and then take the elevator the rest of the way. If you’re taking public transport, stop the bus stop before. Walk to the water dispenser 5 times instead of one, in one big bottle. You know, take a little cup and go 5 times rather than once a day. So easy ways to pick up a little exercise in there. And walking is so easy to do. Take your lunch break. Take 5 minutes with a colleague, take a walk. Walk.
Sabrina: And setting realistic goals because sometimes we can be overly ambitious. I have been guilty of that myself where I’m gonna go to the gym every day of the week. And then I get burned out after day three. So just, you know, finding out what works for you. Starting slow and then gradually increasing. So that that way you don’t become discouraged or burned out too soon, and that you’re able to gather a routine and have a regimen. You know, it takes, 21 days to start a habit. So we want good habits to start healthy eating habits, exercising habits. And so I think if you start slow and gradually increase things you’re more likely to stick with it.
Joe: That’s terrific. And early on in the conversation you talk about how being part of a church or being part of a group, like a friend group, in your church can really help with that.
Simbo: There’s something in all of us that needs a little encouragement, and accountability. We’re more likely to stick with something when we have support of our family and those who are close to us, to encourage us when we want to give up. So having a walking companion you’re more likely to take those walks than if you decide to go it alone. And when you’re in church and people say, So why don’t we have this thing together? You celebrate your successes together. You encourage each other when you’re sliding behind. And that’s what the church community can do for us.
People are a little afraid because they feel they will be judged. But I think that everyone in their little spaces have some struggles, and many people will encourage each other along the way. We’ll fall; we’ll get up again, and no judgment at all, but just having that…you know, when the Bible says “a cloud of witnesses,” I think that’s what the church does for us. We surround ourselves with good support.
Sabrina: And we kinda created this little game. Well, we didn’t create it. But we shared this game with the church, called ‘health bingo’ or something like that. And so you have a gathering together and everyone plays bingo. And those that have similar interests or similar bingos or whatever, like, okay we match with walking. So all of those who have success or have stamps for walking, they would get together in a group and then they would form a walking group. Because most times we don’t know our partners or church members who have similar interests. So Simbo may be interested in walking, and I may be interested in walking, but I didn’t know it. But I know okay there’s at least 4 of us that we can help support each other with a walking group. So finding out what the interests are of different members and coming together as a group is very beneficial.
Joe: One of the things that the United Methodist Church has been doing and is going to continue to do in the New Year is the Abundant Health Initiative. Both of you are involved in that, so I’d like to learn a little bit about what all that entails and how I can get involved as a member of the United Methodist Church.
Simbo: You already nailed it. We’re Methodists. In our DNA we already have health as part of who we are. So how do we continue to lean into that reality? And one way we think of doing that is encouraging each other in our journey towards health.
As a church making a resolve to have healthier food choices when we have…. You know how we Methodists love pot lucks. You know how we love our casseroles, and donuts in the morning. So, what if we have, you know, healthy options there for those who struggle a little more with their choices? And incorporating opportunities for us to be active. Some people have turned their basements into spaces where people can have gyms. Some people have joint subscriptions in gyms where church members can have discounted rates. Some people have prayer walks together where women will come together. They decide to take a five-minute walk together before they start their meetings. So people are using very creative ways to just incorporate some healthy choices into their practices of the church.
The reason why we’re doing this is what we do best as a church is inspire each other to be better. That’s not just your spiritual development or in our relationship with God. We can also use the church community to inspire each other to do better in our health, to make healthier choices. And I think that that is a powerful tool that we have in the church. In fact, we’re not always very conscious of.
Joe: If I understand this correctly, part of the Abundant Health Initiative is me and my own health, but it’s also about the health of those around the globe. So what are some of the things that are happening around the world that are really exciting? What are some of the goals and things that we’re trying to accomplish?
Sabrina: We have churches in the U.S. that are reaching out beyond their walls and going into their communities addressing those health concerns. By partnering with local farmers’ markets, for communities that are in food deserts. By developing community gardens, teaching nutrition classes, all sorts of creative ways. Partnering with community health centers to ensure that residents have access to healthcare and also fruits and vegetables that are like this cr… not crazy, but…
I think of this very creative ministry called Grow Harrisburg in Augusta, Georgia, in a community called Harrisburg. They partnered with a community health center and a local farmers’ market so that residents who go to the doctor and have high blood pressure or diabetes, not only do they get a prescription for their physical needs, but they also get a prescription for fruits and vegetables to aid them in healthy eating, and therefore kind of reducing their risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes and things like that. Working with different farmers’ markets to double their SNAP benefits and things of that nature. So just reaching out, not only inward, working with our congregations, but our communities as well.
Joe: That’s exciting stuff.
Simbo: Another thing that is special to the United Methodist is the connectional nature that we have. Our network reaches beyond just our congregations, our communities, to globally.
There’s a United Methodist presence in over a hundred countries. So how are we our brothers’ keepers? How is it that we’re supporting each other? You know where the Bible says ‘the head cannot say to the neck, I don’t have need of you; or the neck to the hands.’ So there’s some places where the health infrastructure is weaker. How is it that those of us who live in stronger health systems are able to support our brothers and sisters in those parts of the world that are still struggling? So we have opportunities to support projects around the world through Advance projects.
People have relationships across many countries where they are able to physically visity and accompany fellow Methodists or our sisters and brothers in their efforts to improve health in their communities. And so these are all opportunities we have available to us as a church. I’m hoping that in 2018 people can take more advantage of those opportunities just to show to the world that we’re better together. When we come together and support each other we make the world a better place.
Joe: And how can the individual person get involved? How do they get involved in these efforts?
Simbo: So on the Global Ministries website we have UMCAbundantHealth.org. The Global Ministries is leading this effort on behalf of the denomination. But every individual, every church, every conference has a role to play. So we want people to sign up and say, this is how we can participate. We’ve looked at our church. This is what is relevant to us. And for them to share their stories so they can encourage others to participate.
One way that we’re asking churches to do that, create some excitement, is what we call ‘Hulapaloosa.” Bishop Hoston of South Carolina has created some excitement around health.
People don’t really get excited about health. You know, we’ve been there, done that. We’re tired of making the resolutions. What if we make it fun? One way we’ve found of doing that is when a bishop takes a hula hoop and spins around and does a very good job. He gets his cabinet to do is and people begin to take notice, and say, “What’s going on here, Bishop?” He can say, “Well, why don’t you try talking a little about health?”
It also creates some excitement and helps people to talk about those things that we don’t always feel comfortable talking about in a fun and engaging way.
So that’s one way we churches can do that. Get the young people together to hula hoop. And let’s see who can hula hoop the longest. And let’s all have fun doing this.
Joe: Wonderful. We’ll provide links for people on our page for UMCAbundantHealth.org. And I know there’s some hulapalooza stuff around. I know there’s a video we can link to, for people to learn more about that. Wonderful.
One of the questions I ask everybody who’s a guest on Get Your Spirit in Shape is…we like to give people some practices, some things that we can do to grow in our discipleship. So, what’s something that you guys would recommend that people could try, something that helps you stay in touch, to keep your own spirit in shape?
Simbo: There is a practice I use in my own personal life that I recommend. It shows up in the Bible in a lot of places. It’s the practice of meditation. Take a favorite Bible verse, ponder over it, mull on it, repeat it to yourself. It does good for your spirit. It does good for your mental health, and almost always will do good for your body.
When you meditate it helps you reduce stress; it helps you reduce anxiety. You feel more energized. You feel happier. What if we do that with the word of God? Take one or two…we have a lot of favorite quotes from famous speakers. But, when the Bible says “Do not be anxious for anything,” and God says to you, “I’ve got your back,” just lie down and say, “God’s got my back; I will not be anxious for anything.” It does wonders.
In Global Ministries we do what we call breath prayer, just one phrase and you breathe in and you breathe out. And I think that can be really powerful as we go into the New Year with all the anxieties to just have a moment to meditate on the word of God.
Joe: Thank you. Sabrina?
Sabrina: Meditation, but not only sitting still and being quiet and reflecting, but walking. I think I do some of my best thinking and prayer time walking. Not only is it mentally cleansing and wonderful, but also physically for the body. Before I know it I’ve walked like 2 or 3 miles, and I never intended on doing it, but just that reflection and going inward.
Joe: Wonderful. Well, I deeply appreciate having this opportunity to talk to you guys and share some of these things and laughing together and having some fun with these silly remedies, but really getting some good information and having an opportunity to talk about some of the wonderful things that you guys are working on every day. Thank you and it’s great to be with you.
Simbo & Sabrina: Thank you.
Joe: That was Dr. Olusimbo Ige, Executive Director of the Global Health Unit of Global Ministries, and Sabrina Rodgers, U.S. Health Program Manager of the Global Health Unit of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church.
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Thanks again for listening. We’ll be back soon with more great conversations to help keep our souls as healthy as our bodies. I’m Joe Iovino. Peace.