Talking About The Crisis In Men’s Mental Health

A growing issue that is still taboo?

Men’s mental health seems to still be taboo in society. The sad fact is that there is a crisis in men’s mental health.

Here are some statistics for you:

  • 9 out of 10 Suicides are men
  • 87% of rough sleepers are men
  • 12.5% of men have underlying mental health issues

As you can see there is a growing crisis. The current situation in the economy is only going to make thing’s worse.

Everyone has ups and down’s in life and there share of dark periods. What most of us need is to share those times with a support group.

It can be tough for men, we don’t want to appear to be weak and we don’t like to talk about how we feel.

If you are someone going through a difficult time in your life. Hang in there.

There is always light at the end of the tunnel, I’ve been there myself and it does get better.

Some of the things that have helped me through the hard times are:

  • Writing down 3 things I’m grateful for every day. Even in the worst of times, we can find something. One of those can completely change your perspective.
  • Stay social. We are social animals we need interaction with our friends and family. Even when we really don’t feel like it that interaction is important. You could also join a group like man up:speak up for social support.
  • Talk about your situation. This is both the hardest and bravest thing to do. Talking to others does help. You would be surprised at the number of people who will be there to listen and support you.

If you know someone who may be going through a dark period you can help them by:

  • Offering your support
  • Being there to talk to
  • Letting them know that they can open up in a safe environment without being judged

This is often all the reassurance someone needs to open up.

Men’s mental health is a real issue, every year loved ones are taken away from us and it’s all preventable.

Please let’s lookout for one other and be there when we need help!

My experiment in vegetarianism continued

Surprisingly still going strong after 6 weeks….

I‘m now about six weeks into the experiment. I stopped keeping track a few weeks ago.

For anyone who wants to catch up, I’ve included links to the previous installments at the end of this one.

Losing track of when I last ate meat. Well, I take that as a good sign that the experiment continues to be positive.

I’m still enjoying myself with it. Still experimenting in the kitchen and trying new foods.

I’ve not been bored with what I’ve been eating either which is a good sign as well.

It’s not all been smooth sailing as you would expect. But that’s ok, some bumps in the road I can cope with.

hat said, having a garden full of fruit and veg has helped. Being stuck at the house has been an advantage here. Food tastes much sweeter when you have grown and picked it yourself!

In this catch-up, let’s cover the bad first before moving onto the good

So as I said it’s not all been plain sailing and over the last few weeks I had 3 issues I needed to fix:

– Having fruit in the garden is awesome. But too much of it messes with your blood sugar. I have to be careful to make sure I don’t each too much. The fruit is great but needs to be balanced in my diet.
– I need to make sure I’m eating enough calories. There have been times where my diet has just been off. I haven’t eaten the calories I needed and I didn’t lose weight as a result.

– I developed an iron deficiency. I thought this might happen and it did. It’s just something to be aware of if you make the switch in diets. A simple supplement or eating more leafy greens solves the issue.

The good

Well yes, there has been a lot of good:

– I have continued to lose weight despite some bumps in the road.
– Not once have I missed eating meat
– I continue to learn more about my body, and feel fitter every day

Having gone from thinking I would be lucky to manage 1 week of this new diet. I have been surprised at how easy it has been.

I’m also surprised at how healthy and fit I feel. That’s not all down to eating vegetarian. At the same time, I cleaned up my diet quite a bit.

Overall though so far I’m enjoying the journey and meeting the goals I set. For as long as that continues I’ll keep to this diet.

Six weeks or so in, if you ever thought about making the change I would say go for it. If only for a short time, the benefits are worth it. Plus it’s always fun to try something different.

1001 Personal Experiments Continued…A casual fling with Vegetarianismmedium.com

1001 Personal Experiments Continued1 week into my fling with vegetarianismmedium.com

Confessions of a recovering junk food addict

There are more glamourous addition’s out there, but this one is just as powerful and destructive.

Addiction

It’s an incredibly emotional and powerful subject.
Even picking out an image for this story was tough.

Today I want to talk about an addiction. One that’s not made glamourous by Hollywood.

It’s not a sex drugs and rock’n’roll addiction either.

The patterns of self-destruction and ruined health are the same though.

I’m talking about that most modern of addictions…

Junk food

One definition of an addiction is:

Addiction is when the mind and body need a substance to function. Taking that substance away causes physical and psychological withdrawal.

Having been there and come out the other side. I can tell you that addiction to sugary and high carb/fat content food is real.

It’s a real addiction with real consequences and real health issues. It’s also very tough to quit.

Like other addictions, you are never cured. All you can do is recover and try every day not to fall back into it.

The reason I write this is to highlight this issue and share with others. So that they don’t have to go down the same path of discovery.

They say that you are what you eat, it’s taken me about 32 years to work that out.

My diet was awful, sugary drinks and snacks between meals. The meals themselves pizza, burgers, fries. All my own choices, all addictive and all destructive.

Through my twenties, my health declined and at my worst, I weighed 145kgs or around 320lbs.

I was morbidly obese and pre-diabetic. Over time I have lost over 30kgs/60lbs of that weight and regained my health. I’ve also regained my fitness, although I still have around 20kgs/40lbs left to lose. It’s an ongoing journey.

The hardest part of it all? Changing my eating habits.

Recovery and Reeducation

It took me months to work out what was happening. I could go for a few days eating well, drinking water or tea, and exercising. I would feel good when I made those changes. But the next thing I knew I was 8 cokes deep into the day, sitting eating junk food at lunchtime.

As much as I tried, I was struggling to break the cycle. After a lot of soul searching and research, I finally worked out I’m addicted.

I always have known I have an addictive personality, it’s what’s made me terrified of drugs for example. I just never made the link between the food I was eating and the chemicals being released in my brain.

Once I understood that I could begin to tackle my issues properly. This is an addiction like any other and it needs to be treated accordingly.

What works for me is making small changes. The first that I made was my relationship with sugary drinks, which I wrote about on medium.The biggest and best lifestyle change I have ever madeSwitching from Soda to Sparkling watermedium.com

After that went well, it’s been a case of making changes one at a time.

As with any addiction taking one step at a time and counting each day is key.

The support you get from family and friends is also key I have found.

Today about 18 months on from my first real attempts to change its working. Like I said I’m slowly and healthily losing both the weight and the medical issues that I had collected.

I’m much more open to trying new foods and for the last 6 weeks, I have been trying a vegetarian diet. No salad as yet, but it will come.

My main message here is that, if you are stuck in the same cycle that I was help is available. You can change your lifestyle and improve your health.

Yes, it’s frustrating at times and it’s hard work. But in the end, even though there are good days and bad. The positive change makes it all worthwhile.

After all, who wouldn’t want to be lighter, healthier, and here for longer?

Life is meant to be enjoyed. But as anyone who has suffered from addiction will tell you sometimes that easier said than done.

The great thing is that with support there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

Junk food junkie

A Poem about Junk Food from a recovering addict

Oh I’m a junk food junkie,

a sad but simple truth,

get it any way I can,

till my health comes home to roost.

Junk food is a lifeline,

works on depression, sadness, pain,

weight gain is the side affect,

bad health the end game.

I want to change my lifestyle,

get my health back on the path,

thought this would be easy,

but quitting is no laugh.

Junk food has a hold on me,

it’s scary but so true,

the sweats, anxiety,

the sleepless nights,

all over simply food.

Smoking, drugs and sex,

rock and rock excess,

but just with eating junk food,

I got into the same mess.

Don’t let the smokescreen fool you,

the health concious are so right,

what you are is what you eat,

for anything unhealthy,

just keep it for a treat!

Medical altruism, would you pay a vaccine forward?

Why this might be the new normal for altruistic giving.

This is a question that popped into my head last night.

I was watching a very interesting documentary on Netflix. It was all about pandemics and vaccines.

Now while I thought the science of it all was very interesting. My partner didn’t and is still freaking out this morning.

One thing that did grab both our attention though was the issue with vaccines.

No not the cost of research, the availability of grants for development, or the time to market.

The thing that caught our attention was the cost on the open market and the knock-on effects.

Once the vaccine is developed. A pharmaceutical company buys a license to produce it.

So far so good and this is normal business practice for a product.

This is where the issues begin and its this problem which medical altruism may solve.

The high cost of vaccination

The global population in May 2020 was around 7.8 billion people.

This is where things get difficult for the vaccine’s. As a product sold by a business they have to pay for themselves and return a profit.

Something like the polio vaccine that’s been around for 60–70 years costs between $1 and $2 per dose. It’s given at childhood and so costs are quite low. In other words, it has already paid for itself.

That $2 is the cost of production, the storage, packaging, logistics, and profit margin. Not crazy.

There are 130 million children estimated to be born each year. If I was very positive and said each child gets vaccinated that’s a global cost to governments of $130 million.

Not much at all, in fact about 0.01% of global GDP.

A new vaccine though for a new coronavirus as an example. That’s a different story. Costs will range from $10 -$100 per dose based on some estimates.

Herd immunity needs 60% of the global population to be immunized. That’s 4.68 billion people.

The cost of that program would be somewhere between 47 and 470 billion dollars.

More than governments would spend on public health. This is also much, much more than the poorest countries can afford.

In a society where altruism is on the rise, it begs the question???

Should we embrace Medical Altruism?

We know altruism is a noble cause and it feels pretty good. We pay it forward at Starbucks. We sponsor charity events etc.

Why not sponsor vaccination?

If a vaccine costs $10 there is the case for paying it forward. Costs about the same as paying it forward at Starbucks or McDonalds for example.

The only difference is good it will do. Paying it forward no longer just makes someone’s day, it saves a life.

Of course, there needs to be a framework in place for that to work, it’s not like the drive-thru line.

That can be created though and there are already organizations such as the red cross or the MSF. They have that in place and do take the donations.

One of the only ways we can tackle this issue is by coming together and paying it forward. The sad reality is that government’s won’t cover the total cost and the vaccines won’t be developed and released without their being a profit attached to them.

Question is for $10 or $100 would you pay it forward if you could?

It’s a big question to consider. On one hand we expect government to pick up the bill. But where they can’t or won’t will we as society step up?

Getting Active

Its not steps, or duration, it’s doing what works for you

Waiting for the spark…

Life is full of changes, up’s/down’s and bumps in the road.

It is often at these times that we stop being active, getting started again can be a huge intimidating thought.

As with most things in life the thought is much worse than the reality, this is where procrastination takes over before you know it.

We wait and wait for the spark of inspiration, to kick start us again.

The truth is though no one and nothing else is going to provide that spark, it can only come from within us…


10,000 steps and the intimidation factor

This is the single biggest road block for many people….

How the heck do I manage 10,000 steps, that’s a huge and intimidating amount of steps.

I have news for you, it’s just a made up number.

Getting active is all about what works for you.

1, 10, 100, 1000 steps, 5, 15, 30 minutes of exercise.

What works for you is best for you.

Physical exercise and activity should be fun and motiviating, not intimidating and a struggle.

This is the single biggest road block for many people….

How the heck do I manage 10,000 steps, that’s a huge and intimidating amount of steps.

I have news for you, it’s just a made up number.

Getting active is all about what works for you.

1, 10, 100, 1000 steps, 5, 15, 30 minutes of exercise.

What works for you is best for you.

Physical exercise and activity should be fun and motiviating, not intimidating and a struggle.

Start small and build up to what works for you, however that best works for you.

Try different ways to get active and have fun along the way.


Learn to love it

Physical activity does something primal to us, it moves and motivates us in ways nothing else can.

It also rewards both the brain and body.

Once you start to get active, the best thing you can do for yourself is keep going, you will after some time, learn to love it.


Small beginnings lead to big changes

This is true of pretty much anything we start in life, but with exercise and physical activity its especially true.

Keep going and make it a daily or even a weekly habit and there are small improvements that take place over time that add up to big changes such as:

  • Weight loss
  • Gain muscle
  • Improved fitness
  • Increased Stamina
  • Mental clarity

The list goes on, even a short 5 minute walk will provide these benefits over time.

Finally…

It can seem tough to get going on the path to getting active, and it times the path itself can be really tough.

It doesn’t have to be intimidating though, it should be a fun and rewarding experiance.

My advice, ignore all the BS around step targets and 150 minutes a week.

Do what works best for you and stick with that, keep going, build the momentum, listen to your body and look for those positive changes.

One thing I can guarantee is that you will be glad you did.

Morning Exercise

The most refreshing way to start the day???

The way to start the day??

The answer will be different for us all, but for me right now, I have to say starting the day with exercise make’s a huge difference to me.

It gives me motivation to get up and start the day with something enjoyable.

At the moment that for me is a cycle of around 1 hour.


The positive action

I’m used to starting my day jumping straight into work and eating the frogs first, that is to say, tackling the hardest jobs first.

There are a couple of issues with that approach that I had actually never thought about until I started working from home:

  • I’m not motivated in the mornings at all, I know im going to face difficulty and so I end up getting more motivated as the day goes on and I end up too switched on and ready to work at the end of the day.
  • I don’t have a plan for the day, I just have a to-do list that I jump into head first.

Exercising first is a positive action that motivates me for the rest of the day:

  • Exercise makes me feel good, this alone motivates me to get up in the morning
  • I still have a to eat a frog — my 1 hour cycle, but its a physical challenge and that motivates me
  • I have 1 hour to myself on my bike and during that time, my mind wanders and I actually strategize my day

Those frogs in the shape of tasks are still their to be eaten, but I have a plan for them and im mentally prepared for the day.

The fact that Im prepared for my work day, and also I have the motivation from the exercise, my mornings are much more productive and I actually feel tired at the end of the day.

I also have a routine which helps me feel grounded.


The negatives

The negatives for me exist only on the days I decide not to exercise in the morning.

On those days I have less energy, im less motivated and I get less done.


Final Thoughts

Everyone is different and what works for you, wont work me and vice versa.

What I have found is a routine that is working for me, that im getting alot of motivation from.

The days I decide to stay in bed, I feel worse than the days I get up and at em.

My days are happier and more productive, which is a fantastic reason to keep going and to embrace a healthy lifestyle.

1001 Personal Experiments Continued…

A casual fling with Vegetarianism

The project continues…

I’ve written on medium before about one of my strategies for being quarantined, which was to give myself a series of challenges or experiments.

A lot of those had focused on my relationship with food, which is not a coincidence, since I’m a little more than half way through losing a significant amount of weight.

This new experiment took my by surprise when it entered my thoughts yesterday and so I think its worth writing about.


Challenges of losing weight…..

One of the challenges of trying to lose a significant amount of weight is that what worked for you in the beginning wont work for you all the way through.

Weight loss plateaus, either because your body gets used to the regime, or because you got fed up following the plan.

My strategy to weight loss is intermittent fasting and exercise, and while I don’t find myself getting tired of either of those, I do still have the weight loss plateaus to deal with.

Im in one of those right now, which is how the thought came about I’m sure…


A vegetarian experiment

As a dedicated meat eater, my first thought was have I been abducted by aliens or drugged maybe, there has to be a reason that these thoughts are entering my head, it’s not natural at all….

The more I thought though, the more it makes sense, I need to change gears on the weight loss again and I have already cut red meat consumption down significantly, so this is just the next step in the process.

I wont become a vegetarian full time, that’s not the goal and I have to be honest in telling you that.

What I am interested in is, what can a vegetarian diet (Still consuming dairy) do for my weight loss and my overall health.

To begin with this will be a 7 day experiment.


What will I learn in 7 days???

Not much I think, 7 days is really too short to evaluate anything.

I will be able to see the effect on my blood sugar levels and I’ll know if I feel a difference in myself but that will be it.

So then why 7 days you ask?

The answer is simple, this is probably the biggest and scariest life change I have ever thought of.

If I can compartmentalize it, then I can do 7 days without issues and then extend it if im comfortable with that in 7, 14 or 21 day chunks.

I know I need at least 1 month on this, but that’s looking to far ahead right now and this approach will keep me going.


An exciting new world awaits

All I can do is put one foot in front of the other here and try and make this work, while that’s daunting there is an immediate advantage.

I get to try something new, vegetarian cooking. An exciting new world where the veggies are the main event and not the side show.

As someone who enjoys cooking it’s a new challenge I can look forward to and it genuinely gets me excited for the days ahead.


Final thoughts

In terms of these small personal experiments this is the big one for me.

Its a radical change, so one small step at a time and a compartmentalised view is key.

Ive not focused on the pro’s/con’s etc of a vegetarian lifestyle here because I honestly don’t know.

Im taking the YOLO approach here and will see how it turns out, like much that I do in life.

I’ll write about initial progress this time next week, in the meantime if anyone doe’s have any advice or tips etc please do get in touch…

Intermittent Fasting The latest Fad, or the way we humans were programmed to eat?

Image Courtesy of Canva

Isn’t this everywhere right now?

It probably hasn’t escaped you that intermittent fasting diets are everywhere at the moment, in fact you probably cant escape people online and on the TV telling you about them.

Where did it all start?

It may seem that Intermittent Fasting is the latest Fad in a 100 year old line of Fad diets which started in the 1920’s.

2 things to bear in mind here:

  1. Intermittent fasting as we will see isn’t a diet, its just a different pattern of eating which uses the body in a more efficient way to burn those calories and the bodies fat stores
  1. Fasting has been practiced by Humanity for tens of thousands of years, for religious reasons and also because before industrialization and large settlements came into being, we were hunter gatherers and intermittent fasting was part of the game, we would hunt and eat when we had a need.

Its true that this style of eating has been growing and gathering a following for the last 8 or 9 years, but its important to know that its not a new concept.

The benefits

Studies actually started as far back as 1945, where mice were put onto an intermittent fasting diet, which showed a link to healthier stable insulin levels, increased metabolic rate and longer life expectancy.

In the decades since that initial research the same findings have been found in us Humans as well.

n fact there is growing scientific research to suggest that intermittent fasting of at least 12 hours per day is hugely beneficial for a range of health benefits such as:

  • Reduced insulin levels (Is the drop in insulin level that allows us to burn off excess fat stores more effectively)
  • Improved insulin sensitivity
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Reduced Cholesterol levels

The good news is that you we can get all of these benefits by fasting for just 12 hours a day, or put another way, sleep plus 4 hours.

Some of the more accesible reading on the science and adoption of this eating style are:

  • Eat Fast, Love Longer and the Fast Diet by Doctor Michael Mosley
  • The 5:2 diet by Journalist Kate Harrison, which serves as a non medical documentary almost of the benefits found by people in their everyday lives
  • The obesity code by Doctor Jason Fung

However just searching Intermittent Fasting online will open up a world of documented research, hints, tips and support to help you learn more.

Getting started

If intermittent fasting sounds interesting to you, there are 2 things I would say before going any further:

  1. Talk to your doctor, if you have an undelying health condition it may not be the best idea for you, this is a very different eating pattern and it wont be for everyone
  2. Research, research, research, there are so many different ways to fast that it makes sense to look at what’s out there and what may work for you

Once you have gotten the ok from a health perspective and done the research, its time to experiment, what works for you, is correct for you, there is no right or wrong way to fast.

Experiment, document the results and listen to your body, for me I go between 5 days eating and 2 days fasting in a week, through phases where I fast 20 hours a day. This works for me and I have some specific weight loss targets. This isnt for everyone but it works for me and thats great.

The mental barrier

The thing that puts most people off is the mental barrier. The fear factor of not eating for a fixed period of time is tough to get over.

However once you get used to listening to what your body is telling you and working around its schedule its far easier and more sustainable long term than a diet for example.

To quote Doctor Michael Eades a leading light in this field:

“Diets are easy in contemplation and difficult in execution, Intermittent fasting is just the opposite — its difficult in the contemplation but easy in the execution”

When we diet (I’ve done alot of dieting in my life), eating the same types of food gets boring and eventually we go back to our normal habits at the beginning its so easy to begin with, but gets harder as it goes on.

On the other hand the thought of fasting and not eating for a period of time is difficult, however once you realise you arent restricted to food types or times of eating,but its a flexible way or eating, just in a smaller window in the day, the thought of missing food goes away and this becomes a natural feeling way to eat.

I have been going down this road for about 6 months and the health benefits for me have been profound, losing 22kgs, type 2 diabetes remission and better blood pressure.

I also feel much happier and more productive as my insulin sensitivity has improved I dont feel that post lunch dive anymore.

Intermittant fasting has a lot of documented benefits and if its safe for you, I’d say give it a go, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.