June 14, 2013
Meet Our Plant-Based (Vegan) Guys: A Look at Men's Perspective & Experience (Part 2)
We're closing in on Father's Day and continuing this week's focus on the awesome plant-based men in our community! This is the second part in my interviews with these fantastic plant-based fellas, who share their experiences so honestly (you didn't miss Part 1, did you?).
[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!]
HH: Any advice for other men new to or looking to fall into a plant-based/vegan diet?
"Only one. Do your own due diligence if you value your health and lifespan and make up your own mind based on scientific research, not on popular misconceptions." — John B. (1.75 yrs)
"Do not start with meat and cheese alternatives! There are so many options at your typical restaurants that are currently on the menu and are not salads. Try these options for a week and see if you can do it. The best thing about a vegan diet and being a guy is that you can eat pretty much all you want (as long as it fits in your diet and isn't fried) and you won't gain weight. All my friends are jealous that I can eat all day long if I wanted and I don't gain weight. In my previous life, my weight would fluctuate each month depending on how much pizza I ate!" — Jeff W. (18 months)
"Find a good tailor. As an attorney that has a lot of suits, they all had to be taken in because you will lose weight." -—Jonathan A. (5 months)
"The cravings that you experience in the beginning do pass and they become easier to avoid." — Marcus F. (9 months)
"Just do it. I just think people think that it is so much harder than it really is. Also if you slip up .....SO WHAT...just start fresh right away and keep going. Also you will get plenty of protein. Go talk to elephants and gorillas if that worries you at all." — Brian D. (1.5 years)
"If you live in or near a major city, or have access to a farmer's market or produce delivery, it's a lot easier than you think. I honestly didn't think I would last as a vegan. But I'm fine without eating any animal-based products. I don't miss them, and the more I learn — the happier I am not to eat them. My health has improved tremendously." — Larry H. (2.5 years)
"This is by far the best way to get and stay healthy. Begin vegan forces you to avoid a lot of the greasy fast food that you probably want to avoid anyway. That being said, ease into it. Set achievable goals, progress gradually, experiment." — Tebben G. (2+ years)
"A plant-based diet is a lifestyle. Some people will be able to make the transition immediately and wholeheartedly. Others will need to make a series of small changes over time. Be willing to explore new foods." — Jeremy C. (3 years)
"Get plenty of recipes at first (I own all three Happy Herbivore cookbooks), clean out the cupboards and fridge — get rid of it all every speck of meat and animal products. Go food shopping and get plenty of fresh produce. Just keep going, every day, be like Dory from Nemo...Just keep swimming!" — Steve G. (8 years)
"A meal plan is a must as the Vegan processed food is not healthy. There are multiple resources available in order to make it easy." — Shawn H. (4 years)
"For those that take the logical approach: you'll feel better, food tastes better (most of it, anyway), and you'll look better. For the manly men: Gorillas don't eat meat. 'Nuff said." — Jake H. (6 months)
"Think about the reasons you want to be plant-based and remind yourself of those every time someone rattles your cage." - Patrick C. (2 years)
"Do not believe what youy read in Muscle Fitness or see on TV. If you do your research, you'll see the science is crystal clear that a plant-based diet is by far the best diet for humans period." — Ismael A. (1.5 years)
"Also, don't think so much about what your're going to miss out on. Think about what you're going to gain and all the great foods you're going to be able to eat. There are plant-based, low-fat ways to make just about anything. I know men who take a lot of pride in the food they make and most of the time that food is centered around steak and a hot grill. Impress your friends by grilling some veggie kabobs and potatoes and stick some pineapple chunks on there for dessert. " — Jeremy W. (1 year)
"Don't be afraid! You would be surprised at the health benefits, direct and indirect that come from it. Our American culture of eating emotionally and attaching a notion or degree of masculinity to the types and quantities of food we eat is making us sick as well as shortening and degrading the quality of our lives. Don't be afraid to take bold and radical steps in how you eat. It's hard at first, don't think it won't be. But like a lot of things in life, it is so worth it." — Jonathan N. (1 year)
HH: Any funny or interesting stories to share?
"I recently waited in line for four hours at a local barbecue restaurant for my dad's birthday. It's a popular joint and you have to wait all day in a long line to be served. As you wait, the servers pass out samples. I turned down sample after sample and it wasn't until we were next in line that someone asked me why I wasn't sampling the barbecue. I told the woman that I don't eat meat. The look on her face was priceless. She was literally sad for me. She then assumed I would be eating the side dishes and I had to tell her that I wasn't going to eat anything because I'm vegan. She put her hand on my shoulder, tilted her head, and said, 'You're a good son.' It was a sweet moment. It was interesting being the lone vegan in a line for barbecue." — Patrick C. (2 years)
"I was engaged and we were a few months into the planning. My wife's mom wanted to buy us a cake from the bakery her other daughter got her cake from. She kinda threw a fit about the whole thing but did love the vegan cake we got. 1 1/2 years later she is vegan herself! Guess she liked the cake." — Kyle D. (2 yrs)
"We went to Medevial Times in California and when I asked for the vegetarian meal, the server put it in front of my wife and gave me the half a chicken — we just switched plates." — Ryan W. (6 years)
"I'll order a salad or veggie plate, my date will order meat/shellfish, and they'll bring our orders and put hers in front of me, and mine in front of her. The look on the servers' faces when I tell them it's a mistake is usually fun." — Larry H. (2.5 years)
"To tease me, my coworkers once gave me a bag of pork rinds for my birthday. I walked around the office offering them to the guys. Even they refused to eat them." — Don (6.5 years)
"I ordered a salad at a Friday's once (without chicken which it came with) and they got the order wrong 3 times. First it came with chicken, then it came back after just taking the chicken off, then it came with cheese on it. The fourth time they got it right, but still brought a side of cheese and dairy dressing!" — Matt B. (4 years)
"I also get a great kick out of how young people think I am. I am 41 years old and most people think I am in my late twenties or early thirties. It’s a great compliment and that allows my diet to explain itself." — Shawn H. (4 years)
"On St. Patrick's Day, I met a group of friends at an Irish pub, and we brought our kids along too. They had a special menu for the weekend, and the only vegan option was a salad that I ordered with no cheese. I went to check on the kids' activities outside, and when I came back to the table, one of my female friends said she sent my salad back. She said there was no way anyone ordered a salad with all of the fish and chips on the table!" — Chris R. (2 years)
"Last year for Halloween, I made 2 pumpkin pies because I was having a bunch of omnivores over for a party. One was 100% plant-based and one was made using a traditional pumpkin pie. At the end of the party, the plant-based pumpkin was completely gone and the traditional pumpkin pie had barely been touched." — Jeremy C.
"I was called into my oldest son’s school as they were concerned that he wasn’t 'eating enough' for lunch and breakfast. When in reality, he eats a huge bowl of oatmeal every morning, huge salads, carrots and two pieces of fruit at lunch and a hearty dinner. They told me that lettuce wasn’t enough. Needless to say, I was pissed. I explained to them gently that my son suffers from the same heart condition that killed his mother (hypotrophic cardiomyopathy) and a plant-based life style was the best for him. Later when I thought about it — so if I pumped my kid full of nitrate-laden cold cuts and let him drink liquid flesh (Rip’s term for milk) and eat processed chicken nuggets it would have been 'fine'?" — Steve G. (8 years)
HH: Any other thoughts or comments left unsaid?
"Real men and women cook with the Happy Herbivore." — Jim S. (7 years) [Editorial note: TRUTH! ;).]
"Identify why you are choosing to go plant-based and make sure you stick to your guns. My beliefs are very strong and that makes it a lot easier to stick with it. Also, make sure if it is something new that you give yourself enough time to let your body and taste buds change. I have found that I don't even crave meat or dairy anymore. It's just the opposite; I crave greens, fruits and vegetables. However, it took a while to get to that point. Eating vegan for a week won't work. You have to really commit to it." — Matt B. (4 years)
"There are many out there who have habitual/addictive tendencies and believe it or not, eating meat is one of those. Most don't realize that because they think it is just a part of normal life, what they are supposed to do. So getting them to realize they don't need it is not an easy task. I hear it all the time, 'I could never do that, I love (insert meat of choice here) too much'. I would tell them, if you can't do it cold, then break it down, divide and conquer." — Tobias S. (1.5 years)
"I have found that by saying that I eat "plant-based", people are much more interested in hearing more about what that means. I never tell people that I am vegan, or on a plant-based diet. It really seems that 'vegan' and 'diet' (even though I mean it as what I eat) have much more negative sounds to them. I also find that many more men are interested when saying plant based." — Michael F. (1 year)
"I find it hard for people to understand that this is not something that I am doing until I reach the body weight that I want to achieve. This is a lifestyle that I hope to continue until I die. They treat it as it is a diet 'fad' that I am on for the time being." — Marcus F. (9 months)
"When people find out I am vegan, they ask the most common question vegans get, 'Where do you get your protein?' This leads to some great conversations, and allows me an opportunity to teach a little about food in the world today." — Aaron W. (18 months)
"I thought veganism may negatively impact my exercise regimen, because of all the protein brainwashing that goes on, but I have found that I recover faster than before and my endurance is through the roof." — Josh L. (2.5 years) [Editorial Note: Several of the guys made a comment like this one in their interview].
"Bottom line: as a lover of the outdoors, Mother Nature, and all the sights, sounds, and physical opportunities offered, those pleasures are more important to me than the brief gustatory pleasures of pork or fish, my two ex-favorites." — John B. (1.75 years)
"If you give them a personal 'hook,' I think they are more likely to try it. Also a few examples of 'manly' men who are vegans might help those who aren't as secure in their manliness;) Personal hooks can be health issues (get off cholesterol meds, lower high blood pressure, lose weight, etc.) Vanity works — a person who is healthy looks better. Sex — better blood flow improves sexual performance :) Energy — more energy and better sleep. The list is practically endless!" — Michael M. (almost 2 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." — Jeremy C. (3 years)
" Remember the typical American diet does not have to be typical. We are all responsible for our own health and well being. Not the Medical industry. Yes, Industry. In this economic recession, look at the hospitals in your area and ask yourself, 'Are they showing signs of a recession?' The medical industry does not want America to get healthy, no money in it." — Marcus F. (1 year) [Editorial Note: Be your own advocate!]
"I found that I don't have to work out as much to maintain the same level of fitness. My weight hasn't fluctuated more than three pounds in 2 years." — Tebben G. (2+ yrs)
"Food is like politics and religion to people. I've found that initially I had to choose my words very carefully when discussing my 'diet.' If anyone perceives the slightest 'You should do this too,' they get hyper-defensive of their own 'diet.' The strongest reactions I've seen can be attributed to lack of knowledge on the subject. 'You can't get enough protein eating that stuff; you gotta eat your meat.'" — Jake H. (about 6 months)
"It’s an incredibly filling diet. I used to scrounge around the office looking for snacks in between meals. Now, I eat a solid breakfast, lunch and dinner and I am usually full for 4-5 hours after eating. My productivity has soared since becoming plant-based." — Jonathan A. (5 months)
"Ultimately, I think this sort of side by side respectful eating with friends has done more to sell plant-based to the people in my life. I'm clearly healthy and thriving after over a decade of eating like this. When my coworkers see me bring in some tasty varied lunch every day while they go get a burrito or a slice of pizza, it gets them to think about choices. I really think I've opened more minds like this than I ever did by arguing." — Sean O. (12 years)
"My wife likes to explain to her friends and others that she appreciates the fact that vegan men have higher levels of testosterone..." — Jeff F. (7 years)
HH: Lastly, is there anything partners can do (especially women partners) to convince our men that eating plant-based and being compassionate is super sexy?
"Advice? It will rock your sex world. Since becoming plant-based, our sex life has gone from 'normal' to 'I really need to get some sleep tonight, okay?' Probably TMI, but I think that alone should sell men above anything else." — Jonathan A. (5 months)
"I like to talk about the health benefits of going plant strong. About preventing or reversing the Western diseases that ravage our bodies. That seems to have more of an effect on most men as opposed to how animals are treated or what it does to our planet. Hit them where it could hurt the worst to make them realize the extremes." — Tobias S. (1.5 years)
"Man, it is so sexy!!!! I keep saying, people will see it and gravitate to you because one is exuding life, there is nothing better than feeling good, how sexy is that?" — James B. (2 years)
"Your penis will be harder (sorry to be so brash but ED is the first sign of cardiovascular disease and a vegan diet will correct this)" — Brian D. (1.5 years)
"As they get rid of illness or symptoms, or get sexier and more energetic, it may inspire the partner — especially if they get sexier, right? Lead by example. Buy them a book. If they won't read it, read it and then slip them the information when you can, if they are not very receptive. Gift them with a McDougall weekend, or 5- or 10-day trip if you can." — Jim S. (7 years)
"People are driven by the idea of being attractive or appealing, whether it be physical, mentally stimulating or something else. Find what drives your partner and show them how veganism can help them achieve what drives them. My driving force is health; keeping a sharp mind and fit body in my later years." — Josh L. (2.5 years)
"Remind us that kindness is more attractive than brutality. Tell us that courage to walk one's own path is extremely masculine, and that you are proud of us when we do take leadership over other men by standing up for the right thing, even when it isn't popular. Following isn't very sexy at all. Then of course, there are little things that only a partner can do, like when my wife nuzzles up against my neck and tells me how good I smell now, which she does frequently. She wants to be physical in every way more often than when we were omnivores, and that doesn't hurt. Love and gentleness, pumping up our ego about our strength (emotional or physical), and about our sexual attractiveness and abilities. Just let us know that you are proud to stand beside us." — C.B.
"Being plant-based does clean out the blood and muscles for more blood flow and energy, so..." — Tobias S. (1.5 years)
"Comment/discuss health improvement, such as smoother and more attractive skin, tighter and trimmer body. Tell him he is looking good and she finds him even more attractive than before. Give compliments. All these comments work both ways. He (if he is the one going vegan first) can do the same things to help her give veganism a try. Once both are on-board, continue to extol the virtues and positive changes they are notice in themselves and each other." — Michael M. (almost 2 years)
"A straight-up honest conversation would be a great starting point. Guys tend to like to be told things directly. From there, women can encourage any efforts he may take to move toward plant-based eating. Appreciate the efforts being made. Make helpful suggestions to set him up for success. If you're in charge of the shopping, stock the refrigerator and pantries with plant foods. Make it an adventure that the two of you can share." — Jeremy C. (3 years)
"I think the key is to be supportive and help educate him. Teach him about factory farming and the problems associated with the food pyramid and the Standard American Diet. Information is knowledge. Stroke his ego a bit too, and tell him that he smells better and tastes better when you kiss him. Watch Forks Over Knives with him, and make sure he gets the connection between a plant-based diet and 'raising the flag.' Nothing gets our attention like talking about our penis and sex! As The Doors sang, 'girl you gotta love your man, take him by the hand, make him understand, the world on you depends, our life will never end.'" — Chris R. (2 years)
"Have them check out veganbodybuilding.com. That's usually is an eye opener for most men. Also, learn to cook some killer vegan dishes. Men don't want to live on salads. If you can give men really good tasting vegan food, they may see that not only are they going to feel great, they are going to eat even more than before with the food tasting really good." — Ismael A. (1.5 years)
"Use this article, '5 Reasons Why Vegans Have Better Sex' — that with get his attention." — Marcus F. (9 months)
"You can't convince a man to do anything he doesn't really want to do. The results of a plant-based diet are super sexy. Just provide positive feedback along the way. Pinch his butt now and then to let him know you notice." — Don (6.5 years)
"Guys are very competitive, get them to try it for a week and reward them :)" — Jeff W. (18 months)
"Just be encouraging. Don't nag about how bad meat is; just make a couple of really tasty vegan dishes. My wife was encouraging and brought up interesting things she'd read about, but never scolded me for eating meat. Mention some well known macho plant-based celebrities." — Tebben G. (2+years)
Editorial closing notes and observations --- food / work / workplace
Several of the guys have jobs (police officers, EMT, fire fighters, military, offshore, etc.) that required them to be out working for several hours and the option of "taking a brown bag lunch" was out of the question.
Most of the guys said they could typically make do with what they had access to, could wait until they got home or back to "the office" to eat, or they were good about shoving snacks in their uniforms, but in extreme situations have had to eat something that wasn't plant-based. A few had vegetarian food (i.e., eggs or cheese) or fish, but all emphasized this was a rare exception, not a routine one. Usually it occurred during an emergency or other event that was out of the norm for them.
Tobias is regularly "out to sea" for weeks at a time, and here is what he does:
"I have been working offshore as a diver/tender for almost two years now and our catering isn't that great. They put meat or meat products in everything, bacon in the rice, sausages in the greens etc... After becoming plant strong, I realized that wouldn't work very well, so I bought some canned goods to take offshore with me. I now have an extra bag I take with me dedicated to food. A variety of canned beans, sometimes canned or tetra-packed soups. Barilla makes a good whole-wheat penne pasta and sauce meal that is microwavable; Koyo ramen is vegan and easy. I usually bring a couple tetra-boxes of Mori-Nu tofu since it is shelf stable. Minute has the ready-to-serve rice cups (brown rice, brown and wild rice and multi-grain) — they are good and easy. Edward and Sons miso soup packets, which are great after a cold dive in cold water during winter. I usually take one or two shelf-stable milks as well for the first week.
After that, I ask the galley steward to order me a couple half gallons of Silk soy milk every week as well as fresh jalapenos and avocados. Since they are supposed to be supplying all of us with food, it is allowed. I can also raid their pantry and get potatoes for baking, canned goods or dry goods if I have time to make them. I am usually out on a job anywhere from 3 weeks to 7 weeks, so when I need to replenish my food stores, I order through Vitacost, which gets shipped to our companies dispatch, who in turn sends it out to me via a supply boat. It's not that bad really — I do spend money where most everyone else gets their food for free, but that is okay with me. I would rather spend the money and eat healthier than go back to eating meat."
Tebben is in the military and sometimes is "out in the field" for weeks at a time. Here is what he does:
"I try my very best to stick to a 100% plant-based diet, but I do consider myself a 'practical vegan.' Being in the military, I am often faced with situations in which food options are limited. Normally, I can make due for short periods, but I will not sacrifice my health for principles. While I was deployed to Iraq, good sources of plant-based protein were in short supply. I could feel that I was not getting the nutrients my body needed on such a limited menu, so I began eating fish once a week."
I also asked all the guys if they knew of any vegan products for men or where men could find things like vegan belts. Not everyone that eats a plant-based diet is vegan and eschews animal products like leather, but I wanted to compile a list all the same for this series.
Payless and Target were recommended several times over, as both retailers sell shoes and belts for men (and women) that are made from manmade materials. Other retailers include Zappos, Shoebacca and Moo Shoes.
Chris. R. introduced me to English Retreads, which are made of upcycled inner tubes from truck and bicycle tires!
"I found that I really love Crocs LOL!" — Steve G. (8 years)
The "personal care" section of health food stores like Whole Foods Market is always a great place for men (and women) to find personal care products that are vegan.
"Some of my favorites are Whole Foods 365 Brand shampoo, conditioner, and liquid hand soap, Nature's Gate body wash/liquid soap, Kiss My Face bar soap and sunblock, Alba Botanica Very Emollient cream shave, Natural Grooming deodorant, Hugo Naturals hair styling gel, and Natural Dentist toothpaste and mouth rinse. There are many options out there if you look beyond the traditional brands." — Chris R. (2 years)
"Dr. Bronner's soap is vegan and incredibly versatile. Their shaving soap is the best shaving cream/gel/oil/soap I've ever used. I've found vegan shoes and belts at Target. There is no reason to spend $200 just to get vegan footwear." — Tebben G. (2+years)
"From my wife — We shop at vegan stores online, like veganessentials.com (for instance, the safety boots we bought for Yuma are vegan and your cross-training shoes are from New Balance, all man-made material, from Zappos) or personal care products from our local food co-op that carries many cruelty-free products, or stores like Whole Foods (for instance, you're using a shaving cream from Kiss My Face, Jason shower gel, shampoo and conditioner from 365 Everyday Value, Whole Foods Market store Brand)." — Jim S. (7 years... and his wife!)
"PETA offers a pretty comprehensive list of brands/retailers, which should be a good starting point of reference. My favorite shaving cream is made by Kiss My Face and my favorite training shoes are by Saucony." — Frank D. (8 years)
"I recently tried Herban Cowboy cologne and it is great.. and my girlfriend thinks so too!" — Neil F. (vegan 13 years, vegetarian 3 years)
"I bought an electric shaver, so I no longer have to worry about shaving cream. My wallet is made from bamboo and was purchased from thevegancollection.com." — Kyle D. (2 years)
Thank you so much for your wonderful responses, guys! I so appreciate your honesty and personal perspectives.
What about you, Herbies? Tell me about the plant-based man in your life in the comments. And have a Happy Father's Day weekend!