A Veggie Manwich is a Meal
Despite health risks, men erroneously covet meat as masculine.
Men are more likely to connect masculinity with meat than with vegetables, says a study examining attitudes toward food and notions of manhood. Researchers from four universities, including UNC Chapel Hill and Cornell, wanted to see if “people in Western cultures have a metaphoric link between meat and men,” the study authors write. What this means, say the researchers, is that marketers need to reshape metaphors to make them more veg-friendly. For example, they recommend presenting veggie burgers with grill marks to make them look more like the typically masculine burger.
Health experts agree that despite cultural stereotypes, “vegetarian and vegan diets are in fact much more manly,” says Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., director of nutrition education at Washington DC-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
Why would eating one’s veggies improve one’s manhood?
“Risk of erectile dysfunction is decreased when consuming diets rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains,” Levin explains. “The body is an intricate system of blood vessels.”
This means that heart problems—often caused by poor diet and high cholesterol, for example—mean problems in the bedroom too.
“You don’t damage your heart’s arteries with cholesterol and saturated fat without damaging all of your other blood vessels,” she adds. “Erectile dysfunction can be one of the first indicators of that damage, and a sign that it’s time to change your diet to something that promotes better blood flow all over the body!”
Danny Nichols, a marathoner and vegan animal rights activist, says that masculine stereotypes never dampened his decision to go vegan.
“I went vegan in one afternoon after doing some vegetarian nutrition research for a new vegetarian friend I had met about a week prior,” Nichols tells demodirt.com. “Despite being a runner and athlete my whole adult life I had never seriously looked into nutrition and believed a lot of the myths that governments and advertisers present.”
Studying the nutritional aspects of plant-based eating, he says, introduced the ethical factors as well, opening what he calls “Pandora’s box.”
“I was appalled at the atrocities that were going on in animal agriculture and just as appalled that it was ALL unnecessary because I had just also discovered the nutritional truths of how it was completely unnecessary to use or consume other species in any way,” Nichols says.
Walking out of the library a vegan, he adds, Nichols maintains that he didn’t struggle with abandoning the typical macho associations with meat that he had grown up with—“even though I did play sports and was raised in a hunting and fishing household that ate the standard American diet.”
While the athlete says that he had always questioned authority, he had never questioned his food choices and “whether or not it was necessary to use other species.”
Nichols is one of many male athletes making the connection between plant-based eating and athletic achievement, Levin notes.
“Athletes all over the world are catching on to the benefits of a vegan diet for better athletic performance,” she contends. “You can temporarily fuel body building and running on just about anything. But is it sustainable over the long run? Does it provide for the most efficient recovery so that you can perform at your peak again and again? Does it contribute to an overall healthier profile, i.e., reduced risk for heart disease and cancer? A vegan diet can do this, and professional athletes know it because they are paid to win.”
In fact, she adds, nothing makes a man more masculine than good health. “What’s more manly than being at your absolute physical best and maximizing your years both quantitatively and qualitatively?”
When Nichols discovered the realities of animal cruelty and the fallacies surrounding human health, he says, “I was as mad at myself as I was my culture the day I discovered the truth.”
Levin agrees that our society must redefine its notion of a healthy diet, for everyone’s sake.
“When Americans culturally start equating manliness with smarts and health, and not with how much fat and cholesterol can be inflicted upon oneself, it will be a win-win for everyone,” she says.
"The breadth of topics covered on demodirt.com is always timely and the depth is always outstanding."
--Leslie G. Ungar, professional speaker, executive coach, and strategist at Electric Impulse Communications