Trevor Linden, Shea Emry, Simon Whitfield And Ned Bell: Championing The Men's Health Movement
Prevention and Treatment Sitting around a restaurant table, a group of men are deep in conversation. The focus of their talk isn’t on sports or politics or business.
They are talking about health and wellness. Given that 70 percent of men’s health conditions and diseases are preventable, and that men are more likely than women to die from diabetes, and that men live almost 10 years of their lives in poor health related to lifestyle, they have a lot to talk about.
The harsh reality
Champions in their own pursuits, these men were brought together by the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation to champion something as simple as our health. Vancouver Canucks icon Trevor Linden is advocating for men’s health because he says it is under acknowledged and under supported.
“Men tend to think of their families and their work, and they forget to take care of themselves,” Linden remarked, before pausing. “I had a friend who was that guy and he died two months ago. He looked healthy on the outside, but he was committed to working and didn’t want to deal with his health.
These people are tough on the outside, but they are afraid of dealing with their health.”
Linden says men owe it to their families to be healthy, and acknowledges that he was lucky as a professional hockey player to be paid to be fit.
He concedes that now, with his busy work and family life he has to build fitness into his schedule and tries to coordinate it with social time, whether spending time with friends at the gym or hiking or cycling with a group.
Shea Emry’s job as a linebacker in the CFL is to tackle opposing players. There’s something else he’s been tackling—mental illness. “I grew up with a culture of masculinity where I wasn’t allowed to be weak and vulnerable. That’s what I was sold as a kid,” said Emry, “It was a real challenge when depression set in, but the same motivation I had to become an athlete helped me to access therapy and find proactive solutions.”
Not to simplify mental illness, but Emry found that changing small things in his life helped. He not only sought professional help, but he started eating and sleeping better, and went to the gym more regularly, and he began doing yoga and meditating.
Not things you’d normally associate with a professional football player. “That culture of masculinity is slowly changing, and men can be comfortable feeling vulnerable and accessing support for illness,” he added.
“I have a desire for my dad to spend as much time as he can with his grandchildren, yet I see the consequences of the health and wellness decisions he’s made, and some of them aren’t good.”
Eat better, feel better
There can be nothing simpler than eating better to make us healthier. Men are spending more time in the kitchen, but our mothers were right, we’re not eating enough fruits and vegetables, and according to celebrated chef, Ned Bell, men eat too much protein.
“You can still have that steak and look forward to eating the things we love, but we need smaller portions of the meat and more of the vegetables,” he said. And you don’t need to boil the crap out of your vegetables like your mom did.
Grilling your vegetables makes them taste better, and you can get a lot of flavor from vegetables without drowning them in sauces. “Sure I let myself cheat and indulge in food,” Bell admits as he cuts into a piece of carrot cake. “But I make sure I don’t cheat every day. When you eat better you feel better, and you’re healthier and more confident.”
Set the example
Olympic gold-medalist, Simon Whitfield has witnessed through his father how the decisions we make about health impact us in later years. “I have a desire for my dad to spend as much time as he can with his grandchildren, yet I see the consequences of the health and wellness decisions he’s made, and some of them aren’t good,” Whitfield says.
But there were also some positive choices, such as when Whitfield was a teenager and his overweight father started walking and biking to work. Whitfield remembers the difference it made in his dad’s life. No longer disengaged and overstressed, but someone with balance and healthier because of it.
Think long term
The younger Whitfield’s philosophy is one of outdoor fit. We can get a work out by being active in our natural surroundings, without having to go to the gym. And it could be as simple as walking and being mobile, especially as we age.
“What would my 80 year old self tell me today?” Whitfield posed. What are the consequences of my decisions today and what will the impact be when I’m older. If you get a concussion playing sports do you ignore it and play the next day or do you seek help and treatment?
What would your 80 year old self say? Another question Whitfield thinks every parent should ask: could you run to get to your kids to make sure they are safe in an emergency or disaster and you don’t have access to a car? Are you healthy enough to ensure those you love are safe?
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