Many of us take good health for granted. I find this to be particularly true for men. In most cases, they would not be sitting across from me in my office if not for a push from their doctor, wife, mother or girlfriend. These 'helpers,' however, are not always viewed as such, and instead, their suggestions are like the roar of a train that's right near your home – after a while, you don't hear it.
Well, guys, it may be time to 'man up' and take your health into your own hands. Don't wait until you get a diagnosis from a doctor to make some positive changes to some negative habits. There's no time better than today, during Men's Health Week and pre-Father's Day. You can reduce the risks of diseases like diabetes, heart disease, colon cancer and prostate cancer by paying closer attention to what goes on your fork. And if you need to lose weight, even shedding a few pounds can improve laboratory values and cut medical and insurance costs.
Here are a few tips to help you step up to the plate:
• Don't skip meals all day and then come home to a seemingly endless buffet from dinner until bed. This practice can disturb your sleep and cause problems like acid reflux. Even if you dream of mountain climbing, it's hard to work off those nighttime noshes.
• Set attainable goals. When it comes to exercise, don't overdo it. The macho approach could wind up creating an injury that keeps you from exercising for weeks. You don't have to join a gym or buy fancy equipment to challenge and strengthen your body and relieve stress. Walk, run, ride a bike – do an activity you'll enjoy. (Jogging around the remote control doesn't count.)
• Just eat when you eat. Simultaneous activities while you eat (driving, working, talking on the phone, reading, watching TV) could lead to unnecessary eating or overeating. Desktop and dashboard dining are rarely balanced or well-rounded, and calories can add up quickly when you're not appreciating and paying attention to the taste, texture and temperature of your food.
• Resist reflux. Lunch in the company of a keyboard can take a toll on your health by effecting digestion. You may not need a whole hour, but you do need a break to try to eat slowly, chew your food well and squeeze in a walk around the office – or better yet, around the block.
• Count liquid calories. If you like to drink alcohol, have it with a chaser of moderation. Some drinks pack more calories than a meal.
• Try a daily food/exercise log. Even if you write down what you eat on a napkin and then throw it away, it could still be helpful to see the type and quantity of food you consume in black and white. A diary is one of the most effective – and least expensive – weight loss tools.
• Save your legacy. If you have children and you've already started thinking about saving for college, why not think about saving their lives? As a role model, your food choices may be setting examples for future generations. Kids rely on you to help them make decisions, including those related to fueling their bodies.
• Get checked out. Annual exams could save your life. When was the last time you had a physical exam?
In this economy, your health is a good investment that pays big in the long run. Try to be patient: Just like running a business, success doesn't happen overnight. "Whether you have money or not," my dad always said, "you're rich if you're healthy."
As a mom of three boys, I wish you a happy and healthy Father's Day, guys.
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Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, has been owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC, for more than three decades and she is the author of Read It Before You Eat It. As a renowned motivational speaker, author, media personality, and award-winning dietitian, Taub-Dix has found a way to communicate how to make sense of science. Her website is BetterThanDieting.com.