Category Archives: Guy Health

Tulum (and reflections on change)

So the reason for the radio silence is that my wife and I just got back from a very nice vacation in Tulum, Mexico, where we have been so many times it feels practically like a vacation home. This winter was brutal in the Northeast and we were in serious need of some warm, sunny beach time, which that magical place on the Mexican Caribbean never fails to provide.

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I first went to Tulum in the 90s just for a quick visit while staying at Isla de Mujeres off of Cancun and Playa del Carmen up the road (now a sprawling metropolis in its own right), mainly just to see the seaside Mayan ruins. That led to my wife and I going down there for spring vacations beginning in the early 2000s. We initially stayed at Cabanas Copal and then Azulik towards the north end of the resort area many times. At first there weren’t that many hotels in the whole Tulum strip and virtually none south of the small checkpoint down the road from Zamas, essentially only the Maya Tulum yoga spa right on the spit of the small bay, then a little down the road/beach there was Posada Margherita, the original Tulum “destination” restaurant run by some charming Italian ex-pats with help from some very sandy dogs, and just a few other small places scattered on the beach along accessible by dirt road. Hemingway on the beach — which despite the name does not have a real bar! — and El Tábano, on the inland side of the road and still serving up wonderful Mexican comfort food cooked up by a troop of hard working abuelas, were some of the last restaurants and hotels that far south, not including a few exotic outliers tucked into the palms on the beach and in the jungle.

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This time we stayed at the very reasonable and good Coco Tulum Hotel on that once-sparsely developed southern part. But now, after countless fashion photo shoots and ad campaigns, as well as travel write-ups in pretty much every major publication in the US and abroad, that southern strip between the checkpoint and the Sian Ka’an Biosphere is packed back-to-back with places to stay and eat. Due to the ease of travel from the East Coast (it’s about a three and a half hour flight to Cancun from New York and then about an hour and a half drive down to Tulum) and the magic of the name “Tulum”, snowbirds flock there in ever increasing numbers. Thankfully, it never feels crowded or overpopulated on the beach side because it is so long and the resorts all have their own large sectors. But inland you find that it is absolutely hopping. It’s startling to see tattooed hipsters from Brooklyn and well to do people from all over the world, as well as the traditional backpackers, jamming the paved roads and pathways of what used to be a rutted trail unsuitable for bicycles. There’s even a must-try restaurant, Hartwood, where people line up for dinner reservations in the early afternoon as if it were Per Se in Manhattan. I hear great things about it but there’s no way I’m spending my vacation trying to make the scene in what is to me an escape from all that sort of pretentious jive. Not that there’s anything wrong with it…

The Bay at Zamas at sunset

The Bay at Zamas at sunset

In fact, as it’s turned out with the way the southern sector has been (over) developed, it’s the northern “town” section that’s most like it was a decade ago. Continue reading

Quitting cigarettes — still one of the best things a guy can do for his health

If you haven’t already, there’s one thing you can do to almost instantly improve your health in a multitude of ways: quit smoking cigarettes. I’m not talking about foregoing the occasional cigar or pipe — that sort of tobacco is not great for you but used in extreme moderation, it’s not going to potentially ruin your health like butts will. Cigarettes on the other hand are bad for your blood pressure, your heart and lungs, your skin and your hair, your eyes & eyesight, your mouth and your teeth, your stamina and sex drive and your circulation and digestion… to name but a few of their nasty side effects. And obviously smoking is one of the world’s leading carcinogens, increasing your cancer risk exponentially when used as directed. Remember: you might survive cigarette-induced cancer but you will not be unmarked by it.

If you’ve never smoked cigarettes in earnest, good for you. If you’ve already quit, congratulations for taking such a big step on living a longer, more healthy life. And if you haven’t yet I can only ask: why the hell not, dude? I know, I know, you’re young and tough and nothing’s going to harm you and you feel like a real man with a smoke in your mouth. Well, by the time you get into your 30s, that’s not going to be quite true anymore and your doctor will probably begin noticing some signs of mortality like higher blood pressure or diminished lung capacity, both directly attributable to smoking. I smoked throughout my 20s and quit when I turned 30 and now I can’t even think of a good reason why I ever used cigarettes at all. One too many Hollywood movies where the hero chain-smoked his way through the film (the links between Hollywood and the tobacco industry are deep and well documented)? The fact that my father smoked and so it connected cigarettes with an ideal of manliness in my mind? Either way, it was damn stupid and once I finally stopped I pretty quickly got to a place where I was never tempted to smoke those coffin nails again. Or should I say coughin’ nails?

Thankfully, once I decided to quit it didn’t take too long to put it behind me altogether. I will say that the toughest part of making quitting stick for me was de-linking it from enjoying a drink out at social occasions with other smokers. Alcohol and tobacco make a very seductive team! Continue reading

What we’re wearing – Sunglasses by Persol & Randolph Engineering

Summer’s here and the sky is bright, so you really need some good shades. That being the case, I thought I’d share my two favourites with you – Persol’s model 649 and the Aviators made by Randolph Engineering. The two sets of glasses are very different but equally cool, and both will protect your eyes from the ravages of sun damage whilst making women want you and men want to be you!

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Persol Model 649

Persol 649‘s probably need no introduction. The frames, made famous by the likes of Marcelllo Mastroianni and Steve McQueen on screen and in real life, epitomized the insouciant cool of the 60’s and early 70’s film culture. Mastroianni’s image was that of the dapper rake, McQueen’s the rough and tumble man’s man. Either way the 649 oozed cool. And they’ve still got it. The 649 is a bit sturdier than Persol’s 714 model, an essentially identical twin but for the fact that the 714’s fold up. McQueen was often photographed wearing 714’s as well, but in my experience the 649’s hold up a lot better to wear and tear as there are less fragile parts involved. Available in a number of sizes and colour combinations to suit every face, you can’t go wrong with a pair of 649’s.

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Marcello Mastroianni wearing his iconic 649’s in “Divorce, Italian Style”

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Mr. McQueen smiling away behind his 649’s

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McQueen sporting his 714’s, foldable sibling to the 649

There is however, one pair of glasses that would make me switch out my beloved Persol 649’s, and that’s the Aviators from the guys over at Randolph Engineering.

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Robert Deniro’s Travis Bickle wearing Randolph Engineering Aviators in “Taxi Driver”

Since the late 70’s Randolph Engineering have been supplying the US Armed Forces with Aviator glasses, and like most mil spec items, they’re tough as hell and look really cool. Easily recognizable as the glasses of choice for military pilots, they look great on us civilians as well. They’re much better built than the more commonly seen Ray Ban Aviators, and they also come with a lifetime warranty on all the solder joints (which are the parts that usually fail on these glasses). Randolph Engineering also offers a variety of sizes and lens colours to get the right fit and sun protection, respectively. In fact, on the company’s website you can essentially create your own custom combination to suit your needs perfectly. Also, because they were designed for pilots, most of their glasses can be ordered with bayonet style temples, that hug the side of your head instead of hooking over your ears. If you’re a motorcycle guy, or an ATV or dirt bike enthusiast this might be the way to go since you can easily whip them on and off without removing your helmet. Randolph Engineering Aviators beat all others in my opinion because they really adhere to the “devil in the details” philosophy from design stage straight through production. If well built is your thing, go with Randolph Engineering. Oh yeah, Don Draper wears them. And Travis Bickle. And Johnny Depp. And Robert Redford. And Brad Pitt, and…oh you get the idea.

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Randolph Engineering Aviators with bayonet style temples

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Robert Deniro and Jodie Foster strutting the Mean Streets in “Taxi Driver”

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Mr. Depp in a pair of blue lens Aviators by Randolph Engineering

So there you go. Go forth and protect those optic nerves! You can find Persol and Randolph Engineering on Amazon. However, with Randolph Engineering I recommend buying directly from the company. They’re easy to deal with and have good customer service (they even answer the phone!), and doing it this way ensures you’ll get the pair that’s perfect for you.

High Blood Pressure: Still a silent killer

You may be working out five times a week and running triathlons on the side but every time you go for your physical, your BP is stubbornly high. Nothing crazy just 140/90, what they call “high normal” or “borderline high.” You argue with your doctor that because you are such a fine physical specimen there’s no need to worry about a number and you’ll try to get it down by reducing sodium intake and drinking more water. But, assuming you’re not testing it at home, another year goes by and the next checkup your numbers haven’t budged: still borderline high.

For a lot of guys in their 30s this may sound familiar, as this is when mild but persitent hypertension can start to kick in. But now’s the time to get your number down and if it takes a little medication, so be it. Because even if you feel terrific, your mild hypertension is damaging the inner workings of your body and putting you at long term risk of heart disease, stroke, eye problems and, yup, impotence. Continue reading

Mondays were made for hydration

If you’re like me, you take advantage of your weekends to have a good time, all the time…which means your liver is pretty cranky by Monday.

In general, I try to take the early part of the week off from booze (try being the operative word). Chances are that social engagements from Wednesday on are going to make it a gantlet of alcoholic temptations so best to try and get in a couple of “clean out” days early on (good theory, anyway).

So the key to recovery starting Monday is hydration, my brothers. As soon as you stumble out of bed, grab a shower and start pounding cool, fresh water, preferably filtered via a Brita or Pur system or the like.  If you’re feeling extra depleted from your weekend fling, you can supplement your H2O with some electrolytes from a concentrated add-in like elete (less is more with this stuff–it is extremely concentrated and contains sodium so follow label directions).  And probably the best (and best tasting) natural hydrator out there is good old fashioned coconut water, today commonly sold under the Zico and Vita Coco brands.  Slightly sweet and packed with potassium and other electrolytes, coconut water will quickly put back in what your drinking man’s weekend took out.  And it’s actually very light in calories unlike, say, Gatorade and other so-called “sports” drinks which are loaded with high fructose corn syrup and not really any better for you than a sugary soda.

Proper hydration is a key part of all around health and well being.  Among other things, it helps control histamines, blood pressure and, ironically, the better hydrated you are the less water your body retains.  It’s also good for your brain and digestion, not to mention better workouts. So sure you gotta pay to play.  But Monday seems like the right day to start refunding your body what the weekend’s beer, wine and cocktails took out.  Bottoms up, my boozy friends!

So my hair’s starting to thin. What now?

Some of you may never have to worry about thinning hair.  You’ve won the genetic follicle lottery.  My hat’s off to you and your perpetual man mane (ya lucky bastards).  And some of you have been bald since your 20s and pull it off like a latter day Yul Brynner…

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Here’s to your magnificent chrome dome!

But for other guys (like yours truly) you’ve noticed a gradual thinning out of your once fearsome ‘do in the classic male pattern balding manner…

…which is kind of a bummer even if it is a normal part of getting older.

So…what to do?

There are a number of products that promise some sort of hair regrowth or at least a stabilization of hair loss (i.e. the more quickly you use it the sooner you’ll stop losing it!).

What do we think of ’em?

First off, there’s the old standby minoxidil (most famously sold as Rogaine but also available generically),  Continue reading