Dear Doc: My son is a fit guy. He bikes, plays soccer, jogs and plays rugby. Problem is, he can’t seem to put on as much muscle as he wants. Every time I go to his apartment I find more and more vitamins and supplements. When I look in his refrigerator I see cold pizza and wilted lettuce – the opposite of the Mediterranean diet you recommend.
Are these shakes and pills really healthy? I have my doubts. And how can I convince him to eat more fruits and vegetables?
– Ann from Minnesota
Dear Ann: You’re right to be concerned. You’re his mom – that’s your job. Even though your son might be just the right weight, he isn’t happy with it. Enter the multibillion-dollar industrial supplement companies. They’re there to please. Put down your money, swallow a pill and you’ll look just like the guys on the label. Right.
This is a big enough problem that the American Psychological Association has concluded: “Body-conscious men who are driven by psychological factors to attain a level of physical or masculine ‘perfection’ may be a variant of eating disorders.”
This may not be life-threatening like anorexia or bulimia, but it certainly is as disturbing to some young men as moderate forms of anxiety or depression. Who wants to be in the land of “just not happy with the way I look”?
What are his supplements? I can’t tell from your letter, but if they’re legal then they’re often soy or whey protein or creatine. According to the FDA, these are “generally recognized as safe,” which means – in “FDA speak” – we don’t see any red flags. They fit into the same category as artificial sweeteners and colors.
If his supplements are illegal, then they’re steroids – which are clearly a red flag.
Now on to the fridge. Use of supplements is no substitute for good eating. Lots of young men chow down burgers and fries, beer and spirits, then take supplements thinking this will protect them from their lousy diet. No way. There is no substitute for good food.
I suggest that you, mom, stock up his refrigerator with good stuff. If he has never learned to cook, buy him a Mediterranean cookbook and teach him how. Good nutrition and good mothering go hand-in-hand.
Ask him how much he’s spending on supplements. If it’s excessive – some guys spend $50 to $100 a month – try to nudge him toward spending that money on better food. If you teach him better eating, he just might teach you how to lift weights.
Now, here’s a follow-up on my recent column on prostate cancer.
Dear Doc: When I was 61, I had minimal prostate cancer. My urologist said I could watch it or take it out, and I chose surgery. Now I’m not sure I did the right thing. Every day since that time, I’ve had nothing but leakage. I use pads all the time. I have a supply at home, at work and in my car in case I have to change. It’s a big problem when I’m on the golf course, especially if I can’t get to where I need to get soon enough.
Why do I leak, leak, leak? I’ve been doing “Kegel exercises” to strengthen my bladder, and I’ve cut down on drinking liquids, but the problem is still not fixed. I’ve heard there is a “caulking” procedure, Macroplastique, used in women. Does it work for men?
– David from Up North
Dear David: Sorry for your discomfort. For some, prostrate surgery is lifesaving. For others, it’s more on the elective side with side-effects. In Europe, the general tactic for prostate cancer is watch and wait; in America, it’s cut and paste.
Unfortunately, the “caulking” agents used in women aren’t suited to men. But keep in touch with your urologist. There may be something coming down the line that might work for you.
Dr. Zorba Paster hosts a radio program that airs locally at 3 p.m. Saturdays on WBFO-FM 88.7. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.