August 08, 2023
Pushing back against statistics that too often tell a story of neglect when it comes to health, there are 50-plus men leading the charge for positive behavior, proving that behavior change is indeed possible.
Every story represents a critical installment in a growing body of evidence that men are capable of casting aside outdated views of manhood and adopting behaviors that will improve their health, extend their lives and deliver the fulfillment that is the essence of life. So, when I come across examples of men stepping up, I want to shout out their stories of inspiration.
U.S. Sen. John Fetterman, of Pennsylvania, had the courage to acknowledge that he was struggling with depression not long after being elected to the United States Senate, an unusual step for such a high-profile official. The same held true for former and current Philadelphia Eagles Brian Dawkins, Malcom Jenkins and Lane Johnson, who used their battles with depression as a platform to inspire boys and men to get help with mental afflictions. Less famously, there is the story of Dr. Christopher Derivaux, who had the courage and conviction to serve his country by enlisting in the U.S. Army at age 53.
Now, to this body of inspiration I add yet another case study, Troy Singleton, a New Jersey state senator.
I have known Troy for many years, watching him grow into one of South Jersey's political leaders. Singleton represents the state Senate's seventh district after having served in the General Assembly and worked as a staff member to several legislators.
Last summer, Singleton made a serious commitment to healthy living aligned to his 50th birthday. His pathway to this decision reads like a chapter from the men's health playbook: a strong dose of discipline coupled with strong motivations and a loyal support system. It's an approach from which we all can learn.
Born in Philadelphia and raised in Willingboro, New Jersey, Troy is a husband and the father of three. He turned 50 on June 30, but embarked on his goal of being "fit for 50" last August. Much of Troy’s underlying motivation came from his parents, who suffered from diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Both were deceased by the time Troy was 42.
Though his parents were squarely in the back of his mind, it was a college fraternity brother who triggered Troy to act. The scene was a summer barbecue. Troy and his fraternity brother were in the pool – Troy with his T-shirt on – when his fraternity brother challenged him about his weight and urged him to get serious about his health. According to Troy, that was the spark. He downloaded an app that same day and sought to lose 50 pounds by his 50th birthday. It's a goal that, in his words, he "crushed."
Today, Troy is active at least six – and sometimes seven – days a week. Using the My Fitness Pal app, he tracks his steps, workouts and diet. His daily routine begins with early morning basketball to give him a cardio workout. Four days a week, he adds weight training to balance his program. Troy has a primary care physician and gets an annual physical with all the required tests. His doctor has called his transformation "amazing."
For his diet, Troy targets about 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day. He doesn't eat a lot of red meat and is fine with an occasional indulgence, but he is mindful of his caloric intake and what he burns off with exercise. The concept of a caloric deficit has been a guiding principle for Troy.
Men's health is a team sport and Troy has a great supporting cast that helps him maintain his condition. Every day at 6 a.m., he and his buddies exchange results on the number of steps they achieved the prior day. According to Troy, there is a lot of good natured ridicule that transpires when any of the men fall short of their goals. They all want to see each other do well, so the razzing has a very positive and therapeutic effect.
So what is it that has enabled Troy to drop 50 pounds and transform his body into a lean, mean example that any 50-plus man would want? As he explains it, he has moved into "auto-pilot," a level of discipline in which his habits have become second nature and enjoyable. It is what psychologists call intrinsic motivation, which is associated with Self-Detrmination Theory. If he misses a workout, his day is just not the same. Healthy behavior is not a chore or a tedious endeavor, it is satisfying and fulfilling.
I asked Troy what advice he would give to other 50-plus men. Without hesitation he simply said, "make today Day 1." Whether one prefers the gym, bike or track, he spoke of the benefits of forming habits, maintaining discipline and remaining consistent.
Based on my many encounters with 50-plus men, it is clear that Troy is a role model. He gets it. No bull, no excuses, just a guy who realized that without this self-directed intervention, he might succumb to the fate of his parents. With three children and a wife, this scenario was unacceptable.
Perhaps the trigger of his fraternity brother's challenge was an unexpected launch point, but life has a way of providing inspiration in unusual ways. Regardless, the fire is there, the discipline has been cultivated and the rewards are remarkable. Troy hopes that his story will inspire others. I know it will.
Louis Bezich, senior vice president and chief administrative officer at Cooper University Health Care, is author of "Crack The Code: 10 Proven Secrets that Motivate Healthy Behavior and Inspire Fulfillment in Men Over 50." Read more from Louis on his website.