June 11, 2013
Meet Our Plant-Based (Vegan) Guys: A Look at Men's Perspective & Experience (Part 1)
Father's Day is coming up, and as I mentioned in my Dad's guest post a couple of days ago, we are featuring the awesome plant-based/vegan guys out there this week.
I always find it interesting that people don't ask if Scott (my husband) is vegan/plant-based... they just assume he isn't.
"What?" eyes popping out of their head, "Your husband is vegan too?" Some will even say things like, "Are you sure?" and ask him "Do you cheat when your wife isn't around?"
[Can we just pretend this my harem of plant-based men? Please? I'm 5'8" by the way! They're all just that tall!]
Somehow it's just baffling Scott likes to eat plants :) He'll be the first to tell you that even if something happened to me, he could never go back to eating meat. He thinks it's gross.
I also know we're not alone. I get dozens of emails each week asking if a plant-based diet is suitable for men (yes), men who lift weights (still yes) and how Scott deals with teasing or rude commentary by other men. I shared Scott's journey and some of his experience in a previous post titled, "My Vegan Husband," but today I'm letting other guys chime in (and stay tuned for Part 2 later this week!).
By the way, I must brag: When I put a note on HH's Facebook asking if any plant-based/vegan guys would be willing to be interviewed for this series, over 50 men emailed me in less than 30 minutes!!! I actually had to take the post down because there were so many responses!!!
[Editorial Note: The years behind each name indicate how long the guy has been plant-based. For those who were vegetarian before vegan, I combined for a total number of years — but Sean O. has been vegan his entire 12 years!]
Here are some observations from the interviews that I found interesting:
- Most men didn't worry or care what others think about their change.
- Nearly all of the men were initially motivated by the health benefits but most have since found they are also now motivated by the environmental impact and animal rights components, too.
- More than half inspired the change in their family, which really puts to rest the stereotype to rest that "Vegetarian" is a "girl thing." Many of the guys have omnivore ladies.
- Men that lived in the South received the most amount of teasing and it was often offensive or a deeply personal attack, not just some light jest and banter among guys friends.
- Nearly all the men commented that switching improved their sex life ;) (if we ever doubted what was on a man's mind).
- Over a third also commented they no longer have GI issues. (This is something I think most men struggle with, but are reluctant to talk about. A lot of my male clients reversed their IBS after switching to a plant-based diet).
HH: What motivated you to adopt a plant-based diet and/or vegan lifestyle?
"After having read The China Study and then watching Forks Over Knives, I decided a long and healthy life was far more important than pushing my luck regarding my cardiovascular health. I was, and still am, extremely physically active at almost 68 yrs." — Johnny B. (1.5 years)
"I was previously following a Paleo diet and had reached a plateau that I couldn't get beyond in my fitness training. A friend challenged me to a 60-day challenge at Monkey Bar Gym, which follows a whole food, plant based diet. In 60 days, I lost 17 pounds of body fat and gained 9 pounds of muscle. Seeing my body literally transform itself was amazing." — Jeremy C. (3 years)
"I'm a 6-year cancer survivor and want to give my body everything it needs to function and fight." — Todd R. (1 year)
"Spiritual. Which of course includes an ethical component. I was hoping that I would receive health benefits, which I did, but my primary reason was to follow the direction of my higher self." — C. B. (1 year)
"Trigger was watching the Sanjay Gupta/Bill Clinton CNN special and then following a trail of informative and enlightening books from there. Health, animal rights, decreased use of natural resources, concern about impact of factory/corporate farming and livestock production. I grew up on a farm and saw the practices and effects first-hand. Not pretty. Have you ever toured a slaughter house? It is brutal, and the desensitizing effect on the workers is amazing." — Michael M. (almost 2 years)
"I am a widower married to a widow. I became a vegetarian in 2005 when my first wife was given a few months to live (she had battled heart problems). I made a decision that I needed to be there for my two kids and started to eat vegetarian. My wife lost her first husband to cancer. Our whole family (includes 5 kids) became vegan last year after watching Forks Over Knives and Food Inc." — Steve G. (8 years)
"Performance as an athlete and overall health lead me to a plant based diet, but some of my motivation was from how animals are treated in the large factory settings." — Michael F. (1 year vegan, vegetarian prior)
"I read the book Skinny Bastard and I started by doing a 30 day trial." — Shawn H. (4 years)
"Fitness and health have always been a top priority for me but I also have several friends and coworkers with health issues such as heart attacks, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and even cancer of a 35 and 37 year old coworker. The breaking point was when my mother was diagnosed with cancer at age 64 and died at 67. I knew there had to be a better way and reason why so much disease was around me. It was a wake up call to get serious about diet." — Ismael A. (1.5 years)
"Was having some health issues like pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver, and needed to lose weight, improve health." — Larry H. (2.5 years)
"Number one motivation was my wife. I saw how quickly and easily she was dropping weight without working out of restricting calories and I wanted in! Number 2 motivation was my health. In December 2008, I was diagnosed with colon cancer. It was rather surprising considering that I was only 33." — Brian D. (1.5 years)
"Both cancer and heart disease run in my family, and I wanted to find a way to mitigate the risk of future medical issues. It didn't take long for me to learn about the ethical realities of consuming and the overarching global sustainability issues of factory farming and excessive meat consumption." — Tebben G. (over 2 years)
"I was encouraged by my wife to watch Forks over Knives with her. Since high cholesterol and diabetes are "family traits", I decided that I wanted to lower my odds of contracting a degenerative illness. And the whole cancer thing is just flat-out unappealing." — Jake H. (about 6 months)
HH: How have you handled social situations?
"Eat something before going, in case the options are meager. Offer to bring food if the occasion is at someone's house." — Michael M. (almost 2 years)
"Social situations are tough. Only 1 of my guy friends is plant based. The others do tease at times. I just try and ignore it. Sometimes I throw in a plant based fact or explain why it is not logical or fair to eat animals and destroy the environment, but I try my best not to push my views on others." — Matt B. (4 years)
"I'm honest in social situations with my friends. Most of them love that I make delicious plant based food (many Happy Herbivore recipes) and can't wait to try something new. When going out, I try to plan ahead by looking at menus to see what options are going to be available for me." — Jeremy C. (3 years)
"I play on a softball team, and we go to a sports bar/restaurant after our games. When I first went vegan, I took a lot of heat about it, but my comeback was, 'I just gave up meat and dairy, not alcohol!' Now, it's no big deal. They order wings, and I eat the celery or order a veggie burger." — Chris R. (2 years)
"Some social situations are difficult, however I always find something to eat, even if its white pasta (not ideal) and a plain salad. I will usually eat prior to a function if I don't know what the menu is." — Ismael A. (1.5 years)
"I am a disciple, a Jedi, if you will. I put others before myself, selfless. I won't raise the issue, but often if someone is complaining about health, or discussing eating, and I feel it is appropriate to enter the conversation, I speak the truth." — Jim S. (7 years)
"Social situations can be awkward with new people because people start to notice that I'm the only one not eating. Or if I am eating, it ends up being a side dish rather than an entree. Sometimes a conversation starts up about why I'm not eating and it comes out that I'm vegan. More often than not, the other party feels guilty or apologetic that I'm not able to order anything. I'm also a non-drinker and I have gotten crap for that far more often than I've ever heard anyone say anything about my veganism." — Sean O. (12 years)
"I am proud to be vegan so if we are headed to a social situation I will bring a vegan dish with me or eat beforehand." — Steve G. (8 years)
HH: Have you received any teasing or flack from other men? If so, how did you handle it?
"I have more men actually coming to me saying, what have you done? It's pretty sweet. I'm 50, and my body looks 30." — James B. (2 years)
"I've definitely encountered teasing/flack for being plant-based. I have co-workers, both male and female, who constantly tease me for not being a 'real man' for not eating meat. In these instances I do my best to diffuse the situation and explain that what I eat works for me. Additionally, my father-in-law, grandparents and brother-in-law also are of the opinion that it isn’t 'manly' to not eat meat. They think something is wrong that I don’t eat meat or dairy. This past weekend, my father-in-law told me he hasn’t seen me eat 'real' food in months. Rather than rock the boat, I smiled and continued cooking my kale." — Jonathan A. (5 months)
"I feel that I am actually more judgmental of those who are not plant based. I see someone eating a hamburger and wonder if they know where the meat came from, what it is doing to their body, if they even taste anything or are just eating it because it is what is 'normal' etc..." — Michael F. (1 year)
"I make my living using tools and as a result very rarely have clean hands. Most of my wardrobe is Carhartt carpenter pants and Dickies work shirts. At 6 feet tall and over 200 lbs. and covered with tattoos, I think I probably fit the "manly" image in a lot of ways. But, I don't own a car, can't drive stick, and shave my legs and wear lycra and ride a road racing bicycle, so 'manly' isn't really important to me. Over the years I've worked with some 'manly' men who wanted to rattle my cage by poking at my dietary choices. I usually just ignored them and they got bored and got over it. Honestly though, most of my closest male friends are also vegan. I'm sure this is a real exception, but coming up from a punk rock background, I've got a lot of very tattooed, very athletic guy friends who are fully on board with the lifestyle. I think we break up some of the stereotypes people have about vegans." — Sean O. (12 years)
"All the time. I just point out that I know my body better than anyone. And a plant-based diet has been working very well for me. I'm 57 and in great health." — Jimmy B. (5 years)
"I was commuting with a group of buddies recently when the last guy got into the car. He greeted us this way, 'Hello men. Hello vegan.'” — Aaron W. (18 months) [Editorial Note: Maybe it was a Seinfeld joke? ;)]
"There are a couple guys I work with (in commercial offshore diving) that have tried to offer me money to eat meat, $50 for a couple chicken wings, even $100 for a steak. They are convinced that one of these days they will make me an offer I won't refuse." — Tobias S. (1.5 years)
"Being retired and living in a very small town, the subject doesn't come up too often, but I have not had a single negative comment from the men I have discussed it with, including some young guys." — John B. (1.75 years)
"I have been teased by other men quite a bit. I've been asked if I am 'turning fag,' if I am becoming a hippie. Teased for eating 'rabbit food.' I've been teased that if I don't eat meat, I won't be able to perform sexually.. etc. It is the only thing I have ever been bullied about as an adult, and it is always pointed toward tearing down my masculinity in some way." — C.B. (1 year)
"I've received a few comments but generally am able to answer in a way that doesn't create tension or a defensive reaction from the other person. I also provide my health reasons and the positive outcomes I've experienced. That often piques the other's interest because of their own health concerns. If someone is obnoxious, I ignore them." — Michael M. (almost 2 years)
"I get flack from men and women alike. How do I handle it? I normally say something like, "well, let's see which one of us can run the farthest, and we will see who's diet works best." That usually works." — Jeff (7 years)
"I initially received flack from my co-workers, but since I have lost a significant amount of weight, they have backed down." — Marcus F. (9 months)
"Real men aren't afraid of bullies who tease and taunt, and it's easier to be brave when you have been eating the right food." — Jim S. (7 years)
"Initially I got a lot of 'ball' busting from the guys at work but when they took the time to learn about it, saw the weight I lost and looked at my blood work numbers, they stopped. It has since inspired much healthier eating habits — though not plant based for most, it is still much healthier." — David D. (18 months)
"Any negative response I get doesn't bother me. I try to show them the positives of eating this way without attacking their diet. I've noticed a lot of people get defensive when I tell them that I'm vegan. I feel they automatically assume I'm judging them for not being vegan. My wife's family also likes to tease me but it doesn't do much good because I'm more fit and healthier than all of them. I know it and they know it. But, I try to keep cooking a variety of dishes hoping they will see that there are advantages to eating this way. I think teasing mostly comes from their own insecurities about their own diet." — Patrick C (2+ yrs)
"I catch flack from the guys at work on an almost daily basis, but no more than anyone else. Being 'The Vegan' in the office makes me an easy target, but it also limits the jokes to once topic. I also try to turn every joke into PSA on the benefits of plant-eating. It is very common in our office for a quick vegan joke to turn into an entire conversation about healthy eating. Every joke or jab is an opportunity for enlightenment!" — Tebben G. (2+ years)
HH: I find people regularly assume my husband is not vegan/plant-based, even though I am. They automatically assume we cook separate meals and he eats meat/dairy, etc. — have you had this experience or anything like it?
"I am often asked if my wife 'made me stop eating meat.' I always explain that I never once felt pressured to change my eating, even now. She only asked that I use a separate pan for cooking meat. My wife had been vegetarian for years." — Tebben G. (2+ years)
"I think my wife gets that more than I do. She tells me that people from her work can't believe that I don't eat meat or dairy." — Patrick C. (2 years)
"I get asked all the time, 'is your wife vegan too?' or 'are your kids vegan?' and 'did you force them into it?' We all became vegan/plant strong at the same time and it wasn't difficult at all for any of us. I think if it were reversed, I would have assumed the spouse and kids were vegan also, not the opposite." — Tobias S. (1.5 years)
"This past weekend I took my girlfriend to a veg-friendly restaurant that I frequent enough that the staff knows me and that I am vegan. When they brought us our breakfast, they served hers with whipped butter and mine with Earth Balance without asking. I was quite disappointed that they assumed that she was not vegan. Ironically, she is not, but it was just odd they didn't think to ask knowing that I am." — Neil F. (vegan 13 years, vegetarian 3 years)
"Because I am male, the question I often get is “is you wife also doing it?” I think it surprises them when I tell them it was my idea to begin a plant-based diet." — Jonathan A. (5 months)
"Many people ask my wife '...and your husband is vegan too?' I have been asked when she's not around if I cheat. It makes me laugh. In fact, it was I who brought the idea to my wife. Melissa later told me she thought it was a bit crazy." — Kyle D. (2 years)
"I've had the same thing happen to me. People ask if my girlfriend is also vegan or they show surprise when they find out she is as well. I always sort of wondered if people thought she had pushed it on me." — Sean O. (12 years)
HH: Were you worried people (particularly other men) would view you differently if you ate plant-based/became vegan?
"I did not, but partly because of the way I eased into it. I didn't realize the impact it would have on my social/work life." — Tebben G. (2+ years)
"A lot of my 'tough' guy friends always ask me about what 'it's' like and tell me about their meat consumption reductions in private. I feel like they are definitely interested, just worried about their masculine identity." — Josh L. (2.5 years)
"People in the fitness world are looking for any type of advantage. It's becoming more and more acceptable with many role model athletes adopting a plant based lifestyle. I was never worried of what people thought of me and I've had the opportunity to meet many amazing people in this journey." — Jeremy C. (3 years)
"I’m from New Jersey, I could care less what people think of me." — Steve G.(8 years)
"I didn't really think much about it at the time I changed my diet. I believe strongly in it, so I find ways to block out the noise. For the most part, the men who are closest to me understand and respect my choice." — Matt B. (4 years)
"Not at all. Being worried about what others thought about me was one of the reasons I almost weighed 400 pounds. To lose the weight, I had to stop worrying about what others thought and focus on what truly mattered to me. I used to avoid the gym because I was so worried about what people would think or say. I did not want to be the fat guy at the gym that people were talking about or mocking." — Patrick C. (2 years)
"I didn't worry about being considered a wimp or unmanly by becoming plant-based. I also think it helps that many people have special dietary needs nowadays, such as gluten free, low carb, etc." — Chris R. (2 years)
"Most people think it is a phase and will not last." — Matt B. (4 years)
HH: Do you feel you are judged for not eating "manly foods"?
"Certainly. I am very aware of the responses I get when people find out I am vegan. Being in the military, there is definitely an expectation of "manliness" when it comes to food choices. Luckily, people are really coming around as younger generations become more health conscious." — Tebben G. (2+ years)
"No. Have never felt that way." — Aaron W. (18 months)
"Yes. I also get judged for how I used to eat. Did you know that no one ever changes?! I try to explain to people that it is like an awakening. I didn't know the things I ate before caused harm to the animals, environment, and (most importantly) myself. That being said, no one looks at Tofu as a 'manly food.' However since being vegan, I have run four marathons. That's pretty manly." — Kyle D. (2 years)
"I am absolutely judged when people first meet me or by people who don't really know me. People tend to assume I am or have effeminate characteristics, because I don't eat meat." — Josh L. (2.5 years)
"I don’t feel judged for not eating meat or manly foods, just misunderstood. There is a lot of ignorance out there." — Shawn H. (4 years)
"Don’t really care. I will go visit them when they are in the hospital after their heart attack to say 'Hi.'" — Marcus F. (9 months)
"To be honest, I couldn't care less. I made the change for me and my family. I eat kale, they take Lipitor." — David D. (18 months)
"I have had a couple friends take a vegan diet on, because they see how it has positively affected my life, it has lowered my blood pressure, cholesterol and I have lost about 50 lbs." — Josh L. (2.5 years)
"Yes, but their judgment usually turns to confusion because they just can't believe I would eat a HUGE salad or a plate of steamed vegetables for a meal. That said, because I have been plant-based for two years, there are times that I feel like people are waiting for me to slip up. It's almost as if somehow they will feel better if I just give in and have a cheeseburger." — Patrick C. (2 years)
"Yes, especially since we live in the south." — Steve G. (8 years)
"Yes, sometimes. I was sensitive to it at first and tried to keep it a secret as much as I could. However, after a couple of months, I found that speaking up made me feel a heck of a lot manlier than being sheepish." — C.B. (1 year)
"Taking care of myself, and ultimately my family, is more manly than eating steak. Being able to make my own decisions and control what I eat is more 'manly' than eating meat." — Jeff F. (1 year)
"I grew up in the south where foods are often fried and you’re not a man if you don’t eat a lot, and eat often." — Jonathan A. (5 months)
"People are going to have their own opinions. I perform at a high level and people respect my level of fitness and they want to know how I can perform at a high level. The overriding truth is that the standard American diet is providing such a poor quality of living that I would be a lousy human being if I didn't say something." — Jeremy A. (3 years)
HH: Are you married/in a relationship? If so, is your partner vegan/plant-based? If so, were they a motivating factor? If not, how do you make it work?
Married; Jointly Vegan
"Yes, happily married. I was the one to state my intentions to give up meat and my wife (an RN, candidate for her PhD) had no problems in joining me." — John B. (1.75 yrs)
"Both my wife and I are vegan, and we made the transition together. Also our children are vegan." — Marcus F. (9 months)
"Melissa, my wife, is vegan. She was motivating because she goes into everything full steam ahead — even when she isn't fully into the idea. She went about finding cookbooks, including the Happy Herbivore, and made delicious food for us. " — Kyle D. (2 years)
"Married. We started at the same time as plant-based low/no oil vegans. It works because we incorporated it into our lives the way other dimensions of our relationship work. We both cook. We shop together. It is fun and makes up a major part of how we enjoy our time with each other." — Michael M. (almost 2 years)
"My wife and I are both vegan so it makes things a lot easier." — Ismael A. (1.5 years)
"Married. My wife actually got me started on the plant-based lifestyle and she is awesome for doing so. We both started it together." — Jonathan N. (1 year)
"Married 24 yrs. We made the plunge together. Her support is what made it possible, because only for her would I have continued to eat animals knowing it was the wrong course for me. Fortunately, she didn't force me to make that decision." — C.B. (1 year)
"My wife started eating plant-based when I did, but has since returned to dairy, eggs, and fish on a limited basis. We will make foods that we are going to eat together, and then she might cook up some fish for herself." — Aaron W. (18 months)
"Married. My wife is vegan 90% of the time when we're eating together. She is only vegan about 50% of the time when she is at work. It doesn't bother me. She doesn't completely agree with all of my choices (re: oils); but she agrees it is easier to only cook one thing for dinner. She loves the Happy Herbivore cookbooks." — Don
"I am married. My partner is about 80% plant based. She occasionally eats seafood. We were together before we began our journey to plant based nutrition. I let her walk her own journey." — Jeremy C. (3 years)
"I'm married. She is plant-based and cheats on occasion to enjoy some macaroni & cheese. I was the person in the relationship that decided to go plant-based and she went along with it. She was willing to try it out with me and seems to really enjoy the way we eat now." — Patrick C. (2 years)
"My wife is now plant based but I did spend most of my time as being a plant based eater cooking 3 different meals for my wife, my son, and I." — David D. (18 months)
"I have been married for almost 16 years, and we have been together for almost 22 years. At this point, and since I do almost all of the cooking, she just deals with it." — Jeff F. (7 years)
"I've been with my omnivore partner for 14 years. I cook so if he wants to eat, he eats what I cook. I will on occasion go to a restaurant where he can get meat. He eats it but states after the meal how gross he feels. He's coming around to being vegan, he just needs his own time." — H. (2.5 yrs)
"My wife will occasionally eat cheese/items made with milk/eggs (I refuse)." - Michael F. (1 year)
"Divorced but my ex (not vegan) is totally a motivating factor. She is always sick and I'm always healthy with a ton of energy. Acceptance of contrast goes a long way, but eventually only so far. Because we have kids, I am passionate about being the example." — James B. (2 years)
"I'm currently separated but I would like to date vegan/plant-based women when I'm back on the market. My soon-to-be ex-wife is not vegan. In fact, she's Brazilian and a self-proclaimed carnivore. When we cooked together, we joked that I ate the side dishes and she ate the meat." — Chris R. (2 years)
"I was married for 11 years... she was vegetarian when I met her and we became vegan at about the same time. I have been divorced for several years and she is no longer vegetarian, which is quite surprising. Post marriage I dated someone who was mostly vegetarian when we met and then became vegan a few months after we met. We are no longer dating but she is still vegan and plans to stay. Currently I am dating an avid meat eater and am finding it more challenging than I thought. Guess I had it easy for too long!" — Neil F. (vegan 13 years, vegetarian 3 years)
HH: If you are single, how do you manage dating? Do you try to date potential mates who are vegan/plant-based?
"I am currently not in a relationship, but I have dated both vegans and non-vegans. I am open to dating anyone as long as they accept me, but I believe that issue to be bigger than diet." — Josh L. (2.5 years)
"I'm not married or in a relationship. I have found that eating plant based narrows the dating pool a bit. I try my best to date women that are plant based, but it does make meeting people harder. I think this has a lot to do with my location though." — Matt B. (4 years)
"When I was single, I tried to date vegan women. It didn't work out too well." — Don
"I was in a relationship until a few months ago. She is not vegan, but more pescatarian. She was supportive and fine eating vegan, or accommodating, and I didn't judge her for wanting to eat seafood, and her occasional eggs and dairy. Dating someone who is vegan and compatible would be awesome." — Larry H. (2.5 years)
"I'm not single but if I was, someone who was into a plant based diet would be a high priority for me as plant based nutrition is a huge part of my lifestyle. Dates would be at the local vegetarian and vegan establishments." — Jeremy C. (3 years)
"No, I date meat eaters. But I draw the line at allowing meat or dairy in my home. They can eat what ever they want outside my home." — Jimmy B. (5 years)
"My girlfriend of 2 1/2 years is not vegan. Originally, she said if I went vegan she would dump me (jokingly, I hope). 1 year later we are still together, I'm still vegan, and she eats mostly vegan food when we are together. It has not really affected our relationship, but we do have different opinions on how we would raise our potential future kids." — Jeff W. (18 months)
"My girlfriend is also vegan, though she was not vegan when we met. She always respected my choices and I never lectured her or tried to make her feel guilty. Prior to this relationship, I dated a bit as a vegan. I never bothered to screen based on that, but I always issued a disclaimer when were in the process of trying to arrange a date. I wouldn't want to spring that on someone and put them in an awkward spot. Most of my dates were very respectful of my choices and most wanted to try to find some new place I hadn't tried that could accomodate my choices. I never had a serious relationship with a non-vegan. I would imagine that it would be a difficult thing to sustain. I like that I can eat anything in my house without bothering to look at a label." — Sean O. (12 years)
Thanks, amazing plant-based guys for sharing your thoughts and photos! This post couldn't contain all of the greatness, so be on the lookout for Part 2 later in the week!