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THE HEALTHY MAN

Kick the Football Diet

September 14, 1998|KRISTL BULURAN

This week, a twice-monthly column on men's health issues makes its premiere.

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Psssst! Hey, you! Yeah, you, the one slouched in the middle of your couch watching "Monday Night Football" and stuffing your face with yet another handful of potato chips and a slice of pizza.

Nice six-pack too.

What is it about football season that brings out the worst eaters in men?

All summer long, they trudge to the gym, lifting, biking, running, catching Frisbees, playing volleyball, walking everywhere. Then football season comes along, and suddenly tailgate parties and couches are conspiring to sabotage the active lifestyles men once had when TV was football-free.

Even the commercials are part of this plot. I saw one the other night with this guy talking about how he and his dad are the greatest football fans. We, the viewers, are then treated to clips of father and son covered in blue paint, dancing around their seats at the stadium, shirtless and screaming for their team in the snow during a football game.

Now, I would not describe these men as the most fit and trim men I've seen. In fact, they are quite "robust," especially in the "heart attack" area--fat is all around their stomachs. Anyway, sonny insists that he must have chili dogs at every game, but he can do without the heartburn. This is where he plugs the antacid for relief, so he can eat all the chili dogs he wants. Yum.

Don't get me wrong. I am not against chili dogs. I, for one, love them. All I'm saying is that football season doesn't have to be the catalyst for poor eating.

It's not as if chips, hot dogs, hamburgers and beer are the requisite diet.

And the problem is only compounded when the weather turns cold--although that shouldn't be the case here in Southern California. Still, I have known people who downright hibernate when the temperature gets below 75 degrees.

It would be fine if football season didn't last from September to January, because then that high-fat summer menu could be worked off since we tend to be more active when the weather is nicer. If not for football, we probably wouldn't think about a hot dog in December.

And let's not forget Super Bowl Sunday, when all celebrations culminate in a huge saturated fat-fest of every fat-food item imaginable. Roll out the Rolaids, Mylanta, Tums and whatever else is in the heartburn arsenal.

Instead of the artery-clogging food so typical of football season, try to expand your football diet, rather than your waist, to one that is more substantial and healthy. Instead of chips, munch on carrot sticks. Replace the beer with a protein shake or perhaps fruit juice. Try pasta salads, fruit salads, unprocessed meats and chicken, and steamed vegetables rather than reaching for the pizza, chili dogs, and burgers with fries.

But, you scoff, you want man food! Meat, potatoes and junky foods.

Well, I've got news for you. Studies have shown that, among men, accumulation of high levels of arterial plaque because of cholesterol damage, which causes blockage of the arteries, begins as early as 10 years of age.

What's more, as men age, activity levels tend to decrease until most men become relatively sedate by the time they reach their 40s. Careers, family and other obligations tend to take the place of maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle until that first heart attack occurs and you are left wondering what you could have done to prevent it.

Football season is not just a season for watching football and playing the football pools at work. It's also a season that just screams "Eat!" and food definitely goes along with the party.

So, if you are going to eat (and you are definitely going to eat), try to make it worthwhile by adding to your health and well-being, choosing foods that are nutritionally sound and beneficial.

And, trust me, you won't need the antacid.

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The Healthy Man runs every other Monday in Health.

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