We asked three men with very different stories to tell us about their own health journeys and the moments that shaped their approach to self-care…
Tom Gozney, 37, lives in Hampshire with wife Laura, son Ty, four, and daughter Eden, two. His pizza oven company, Gozney (gozney.com), recently released a Signature Edition Roccbox, with £40 from each sale being donated to charities that support people with drug and alcohol addiction, including With You in the UK.
“My path to addiction probably started when I was a kid, struggling in school. I was dyslexic, which wasn’t much recognized at the time, and mildly bullied. When I was 13, I met a group of guys hanging out to smoke weed, and for the first time I felt like I had found my place. By the age of 16, we had moved on to harder drugs and booze, and I was starting to get into trouble.
“I felt guilty about the worry I was causing my family, but getting drunk allowed me to mask that. Towards the end of my teens I started trying to calm down – that’s when I realized I had lost all control. Then one night I was violently attacked. Severely injured and traumatized, this was my turning point. Not long after that I called my mom and said I was ready to get help.
“Two weeks after my 21st birthday, I spent almost a year in rehab. It was life changing – but it was back in the real world where the real recovery journey began as I now had a void to fill. Cooking gave me an outlet. I would get lost in the rituals of preparing food and cooking for people who bought a new community and purpose. It ended up being a company making pizza ovens, which essentially saved me. But even though drugs were a thing of the past, addiction was still a part of my life – it’s been a never-ending learning curve. At first I threw myself too deeply into work. I was obsessed with checking emails, getting new deals, eating a lot at the same time and barely exercising, which took a toll on my health.
“It may sound incredibly simple, but the biggest challenge in my life has been finding balance. I now put my phone away at night so I can be with my family. I move my body every day, whether it’s walking the dog, the gym, whatever. After neglecting my health for so long, this is a gift. And I try to laugh and have fun. That is also super important.”
Dr. Jeff Foster, 43, is a general practitioner, founder of men’s health services H3 Health (drjefffoster.co.uk) and author of Man Alive: the health problems men face and how to fix them. He lives in Leamington Spa with his wife and two children aged 10 and 8.
“When I was 17 I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, which meant I had to monitor my blood glucose and take daily insulin injections for the rest of my life. I’d had classic symptoms – extreme, unquenchable thirst, frequent urination – but it was still a shock. Going from being a healthy teen to suddenly being told you’re in for a lifetime of injectable therapy was a kick in the nuts.
“Fortunately, I was already very involved in sports and fitness. My advisor at the time said this would be helpful in controlling my blood sugar and give me a bit of a buffer. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 26 years – exercising five days a week and trying to eat healthy – and I’ve been really lucky. I will always have type 1, but I’ve never had any complications or been hospitalized due to diabetes, and my health is good. In fact, I’m probably a lot healthier than many people my age.
“Diabetes was not the reason I chose to go into healthcare, and for years I didn’t tell anyone about it, preferring to keep it private. But it certainly influenced my approach as a doctor. No matter how hard it is and [it] I felt stupid being diagnosed at 17, it has given me a much deeper understanding of patients, and enabled me to lead by example when I talk to them about managing their health, and why matters if enough sleep and exercise are so important. We all want that quick fix when something goes wrong with our health, but more often than not it doesn’t work that way.”
Sean Conway, 41, is an endurance athlete and Fit For Autumn ambassador for non-alcoholic craft beer brand Athletic Brewing Company (uk.athleticbrewing.com/pages/fit-for-autumn). He lives in North Wales with wife Caroline and children Montgomery, three-and-a-half, and Sebastian, one.
“For as long as I can remember, I have been into photography and the outdoors. My dream was to become a National Geographic photographer, go on adventures and take pictures in nature – the camera would become my passport to travel the world. But in my twenties, I got stuck. Although I was lucky enough to find work doing school portraits, which grew into a successful business, life was not what I hoped it would be. Sure, I was making money, but everything felt flat. The fact that I didn’t feel challenged and spent all my time indoors took a toll on my mental health.
“Then my girlfriend at the time broke up with me and told me I was going to be boring and boring — and she was right. I had lost my passion and drive. Suddenly I was 30, alone, and it really dawned on me how much I had gone down the wrong path. I had chosen money over health and happiness, and things had to change.
“After selling my share of the company (for £1!), I decided to go for it and pursue a life of endurance challenges and adventure. In the next ten years I’ve cycled around the world, completed the ‘Ultimate British Triathlon’ from John O’Groats to Land’s End and became the first person in history to swim the length of Britain in 2013, under Others. raising money for charity along the way and becoming a motivational speaker.
“It hasn’t all been easy – I’ve dealt with injuries, obstacles and finding sponsorships is work, but I’ve learned so much. I am happier and much more in tune with who I am and taking care of myself. When I’m working out it really helps to keep my alcohol intake low.
“Physical fitness and well-being go hand in hand for me, and spending time away from home is essential to my mental health. I even put an outdoor shower and an ice bath and sauna in my garden so I can be outside as much as possible.”