The Sickness in Male Friendship
Men don’t have friends.
Or at least, typically, not the way that women have friends. If they do have friends, they may only talk to one another every few months. Those friendships can take place around a variety of things such as, sports, location, interests, travel, video games, and so on. Men could probably count on one hand the men that they have had heart-to-heart conversations with. But what is the conversation that men have with their friends, colleagues, and acquaintances surrounding health? There is plenty of research that shows who you hang out with influences how you behave, both in and out of the gym and kitchen.
If your friends do not exercise then you are less likely to exercise. If your friends go to the gym and use supplements like pre-workout, then you are more inclined to try them yourself. If your friends focus on weight and body image (positively or negatively), then you are more likely to as well. When your friends joke about getting old and fat, you’re more likely to join in. If you bring salad to your work place and the guys make fun of you, you’re not likely to continue to bring salad to work.
These behaviors aren’t just limited to machismo men. No matter how independent men believe they are, how much freedom they claim is pumping through their veins, men still seek to fit in. The way they fit it can be different.
Women typically define health by thinness and men usually define it by muscles. Take a stroll down the supermarket checkout aisle for an example. Magazines aimed at men show a guy without a shirt on that is ripped on the cover, while those targeted toward women talk about eating right to lose weight. Neither of these is complete. Health is not about being thin or “swole,” it is about the behaviors that treat our body well and allow us to live life to the fullest.
While the culture around men and health is changing, men don’t really have a place to discuss things such as body image, the difficulty of diabetes, or the fear that can occur after having open heart surgery and wondering if they’ll ever be able to provide for their family again. Even with your friends, you may only breach the subject of health with jokes about belly fat, man boobs, and the beer guts. That’s why being a male dietitian and health educator, you’re provided a unique viewpoint of nutrition that you cannot get otherwise.
To demonstrate this point, in every nutrition class I’ve taught I provide the scenario to the students in the room. It is aimed towards the men in the room to gather their reaction, and it goes as like this. Your guy friend shows up to a tailgate party late and says, “Man, I just feel uncomfortable today. Like bloated. I tried on 3 different jerseys before I settled on this one. And even then, it just doesn’t fit right. I’ve been putting on weight and I need to get my health under control. I don’t want to end up having a heart attack like my dad. And on top of that I don’t think my wife is attracted to me anymore.”
Without a doubt, there is laughter in the room. The snickers and jeering are coming from both the men and the women. The overwhelming responses include,