When my husband and I first started dating, we began a mutual journey into veganism. He made the change for health reasons, and I did it because I loved him madly. The first family function he attended with me was my large, Catholic, kielbasa-gorged family’s annual Christmas party. I knew I had to marry this man when he braved the meat gauntlet (I’m pretty sure there was an entire roasted pig at this particular event) and side-eyes from those who didn’t understand when he said, “I don’t eat meat.” Also impressive: his agility at leaping aside when a large relative told him “Either eat, or get out of the way!”
While my family could have served as a survey sample on their own, the reactions to Hubs’ veganism extended well beyond the limits of holiday parties. Coworkers felt the need to comment on his lunches, friends would razz him. I’ll admit that I have received similar treatment in all of my stages of eating, but the difference is that my eating habits spurned interest and a blog and Hubs’ spurned criticism and devaluation.
Despite male-run food and wellness sites such as Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness, The Certified Health Nut, and Engine 2 Diet, to name a few, and health initiatives like Paul Risse’s Cleanse America and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, healthy eating and proper food choices are still largely issues that, judging from the mainstream’s interest, affect only women and children.
Let’s move out of the 1950′s, shall we, gentlemen?
1. If you don’t know how to cook, learn to cook–something other than meat. Find a recipe that looks appealing. Follow the directions. Watch a YouTube video if you have to. Practice it. Perfect it. Repeat. Cooking and baking are simple sciences. You can do it!
2. Set an example for your kids (if you have them) and other people’s kids (when you’re around them). Try those beets. Engage with that asparagus. You *might* like them. Don’t get all prissy about vegetables; they’re good for your colon and we all know you enjoy your trips to “the office.”
3. Health=strength, right? Power, endurance, muscle…all of these things come not just from trips to the gym and from counting calories, but from providing your body fuel and recognizing the quality of that fuel. Real food=real results.
4. Manliness doesn’t come from what one eats, but virility sure as hell does. Don’t knock the dude who eats sprouts if his body thrives on them. And let’s stop assuming that “all men need meat.” The stupidest question I got when I was a pregnant vegan was “But what if you have a boy?” (And I got this question multiple times from a range of people!) Every body is different and may perform better with a specific style of eating. To assume that all men require the same diet is insulting to the entire gender.
5. Stop saying, “Man Up,” for god’s sake. It implies that expressing fear or sadness or discomfort or any other emotion felt by HUMANS is some kind of weakness. It also implies that those emotions are reserved for women only, who, I probably shouldn’t have to say but do have to say, are strong in their own right. Phrases such as this are exactly what got y’all into this position of healthy-food-avoidance in the first place.
Recent reports from media outlets such as MSNBC, and Men’s Health seem to indicate that the percentage of men who cook is increasing, thanks to the likes of The Food Network and shows like Top Chef. This gives hope for the future, for sure. Those who prepare food are, generally, more cognizant of the quality of the ingredients. Recognizing quality ingredients leads to recognizing how food affects health–and isn’t determined by what’s between one’s legs.
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