Fr Vinny Connaughton
This priest is overworked, stressed and addicted to coffee. But can he change his unhealthy life before it's too late?
45-year-old Father Vincent Connaughton has been a priest for 21 years and served Longford for the last 16 years. It's a demanding job that could wreck his health. We've got just 8 weeks to convince Vinny that always putting other people first will send him to an early grave.
What gets him through the day is a diet of fatty pork chops and lots of caffeine. He averages about 1700 mg of caffeine a day - that's 4 times more than is recommended.
Sleep is incredibly important and we wanted to find out exactly how much sleep he was getting each night. So we asked him to wear a metabolic rate monitor*. We found that most nights he was getting less than five hours sleep, his average for the week was just 5 and a half hours. This lack of sleep could be having a devastating effect.
(Mater Private Hospital, Dublin)
Whatever today's results, we're hoping that after 21 years of caring for others Vinny is now ready to start putting his own health first. The effects of stress of the body are usually found when it's too late. Poorly managed stress can lead to heart disease, strokes and even cancers.
A cholesterol level of 4.2 is excellent news - anything below 5 is healthy.
Blood Pressure 130/80
His blood pressure may be under control but if he carries on living like this it won't last.
Glucose 6 (upper end of normal)
Lack of sleep is affecting his body's ability to regulate blood sugar. If we can't sort this out he will put himself at risk of diabetes.
A BMI of 28 puts him in the overweight category - he needs to nip this in the bud before he creeps up into obesity. (A healthy BMI is between 21 and 25).
Current Life Expectancy - 76
Vinny needs to get serious. His lack of sleep and overwork could lead to disability and poor mental health. He might be on course to live to 76 but what kind of life will he have?
8 WEEK PLAN
- cut down coffee
- reduce workload
- improve diet
- increase exercise
- bedtime routine
Over the next 8 weeks we hope Father Vinny can wean himself off coffee and make time to relax. He also needs to talk to his housekeeper about his diet - and aim to get out of breath for 30 minutes a day, five times a week. Finally, we want him to develop a bedtime routine that will help him get a good night's sleep.
Father Vinny is learning to relax with stress management expert Therese Ryan*. She's recommending a bedtime exercise that will help Vinny manage his stress and finally get a good night's sleep.
Sleep is incredibly important. Research has found that it boosts the body's immune system and helps with the regulation of glucose. Some experts believe it is as important to good health as diet and exercise. Lack of sleep also leads to increased stress and anxiety, which then leads to less sleep. We have to break this cycle before it wrecks his health.
But no amount of deep breathing will help unless Vinny tackles his caffeine habit. Therese has recommended Vinny switches to herbal teas. Tomorrow is going to be his first caffeine free day for 15 years.
Vinny has been on herbal teas for a week - he's suffering from some headaches and is more irritable than usual, common side effects of caffeine withdrawal. Vinny is sticking to Therese's pre-bed routine - he might be missing the coffee but after years of bad nights his sleep is finally improving
There have been big changes in the presbytery - Vinny is eating fish 5 out of 7 days, eating only low-fat foods and enjoying his peppermint teas. We've now decided to concentrate on his stress so take him for a rare day off at one of Ireland's prestige health spas*. He has to learn to relax and to put himself first sometimes.
After our successful day at the spa Vinny has decided to implement the next stage of the programme and increase his exercise levels. Exercise is an excellent way of managing stress. The natural endorphins released in the body will replace the old caffeine high and increasing his physical activity will help him sleep.
But Dr Mark is worried that with his heavy workload Vinny's going to struggle to find time for regular exercise or relaxation. It was time to send back stress management expert Therese Ryan - she wanted him to learn to prioritise his time and to learn how to say no occasionally. For the next few days Vinny is determined to try and schedule some time off.
We took him to try climbing - not only is climbing great physical exercise it's also an exercise in trust. People are often stressed because they want to be in control of everything and we're convinced if Father Vinny learns to rely on others he will reduce his stress.
Although Vinny has no immediate plans to climb a mountain he has conquered his own personal Everest. He's beginning to delegate some of his work and is finding more time for exercise and relaxation.
2 months ago Father Vinny Connaughton was a stressed-out coffee addict. A series of tests revealed he was overweight, sleep deprived and heading for possible burn out. Have 8 weeks of herbal tea, healthy food and managing stress transformed his health? Today Vinny will find out whether his hard work has actually added years to his life.
Unit 4, Block 4B
Blanchardstown Corporate Park
Contact: [email protected]
Stress Management Consultant
10 Newenham St
Email: [email protected]
Results for Fr Vinny Connaughton
Sleep 8% improvement
Total steps was 8738, now 12922
BMI was 28, now 27
Life expectancy was 76, now 83