As the year draws to a close, we all look for new ways to enhance our lives during the holiday season. This time of year, we typically think of New Year’s Resolutions, which for many of us begin January 1st and end January 31st. I am guilty of that myself. One resolution I made five years ago still holds fast today – to take care of my health. I just read last week the average life expectancy for Black men in the United States is 61 years old. 61 years old, gentlemen. I couldn’t believe it when I read it, that is not even retirement age!
Black men, I encourage you to get out there and get moving, and this time, mean it. I made all of the excuses years ago. Not enough time. I didn’t like cardio. I didn’t like taking 30 minutes to an hour out of my day to do physical activity. However, five years ago, I made a change (and one of the best changes I’ve ever made) – I decided to put myself first. I decided my health and my future mattered. I went on a quest and lost 200 pounds. No surgery, pills, etc. Just old-fashioned boring exercise and diet. Surprisingly, that boring exercise ended up becoming my 45-minute therapy session. The one thing I had dreaded for years ended up becoming the one thing I enjoyed more than anything else in my life. I altered my mindset around food and exercise. Being addicted to food is one of the most intense addictions we can face. Unlike alcohol, tobacco, or other substances, we cannot physically live without food. There is no quitting food, just altering how we view and use it.
Understanding that food is just a means for us to survive and not meant for us to overindulge is a hard concept to grasp and practice. But let’s be honest, fellas, we aren’t overeating because the food is so good. We’re eating because we’re lonely, sad, depressed, ashamed, stressed – dealing with some kind of mental health crisis in our lives.
Dr. Harold Neighbors, a long-time professor at the University of Michigan has extensively researched Black men and our health (physical and mental). His research program titled: “Man Up, Man Down” focused on the effects Black men have with their health in America. Through his work, he discovered many of the physical challenges we as Black men face are because of the mental pain in our lives. It is easy for us to say, ‘Oh, just man up.’ But what if we can’t? What if our mental pain blocks our ability to perform physical exercise or causes us a deep depression where we are compelled to overeat and use unhealthy foods as medicine? Kevin Dedner, a renowned author and CEO of Zeteo Health, explores the longstanding impact of mental health struggles for our community. There’s a lot to unpack from his work and he dives in deep surrounding Black male trauma.
Black men, I know we’re experiencing more challenges than ever with family, friends, relationships, jobs, but we must take care of ourselves first. Look around at how many family members and friends we lost due to Covid-19. There are many health-related illnesses we can directly correct through health and proper diet – high blood pressure (a ‘silent killer’ of Black men ), high cholesterol, pre-diabetes to name a few. Have you heard the saying “It all starts in the kitchen?” This is true, and we must make better habits when it comes to food. I personally practice intermittent fasting. I begin eating at 8am and conclude eating by 4:30pm. This is just my personal preference, and my meals get lighter as the day goes on.
While I have learned the importance of a proper diet, I have also incorporated exercise into my everyday routine. While every day may seem daunting, I encourage you to begin walking for 30 minutes four days a week. Just get moving. My personal favorite is the elliptical because it’s a full body workout. Also, don’t forget to strength train. Our health must be just as important (actually more important) than anything else in our lives. We cannot take care of others if we don’t take care of ourselves. Again, let this really sink in: The average life expectancy for Black men is 61 years old in America, not even retirement age. What are we working for if we can’t even live long enough to enjoy our money? Just get moving. Losing weight is as much of a business investment as your retirement account or your Jordan collection (Lebron for me, I’m a Lebron guy).
So as 2023 comes to an end, Black men, I encourage and plead with you to get moving physically and mentally (addressing any mental challenges you may be facing). Except this time, mean it!
About Collin Mays
Collin Mays is a well-respected leader from the Midwest who has worked in state and local government. For years, Mr. Mays has also served his community, sharing his time and talent with the nonprofit sector. He is Co-Chair of The Soul of Philanthropy Michigan (TSOP), a project that pays tribute to black philanthropy. The project raised more than $400,000 between 2022-2023. Mr. Mays also served as the 2021 Committee Chair of Alzheimer’s Association – Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Under Collin’s leadership the Detroit chapter placed first in the nation with the most registered new teams and 17th in the nation for fundraising, raising over $800,000.
As a public servant, Collin Mays has served as the Director of Economic Inclusion with the City of Cincinnati, Community and Economic Development Director with Delta Township, and Economic Development Director with the City of Center Line.