Men's Health: New Year's Resolutions for Men (cont.)
Experts are still waiting for long-term data on low-carb diets. Critics fear the diets will have negative effects on the heart, particularly since fatty foods have been shown to raise risk of heart disease. Many of the restricted foods on the low-carb diet, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, have also been shown to prevent cancer, and lower risk of heart disease.
To lose weight, Taub-Dix recommends a well-balanced diet, with emphasis on whole grains, fruits and vegetables. She says three servings of low-fat dairy can also be beneficial. Besides improving bone health, some studies show calcium may make it easier to shed pounds.
Instead of a beefsteak, try tuna or salmon steaks. A turkey burger could replace a beef burger. There are also vegetarian meat substitutes.
If this does not sound appetizing, try mixing healthy items into the meals you normally eat. For instance, a beef dish could be mixed in with tofu. "So you can get some of what you want, but not enough to hurt you," says Bonhomme.
New Year's Resolution No. 3: Go to the Doctor
Do you have a twisted ankle, back pain, blood in the urine, an enlarged mole, or unexplained sadness lasting more than a couple of weeks? These are all good reasons to see a physician. Yet plenty of men simply don't do it.
Men make 130 million fewer visits to the doctor than women do, and that's not including childbirth visits, says Armin Brott, author of Father for Life. He says men tend to discount pain and see themselves as indestructible, especially at younger ages. He says this general thinking stems from ideas promoted in childhood -- that big boys need to be tough and they don't cry. As men grow up, they are raised to think of themselves as providers and protectors.
"We're supposed to be taking care of our families, and we just don't have time to take care of ourselves," says Brott, noting a great percentage of the time men go to the doctor because their wife sent them. By the time they go, however, their condition could have progressed to more troublesome stages.
Promise yourself that if something doesn't feel right, you'll go to the doctor, Brott tells men.
Besides treating ailments, a medical practitioner can screen for potential problems, and keep a record of normal fitness levels. Health exams can give doctors a baseline for things like blood pressure, and cholesterol. If a man does not go to the doctor, it becomes harder for physicians to determine the severity of a problem.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends the following screening tests for men:
Brott says it's also a good idea for men to give themselves a regular visual exam, taking inventory of how they feel and look.
New Year's Resolution No. 4: Quit Smoking
Giving the nicotine habit the boot is one of the most popular resolutions for both men and women. It is a difficult task, and for some people, success does not come until after multiple tries.
Experts say the best way to deal with the problem is to get help. "You get no extra points for being macho," says Brott.
There are a number of resources for support. You may visit your primary care doctor and/or join a smoking cessation program in person, online, or by phone. You may consider medication, or nicotine replacements such as patches, gums, sprays, inhalers, and lozenges. Or you may contact groups such as the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, and the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health for help.
Robert Stenander, corporate services clinician for the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery, recommends face-to-face support groups. The personal interaction, he says, can help raise accountability, and can provide vital social connections.
"You can describe and talk about what your issues are with regard to your smoking cessation, and you've got other people who may be able to give you some hints and suggestions as to what they've encountered," says Stenander.
A relapse is a real possibility, but it's important to look forward and avoid negative thinking. "Don't give up," says Stenander. "Don't get yourself in a defeatist attitude that you can't do something. Let's talk about what you can do."
If one smoking cessation method doesn't work for you, try another one. You may also consider different support groups as some may work better than others.
Don't forget that you can also enlist the support of family and friends. Many former smokers have found loved ones as a vital source of encouragement.
New Year's Resolution No. 5: Ease Stress
Got stress? Who doesn't? Men have their lion's share partly because society hasn't given them the freedom to process pressures that well, says Bonhomme. "A lot of times men will hold things inside ... they won't talk about them."
The pent-up negative feelings can cause feelings of anger and hopelessness, promote destructive behavior, or manifest themselves in physical ailments. Research shows stress can have adverse effects on the cardiovascular, nervous, immune, and digestive systems.