Sunday, July 21, 2013

Calorie Crunching Masculinity

2010-10-30 19:30 Juanyo 800×357; English Wikipedia
When you picture a man, the image of someone who watches what they eat, tracks his calories and avoids processed foods is probably not the first thing that comes to mind.  Sure, a man's man could be overweight or fit and muscular, but in neither case is it something with which he would stereotypically concern himself.  Sure a man might sport a beer belly, but he's not ashamed or self conscious about it.  After all, he earned it through eating manly things and drinking Guinness.   The fit man is either young or just genetically blessed, because although he engages in plenty of manly sporting activities, it's not something he consciously thinks about.  He might eat vegetables if his mother or wife makes them as part of dinner, but if it were up to him he would use the grill to fire up steak, hamburgers and potatoes for every meal.
This pseudo romantic, unrealistic image has begun to lose it's luster in the past couple of decades.  More and more men are getting manicures and pedicures, using loofah sponges, and waxing their chests.  More and more men are becoming increasingly more interested in fashion and beauty products and practicing yoga and Pilates rather than jogging and playing sports.  Men are becoming less proud of their beer bellies and more self conscious of how they look, but at the same time aren't doing what needs to be done to change for better health and longevity.
No one should feel self conscious about themselves and having poor self esteme because you don't look like Brad Pitt in Troy isn't going to get you anywhere.  After all, if you think Brad Pitt behaves in regard to diet and exercise like the man's man I described in the first paragraph, you would be wrong.  In fact he spent 11 months of eating a meticulously engineered diet and working out hours each day to reach that level of fitness; not exactly something most of us have the ability, time or money to accomplish.  That being said, I have no intention of shaving my chest or going to a beauty salon to try and achieve a better look or working out eight hours a day for that matter.  But what I would like to do is have a healthier, longer life and a little self awareness isn't unmanly.  In fact, being self aware is an attribute that should be central to every man's life.
Ignoring simple facts, something men tend to be pretty good at, is just plain stupid.  That beer belly or extra 20, 30, 40 pounds puts you in a high risk category for a number of manly diseases, including type II diabetes, high rates of cancer, and heart disease; the latter still being the number one killer of the male gender.  It certainly might seem heroic and noble to die young trying to save a baby from a burning building or fighting for your country, but there is nothing heroic about not being there to give your daughter away at her wedding or play with your grandkids because you were too lazy to get your ass off the couch and eat a few vegetables.
Those manly figures we look up to from the Greatest Generation that lived into there 90's who ate bacon and eggs every morning and never "watched what they ate," also had a distinct advantage over you and me.  While their diet might not have looked great on the surface, it was almost entirely made up of real, unprocessed, home cooked food.  Mashed potatoes were made with actual potatoes.  Meat came from organic cows and were grass-fed because un-organic and genetically engineered didn't even exist.  Their bodies weren't bombarded with chemicals.  And on top of that, they moved.  They worked with their hands.  They walked places.  They moved while they worked.  They exercised on a daily basis because that was life and they didn't have to watch what they ate because their food had yet to be poisoned by manufacturing processes.
I like to think that there are lessons to be learned from all these examples, whether you are a no frills, no fuss man's man or a more new aged guy who is comfortable embracing a more GQ, high maintenance lifestyle. 
The first is in regard to expectations.  Unless you are independently wealthy and have hours daily to devote to your muscle tone and fat percentage, you aren't going to look like Brad Pitt.  You can certainly get a lot closer over the course of years with a healthy lifestyle, but Brad Pitt isn't who you should be striving to look like anyway.  You, in great health is the goal you should be working toward.  Longevity, lack of illness and disease, strength and endurance should be your success markers.
Second, watching what you eat isn't unmanly; it's smart.  The two, despite what your wife or girlfriend might tell you, are not opposites.  The processed foods that have invaded and conquered our grocery store shelves have to be recognized and avoided and in order to circumvent their detrimental effects and this requires a bit of calorie counting, label reading and awareness.  Vegetables are your friends, as are real organic, natural meats.  After all, that's what your grandfather ate, even if he didn't know it.
Third, it's okay to embrace new ideas, concepts and behaviors.  Masculinity is not defined by how much you don't care about what you put into your body and how well you don't bother to take care of yourself.  Yoga, for instance, might seem silly and girly, but then again, men who do yoga perform better in sports, get hurt less often and have flexibility and muscle tone to be envied.  The yoga guy certainly isn't going to seem girly when he's dusting you and your beer belly during a pickup game of Ultimate Frisbee.  Going to the spa for a mud facial might not have any effect on your overall health, and even I will admit, doesn't seem very manly, but I have and will continue to do yoga because I can easily see the benefits it plays in my physical fitness and overall health.
I'm meticulous about what I feed myself nowadays and if you need a manly example as to why, think of your body like a finely tuned 1967 Shelby Mustang 500 GT.  It's your baby.  You take care of it.  You only use the best oil and premium gasoline because you want to ensure it rumbles to life with a deep muscular tone every time you turn the key.  You want it to fly when you shift and stomp the gas peddle.  You want it to corner like it's on rails.  Treating your body like a Shelby is not unmanly, it's ensuring that it's running well and will continue to run at its best.
Toyota Prius III; 10 July 2009; S 400 Hybrid; English Wikipedia

So, treat your body like the finely tuned muscle car it is beneath the crappy paint job and layers of rust.  Watch, as overtime, the shine comes back and the engine begins to rumble to life again.  The alternative is you, broken down on the side of the road with a classic car that can't move and isn't going to impress anyone, least of all yourself when some guy in a Prius offers to give you a ride to the nearest gas station.    

1 comment:

  1. You are such a guy!!! Brilliant amazing but as the song says "still a guy". Love the Shelby analogy.. makes sense and should move some couch potatoes out of the man cave... Inspirational.. Thanks for posting... book soon??



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