Movember occurs annually during the month of November. While most know it as the time of year where men give up shaving and grow a mustache or beard, the real reason for Movember is to raise awareness of men's health issues and support men's health (https://us.movember.com).
From a dietitian’s perspective, there’s a lot of work to increase healthy and balanced behaviors when it comes to men and their relationships with food and their bodies. There is so much conflicting nutrition information as well as stigma when it comes to men looking after their own health. When you break down how food is even marketed to men, there are differences when targeting different genders. The cultural description of a "man's diet" is limited to animal proteins, protein drinks, occasional vegetables, and alcohols such as beer and dark liquor. Words like "manly" and "hearty" are used to describe food products for men.
Even when you look at the way men's health is promoted in this country as a whole, men's well being is summed up by being strong, as having rock hard abs and finding more ways to gain muscle.
According to the 2015-2020 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a balanced diet for men includes:
• At least 2 cups of fruits and 2½ cups of vegetables each day for vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals
• Whole grains. Eat at least half of all grains as whole grains each day, such as whole-grain bread, cereal, pasta, brown rice or oats
• At least 38 grams of fiber per day for men under age 50, and 30 grams of fiber per day for men older than 50
• 3,400 milligrams a of potassium per day
• Adequate calories THROUGHOUT the day to meet unique nutritional needs
• More than Meat: a variety of protein foods, including plant-based sources, like beans, peas and soy products. The “Meat is Manly” stereotype needs to change. Meat is meat. It’s 2020
• Prioritization of unsaturated fats by incorporating foods such as olive oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds and avocados
Read more about the 2015-2020 US Dietary Guidelines for Americans here: https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2019-05/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf
Contrary to popular belief, men are more than just strength and muscles. Men are not hearing the messages that they are whole beings and require whole body nourishment. They are not being taught how to implement healthy behaviors for their minds, bodies and souls. Some tips to help men get started in building balanced eating habits include:
• Eating a balanced breakfast daily.
• Eating mindfully without distractions when possible.
• Practicing listening to your body and hunger/fullness cues.
• Enjoying meals with others, and not in front of the TV or other devices.
• Making water your main drink and drinking alcohol moderately. Excessive alcohol is normalized but puts men at particularly increased risk of several chronic diseases.
The constricting gender role that men are “the providers” often leads men to put their health on the back burner. Other stereotypes include needing to appear tough and invincible, rather than tending to their health with compassion. While this is an aspect of culture that is work in it of itself to deconstruct, both women AND MEN cannot pour from an empty cup. Men are humans that need support for optimal health and quality of life.
Consider working with a dietitian to develop healthy habits that will last for the long run!