The uncomfortable conversation we need to have about mental health before Movember moves on…
By Jiries Rabba, founder of PrOATein
Thousands of men are getting ready to mow down their Movember moustaches. Before long, the outward signs of the campaign will all but fade away. But, have we done enough to publicly discuss one of the newer educational pillars and beneficiary causes of the movement: mental health and suicide prevention?
Incorporating mental health awareness into this global campaign was a very deliberate and noble decision. It’s unfortunate that it still seems underexposed, especially since mental health has an impact on all aspects of one’s life. If you’re suffering from depression or any of the other mental health issues that plague our society, you’re likely not in a state to take care of yourself or control your quality of life. In many ways, it’s the mind that matters the most.
We’ve spent decades, if not longer, shunning the topic, which is all the more reason to talk about it. Yes, the conversation will be awkward. Yes, the conversation will be uncomfortable. Yet, this uncomfortable conversation is one we all need to have –especially with and among men.
Mental health touches my heart. I developed an acute eating disorder some eight years ago. It was the toughest time of my life in many ways and the mind was at the centre of it. Having bulimia came with many different problems, including a perpetual fear of gaining weight and falling back to where I used to be; of losing everything for which I worked hard, because I ate a cupcake or another sweet. The mind games, with real outcomes, were emotionally and physically draining. The act of throwing up made my throat so sore, that it felt raw and left my stomach aching beyond belief. While the genesis of this behaviour lay in my mind, the physical symptoms only served to impact my mind for the worse. It was a truly vicious cycle. It took me a long time to realize the role of my mind. It was only through the mind that I was able to move my mouth to utter my first plea for help.
At the beginning, I kept my thoughts and actions secret because I felt embarrassed. Finally, two years ago, I was able to broach the topic with my wife for the first time. Looking back, I can’t help but think I should have opened up sooner.
Having one conversation is where it all begins. It’s the start that counts.
Once that’s done, there’s no limit to how things can evolve. For me, this first showing of vulnerability allowed people to come in and provide an outpouring of care and concern, which pushed me down the right path. Eventually, this process led me to searching for simple solutions – meal replacements and healthy snacks that could give my cravings some satisfaction, while avoiding junk food and binge eating that had plagued me. From that, PrOATein Lifestyle Bars were born. I launched PrOATein to help others struggling, like me, to learn how to create balance in their lives. How you feel on the inside is how you’re going to look and feel on the outside and so many people struggle to find that balance of physical activity, healthy eating, and having the motivation to better yourself in general. I know, because I was there, and it’s not somewhere I ever want to be again.
It’s unrealistic to think I’ll be able to pull someone out of a serious mental health illness through a single column or article. But I can encourage Canadians to start the conversation. Like the moustache, the conversation doesn’t have to be perfect. Awkward phrases can lead to support and success in turning things around. So as you shave the moustache, be sure to broach the topic and let the conversations grow from there.
To learn more about Jiries and his story, visit: https://proateinbar.com/blogs/how-we-began
Local entrepreneur Jiries Rabba is putting his small business of PrOATein Bars on the fast track of success.
The genesis of entrepreneur Jiries Rabba’s decision to start a business in the health foods industry came, in part, from being an unsatisfied customer.
A fitness enthusiast, Rabba says he simply couldn’t find a protein bar that suited his needs. Either the ingredients weren’t healthy — many, he says, were high in sugar and fat — or they just didn’t taste very good.
So, he decided to take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and create his own. In January of last year, the Port Credit resident launched his Mississauga-based company, PrOATein Bar.
Behind every groundbreaking business is a person who inspires change. Jiries Rabba is one such individual.
His story begins at a young age. During high school, Jiries was very active and played many sports, including competitive hockey and football. By the time he was in university, however, Jiries started to fall into a rut: he would stay indoors, watch movies, binge eat or skip meals. “I got into the habit of this repetitive cycle,” he remembers. “A few years later, I was 50 pounds overweight. I went from being a health-conscious person to someone who was satisfying all problems with food.”
He’d go to the gym once, then stop. Then go back in a month and stop again. “I knew it was a very typical thing that a lot of people go through, but I didn’t know how to manage it,” he says.
At about 25 years of age, Jiries got a severe flu. He was hospitalized and his condition quickly worsened. A few days later, he was in a coma that lasted for two weeks. To this day, the doctors don’t know what happened exactly although they diagnosed him with acute respiratory distress syndrome. “All my major organs failed,” says Jiries. “I had nine tubes in me at one point. The doctors pumped me full of medication to save my life. I eventually recovered, but left the hospital in a state of disbelief. The doctors said it was a freak accident but, for me, it was a life-changing and eye-opening experience. Could I have fought it better if I was in a better shape physically? Mentally? What could I have done differently?”
This kickstarted Jiries’ journey towards a healthier lifestyle. He read a lot of magazines, went to the gym regularly and even became a personal trainer. He was now in his mid 20s, had lost about 70 pounds and had a six-pack. But at that point, everyone started telling Jiries that he was too skinny. “I would flip through magazines and notice that other men were a bit bigger and stronger-looking than me,” he recalls. “I was in a very fragile state, although I had come so far and worked so hard. Old habits slowly crept back in and I started feeling guilty.”
Eventually, Jiries began to suffer from bulimia. He says that, on a bad day, he would vomit up to three or four times a day, mainly after a “bad meal”. “I would eat a burger because all of my friends were out to eat one, but I would feel bad and throw it up. That went on for over a year. I knew it was horrible. I didn’t have energy, I was in a bad state emotionally, and my throat was sore from vomiting so much. It became another cycle in my life that I was desperately trying to get out of. And one day, I just thought to myself—I don’t want to do this anymore.”
Jiries decided to change his life. He began lifting weights, and was diligent about his eating habits. “I finally became happy with myself. I was in my late 20s, and I wasn’t influenced by society anymore. My reading materials were no longer about best ways to lose weight but about how eating directly relates to so many problems and cures. There is always a trend: fats cause liver disease, Atkins’ diet makes you lose weight, lowering your carb intake is better for you, sugars are bad, and so on. After all of my experiences, I understood that life is short, it’s meant to be enjoyed. It’s ok to be strict, it’s ok to be relaxed too. There is always a balance. TV and mass marketing often tell people to buy products at the cost of their health.”
In better shape and health than ever before, Jiries decided to help others around him too. He got together with some of his friends and family, and they created the PrOATein® bar. The bar was born 2.5 years ago and the team spent the first year searching for perfect complementary ingredients.
“It’s a balance of life, health and nutrition. PrOATein® bars are manufactured in Canada, contain less preservatives and have a longer shelf life. They represent a lifestyle,” says Jiries.
The bar doesn’t replace a meal. Instead, it’s meant as a snack, an item on-the-go that can help you curb unwanted, unhealthy indulgencies.
“You can have it handy in your purse, in your car, in your desk,” says Jiries. “It makes it easy to consume at any time. Our product also has a lot of fiber, which keeps you satiated longer. If I eat a candy bar, I will be hungry again in an hour. PrOATein® is delicious and good for you. For example, it has date paste which is a wholesome, unrefined sugar with excellent nutritional value.”
When formulating the bar, Jiries says he started with the best carb source. “You can’t put rice or sweet potato in a bar, so we put oatmeal. We added good fats and proteins. Many people are also suffering from allergies, and we wanted to accommodate them too.”
As a result, PrOATein® bars are gluten-free, wheat-free and made in a nut-free facility. They have no artificial sweeteners or flavours, are high in protein and fibre, and are low in fat. The bars are available in four flavours: chocolate fudge, white chocolate coconut, banana chocolate and vanilla blueberry. The bar is currently available in health, convenience and grocery stores, as well as online.
Jiries’ health mission doesn’t stop at creating healthy food options. He says he wants to continue to give back to the community by encouraging education forums about balanced living.
“We held a free boot camp in August in Toronto, and we would like to do similar events on a regular basis,” he explains.
“We want to create a movement that is focused on what it means to be healthy and how to do that while still being yourself. It’s about rising up and understanding that a magazine or a product don’t dictate what healthy is. How you feel is the most important!”
FAJO’s contest with PrOATein®
September is the “back-to-school” season and also the start of the new work year for most of us. It’s a great time for new beginnings, healthy choices and rejuvenation!
That’s why we have partnered with PrOATein® to give away the following prize to one lucky FAJO reader:
- a string gym bag
- two boxes of PrOATein® bars
- and a PrOATein® towel
This prize is valued at $100!
All you have to do to enter this fabulous contest is:
2) Re-tweet all FAJO tweets related to this contest.
Every follow and re-tweet counts as one entry, so the more times you enter, the higher your chances of winning!
This contest is open to all our readers across Canada. It will close at 11:59 p.m. EST on October 5, 2017.
Credits: for FAJO Magazine by Hannah Yakobi