Is healthy eating an unmanly pursuit?

How come every man who has lost a significant amount of weight has done so through a new exercise regimen? Or so they claim….right?

Be it running, biking, swimming, CrossFit, TRX, P90X, whatever. It’s all a bunch of bull. Just say it man….you lost weight because you started eating better! There, that wasn’t so hard. Was it??

According to a recent Ad Age article, the disproportionate amount of weight-loss industry advertising dollars being spent on women vs. men, is due to man’s misconception about how to get in shape:

Convincing men that diet — and not exercise alone — is the secret to weight loss might be the biggest challenge the category faces. Guys tend to recall their younger days, when they were perhaps more active, and think “all I have to do is go back to that lifestyle,” said Karen Miller-Kovach, a registered dietitian and Weight Watcher’s chief scientific officer. But “it doesn’t work that way. You have to run a mile to burn 100 calories. You can eat a Double Stuf Oreo, and that 100 calories is gone.”

While I agree with the above excerpt, I’m not buying it entirely. The root cause runs much deeper than that. I honestly believe that men look at diets as “unmanly”, plain and simple. There is a stigma attached with eating healthy that questions our manhood. Right men? So….why is it that dieting is so unmanly??

Well let’s first start off with why eating like an ogre is considered “manly”.

Photo courtesy of Google Images

I think men, by nature, like to conquer. Being able to eat mass quantities of food feels victorious, if you will. Albeit somewhat of a spoof campaign, remember the praise associated with stuffing your face in the Bud Light “Real Men of Genius – Mr. All You Can Eat Buffet Inventor” TV spots? If not, click here to watch on YouTube.  It’s hilarious, by the way.

The theory of “conquering food” is especially applicable to eating meat products.  A recent Journal of Consumer Research report found that “people associate meat with masculinity, a fact that may make healthier, vegetable-heavy diets seem wimpy and unappealing”.  To read the full write-up in ABC News Health, click here.

Now that we have firmly established why gorging ourselves with unhealthy foods is considered manly, let’s evaluate why eating an abundance of healthy foods is decidedly unmanly.  According to a National Cancer Institute Food Attitudes and Behavior survey, “Researchers found that women had more favorable attitudes (than men) toward eating fruits and vegetables. For example, women were more likely to agree that if they ate plenty of fruits and vegetables every day, they would look better, and live a longer life.”  Furthermore, “The study showed that men don’t believe as strongly as women that fruit and vegetable consumption is an important part of maintaining health.”  To read the full article on Fox News Health, click here.

I have a really hard time believing that men don’t understand that fruits and vegetables are an important part of maintaining health.  According to a recent study by the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the country’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, with close to 72,000 members), fruits and vegetables are recommended food staples over meat and milk.  This is literally one of thousands of studies over the years validating this same basic philosophy.  So how come this consistently widespread news hasn’t permeated the male race at large?

Well, I think I have found the answer and it may surprise you.  I have read and reviewed a variety of articles detailing studies performed across the globe which conclude that there are distinct gender differences when it comes to anxiety associated with the fear of mortality.  That’s right….women fear death more than men.  A couple of the most unique and profound excerpts I came across are as follows.


“There are many arguments as to why death anxiety is higher in women. A reason why this is so has been proposed…that in most societies, men are encouraged to pursue success and attain accomplishments which would cultivate the illusion of immortality while women are not. This illusion is useful as people rely on it to counter and conquer death anxiety. Other researchers declared that because women more readily admit troubling feelings as compared to men, their death anxiety scores are higher.”


“The prevalence of death anxiety is often higher with women due to increased responsibility and status that women hold in families. The paternal bond between children and mothers often never leaves. The truth is that mothers always want the best for their children and look out for their well being, even when they have left their care. This increased fear for women, that their children will be alone and defenseless when they die, is a major attribute to why death is such a fearful demise. Without a mother, infant animals in the wild often die. It is this in-built mechanism in women that leads to greater death anxiety and the ‘importance to live’ for her offspring.”

So there you have it.  I genuinely feel that this may very well contribute to unhealthy eating behavior among men.  Men accept (and sometimes encourage) eating unhealthily because they are less preoccupied with mortality than their female counterparts.  Conversely, eating a healthy diet means that one fears death, and is associated with being less manly.

In summary, for those of you men who are approaching a certain age and/or have experienced some health issues over time and finally decide to put your foot down to change your dietary behavior, you can now free yourself of the stigma of being unmanly.  You are not acting like a woman, you are simply trying to preserve your life.  And that is nothing to be ashamed about.  Your family and friends, particularly your wife and kids, will thank you!


Filed under Food

7 responses to “Is healthy eating an unmanly pursuit?

  1. Very intriguing. Somewhat explains my husband’s eating habits, and why it is so hard to convince him to reduce his portion sizes when he ends up feeling miserably stuffed!

    • slimwithslimgenics – I think you are on to something! Portion size is tough because it can only be measured in hindsight. As we know, our brains are too slow to alert us when we are full. A best practice is for your husband to eat 75% of what he would normally consume and then wait 20-30 minutes. He can always go back for more if he is hungry later! And even if the hunger returns in 2-3 hours, I am a big fan of healthy snacking!

  2. It’s crazy, isn’t it? You need to run a marathon to burn 1 pound of fat. It’s a lot more efficient to control what you put in your body than try to exercise the calories away.

    It’s funny, when I was younger I rarely ate beef because I thought it wasn’t something girls ate. No joke! 😉

    • lolabees – That is a funny story about beef, but I believe it! The other day someone was commenting on the LARABAR I was eating, because they thought is was “for women”. I was like… is food (peanuts, dates & salt) and anyone is entitled to eat it! Hilarious.

  3. Reblogged this on Small Steps 2 Health and commented:
    Great post from truthology!

  4. Pingback: Helpful Healthy Eating Tips That Don’t Involve Dieting

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