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One Millenial's Turning Point
Mitch is a producer and the editor for the Who Cares About Men's Health podcast. His health turning point began with working on this very podcast. Every week he listens to professionals talk about how important it is for men to take their health seriously when they're younger. He hears about the "terrible things" that can happen if he doesn't start taking care of himself.
Mitch just recently turned 30 years old and finally has decent health insurance for the first time in almost 10 years. He may be a little scared for one reason or another, but this podcast has been the catalyst to get him to start doing the things he needs to do, so that he can get his health back on track.
Looking Good Doesn't Mean You're Healthy
Mitch is tall, relatively thin, and looks like he works out. He may "look" healthy, but Mitch doesn't consider himself a healthy guy. Despite his appearance, Mitch has a history of bad habits, nagging health issues, and health problems.
For most of his life, Mitch has been heavy. He is thinner at age 30 than he has been for most of his life. Bad diet and low activity led him to top out around 240 pounds three years ago. He's lost a significant amount of that weight over the past three years.
Mitch has also had a long history of smoking that has impacted his cardiovascular health.
Mitch's activity level began to drop in high school after he sustained a serious knee injury while running cross-country. The injury has become a chronic problem that he has been unable to treat before. The injury keeps him from doing any intense hiking or jogging with friends like he used to. He knows he needs physical therapy, but hasn't had the ability to seek out treatment for years.
It's important to remember that every guy is going through their own health journey. Just because someone "looks" a certain way, does not necessarily mean they are the epitome of health.
The Problem of Insurance
One of the reasons that men - especially young men in the U.S. - don't seek out medical treatment is that they are uninsured or under-insured. Mitch has been in that position for most of his 20's.
"I would rather go uninsured than starve or not have a place to live," says Mitch. "I ask, is it worth that $100, $200 to potentially get a bill that I cannot pay. Especially when [my health condition] not killing me right now."
Dr. Troy Madsen sees this situation often with younger people that come into the emergency room. These young men are paying hundreds of dollars a month for only catastrophic insurance, which doesn't allow them to seek out the preventative care they probably should be getting.
Even the Biggest Health Problems Can Be Easy to Ignore
Mitch says he's having trouble in just about every aspect of his health. Besides the things he's already mentioned, he is a chronic insomniac, averaging around five hours of sleep a night.
His diet fluctuates significantly, going from good to bad. While he and his partner were preparing to be on camera for a documentary in Europe, their diet became intense. They were watching their macros and weighing out exact portions of food that wasn't that appetizing. He may have lost a bit of weight for the film, but Mitch hated it. He hated losing a Sunday to preparing meals that he didn't love eating.
He is learning that when it comes to achieving health goals you need to find what works best for you and make small, reasonable changes in your habits, if there's any chance in the changes sticking.
Mitch has also been trying to quit smoking. After trying to quit cigarettes for years, he switched to vaping a few years ago and is now working to quit the vape. He's tried all sorts of ways to quit, but none have stuck. He'll be reaching out to professionals to help find a method that will work best for him.
Even though he has known for quite some time that he needed to make some changes in his lifestyle, he admits that it can be easy to just ignore your health at his age.
"It's so easy when you are not hurting every single day," admits Mitch, "I know I'm not feeling the best I possibly could, becauseI don't work out as much as I should. But, it's not like, my heart is killing me every day and I need to turn my life around. It's really easy to say ‘eh, I'll do it later.'"
Now that he has insurance and the motivation of the podcast, it's time to get serious about his health.
Taking Charge of Your Health Can Be Scary
Mitch is a little overwhelmed with all the new changes he's making with his health. He's been surprised by the amount of anxiety he's experiencing with facing the realities of his health.
For example, a simple thing like a glucose level test is stressing him out. He knows he has a genetic predisposition for diabetes. He has some family members that have type 2 diabetes. He has even exhibited some minor symptoms that may be signs of diabetes. He knows he should go get tested and take the steps necessary to treat the condition he may have.
But he finds himself thinking that getting the test done would "make [the condition] real."
"In my brain, I'm healthy now," says Mitch, "As soon as that piece of information comes, I won't be." There's a part of him that would rather not know.
Troy argues that it's better to go through that stress and start caring now - at Mitch's age - than later in life. Troy says that most people don't start caring until they're in their 50's, when their health problems begin to be serious. For example, most men don't start caring about their heart health until the have a heart attack.
Troy assures Mitch that by taking care of things when he's younger, he's doing better than a majority of people.
It's Important to Recognize Your Health Starting Point
Mitch recently began working with a personal trainer to not only learn how to work on his physical fitness, but to take a full fitness assessment to find out his starting point. It did not go as well as he was hoping.
Mitch believed his cardiovascular health was better than it actually was. Most of his strength and flexibility tests were deemed "fair" or "needs improvement." And after just 20 minutes of slightly rigorous activity, he found himself sweating and completely out of breath. His trainer chose to postpone and adapt his cardio assessment because he was struggling.
It's easy to assume you're healthier than you are if you only base your health by what you look like in the mirror. Mitch may have been embarrassed at his poor fitness test results, but that's the reality of where his fitness currently is.
The body can take a while to adapt to a new reality. It can take months to years to lose your physical fitness. Likewise, it can take a while to get it back. It's important to realize that you're not going to reach your peak fitness in just six weeks.
Troy reminds Mitch that it's important to start small with your health goals and work up to where you'd like to be. A good start is 30 minutes of activity three times a week. Just that small amount of activity can lead to significant health benefits.
Your Nagging Health Issues Can Be a Source of Mental Stress
For Mitch, the most important thing he wants to work on with his health is his nagging health issues. He's hoping that by finally treating some of the problems he's dealt with for years, he can work through some of the nagging anxiety that chronic health issues can bring.
Mitch sometimes finds himself fearing that those seemingly small issues could actually be something worse. When he gets a pain in his chest from heartburn, there's a part of his mind that thinks back to his years as a chain smoker. It can be hard not to assume the worst when a person has a less than stellar health history and hasn't been treated in years.
Stay Focused on Where You Came From
Troy insists that one of the most important ways to stay motivated is to focus and celebrate the progress that has been made, rather than dwell on how far you have to go.Despite Mitch's less than stellar medical history, the embarrassment with the personal trainer, and the fear and anxiety of the unknown, he's still come a long way in his health journey.
Troy reminds Mitch that he's lost 40 pounds and has cut down significantly on his smoking. He's taking steps to seek professional medical help. These are all significant, positive steps in the right direction towards a healthier life.
Scot also reminds us that there is no ideal "perfect health". It's instead a type of "practice" that a person does every day. It's the practice of learning what works and doesn't work for you as a person. It's the practice of consistently reevaluating your lifestyle and working to improve it. It's the practice of staying positive and motivated to work towards your goals, while celebrating the steps you've already made.
Health is about progress and practice, not a final destination.
Just Going to Leave This Here
On this episode's Just Going to Leave This Here, Scot has noticed a strange phenomenon at the grocery store: men will never take the large shopping cart, regardless of how many items they are actually buying. And Troy has been listening to Factfulness by Hans Rosling, and is learning that the world may actually be a much better place than we believe it is.
Talk to Us
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- 164: Health Beyond Medicine—Social Factors Shaping Men's Wellness
- 163: Avoiding the ER—Dr. Madsen's Essential Prevention Tips
- 162: Gifting Wellness: 9 Holiday Gift Ideas for the Health-Minded
- 161: Beyond the Bulk - Strength Training for the Rest of Us
- 160: Listener Wal's Wake-Up Call
- 159: What Moms Want Their Sons to Know About Health with Melanie
- 158: Little Triumphs in Men's Health: Why Every Win Counts