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Taking Care of Yourself: Health and Wellness Tips for Fathers

Physical Health

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One of my good friends recently hit what I would call male burnout. He works a high pressure professional job, has a large family with children from ages 6 to 16, was making improvements to an older home he recently bought, and trying to build a damaged relationship with his wife, largely because of his workaholic tendencies. As we talked about all that was happening in his life, it became clear that he was not taking any steps toward personal balance. He was working too much and not eating well. He was not exercising. His life had no spiritual balance; he was not living congruently with his values.

My friend's experience reminded me of a story I heard from Stephen Covey when I took a class from him when he was a college professor. Dr. Covey told about a man who was cutting firewood for his family. He was working and sweating and straining as he described what a challenge this chore was. An observer asked him if his saw was sharp. The man said that it sure didn't seem too sharp. The observer then recommended that he take a few moments and sharpen the saw. The man replied, "I am too busy sawing to take time to sharpen my saw."

The experience of my friend and the wood cutter are parallel. My friend has been so busy sawing in his life that he has ignored sharpening his saw. By not taking time for personal renewal and by not investing in himself, his productivity in every area of his life was suffering.

So what should we as busy fathers living demanding lives do to keep our saw sharp: to invest in our own personal renewal?

Physical Health. Every man needs to remember to eat right, exercise and get enough sleep. Failure to maintain one's physical health will cause big time problems like stroke, heart attacks and disease down the road. In order to keep our physical saw sharp, here are a few guidelines.

  • Eat balanced meals. No matter what the latest fad diet, the key to better physical health is to balance our nutritional intake. The USDA recommends that adults get 2-3 servings per day of foods from the milk and cheese group 2-3 servings per day from the meat and poultry group, 3-5 servings per day from the vegetable group, 2-4 servings per day from the fruit group, and 6-11 servings per day from the bread, cereal, rice and pasta group.
  • Limit simple sugars. Watch out for how many simple sugars you consume each day. Be especially aware of processed sugars found in candy bars, soft drinks and junk foods.
  • Limit fats. The USDA recommendation is no more than 60 grams of fat per day. You can get that much in one fast food meal alone. So start counting fat grams and being aware of what you eat.
  • Get in Gear. For your own health, try to make time for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three days per week, and work the large muscle groups through weight training at least twice a week. Exercise will raise your metabolism, making it easier to manage your weight, and it releases those really wonderful endorphins that will improve your attitude.
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