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Scot: Does it feel like it's a struggle to be healthy? And the Core Four that we talk about here on the show, nutrition, activity, mental health, and sleep, can seem simple, but in practice actually execution can be challenging.
Troy, I've got a question for you. What's your biggest kind of Core Four or other health challenge?
Troy: Sleep, without question.
Scot: I knew you were going to say that.
Troy: You knew I was going to say it. It really is. Sometimes I feel like I'm making progress and I feel like, "This is good," and then I'm just like, "I am just doing miserably with this." I'm waking up at 2:00 in the morning and I'm lying there and I'm just kind of staring at the ceiling for two hours. So sometimes I think I'm doing well. Other times I'm just like, "I have no idea how to sleep."
Troy: Yeah. It's just a crazy thing.
Scot: What's that do to your self-esteem?
Troy: Exactly. As Mitch said before, "Babies do it. Why can't I do it?" Babies do it. My baby sleeps better than I do at this point.
Scot: Mitch, how about you? What's your biggest Core Four challenge or other health challenge?
Mitch: So I think the biggest thing that I've been kind of dealing with lately is getting back up to the activity levels I'd like to be at, but that's mostly because I injured my ankle again. I'm back in physical therapy. Where going for a jog and listening to a murder podcast used to be really fun, these days it's like, "Oh, I've got to make sure I'm going slow. Oh, I've got to make sure I'm babying my ankle, blah, blah, blah."
So it's right back to that situation of having to scale everything back a little bit for where I'm at right now, and that's been kind of a frustrating situation.
Scot: Already, at this point, I love what you both said. It makes me feel so much better that you said at one point things were good, but you're struggling to get back to the way they are, because that's what I constantly struggle with. I constantly struggle with, "I do pretty good, and then all of a sudden I don't do great at all." It's so intermittent. I'm just not very consistent, and both of you kind of brought that up.
For me, it's activity. That's the thing. I cannot seem to be consistent. I will go pretty well for a month, month and a half, do some weights, maybe get out and do some other sorts of things, get my heart rate up, and then all of a sudden it just all comes to a screeching halt, and I'm not exactly sure what's going on.
So here's something you as a listener should know up front. Some of the episodes we have very specific recommendations of things to do, and others, like this one, are just guys talking about their health and health challenges as a way to create some new understanding or knowledge that might help with some insights that could help us and hopefully you on your journey to be eating healthier as well, and maybe even being a little kinder to yourself.
That's one thing I've already picked out of this, is I've got to go back to that. Maybe always being perfect isn't the standard I should be measuring myself to. So that's today's show.
This is "Who Cares About Men's Health," with information, inspiration, and a different interpretation of men's health. I'm Scot Singpiel. I bring the BS. The MD to my BS, Dr. Troy Madsen.
Troy: Scot, I think this is a great topic for the middle of winter when everything just seems like you're just getting by. This is a good topic.
Scot: And the hardest working guy that I know of . . .
Mitch: Oh, man.
Scot: . . . when it comes to his health . . . I'm serious, man. I know that you feel like you have your struggles or whatnot, but you're working hard and getting it done. This is Mitch Sears on the show.
Mitch: Well, thank you. Yeah, it is a constant struggle, but yeah, it's something I do try to work hard at. I appreciate that.
Scot: I think for this conversation that's about "Why does it seem like it's a struggle to be healthy?" I think a great place to start is what is healthy even? What is this standard that we aspire towards? Because society has a different definition than perhaps maybe we have or what a more realistic kind of definition is.
So what is healthy from a man's perspective? What is the pursuit of health? How do you define that, Mitch?
Mitch: Well . . . Oh, man.
Scot: I totally understand where you're coming from. That's a good question.
Mitch: That's such a big question, because yeah, it's like . . .
Scot: Here's the thing though. You have to consider that question in order to figure out what are you even comparing yourself to, and is that fair to yourself?
Mitch: For sure. And that's kind of the thing that has been really interesting, having been someone who's started to take interest in their health over the last few years with this podcast and everything.
It seems like men especially, and this is just my kind of experience, are getting all sorts of goalposts and gold standards from a bunch of different places, and very few of those places are actually backed by research or everyday regular people, etc. So much of it is focused on getting ripped, getting tons of muscle mass. "Men's health is sexual health" is one of the mantras that I hear all the time.
I think that it makes it hard, because when you first start to really care about your health, unless you're actively trying to participate and check in and think about what it actually means to you as an individual, it's really easy to look at a cover of a "Men's Health" magazine and be like, "Oh, man, I am not as handsome as Ryan Reynolds, and therefore I am unhealthy." I don't know.
Scot: Or the influencers on social media.
Mitch: Oh, yeah. They're terrible. They're the worst. It's garbage.
Scot: Okay. You kind of talked about your opinion of how the media and society defines health. How do you define it then?
Mitch: Well, it's a constantly changing and shifting idea. And for me, the big central idea is "Am I feeling my best? Am I able to do the things I want to do? Is my health in one way or another limiting me from enjoying my time on this beautiful planet of ours?"
And so that's how I do it these days where it's like, "Eh, do I have 12 abs? No. But can I go for a hike in a pretty trail in the mountains? Yes or no?" That's kind of where I'm at.
Scot: Hey, Troy?
Scot: Do people have 12 abs?
Troy: Twelve abs? Yeah, good question.
Scot: I thought eight was the . . . Can you have a 12-pack?
Troy: A 12-pack.
Scot: You're the doctor here.
Troy: That's a good question. Yeah, I don't know. We'll have to go back to the cadaver lab, which I dreaded in medical school, and count the abs.
Scot: Troy, how about you? How do you perceive society's kind of definition of health versus how you define health?
Troy: I mean, I think society . . . I think Mitch hit on that already. It's a lot about image and how you appear to other people. I think that's a big piece of health in terms of societal definition, where I like to think of health . . . I think Mitch kind of touched on it already. My definition would be having the physical and emotional capacity to engage in the activities that I find rewarding, and hopefully having that capacity for many years.
And I think for different people, that means different things. Someone in their 60s, they want to engage maybe not in high-intensity activities or endurance activities or things like that, and that's their definition of health. They want to play with their grandkids or they want to spend time with friends and they want to have that capacity. And for them, that's what health is, versus maybe someone who's younger who wants to be more engaged in activities.
So that's how I see it, is having that capacity to do that. And again, I think it just means different things to different people.
Scot: Yeah. I'm sensing, getting back to what Mitch said about it can mean different things at different times, that it's an evolving idea, right?
Scot: It's not a destination. It's something that you're always kind of pursuing.
Troy: Yeah, for sure.
Scot: And then also I'd like to add to what both of you said. It's an external thing. I think that's huge, right? You look at somebody and you go, "Oh, they're healthy," but really maybe they're not. Maybe inside things aren't that great because of other lifestyle choices they're making, right?
Troy: Yeah, and it's so true. I think one thing, really, I appreciate about my job is that you do meet a lot of people who definitely have very much a public persona being very fit and having a wonderful life, and you gain a lot of insight into what's actually going on in their lives and you realize it's not always that way.
And so I think we often compare ourselves to other people and we compare ourselves to that image and that persona, whether that's the image of health or happiness or whatever it is, but everyone has their struggles.
I meet these people. Sometimes they're local celebrities or whatever it may be, and you realize they have their struggles too. We all do. And they're struggling with personal health issues, or maybe it's substance issues, other things they may bring up, emotional health issues.
And so I certainly don't take any pleasure in the struggles that they're facing, but I think it just puts things in perspective when we do start to compare ourselves to those people who really do seem like their lives are just perfect.
Scot: We're on the same podcast together, so maybe this is why our answers are so similar, because we all kind of have the same bit of thinking. But I'm really surprised because my definition of health is very much the same.
It empowers me to do the things I want to do. It's feeling good, it's functioning well, it's not being tired, it's not hurting or aching more than I really need to do, my brain is working, and I feel happy and finding satisfaction in my work because, from a mental health standpoint, I'm feeling good. I'm doing things that are going to help me with my longevity and ability to function as I age.
So that is my definition of health, but it's also something I feel like I have to manage every day. And this is one thing I think about, is how the modern world almost makes it more difficult to be healthy.
You ready for a soapbox moment? I'm going to go ahead and climb up on my soapbox.
Troy: Ready or not, I think we're going to get it, so let's hear it.
Scot: So I think about this a lot, and I don't know how much of this is true, right? But for example, activity used to be something that was a part of life. In order to survive, physical activity was involved. Now, there are a lot of people that still do have physically active jobs, but I spend a lot of time at a desk, so I've got to figure out a way to then fit that into my life.
And I feel like eating was a lot more simple, right? But in today's age, I'm constantly bombarded by commercials for food that's been chemically created to be addicting. And billions of dollars are spent on this to get me to eat this food that's convenient and not necessarily great for me.
And then I have a phone with apps on them that seem to suck up more time than I ever want them to, that I could be spending on healthier activities like exercise and sleep. And again, using psychology to making sure that I'm addicted to these apps, right? And I'm watching more and spending more and more time.
And then these daily images and messages about what it is to be a man and a healthy man that doesn't necessarily resemble me at all. I feel bombarded by that. So I feel like I'm constantly thinking about it and constantly having to manage that.
And don't get me wrong, I'm not saying, "Let's go back to the way things were," but I don't think health is something you can take for granted. I think you have to have kind of a plan and be mindful about it. Do you guys buy into any of that or am I just spouting crap?
Troy: No, it makes sense. Sometimes it feels like the cards are stacked against us. Again, you're exactly right. So much has been based on human psychology and addiction and feeding into those patterns, whether it be with diet or with, like you said, apps, or engagement with social media, those sorts of things.
It really has played off a lot of, I think, addictive tendencies that we have as humans to do those things, and so we have to be aware of it, and it's a struggle. I think that alone, the fact that there is so much understanding of our psychology and so much of that plays into our psychology and tendencies toward certain addictive patterns, it's a battle. There's no question.
Scot: And I feel like this can be going on without you even realizing it.
Troy: The simple reality is you can't just go with the flow and be healthy. You just can't, because the flow really pushes you toward those things.
Scot: I love that analogy.
Troy: Yeah, you really can't.
Scot: You're right.
Troy: You figure most Americans are overweight or obese, and that's the flow. That's the majority there. So if you're just going with the flow . . . Yeah, you kind of have to swim upstream in a sense to really be able to get beyond so many of those things that just draw you in. I think it is a huge struggle.
Scot: What are some of the challenges that you guys have experienced with either the Core Four or some other health things, and how did you overcome those?
Troy: Obviously, a big one for me has been sleep, and I can't say I've overcome it, but I think a lot of what we've talked about has been healthy, of trying to have more regular patterns in place and addressing that.
But I think some of the bigger issues for me where I have felt like I've had some success have been definitely activity. And for that, I think it's just been saying, "I'm going to do this and I'm going to try and do it every day and be consistent." And not expect heroic efforts on a daily basis, just to expect a consistent effort and just keep it up. And for whatever reason, that seems to have worked for me so far on the activity side.
But I think it's always a struggle of just saying, "Well, why am I doing this as much as I am? Do I really need to do this to get the results that maybe I want?"
So that, for me, I think is the struggle in other areas where I feel like I'm doing a pretty good job. It's more kind of that temptation to ease up on it or maybe say, "Well, this isn't really necessary," or, "Maybe it's not worth it," or, "Maybe I can get results by not doing what I'm doing and maybe cutting that in half," or something like that. So that's, I think, the challenge I face in some of those areas outside of sleep.
Scot: I want to ask you a question about sleep. I mean, is there really anything you can do? I know you've done some stuff, but part of it is just the job you have, which is, again, a result of the society we live in.
Troy: It is, yeah.
Scot: I mean, then the question is, do you beat yourself up too much about it or . . .
Troy: Yep, I do. And then it's just that spiral. And I think we've talked about that before. I think Mitch has talked about it.
Scot: The shame spiral, he calls it. I love it.
Troy: It's the shame spiral or it's the anxiety spiral. I think we get so anxious about not sleeping that we can't sleep. And that happens to me. And so sometimes I'm just like, "Just don't worry about it. Who cares?"
But you're right. That is very tough to do. And I think, again, there are just certain realities of a 24/7 society that needs people who are available for services or emergencies or whatever it may be at hours when people used to sleep on a regular basis. So I think there's that reality too.
But even that aside, sometimes I feel like I'm in a pretty good sleep pattern and then I might have a week or two without a late shift and I still find that I'm struggling. But again, maybe that's just that cumulative effect of working late and working nights.
Scot: And as far as your activity, what's the difference between you and then Mitch and I? Do you just have more willpower? Do you just have more discipline?
Troy: I was going to say obsessive-compulsive disorder, because that . . . No, I'm saying for me, it's the obsessive compulsive . . . I don't know.
Scot: A lot of times when we talk about health and fitness and the Core Four, it could be easy to go, "Well, you just have to have more willpower. You just have to have more self-control. You have to have more discipline." And maybe that's true to some extent, but are there other things at play that have helped you do that? Or are you just mentally made of sterner stuff than we are?
Troy: I don't know about sterner stuff. Maybe more disordered than you are. Yeah, I don't know. I tend to pride myself, I think, on trying to be very consistent on things, and it's been very good in a lot of ways. I think in terms of just medical school, you do have to have very much a Type A personality and you have to have a certain level of kind of that OCD tendency of very focused and like, "I'm doing this every day."
So I think it's been helpful in some ways in terms of success. It also kind of drives you crazy sometimes, so yeah. And maybe that's part of it for me, honestly. That may be a part of it for me, is just for whatever reason with this routine in particular and just with running in particular, it's been very much . . .
And then you get in a pattern where you've done it every day and it's like, "Well, I can't miss a day." I honestly have not missed a day in almost eight years, so it's been good. I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life, which I love feeling, and I've seen my cholesterol numbers continually improve. So I think there's been great reward there.
But again, I think my point in saying all this is it doesn't come easy. You do get in the habit and you have that habit and that helps you get out the door, but still it's hard. I enjoy it once I'm out there, but often it's hard to get out the door.
Scot: Mitch, what's your take on willpower or discipline being the reason that maybe some of us struggle to maintain these healthy things?
Mitch: That's actually something I have been spending a lot of time thinking about lately with the new diagnosis of ADHD and kind of figuring out what works for me, what doesn't.
A lot of times in the past, I would beat myself up that I was not performing, that I was not able to have enough willpower, that I was unable to do certain things, right? And these days, it's more recognizing that sometimes it's not all willpower. It's just consistency, a general trend towards positivity, a general trend towards doing a little better, the dao of Kaizen, little improvements every day.
It's not necessarily an all or nothing, and if you hold yourself to such a high standard and you don't meet it, it doesn't necessarily mean you don't have the willpower. There are a lot of other things that could be going on too that are preventing you from getting there.
Scot: Mitch, what's kind of your overall challenge then?
Mitch: We've mentioned a couple of times over the last year, my health got a whole lot more complicated than I was expecting. Everything from mental health issues, to physical injuries that I'm back in physical therapy for, to hormonal things that we have figured out and got me on some medications, etc. There's a lot of small progress being made on a lot of different fronts, but it does not feel like I'm actually accomplishing what I want to some days.
Scot: Yeah, I feel you completely. It's like you go on Instagram or TikTok and they've got a Reel, and it's somebody who wanted to get in shape at the beginning of January, and then within that 15-second video you see the before and the after awesomeness. And even though you know better, it just seems like, "Oh, that was an instant transformation."
Mitch: Yes. You get that before and after effect, right?
Mitch: For me, like we talked on a recent goal episode, it was like, "I want to get back to having X amount of activity all the time. I want to feel better about my mental health. I want to sleep better, etc." I'm doing okay at a bunch of those, but it's so easy to just say, "Well, I don't have enough willpower. Oh, this sucks," when I've got to keep reminding myself that I am not a Instagram influencer, that their whole job is to look happy and look fit, right?
I have a lot going on. I have a lot of stuff on my plate. I've got a job. I'm teaching classes. I am overcoming an injury, mental health stuff, whatever. Oh my god, I am doing okay for where I am right now. And that's kind of some of the stuff that . . .
It's so easy to just be like, "If only I had more willpower, I could be like these other people. If only I had enough willpower, I could be like Troy Madsen." But "right now, I'm doing okay" is where I feel some days.
And so it's just this kind of different approach to it that I've been taking and being a bit more kind to myself. And I find it's easier to do little good things if you're in a good headspace than beating yourself up that you weren't perfect every day.
Troy: Yeah, there's no question. And we've talked about that a bit before too, but I think that being kind to yourself is so essential because it's when we're not kind to ourselves that I think we really do kind of fall off the cliff in terms of our activity. When we do expect perfection or we compare ourselves and just get frustrated, that's when we just kind of throw in the towel and are like, "Ugh, this isn't worth it. Why am I doing this? I'm accomplishing nothing." So I totally agree. We have to be kind to ourselves.
And for me, like I said, in terms of the activity, I feel like I've been very, very consistent there, but then there's the diet piece. That's kind of improved and then it's gotten worse, and sometimes I'm wanting to eat some sweets and I want to drink soda and these kinds of things. But there, sometimes I do kind of feel that tendency. Certainly when we travel, I'm not eating like I should. Then you kind of get frustrated and unhappy with yourself.
But again, I think you just kind of have to look big picture and say, "Overall things are good and I'm not going to be perfect with this, but I'm happy with where I am, and I'm better than where I was 10 years ago. So that's good."
Mitch: Right. So, in that same vein, as someone who deals with a lot of anxiety, someone who deals with the shame spiral, as I've come to call it, this idea of, "Oh, no, I'm not performing as well," and then you feel bad about feeling bad and then it just gets worse and worse, one of the mantras for 2023 that I'm adopting from the younger generation is this idea of if it's worth doing, it's worth doing half-assed.
I don't know how else to say that. We'll have to bleep it because half-butted doesn't sound right, but . . .
Mitch: Halfway, sure. There you go. Yeah. But it's this concept that perfectionism and the idea that you have to hold yourself to that 100% standard and you have to hustle for it and you've got to push for it can be so detrimental, because what if you don't achieve it? What if you don't hit that 100% mark?
So, as such, the kind of approach is . . . Say you want to work out six days a week, whatever that is. It's better to be consistent, so even if you can't get your butt to the gym three to four times a week like you'd like, going for a walk for 20 minutes is still activity and it's still good for you. Will you see as much of a result as if you were to go in and do whatever? No. But at the very least, you are still doing it, right?
And so, for me, if I can't get my strength training in, if I can't get enough of a jog in or whatever because of my injury that I'm dealing with or whatever, I'll just walk around the block a couple times. Because even doing it just half of what you wanted to do is better than nothing at all, or hating yourself that you didn't hit that.
And it goes to nutrition. If you're not eating healthy every single day, that's okay, right? Just get yourself a chicken sandwich instead of a Baconator. Those kinds of small choices that are like, "Is it the best thing you could be doing right now? No. But it's good enough and it's at least a step in the right direction."
Troy: That's so true. Yeah, I'm a huge believer in that as well and just this idea of . . . I think you're far better off doing something and doing it halfway and doing an okay job of it, but doing it consistently, than you are of doing something extremely well but doing it irregularly. I think you're going to get more results if you just try and stick with it.
Whatever it is, just kind of do whatever you can, and maybe it's not great, rather than having these huge workouts at the gym, but just feeling burned out by it and not wanting to do it more than maybe once or twice a week.
Scot: I'm going to go ahead and throw mine out there. And actually, in homage to Troy, I'm going to recognize what I feel like I do well most of the time. My nutrition, I feel pretty good for the most part, if I'm being honest with myself.
It's easy to beat myself up. Over Christmas break, I ate a lot of salted caramels at 100 calories each, four or five at a time. But I'm off those, right? So that wasn't great. But generally, I feel pretty good about my eating. I don't eat a lot of processed foods or anything like that.
Generally, I feel pretty good about my sleep. Generally, I am feeling better about my mental health, but that activity thing, especially weight training, is always a challenge.
And the thing that I'm trying to do . . . Like I said, I always come up with these little tricks. Sometimes at the end of the day I'm so tired, I just want to do something mindless, and then that's when I go to the phone and I start scrolling, right?
And I saw something that said, "There are these little moments in our day where we make a decision that's going to dictate what happens for the next hour of our life." So I think about that a lot.
I'll pull out my phone when I know I want to exercise and I'm like, "This is that moment. This is that little decision that's going to take the next half hour of my day, or hour, and going to prevent me from doing the thing that I want to do." And then for some reason, it's easier to make the choice of the thing I want to do.
So that's been helpful for me, and I think it could apply to a lot of things. It could apply to eating. It could apply to a lot of stuff in your life. So just that notion that there are these little small moments throughout our day that the next thing we do is going to dictate what we're going to be doing for the next half hour.
Troy: That's true. I think also, though, I like kind of rewarding myself by just mindlessly scrolling on the phone and feeling like I've earned that time because I did exercise and I did the things that I wanted to do. I'm like, "I'm just going to sit here."
And sometimes Laura will make fun of me because I've got a game on the TV, and I've got a game on my iPad that I'm watching, and I'm scrolling through ESPN on iPhone, and I'm like, "I'm going to do this completely shamelessly because who cares? I already ran today." I think there's kind of a trade-off there too.
Scot: But it's a mindful decision. You mindfully made that decision, which took active management again, right?
Mitch: Yeah. Intention versus just defaulting.
Scot: Going with the wave, as Troy said.
Troy: That's true. Yeah, you're right. It is. You're right. You do have those choices you can make, but then at the same time, you can make the choice later and be like, "Hey, I've earned this. I'm just going to enjoy this time. I'm just going to turn my brain off."
Scot: But the worst thing, Troy, is when I reach one of those little moments in my day, and yet I still choose the thing that I shouldn't choose. And I'm willfully doing it and I'm even admitting it to myself at that point. I'm like, "This is that moment and I've chosen to do this instead." It's just almost like waving my fist at authority.
Troy: Yeah. Exactly. But then hopefully you can just kind of forgive yourself and move on from it. That's part of it too, is recognizing, "Hey, I willfully made this choice. It's probably not the choice I should have made, but I'll maybe make a different choice next time."
Scot: All right. Did we get any insight from this conversation? At the top of the show, I mentioned that some shows we have some great solid steps that you can take and things you can do. This one was more of just trying to make some sense out of some things that are going on as we struggle with our own health and our own health issues and the things that give us challenges and trying to explore why that might be. Did we create anything new? Mitch, do you have anything?
Mitch: For me, it's nice to hear that other folks are going through this too, right? It's so easy to get in your own head and only be watching the influencers and thinking you're not doing well enough. I really do appreciate, Troy, to know that you struggle with stuff too. I don't want to say I love that, but it is very appreciated that . . .
Troy: You can love it. Please love it.
Mitch: I love it. Best thing. No, but it's nice to know that, "Hey, there are other people also on their own journey and maybe I need to quit comparing myself to everyone."
Troy: Yeah, I think for me too, hearing about some of your struggles and just talking about some of my struggles. I think that's probably the takeaway for everyone, is I don't think you've ever got it made. I think that's the bottom line. With fitness, you've never got it made. It's never easy. It's always challenging, no matter what habits you've developed.
That pattern can help you to keep that habit going, but I still think there's a mental challenge every day and you're always going to face those decisions, like you talked about, Scot, of "What am I going to do with this moment right now?"
And you're always going to face just the flow and avoiding the flow, which just seems to kind of drag you into a lot of the stuff you just don't want to do in terms of the eating habits and being fully absorbed in social media or whatever it may be. So I think that's my takeaway.
Scot: I feel like my takeaway was something that Mitch said, which is that health to him is something that you're . . . It's a work in progress, right? And sometimes . . .
Scot: Sometimes in your work in progress, you're in a better position than you are at other times, but it's just always kind of a work in progress.
And I agree with Mitch. It is also good to hear that this feeling that you're constantly managing it is something that goes beyond just me.
Well, we hope this episode was useful to you as we discussed some of the struggles that we have. And a lot of times when you're talking about the Core Four and our health, there are some things that are playing against us that we don't even realize, whether it's society or whether it's our own attitudes.
What is your struggle when it comes to the Core Four and being healthy? And have you figured out how to overcome it yet, or do you still struggle with it? Are you still looking for answers? We would love to hear about your journey. Send that email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
And regardless, whatever your struggle is, good luck and be kind to yourself. Thanks for listening, and thanks for caring about men's health.
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