“Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” This quote is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin since it appeared in his Poor Richard’s Almanack, though the idea was likely around much earlier. Most of us could use some help with our health, our money-flow, and our wisdom. There are many things that can help us achieve our goals, but I think there are two things that are vitally important, but are often neglected in our lives.
Food and Friends: The Missing Ingredients for Men
My friend and colleague, Dr. Will Courtenay, has spent his professional life focused on men’s health. In his groundbreaking book, Dying to Be Men, he says, “Although traditional men are socialized to be providers for and protectors of others, they tend to be poor guardians of their own health.” In fact, as the title suggests, men die sooner than women. He says that for all 15 leading causes of death (except Alzheimer’s disease), men and boys have higher death rates than women and girls.
Having worked with men, and the women who love them, for more than 40 years, I have found that two of the most common, yet hidden reasons are men’s poor diets and limited social skills. According to Courtenay, “men are more often overweight than women, and we have less healthy dietary habits. We eat more meat, fat, and salt and less fiber, fruits, and vegetables than
Further, our lack of social connections can also be destructive. Courtenay found that men have much smaller social networks than women do. Further, men and boys also have fewer, less intimate friendships, and we are less likely to have a close confidant, particularly someone other than a spouse. Men’s restricted social networks limit our levels of social support.women. We have higher cholesterol and blood pressure, and we do less to lower them.”
In times of stress, for example, men mobilize less varied social supports than women. There is consistent evidence that the lack of social support is a risk factor for premature death—especially for men. Courtenay found that men with the lowest levels of social support are two to three times more likely to die than men with the highest levels of social support. He concludes, “Men’s social isolation significantly decreases our chance of survival of heart disease, cancer, and stroke.”
Good Food Is the Fuel You Need to Run Well
Dr. Mark Hyman is one of the world’s leading experts the foods we need to stay healthy. He is currently medical editor at the Huffington Post and on the Medical Advisory Board at The Doctor Oz Show. He is on the Board of Directors of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine, and a faculty member of its Food As Medicine training program.
He says, “Food is medicine. Bad food is bad medicine and will make us sick. Good food is good medicine that can prevent, reverse, and even cure disease. Take away the bad food, put in the good food and magic happens.”
Dr. Hyman learned about healthy food, like most of us, because he had to learn or die. “I admit it. I was addicted to sugar, caffeine, and adrenalin. I am a recovering dopamine addict, and it almost killed me. Twenty years ago, as a freshly minted doctor, I swallowed the propaganda that doctors are invincible, that MD stood for ‘medical deity.’”
He details the kinds of dietary habits that drained his energy including:
- Eating too much sugar
- Drinking too much coffee (more than 1 cup)
- Skipping meals
- Eating anything made in a factory (junk and processed food)
- Eating bread
- Eating dairy
He also details the kinds of habits that were energy gains including:
- Eating a high-protein breakfast (shake or eggs)
- Eating fresh, whole real food
- Having a protein snack in the mid-morning and afternoon
- Eating 10 servings of vegetables a day
- Not eating 3 hours before I go to sleep
- Drinking 6-8 cups of filtered water a day
- Being creative in the kitchen and cooking for family and friends
Good Friends Can Save Your Life
In their book Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection researchers John Cacioppo and William Patrick say that “social isolation is on a par with high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise, or smoking as a risk factor for illness and early death.”
In workshops over the years I have asked the women in the audience, “how many of you have a number of close friends that you talk to about important things in your life and who you turn to when you are hurting physically or emotionally?” Most all the women raise their hands. When I ask the same question of men, very few raise their hands. Most women have many close friends and confidants among their relatives and friends. For most men, their only real friend may be their spouse and if there’s trouble in the relationship, they are totally alone.
I learned that, like me, men often have fewer and fewer close friends as we get older. This may contribute to the fact that the suicide rate for men goes up dramatically as we age. Thomas Joiner, Ph.D. author of Lonely at the Top: The High Cost of Men’s Success says, “Men’s main problem is not self-loathing, stupidity, greed, or any of the legions of other things they’re accused of. The problem, instead is loneliness.”
Joiner notes that with age, men gradually lose contact with friends and family. “And here’s the important part,” he tells us, “they don’t replenish them.” Instead of maintaining our friendships and developing new ones when old friends slip away, we look for Band-Aid solutions to cover our loneliness. Some of us become more workaholic, others escape into alcohol or drugs. Some have extra-marital affairs. These pseudo-solutions only serve to increase our loneliness.”
So if you want to be happy for the rest of your life, reach out and make new friends. Don’t let old friends slip away. Keep connected. Good food is great. Good friends are life-saving. Put them together and you have real wisdom that can make keep you healthy and make you wealthy.
Join the ongoing conversation on Twitter @MenAliveNow