Nizan Guanaes narrates in a book how he abandoned addictions and adopted healthy habits


“Can you handle being happy?” This was the initial question made by psychiatrist Arthur Guerra to businessman Nizan Guanaes when they began their journey together. The question is asked to all patients and comes in a provocative format: the answer is far from objective.

The issue gave name to the book signed by the duo, in which they build a conversation – the psychiatrist substantiates the benefits of a healthy life, while the businessman uses his communication skills to narrate the experience under the care of the doctor.

Guanaes argues that it is possible to reconcile a successful life with a regular routine. Today he leads the communication consulting company N Ideias, and says that discipline, sports and healthy living are necessary to withstand the pressures of routine.

The entrepreneur’s life, however, was not always like this. He is the creator of Grupo ABC, one of the largest communication and marketing conglomerates in the world, sold in 2015 for around Rs 1 billion. The life of CEO propelled the ex-advertiser, as he defines himself, into a routine of stress and addictions.

He says that, before changing his behavior, he heard from doctor Roberto Kalil, his cardiologist, that he would die if he continued smoking, eating and drinking too much. In 2006, Guanaes underwent bariatric surgery to treat morbid obesity. The procedure, however, was performed without adequate preparation and follow-up.

“What happens is that I, for the time being, wanted to do bariatric surgery like a pill”, says the businessman.

Guerra, who is also a professor at the ABC School of Medicine and at the USP School of Medicine (University of São Paulo), says that a surgery of this magnitude has a major impact on the patient’s life. The individual goes through many physical and behavioral changes and, therefore, needs to prepare psychologically.

After the procedure, Nizan began to abuse alcohol, which impacted every aspect of his life, including his sleep. According to the businessman, he went to the psychiatrist in the hope of getting sleeping pills, but in response the doctor withdrew all his medications.

Doctor in psychiatry, Guerra is based on “lifestyle medicine”, a model that seeks self-care, good sleep and good nutrition to prevent chronic diseases and empower the patient in their own well-being.

He bets on sport as a way to promote self-esteem, motivation and discipline, a practice he adopted based on scientific foundations and his personal experience.

Guerra lived a hectic, sedentary life until his son brought his careless lifestyle to his attention. Today he is a great sports enthusiast and has already qualified for five triathlon world championships – a sport that mixes running, swimming and cycling. After consulting with him, Guanaes also started to practice the same modality, something they share in the book.

The correlation between sport and quality of life is old, but Guerra points out that the purpose of this practice in the medical clinic is to exchange the momentary pleasures provided by drugs, power and followers on social networks for the pleasure of sport.

The psychiatrist does not deny the use of medication, but is against exaggerated prescription. For him, drugs are useful, especially for the treatment of emerging clinical conditions such as anxiety and depression, but they cannot be the only therapy.

For Guerra, medicine must adapt to the present and to the new practices of people’s daily lives – what Guanaes calls 5G Psychiatry. In this context, the psychiatrist defends that the maintenance of mental health is carried out with practices that are alternative to medications and that are integrated into the individual’s routine, such as sports, meditation and psychotherapy.

“Arthur Guerra does not have the gift of producing the Dalai Lama”, says Guanaes. “A lot of the things that are described in the book I still live and I think most people do too. You won’t be happy every day, what I think is that this book helps you stop being unhappy every day.”

Profits from the book will be donated to Casa Santa Therezinha, a non-profit organization that supports children and adolescents with genetic skin diseases.

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