I grew up in a small family of meat eaters. For breakfast my mother would make me a hamburger, usually served with apple sauce and instant white rice on the side. For lunch I would have some beef ribs, with similar side dishes. Dinner was the main meal of the day, so I got a sizeable steak and she would add a helping of canned peas because
“a growing boy needs a few vegetables to go along with his meat,”
she would tell me. It went without saying that I would have a glass of milk to go with the meal and ice cream for dessert if I cleaned my plate.
We weren’t the only ones who ate a similar diet in the Los Angeles suburbs of the 1950s. Television was still relatively new and there were ads for home freezers and sides of beef that were relatively inexpensive and would be delivered regularly. We were a little unusual in that we were a two-person family. My father had been hospitalized following “a nervous breakdown” when I was five years old. His journey in and out of the mental hospital is a story I tell in my memoir, My Distant Dad: Healing the Family Father Wound.
After my father left, my mother had to get a job outside the home to support us. I was an only child and these were the days where boys were taught that to grow up to be healthy and strong, meat and dairy were the cornerstones of the best Male American Diet. It was a long while before I realized that this kind of diet was not only unhealthy but crazy and deadly.
I was a sickly kid growing up, despite what society at large was telling us about the benefits of meat and dairy rich diet. I had asthma, had become increasingly pudgy, then later, overweight. As an adult, I was too busy chasing the American dream of financial success to think about what I was putting in my body. I became a psychotherapist and later a writer. But my life changed one day when I came across a book by John Robbins, Diet for a New America: How Your Food Choices Affect Your Health, Happiness and the Future of Life on Earth.
Groomed from childhood to succeed his father as head of the Baskin-Robbins ice cream empire, John had learned about a different way to eat that did not include meat and dairy, one healthier for men, women, children, and the planet we all share.
Real Men Eat Plants
Another man who was influenced by the work of John Robbins is Jonathan Spitz. I first met Jon when he ran a local health food store in Mendocino County. We became reacquainted at a book signing party at our local library. His new book has the provocative title, Man Eating Plants: How a Vegan Diet Can Save the World. Jon’s story has some similarities to my own.
“At the age of 51 my father died of a massive heart attack,”
Jon told me.
“I was 21 years old at the time. I idolized my father as a role model for what it meant to be a strong, confident, intelligent man who was in total control of his life, so his sudden death came as a major jolt to my entire concept of manhood, and I came to the disempowering conclusion that we all just live at the mercy of fates beyond our control”.
“Years later in my mid-30s, at the urging of my wife, I took an interest in nutrition and I learned how eating a healthy plant-based diet can not only cure people of heart disease and other common chronic degenerative diseases such as diabetes and cancer, but it can prevent these diseases from occurring in the first place if started early in life. Unfortunately for my father, he never learned how to take control over his health through a plant-based diet, and as he ate the standard American diet (SAD) loaded with meat, dairy and eggs, he battled high blood pressure and weight gain his entire life.
“Over the years my doctors have told me that because heart disease runs in my family I need to take statin drugs to lower my blood cholesterol and reduce my risk of dying from a heart attack like my father. But instead of taking the drugs, at the age of 37 I decided to adopt a plant-based diet. I am now 70 years old and have none of the risk factors for heart disease and I lead a physically active lifestyle”.
“It has been nearly 50 years since my father died, and over that time my concept of what it means to be a man in control of my life has changed considerably from my youth. By taking control over my personal health with a plant-based diet, I empowered myself to be the strong, confident and intelligent man that my father was denied.”
“Taking control over our personal health is one self-empowering benefit of a plant-based diet, but eating plant foods instead of animal foods also confers powerful benefits to our local communities and to our entire planet. In my new book, Man Eating Plants, I chronicle how raising livestock to satisfy the human demand for unhealthy animal foods is the leading cause of both global warming and mass species extinction in the world today. I also reveal how providing a healthy plant-based diet for the human population could actually help mitigate these catastrophic threats to our precious life sustaining planet.”
“When I started eating a plant-based diet 33 years ago, the idea of eating a diet free of meat, dairy and eggs was mostly unheard of, but nowadays there are many well-known male celebrities who eat plant-based, including, to name a few:
- Hollywood superstar Woody Harrelson, of the hit TV show Cheers and star of the blockbuster film The Hunger Games, has been a strong plant-based advocate for over 30 years. Speaking about his plant-based lifestyle, Harrelson said, ‘Becoming vegan was the biggest change I ever made in my life, and one of the greatest accomplishments as well.’ That’s saying a lot coming from such an accomplished man.
- Legendary lead guitarist for the rock band Queen, Brian May, is a passionate plant-based advocate. Speaking to the on-line music magazine NME in 2020, May said, ‘It’s becoming more well known that eating animals is not the greatest thing for our health. To go vegan was just a decision, and I haven’t been preachy about it. But now, we’ve seen more of the effects of how eating animals has brought us to our knees as a species. I think it’s time to re-examine our world in a way that doesn’t abuse other species.’ Brian May rocks with compassion.
- Spiderman star Tobey Maguire started eating plant-based in 2009. Maguire, who literally plays a superhero in the movies, told Parade Magazine, ‘I’ve never had any desire to eat meat. In fact, when I was a kid I would have a really difficult time eating meat at all.’ Just goes to show, you don’t need to eat meat to become a superhero.
Men are protective by nature. To protect themselves, their families and communities, all the other animals, and our life sustaining planet, is why Woody Harrelson, Brian May and Tobey Maguire each chose a plant-based diet. Because real men eat plants. “
“At this very moment in time, adopting a plant-based diet is the single most effective action every man can take to control his own health and to protect the health of our mother Earth for future generations. Eating plants transforms a man into an eco-superhero! What could be manlier than that?”
You can learn more about Jon’s book, Man Eating Plants: How a Vegan Diet Can Save the World, on Amazon.
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