It’s not ironic that Men’s Health Week falls on the days leading up to Father’s Day. With dad’s special day right around the corner, let’s take a moment to talk about how important men’s health really is and what you can do to stay healthy the all natural way. Not a man? You can still help bring awareness to the important guy in your life by reading and sharing the following.
According to the CDC, the top three leading causes of male death in the United States is heart disease, cancer, and accidents caused by unintentional injuries; ALL of which are preventable by making easy lifestyle changes and better choices when it comes to diet, fitness, and even the products men use on a daily basis.
It must come as no surprise that men are more willing to take risks than women, making more decisions based on impulse rather than logic. Many studies have been published expanding on this theory, noting that men are more likely to smoke harmful tobacco products, partake in drinking alcohol heavily on a regular basis, make unhealthy diet choices, and put off regular medical visits than their female counterparts, all affecting the body’s systems negatively. Part of these decisions are made entirely due to testosterone levels in the body and other hormonal imbalances. Another part is said to be due to neurological development, in that areas of the brain in a male that are responsible for executive functioning (i.e. complex thinking processes), decision making, and impulse control take longer to mature than they do in women.
So what can be done about making improvements in your health when there are so many biological factors fighting against you? Below are My 4 Tips to a better you, geared towards men and their distinct biological differences.
Tip 1: Don’t fall victim to convenience!
In today’s hustle and bustle of a world, it’s easy to lean towards grab-on-the-go meals. Stopping at a fast food restaurant is high on the list of convenience. Whether it be in the morning to stop for that doughnut and coffee, or on your lunch break when you’re rushed to make it back to work in time so the boss doesn’t start asking what took you so long, fast food makes the cut for poor diet choices.
Many meals prepared at places like McDonalds, Burger King, etc. are frozen and are quickly heated up so that you, the customer, can get back to your busy day. The problem with this is that it’s not fresh and many of those meals are extremely high in saturated fats, covered in grease, that then turn into excess fat cells that the body does not know how to process. These cells are then carried through the blood stream to areas like the heart, where they build up and causes blockages; which then lead to heart disease, heart attacks, and even strokes. Choosing that quick and easy burger could be the last decision you make, and the last burger you ever get to enjoy.
So how do we avoid convenience?
One of the best ways to not fall into the temptation of fast food joints is to meal prep! No, this concept does not have to be scary. Yes, prepping your meals for your work week takes a little bit of extra time on a Sunday afternoon or evening. This 20 minutes to an hour will not only keep dollars in your pocket, but in the long run it will add years to your life since you are in control of what you prep, what ingredients go into your meals, and how large or small your portions are.
My boyfriend works a pretty vigorous job Monday through Friday, waking up every morning at 5:30am, putting his body though hard labor 10-12 hours each day. A job like this does not allow for long, restful hour long lunch breaks. You eat on the go and throughout the day during short breaks. In an effort to help him start making healthier choices, he started meal prepping. Once he go into the routine of it every Sunday, it’s now a habit that he refuses to break. Here’s an example of what his meal prepping looks like:
- For breakfast on the go: he makes about 5-8 breakfast burritos. When you need to get up early for work, and don’t have time to sit down and enjoy a breakfast at home, breakfast burritos are a great grab-and-go meal. They will keep in the refrigerator for the whole week, you can fill them with egg (protein), meat (more protein), cheese (even more protein!), veggies (the benefits of which are too long to explain here), wrapped in a flour or corn tortilla (adding enough carbs to be turned into energy); and they are easy to pop in the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute on your way out the door. *prep tip: keep them moderately sized. Try not to make giant burritos, but ones that are easily manageable to eat with one hand and do not overfill the stomach. The large Mission tortilla wraps are a great size for this!
- For lunch on the go: stir-fry’s make excellent quick lunch meals that are easy to prep, are a healthy option, and can be cooked in a variety of ways. You can cook them using your favorite meat (chicken, pork, steak) for optimal, clean proteins free of added saturated fats from grease, a large array of veggies, and rice (white or brown). Try to stay away from pre-made sauces to put on your stir-fry. These type of sauces tend to be high in sodium, which absorbs the body’s water content, leaving you feeling sluggish, bloated, and many times will induce headaches and fatigue. These meals can be portioned out in Ziploc Stackable, medium sized containers, put in the freezer Sunday night and popped in the microwave at lunch time throughout the week.
- For drink options: stay away from sodas that are high in sugars and carbohydrates. In men especially, daily soda intake can lead to bloating, higher risk of developing Type II Diabetes, excessive weight gain, and kidney stones. Instead of reaching for that soda can, bring with you to work a bottle of water. To make this easy to grab without spending a boat load on bottled water each week, fill up about 3-4 reusable water bottles and put them in the fridge for easy access. As you’re getting ready to leave for the day, grab one, put some ice in it if you choose to, and squeeze some lemon juice in there for flavor. Another way to add flavor is to add fresh cut cucumber, sliced oranges, sliced limes, or berries. Teas are also a great soda alternative, however be sure to stick to unsweetened or all natural teas sweetened with honey.
- For snacks in-between meals: prep yourself some veggie stick packs in Ziploc bags, or small containers. Bring with you a small container of organic, low sodium ranch dressing, hummus, or peanut butter for dipping. Seed packs, like trail mix or other varieties similar to this, are easy to portion out, are high in protein to keep you going, and you can easily grab them on your way out the door. Don’t have time? Stock your pantry with meal replacement bars like ProBar or Bobo Bars. These are healthy protein bars that won’t overfill you, but will help keep your energy sustained throughout the day. They are also made with organic and non-GMO ingredients, so you know you can trust what goes into them and what you’re in turn putting into your body.
In order to switch things up from week-to-week, try prepping lunches for the season. What do I mean by this? Make yourself hearty salads that have meat in them, cold sandwiches or wraps in the summer, and try hearty soups, pasta meals, or meat with a warming healthy carb like sweet potatoes, in the winter.
Tip 2: When in doubt, take your supplements!
Even when you’re making healthy food choices, our bodies need more nutrients than what is found in cooked foods. Taking daily supplements are a great and easy way to sustain energy, reduce headaches and stress throughout the day, and ensure that your body is running at optimal levels. When your body is properly functioning, you will see a dramatic difference in your energy, focus and concentration, and overall mood.
My favorite supplements that I have found that work great for both men and women, are doTERRA’s Lifelong Vitality Pack. With a 93% absorbency rate, these capsules really do the trick! The pack comes with three bottles of different supplements to be taken twice a day (once in the morning, and once at night). The first is the Micro Plex VMz. What’s so great about these little guys? The capsules are full of “micro-nutrients”, which are whole plant extracts straight from the fruit or vegetable themselves. When we cook vegetables, all lot of the nutrients our body needs from them is cooked out due to chemical changes from the heating process. These capsules pull those vitamins and nutrients right out of the plant so you know you’re still putting into your body what the body really needs. The micro-plex is also full of all the recommended daily vitamins (i.e. all the B’s, Vitamin’s A, C, D, E, folic acid, etc.).
The second bottle in this pack are the XEO-Mega Complex. These are your fatty acids derived from fish, an excellent source of Omega-3’s. Today in America, our diets are mainly made up of a 15:1 ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids. What are Omega-6’s? Those are your saturated fats that lead to blockages in the body. So that’s a 15:1 ratio of bad to good fats! No wonder the body is constantly in a state of imbalance, unrest, and so many of us have digestive issues like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). This X-Omega complex puts the good fats back into your body to help balance out the bad fats.
Lastly, this pack features the Alfa CRS+ for cellular vitality. What does this mean? In terms that are understandable, they simply fight oxidation reactions that occur in the body on a cellular level, providing optimal nutrition, resulting in the achievement of a healthier, stronger, more energized you. Isn’t that what we all want?!
Tip 3: Get Plenty of Rest & Reduce Stress
Research as shown that men should get approximately 6-8 hours of sleep per night in order to feel rested the next day and ensure that your body is functioning how it should be. However with demanding work schedules and busy home lives, getting 8 hours of sleep could not only be challenging to achieve but seem impossible. So what can you do to make this idea more of a daily reality?
- Set your bed time to 10 minutes earlier each night until you’ve reached 7-8 hours of sleep. Doing this consistently resets your body into making the new schedule a routine. So, if you need to wake up at 6:00am, but you usually go to bed around 11pm or midnight, begin setting reminders to get yourself into bed by 10:50 one night, 10:40 the next night, and so-on until you are going to bed between 9:30 or 10pm. Setting small goals like this for yourself will help you see results faster without feeling overwhelmed.
- Lower your caffeine intake! Cutting down to one to two cups of coffee per day really helps you settle down at the end of the night and prepares your body for sleep time. Giving your body this time to wind down from a long day is one of the healthiest things you can allow yourself to do! If you prefer energy drinks over coffee, limit to only drinking one per day and eventually consider not drinking them at all. The chemicals that are put into these drinks do more harm to the body’s processes than they do good!
- Reduce stress by practicing mindful meditation for 5-10 minutes each morning and each night. If this is something you are not already in a routine of, don’t let it scare you! Start slow by practicing once each week. After a couple weeks, pick two days to sit. Once this becomes a habit, keep adding a new day every couple of weeks that you make time to sit and meditate before you start your day, until eventually you are doing this every morning and every night, seven days a week!
- Feeling stressed throughout the day? Get up and walk! Walking around for about 10 minutes, whether it’s outside, or you cut laps around the office, walking gets your muscles moving, circulating oxygen through them, which gets into the bloodstream and travels throughout the body. This is also a great way to take a quick break when you’re feeling stuck on something, or need a little extra boost of energy. More oxygen in the brain keeps you alert and feeling stable.
Tip 4: Quit smoking and lower alcohol intake.
For those of you that are addicted to your daily dose of nicotine, smoking cigarettes does a lot more damage to the inside of your body than you think. Not only does smoking cause lung disease and cancer, it also slows thinking processes and neurotransmitters in the brain from sending and receiving vital messages that get sent to the rest of your body. Smoking can also leave you feeling sluggish and forces your body to work harder. Quitting smoking may sound scary or hard, but with the right support, help from friends and family, taking the plunge could not only save your life in the long run, but also improve your health.
The same goes for alcohol. Lowering how much you consume on a daily basis will not only boost your energy, but you’ll start notice a drastic change in the way your body functions. Your mood will be brighter, you’ll inevitably loose weight and minimize bloating, and your mind will think more clearly allowing you to focus on the things that are most important you.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t let yourself try to build an empire in one night! If there is something that you can schedule into your next day, than do-so if your present day was long and strenuous. Make time to spend with family and loved ones, remember to make better food choices, make some time to get a little more rest each night, do what you can to reduce stress, and quit bad habits like drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes.
“Without health, life is not life; it is only a state of languor and suffering – an image of death” ~ The Buddha