Dialogue with a CEO: JR Life Sciences Founder Mr Ricky Ong

Starting with this issue, Prime will be running a dual series of interviews featuring prominent local CEOs and medical professionals on various aspects of healthy living, including topics on nutrition, exercise, rest and personal philosophy on health or even life. Through this series, we hope to gain valuable insights from these successful individuals on how to better manage our health as well as view life through new and different perspectives.

In our inaugural feature, we have the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Ricky Ong, the big-hearted and jovial founder and CEO of JR Life Sciences.

Good morning, Mr. Ong. Let’s begin with “When did you first decide that health was important?”

MR RICKY ONG: I remember the very first time I realised about the importance of health was when I was about 19-20 years old when I got into a motor vehicle accident. That was when I was still in NS under the Commando Unit. I tore my knee tendon during the accident, I remember I was hospitalised for a few months and had to undergo a couple of operations. The doctor told me initially that I may potentially have to rely on crutches for the rest of my life and did not want to operate further on me.

I was a very active person in my younger days and participated in many physical activities. When the doctor told me that I may have to rely on crutches from then on, the news hit me very hard. It was a very difficult period for me and I prayed very hard about my condition. I also kept asking my doctor to take a chance and do a knee tendon replacement operation for me. After several refusals, he finally relented and performed an operation on me. It was a success and I was able to recover about 85% of functionality. While I am unable to sprint or jump, I could now jog and walk without crutches. From that point on, I realised the importance of physical health and treasured it.

That’s a very interesting story. Do you think you have a healthy lifestyle now even while leading such a busy working life?

RO: I actually do not believe so, even though I make efforts to ensure I live as healthily as possible. Most of the time, I watch what I eat. Where my diet is unable to provide me with the necessary nutrition, I take supplements. I try to ensure I have sufficient amounts of rest and sleep. And I also exercise whenever my schedule permits. Our working lives are busy. We all only have 24 hours a day for all our commitments and do what we want to do. Time is never enough. We need to be flexible and make adjustments accordingly to achieve a healthy lifestyle. It is difficult, but I believe it is possible.

Do you pay attention to what and when you eat? And do you follow a diet?

RO: I am a vegetarian and I try to watch what I eat. In fact, my wife is also a vegetarian so it is a family thing for me in that respect. As far as my meal times go, I do try to keep them as regular as possible, but it is a challenge. I also try not to overeat. I think this is important. I think vegetarianism is a very good thing. I became a vegetarian many years ago as I wanted me and my family to lead a healthier lifestyle. This diet has enabled me to feel physiologically and emotionally better. In that respect, I believe it has improved my health.

Do you take supplements and what would you recommend to people?

RO: Yes, I do take supplements and I take them according to my needs. As I mentioned, it can be a challenge sometimes having the time to eat regular and balanced meals. And a lot of people fail to take in their daily recommended intake of vegetables of fruits. Supplementing these shortfalls is important to keep us healthy.

For myself, my regular daily go-to supplement is Holistic Way Multi-Vitamins and Minerals. This is the very basic supplement that I would recommend people to take. It helps you to fulfil your daily nutritional needs, even if you are unable to get a proper meal in or if you are picky with your food and is unable to take in the required nutrients.

Other supplements that I take include Holistic Way High Strength Joint Collagen and Holistic Way High Potency Turmeric Curcumin for my joint health, Holistic Way Super Lutein for my eyes, JR Life Sciences High Potency Brain Food to support healthy blood circulation to the brain and healthy memory and thinking as well as Holistic Way Probiotic 75 Billion for healthy bowel movement and improve my immune system.

For myself, my regular daily go-to supplement is Holistic Way Multi-Vitamins and Minerals. This is the very basic supplement that I would recommend people to take

These are the supplements that I take as I have grown older based on the needs that I have identified for myself. You need to look at what are your needs are at the time and use the appropriate supplement to fulfill these needs. However, I do recommend the Holistic Way Multi-Vitamins and Minerals as a basic supplement for daily nutritional requirements. I don’t think you can go amiss with this.

Do you engage in any physical activities or exercises? How have these helped in maintaining your health?

RO: I do mainly trekking and walking nowadays. In my younger days, I was very active in physical activities, including table tennis, rugby and going to the gym. I also used to take part in other exercises, such as yoga and tai chi. However, as my work schedule became busier and my family commitments grew, I gradually found less and less time for these activities.

Most of the time, I enjoy doing treks and walks with my wife. When my daughters were younger, they also often accompanied me on my walks, so it was a family activity. Nowadays, when we go out as a family, we sometimes go for a walk together at places like the HortPark. Also, when my brother is back in town, we will try to find time to meet and go for a walk together to catch up.

I do enjoy these activities and have found them to be good for my body. These walks have helped with my muscles, joint flexibility and stamina. That is why I will find time to do these treks.

Going on to another area of health, besides healthy eating and exercising, rest and recuperation is also another important component of healthy living. How many hours of sleep do you get daily and do you think it is important to develop a regular pattern of sleep, as in consistent sleep and wake times?

RO: I am lucky enough to be able to get a regular amount of sleep of about 7-8 hours. I recognise this may not be so for everyone. When I first started my company JR Life Sciences, there were a lot of things I had to do myself: Sales, administrative and logistical work. During that time, I managed to get only an average of about 4 hours of sleep a day. I was working hard for my career and family and that was what I needed to do to get my company off the ground. I agree it is important to get ample rest and at the same time, sleep and wake at consistent times, but I also think it is not always an easy thing to do. As I mentioned earlier, we all have many commitments but only have 24 hours a day. At certain periods in our lives, rest ends up taking a backseat to the other things we have to do.

Indeed, rest does often take a backseat in our lives. How do you then tackle stress?

RO: Honestly, nowadays, I don’t often find myself feeling stressed. Sometimes, work does bring its stresses, but I settle each issue as each one comes along. It is important to look beyond physical health when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. There are also mental and spiritual aspects to wellness. When I was younger, I was also sometimes focused more on physical health than mental and spiritual well-being. Maintaining a positive mind and outlook is just as important as having a healthy body.

How can people stick to a healthy lifestyle? What do you think are some of the challenges?

RO: I think, with our busy urban lifestyles, it can be difficult to find time to sustain a consistent exercise regime. Discipline is a very difficult thing to maintain. Many of us are able to sustain it over short periods, but over a matter of years or even decades, I would think almost everybody inevitably lapses and stops doing what they wanted to do originally. And of course, we face the issue of time. Twenty-four hours is not long and we have a lot of things we need and want to do every day. Time management is important but even with that, it may not be possible to squeeze in time for exercise. For myself, although there were times when I had tried out different activities, such as yoga and tai chi, as my commitments increased, I also found less time for them. So now, I stick mainly to the activities I love best: Trekking and brisk walking. My advice in this case may be to find the activities you enjoy doing the most and stick to it. It also helps if your spouse enjoys the activity as well. Company is always a good thing.

Besides your advice on exercise/physical activity, what other advice do you have for Prime readers?

RO: In terms of eating, I believe moderation is very important. Eat right, do not overeat and use supplements, where necessary, to boost your nutrient intake. Use supplements in areas where you need them or where you find yourself lacking. As I mentioned, start with the Holistic Way Multi-Vitamins and Minerals as a starting point. A good daily nutritional intake should be the base from which you work out the rest of your supplementary needs, just like what I do.

And have plenty of rest where possible. I know it can be difficult sometimes, but make time for 7-8 hours of sleep daily. If you are feeling tired and not refreshed in the morning, it is hardly the ideal start to a good day.

Finally, I believe wellness is holistic. A healthy body and a healthy mind. We need to have emotional and spiritual balance; to think beyond ourselves and our needs. Be thankful for the love from others that we have received. For myself, during this interview, I recall the love my mother gave me during the time when I was hurt in the motorcycle incident during my early years. Despite having to work, she still did so much to support me, take care of me and help me get back up. It was motherly love at its greatest. I believe we all have experienced such love before. Where we can, think and help others; contribute to society in the best ways that we can. Give back the love that we have received.