Get plenty of sleep. Try to get to bed early and try to get at least six to eight hours of sleep. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. I think that’s important as well. And then the last one is just trying to take 15 to 30 minutes every day to decompress from all the stress and anxiety and either go for a walk or just do something unrelated to what you’re doing, like read or meditate. Everyone’s a little bit different, so whatever works best for you.
Many ancient traditions around the world believe ‘wellbeing’ or ‘bienestar’ is a state of harmony within ourselves and our world, where we are in balance mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
As a part of our series about “How We Can Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Al Flores.
Desi “Al” Flores has served as a leading voice in orthopedic, sports, and industrial rehabilitation spaces for over two decades. Combining his business acumen and passion for health and wellness, Al has started and managed numerous companies built around the simple philosophy of enhancing people’s lives through education, diet, and fitness. As the founder and CEO of The Veggie Doctor, Al has set new excellence standards in the health supplement industry, providing consumers with the highest quality vegan supplements available. Convicted with a deep sense of responsibility for the health of his patients, customers, and the earth, all of The Veggie Doctor’s products are made with unprecedented levels of quality and manufactured in the most ethical and sustainable methods possible.
Al holds a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy from the University of Groningen and a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Illinois. When he’s not in the office or with patients, Al loves innovating new products, staying on the cutting edge of health and wellness practices, and spending time with family and friends.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
My parents are originally from Honduras, but I was born and raised in Chicago. My parents struggled to keep things afloat, and because there were also several gangs in the area we lived in, my dad decided to pack us up and move to a better location. Before, it was common in the Latin community that either you start working at a young age or you try to become a doctor or a lawyer to support your family in any way you can. At first, I got to attend the University of Illinois in Champaign, later, I went to study in Europe, where I developed my career, and with years of hard work, I am a physical therapist and have my own brand.
What or who inspired you to pursue a career in helping others? We’d love to hear the story.
I wanted to be a physician, and I had the opportunity to shadow medical students but realized that I was not interested in doing that. I always enjoyed more fitness in health and working out, and that was not the lifestyle that these students nor the doctors had. While I was saddling the medical students, part of that was to observe physical therapy, and I discovered it was a great environment.
Most therapists are pretty fit and follow a healthy lifestyle, and among all, you get to help patients. I loved it because we were at a gym all the time and it was a very social environment. I had all the prerequisites, so I applied for the career. At that time, PT schools were a bit too expensive for me, but another opportunity came up to sign with another organization that would pay for my school, and then I would commit to working with them for a couple of years.
The school was a U.S. accredited school out in Europe. I lived out in the Netherlands for almost three years. The program was a little bit longer than it is here in the U.S., but I could complete it, and it was a phenomenal experience. When I came back, the company said that they weren’t able to place me, so if I could sign off on the agreement, they wouldn’t have to find a job for me. All I had to do was pay a much lesser amount than I would have paid going to school here in the U.S., so I was fortunate in that aspect. I honestly loved my education.
I think another cool thing about studying out in Europe is that the education is more holistic. They look at the entire body, and they even go over nutrition. So that’s where I started to develop a passion for combining nutrition with physical therapy ever since. For me, it was just a phenomenal experience.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
As far as people who impacted me, I would say my mom. She’s been highly supportive in anything that I try. We grew up very poor, but she was always a positive influence. She came here from a Central American country, not speaking any English with really no money whatsoever. And a missionary organization took her in and helped her get on her feet and start her life here in the U.S., and then that’s where she met my dad as well. Same situation for my dad. He came with nothing from the same country, and both of them have been an incredible influence. My dad passed away seven years ago, but they both were always very supportive.
My wife has also been amazing. We’ve had many ups and downs because I’m constantly trying different businesses, but she’s always supported my passion. After the pandemic, I started to take a step back from 50–60 hours a week of physical therapy and devote more time to my supplement brand, The Veggie Doctor. She’s the one that encouraged me to do that so, I’ve been very appreciative of her support.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of pursuing your passion? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
One time, I worked with a group of doctors, and I was in physical therapy and helping them organize their PT clinic. I was dealing with one of my manufacturers from a supplement brand for my business. I accidentally called one of the doctors and started to talk to him about my order and when we would get this product put together because we were revising it, among many things. He stayed quiet the whole time while I was talking, and I didn’t realize that I was talking to the doctor instead of the manufacturer. And then afterward, when he spoke, he’s like, “This is Dr. So-and-so. What do you mean manufacturing issue?”
I don’t like to talk about the other business that I’m doing, but I was so embarrassed I called the wrong number that I had to explain to the doctor what I was doing and how I had this brand. He was actually pretty surprised and interested and asked me a whole bunch of questions.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you.” Just be a nice person and respect everyone.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
The latest we just finished is our new version of Qwell. After 18 months of testing, we just released our new formulation: a one-piece soft gel. And because the soft gel is slightly bigger, we have 40% more Omega threes per serving. I am so proud of that product.
We also just released our first vegan collagen peptide product. I know using vegan collagen is almost an oxymoron because collagen is typically bone-based, so it’s usually not vegan-friendly, but we use vegan sources for our collagen peptides. It’s called Luxor, and it’s a vegan collagen peptide complex. It took me about two years to put together, and I’m excited to sell it.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In my writing, I talk about cultivating wellbeing habits in our lives, in order to be strong, vibrant and powerful co-creators of a better society. What we create is a reflection of how we think and feel. When we get back to a state of wellbeing and begin to create from that place, the outside world will reflect this state of wellbeing. Let’s dive deeper into this together. Based on your experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellbeing? Please share a story or example for each.
Very simple. Get plenty of sleep. Try to get to bed early and try to get at least six to eight hours of sleep. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. I think that’s important as well. And then the last one is just trying to take 15 to 30 minutes every day to decompress from all the stress and anxiety and either go for a walk or just do something unrelated to what you’re doing, like read or meditate. Everyone’s a little bit different, so whatever works best for you.
I like to walk to pick it up early in the morning. I might start work right away, and then halfway through the day, I might just go for a 15 to 30-minute walk again because I just need to decompress and come back refreshed.
It has also been found that if you take at least a 15-minute power nap halfway throughout your day, you wake up significantly more refreshed and productive. So tons of research is coming out about that.
Do you have a specific type of meditation practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.
I actually don’t sit down and meditate, but I like to think about things that will make me happy when I walk. So I try not to think about everything that’s going on at work or anything related. I just try to think about something more pleasant — be it things I’ll be doing with the family or a vacation we’re planning.
Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellbeing? Please share a story or example for each.
Well, some of the good habits for mental wellbeing also tie into physical wellbeing as well.
Good night sleep is essential, and I also found that your brain gets rid of most of its toxins during the night when you sleep. It is like a sponge squeezing out the toxins, decompressing, and filling in with the nutrients it needs.
Another is drinking water throughout the day. Typically, it’s about an ounce for every pound of body weight, but you want to spread it out throughout the day. That keeps you hydrated, helps your skin, and helps decrease inflammation in your body. This also keeps your digestive system running regularly.
Lastly, depending on where you live in the U.S., but especially for those who live North, we tend to get less sun throughout the year, so many people suffer from seasonal affective disorder. I highly recommend supplementing high-quality Omega 3, like our Qwell Omega 3, and taking vitamin D3.
Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are some great ways to begin to integrate it into our lives?
Baby steps. For example, looking at a vegan diet doesn’t necessarily mean a healthy diet because sugary drinks can still be vegan. But if you follow more of a plant-based diet, you’re eating all the healthy nutrients you need throughout the day to keep you functioning properly.
If you start with a drink, instead of three cans of pop a day, you can begin by simply drinking one. Once you find that you start to remove that, you can drink more water or healthier drinks throughout the day and limit sugars. With food, you can start substituting things and always make sure your food plate is balanced correctly. Ideally, it is good to fill up about two-thirds of the plate with vegetables, and the rest can be with a complex carbohydrate.
If you need something sugary, maybe as a reward, you can always add a little piece of chocolate at the end of the day. You’ll find there’s some delicious, pure cacao chocolate out there that your taste buds will just enjoy more because now you’ve given up a lot of the sugar. You can still treat yourself, but that is the key to do so.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellbeing? Please share a story or example for each.
This is a tough one, but it is always good to step away from our work life a little bit.
Spend time with your family and friends. I think that it’s essential to develop relationships and be happier.
Lastly, find a hobby that you like that’s not related to your work. I like to walk and lift weights, which helps keep the bones and the muscles strong. When you get that endorphin kick, it’ll put you in a better mood, so you’re in a better emotional state.
Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellbeing? We’d love to hear it.
Smiling, definitely. When you’re feeling not in the most fantastic mood or upset, two things you can do are take a deep breath and count before overreacting and then smiling. People can sense a smile even if you’re on the phone. If you’re smiling, you just tend to sound happier because you feel happier.
Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellbeing? Please share a story or example for each.
Spirituality can be defined differently for everyone. So for some, it could be meditation, and for others, it can be prayer. For others, it can be more self-like inflection, looking within yourself to see what makes you happy. Those are different techniques that I believe are very powerful, but it always depends on what the person wants to do. It is definitely something more personal to find within.
Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate overall wellbeing?
There’s a huge difference between walking on a treadmill indoors and walking outside. There are so many health benefits of breathing fresh air and getting sunlight, which is essential in the body for creating vitamin D, which helps in our immune support.
Some studies say the Japanese farmers who work outside actually live the longest. They had the longest life expectancy and the best quality of life because they are more outdoors.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Reducing sugar intake and increasing the amount of plant-based foods that we eat.
I think, unfortunately, here in the U.S., if you look at the average plate of food, you’ll find that it’s about 90% carbohydrates or processed foods. I think that’s why you see so many issues such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and a multitude of other health factors. But again, increasing the amount of vegetables in our daily lives and supplementing with proper nutrients could have a significant impact on our health.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
Dr. Oz. He is a fascinating person whom I would like to talk to. He seems like he’s able to balance so much by being a physician and also on T.V. Just incredible. I don’t know how he does it all.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Facebook: ‘The Veggie Doctor’
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.