Let me tell you a few things I love about men.
1. They're simple creatures (and that's a compliment). Most men, as opposed to most women, seem to have an uncanny ability to keep things simple. Have you ever noticed how, during the Christmas holidays, women run themselves ragged going from store to store looking for the perfect gifts for weeks on end, shop for and cook elaborate meals by themselves that would normally require an army of chefs, and spend endless hours wrapping presents "just right"? These same women are heard complaining that they can't wait for the holidays to be over to put an end to the stress.
On the other hand, men calmly sit back until Christmas Eve, run to the nearest store, pick up whatever looks best to them and either get someone else to wrap it or wrap it any old way with whatever they find nearby. I love that about men. They know how to keep things simple.
As the English writer Julius Charles Hare once observed: "The greatest truths are the simplest, and so are the greatest men.''
Except, that is, when a man takes the simple thing too far. For instance, many men depend too much on the women in their lives to take care of their nutritional needs. Which is fine if:
a. The woman knows about nutrition, and
b. Is willing to feed him. If not, these simple guys either skip meals, eat out (and generally not at the healthiest places) or grab whatever they can from the fridge (such as chips, beer, cold pizza). This kind of simplicity can kill a guy.
2. They like to move: Another positive attribute that men have when it comes to fitness and health is that they're generally more sports-minded than women, and don't mind sweating. Consequently, when they decide they need to drop a few pounds, their first impulse is to exercise.
Why is this good? Exercise is a great fat-burning tool. People who are the most successful at keeping their weight off maintain an active lifestyle. Men think of being fit as being strong (as opposed to women, who tend to obsess on the number on their bathroom scale). So they exercise, building muscles, which themselves burn more calories than fat.
On the other hand, men tend to wait longer than women to tackle a weight problem. It's not uncommon for a man to think everything's fine until he's 50 pounds overweight.
3. They don't complain. As a woman, I can safely say that we spend way more time with our girlfriends venting, griping, whining, call it what you like. Men are generally more stoic. You have to admire that — up to a point.
The trouble comes when stress builds up without finding a healthy outlet. Men who don't take time for recreation and relaxation can find themselves overwhelmed by stress — although men who exercise have a potent weapon to fight its effects.
Chronic stress is known to encourage fat cells to build around the belly. Abdominal fat not only affects appearance, but also overall health. Ultimately, stress makes weight loss and fitness more difficult to achieve.
Stress is also incredibly aging, and smart people have known this forever. A century ago, Oliver Wendell Holmes made this observation: "Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.''
Men have so many traits that they can use to their advantage instead of letting them get in the way of achieving optimal health. I'll close with an observation from the Buddha: "A man may conquer a million men in battle but one who conquers himself is, indeed, the greatest of conquerors.''
Lavinia Rodriguez, Ph.D., is a Tampa clinical psychologist who specializes in weight management. She can be reached at (813) 240-9557 or [email protected] FatMatters.com. Her book, "Mind Over Fat Matters: Conquering Psychological Barriers to Weight Management," is available at FatMatters.com.