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The Manly Art of Dying Young

©2003 Stuart W. Rayburn

The symbols of manhood in America today include a cold beer, a steak on the grill, and a recliner to catch the game. But do these sacred symbols of manhood really have anything to do with being a real man?

What does it mean to be a man anyway? I offer the following as true purpose of a real man:

  • · To provide for your family
  • · To be a leader in your home
  • · To raise your children to be good people and to contribute to society
  • · To be an example of how to live
  • · To instill hope in the future so that your children can realize their dreams
  • · To show young boys in your home and community how to be good men
  • · To contribute to your community so that the world is a better place because of you

I think that about covers most of it. It looks like quite a bit is expected of us men. I would dare to say that many of us are not stepping up. So how are you doing? The first item alone keeps most of us so busy that we don’t have the time we would like for the others. As you can see these are not things you can put on your to do list and cross them off one day. They occur over the course of your life and although you can’t do them in a day it is your daily actions that determine whether you will successfully fulfill your duties. Let’s take a look at how your daily habits impact your success as a man.

The life of the typical American man can be summed up pretty quickly. You work 45 hours a week at a job that you don’t really enjoy. At 25 you start to put on some weight. Once you hit 30 your at least 30 pounds overweight with a “healthy paunch”. You spend most of your waking hours behind a desk or the wheel of your car. At forty you really slow down and have constant aches and pains, you may already be on medication for high blood pressure or high cholesterol. It is pretty much downhill from here. You spend the next 25 years dealing with one ailment or another, worried when prostate cancer or a heart attack will jump out and grab you. Then finally you succumb to one of these killers at 45, 50, 60, or maybe you’ll make it 70 and spend the last 10 years going from your urologist to your cardiologist before you finally leave your family and friends.

So how did it get to be like this? You need look no further than your daily routine. Every day you wake up grab a cup of coffee and a donut that you eat as you drive 30 minutes to work. Then you sit in your office for 9 hours. During the day, you might run out for a burger, fries, and coke for lunch and perhaps snack on a candy bar to break you out of your mid afternoon slump. On the way home, you pick up a pizza because your wife has also been working all day and no one feels like putting a meal together. After dinner you flop down in your recliner, perhaps enjoy a cold one and spend the rest of night in front of the television.

Do you think that this daily routine will get you closer to fulfilling your duties as a man? How does your routine compare to this? I think that if you re-examine the important duties of any real man you will find that it is necessary to have a long healthy life full of energy to be a success. You can’t just pour your energy into your business because your family will suffer. Although they may be well off financially, without investing time and energy in your family you will come up painfully short in all other measures of manhood. It is not enough simply to provide for your family, because it is all the other things that determine your real legacy in life.

It is not necessary to be exhausted after 6:00. It is not necessary to be overweight. It is not necessary to die before you have even had a chance to retire and enjoy the fruits of your labors. It is not necessary to tell your grandchildren that you can’t chase them around the yard. It is not necessary to have bypass surgery at 45 to postpone an inevitable heart attack. It is not necessary to burn your life’s savings on prescription drugs to hide the pain over the last 20 years of your life. You can change all of these things, but it will require changing what you think of as manly.

It is your daily habits that determine your future. Your decision to have a donut for breakfast rather than a bowl of fresh fruit. Your decision to have a burger and fries for lunch rather than a salad. Your decision to sit on the couch rather than communicating with your children or spouse. Your decision to sit around and down a six-pack with the boys reminiscing of your past athletic glories, rather than building an athletic body.

I get very tired of hearing people, mostly men say that they would rather die 10 years sooner than give up meat or beer or any of the other harmful products that have somehow become associated with manhood. It has clearly been shown that avoiding meat, highly processed foods, and alcohol will greatly reduce your chances of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure. In fact adopting a truly healthy lifestyle can reverse nearly all of the diseases that plague our nation today. Just for the record, you aren’t giving up 10 years for these indulgences, it is more like 20 or 30 years. Are you willing to tell your family that you would trade 20-30 years with them so that you can continue to have your burger and fries, your steak and cold beer?

I have a different vision of manhood. I think that a real man strives to be as healthy as possible. He feeds his body what it needs to be healthy, not what Madison Avenue tells him he needs to be a man. He exercises to stay lean and strong. He knows that without the health and energy to truly experience life he has truly fallen short of his responsibilities as a man. He takes care of himself and does not count on a man in a lab coming up with some pill that will wipe away the years of abuse.

A real man does not accept that it is natural to put on 30 pounds after marriage. A real man does not accept dying of a heart attack at 60 years old leaving his wife to fend for herself and never really knowing his grandchildren. A real man is bigger than the stereotypes that have been around for generations and chooses his own path in life.

I have a challenge for all the real men out there. Stop continuing down a path that will certainly lead to a slow painful death at an early age. Rather than missing out on the many great experiences that life has to offer, take control of your life and take back your health. Come to grips with what it really means to be a man and live everyday to give more to yourself, your family, and your community. You cannot succeed at any of this if you continue to indulge in the symbols of manhood that have lead to the early deaths of many of our grandfathers, father, brother, and friends. Be different, be a man.

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Stuart W. Rayburn is a Lifestyle Coach for Vitality Health and Fitness. He has created a program to help people to lose weight and take control of their health. For more information and to sign up for a free newsletter, go to http://www.takebackyourhealth.org or mailto:stu@takebackyourhealth.org
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