Wellness Rebel: Yacoub Najjar

Yacoub Najjar

Yacoub Najjar

OXFORD, Miss. – Through a series of measures to improve his overall health, Yacoub Najjar has lost about 20 pounds and kept it off.

His blood pressure stays in the healthy range. Najjar, chair and professor of civil engineering at the University of Mississippi, said he always ratchets up his activity when he can feel his weight increasing.

“I cut down on my food intake by about 500 calories per day and/or increase my workout activity when I feel my weight is on the upswing – 3 to 5 pounds higher than my goal – till I reach my goal weight again,” he said. “I always implement this so that I will avoid reaching the point where it may become very difficult to drop the extra weight. I believe in incremental solutions because they are easier to implement.”

Najjar uses the treadmill for 30 minutes three times per week. He also parks his car away from his office so he’s forced to walk both ways. He tries to drink 2 liters of water while he’s at work each day. He always takes small breaks to walk around and also opts to take the stairs instead of riding elevators.

He said he’s made some great strides in his own personal health, but he acknowledges that he struggles sometimes like any normal person would.

“The hardest part is to stay focused and on track,” Najjar said. “It is so easy to get off track. I was able to maintain the 20-pound weight loss and have been able to keep my blood pressure in the good range most of the times.”

After seeing his own progress, Najjar said anyone considering beginning a wellness program shouldn’t wait around.

“Do it as soon as possible because the alternatives are not in your favor,” Najjar said. “Being in a good healthy status will help ease your mind and energize you in many unimaginable ways. In short, you will have a more enjoyable life. Just do it.”

Relocating and starting a new position can be stressful, and this is especially true for the chair of a department in a competitive academic setting, said Andrea Jekabsons, UM assistant director of employment and training.

“Dr. Najjar recognized that stress was impacting his health by way of weight gain and high blood pressure,” Jekabsons said. “It is admirable and encouraging to see one of our leaders actively managing his health and incorporating healthier habits during the work day – parking a little further, taking the stairs, drinking water and making time for small walking breaks.”