This time of year, many of us become aware of the pervasive myth of masculinity, which dictates men must be big and strong, and that innate male power and confidence are what makes men the superior sex. But while we might not be able to change our gender, we can be better men for our partners, our children, our families, and our communities. While the majority of these ideas are meant to be positive and encouraging, there are some myths that need much greater scrutiny.
Men are taught to be tough, direct and aggressive, to “act like a man”. But, is this really the way to be a better man? And if so, what can we do to be better men?
Many men struggle with diet, nutrition and body image…. but don’t talk about it. Are cultural or individual ideas of what a man should be the culprit? In this article, we will look at how you should behave as a man to keep men. We also offer 5 ways to challenge male stereotypes and get men to change.
Since the piece is about gender, this content may be sensitive to some. With this in mind, we believe it is important to investigate how traditional male stereotypes may negatively impact men’s attitudes towards food, fitness and body image. Of course, there is no such thing as a stereotypical man, as men have a wide range of experiences. At the same time, we believe that the same principles of compassion, acceptance and authenticity are usable across the spectrum of masculinity and manhood.
You may recognize this customer.
He came to you because his doctor warned him about his blood pressure. Or maybe her husband pushed her to address her chronic digestive issues. Or his friends laughed at him for his extra insulation.
He’s a nice guy, but a little… intense. You can tell by his hunched shoulders and clenched jaw. He always greets you with a handshake, but avoids direct eye contact. He doesn’t smile much.
He briefly mentioned that his work had been keeping him very busy lately and that he was also having some family problems.
They think he’s in trouble. But he doesn’t seem to want to talk.
Their conversations are often emotionally superficial. Your questions about diet, exercise, sleep, stress, will be answered in one word. But you ask yourself:
Is this really the whole story?
Talking about your life can be complicated, confusing and personal.
This can be especially true for men.
The truth is that it’s hard for anyone to be vulnerable, not just men. Many women have hectic lives between their careers, caring for others and running errands. They should also not show unkempt body parts.
But men in particular are stigmatized for being, well, soft.
No. Be a man.
You talk about your feelings?!
Show me the way out.
Admit your weaknesses!
You’ll have to go through me.
However, to meet the challenges, we must identify the pain points, examine what is not working, and often (painfully) ask for help. (And then we have to be willing to fail, again and again).
All this points to an incredible vulnerability and transparency.
For many men, old ideas about gender are stubborn.
Think of all the male models you can think of.
How many of them do you think are preoccupied with their feelings about their bodies or their fear of becoming frail and old?
How many of them do you see humbly asking for help or admitting that much of their life no longer works?
How many of them can you imagine crying?
(And no, not the lament of the championship winner as he sings his national anthem and a single tear runs down his tight square jaw).
Many people think that being a good person means keeping things to yourself.
If you are a man, think about how many times in your life you have heard variations of the following phrases.
- Be a man.
- Men don’t cry.
- Grow a pair.
- ____ you’re like a girl.
If you are a trainer or instructor, you may have used these phrases as motivators or as jokes.
Although often said in passing, they permeate our cultural consciousness and shape our ideas of appropriate masculine behavior.
In addition, these messages can keep some men from being vulnerable and talking about the important things in their lives.
Thus, these messages reinforce the following types of beliefs:
- Men shouldn’t burden others with their problems. That’s for you to find out.
- Men should not open up to others, especially other men.
- Men should not ask for help or instructions or show signs of weakness.
As a result, many men, even when busy underground, will have a hard time maintaining their visibility.
It’s okay, they say. Even if it isn’t.
We are also taught that some problems and solutions are gender specific.
For example, cultural, especially for heterosexual men, traditionally not considered masculine:
- Addressing eating habits
- have a complicated emotional relationship with food.
- Worrying about the appearance of your own body
- be limited by pain, injury, chronic illness or disability
* These issues are particularly prone to gender bias. Almost all literature on eating disorders and body image is written by and for women.
Of course, everyone has a different view of gender norms.
Some people strictly adhere to their culture’s preconceptions of what it means to be a man or a woman.
Some people like to actively challenge and break cultural gender rules.
Some people do what they want and barely realize there is a gender.
However, despite individual differences, to some extent :
Gender norms and expectations shape many aspects of our lives.
This includes things like:
- Our behaviour, manners and language
- Roles we choose for ourselves (e.g. caring father or great mother).
- how we feel in a certain environment (for example, in the gym), and
- Our relationships with others (e.g., friends, partners, coaches, colleagues, doctor, etc.)
Formatting is gender specific.
The free weight zones in gyms are still mostly filled with men grunting and warming up.
Yoga and Zumba classes are still mainly followed by women.
Trainers may assume that men want to gain mass and women want to lose weight. Supplements for men have names like Berserker or Extreme Something-or-other, which are more reminiscent of Bond villains than food.
Many coaching clients* do not seek help until they are in dire straits – after a serious injury, deteriorating health, or other crisis that leaves them no choice but to begin making changes.
* Even the interest in NP coaching is sequestered, as we find a 2:1 ratio of men to women on the coaching lists before the sale, and the same ratio is maintained at enrollment.
What we eat is also gendered.
Who do you imagine consuming a steak, beer, wings and chili fries?
Who do you think chooses kale, yogurt, smoothies and fruit wisely?
In North American culture, we have certain ideas about which foods are traditionally considered masculine and which are feminine.
There’s a Lunch Man, for example, in regular and XXL sizes….. but there is no Lunch Man who pays attention to his size, nor a Hungry Woman.
How and why we eat is also related to gender.
A recent study by the Cornell Food and Brand Lab found that men eat 30% more when they are in a social situation. The same study found that women eat slightly less when they are around other people.
Culturally, luscious eating is often a part of traditional heterosexual masculinity.
This works for people who want to gain weight, but not so much for those who want to lose fat and/or make healthier choices.
According to Kevin Kniffin, one of the authors of the Cornell study:
Even if men don’t think about it, eating more than one friend is generally seen as a demonstration of masculinity and strength.
Eating an epic portion of steak and chips?
You’re the man!
You prefer salad over fries and don’t touch half the burger?
In addition, men are socialized to ignore pain and discomfort.
Stomach cramps and heartburn?
Add some antacids and go for it.
Conscious food choices, appetite control, sensory control and self-care are considered specific to women.
Many men may think that these habits are not manly.
You can talk about it differently. Instead, they can say they are too busy. Or they don’t have time. Or : Look, my boss has me cornered now, and I can’t deal with this health nonsense.
Of course men still have feelings, even if those feelings are not culturally accepted.
Just because it is not considered normal in a culture to feel, think or do certain things, does not mean it does not exist.
- Men can feel self-conscious standing in front of the mirror, looking at their arms or critically examining their pecs.
- Men can compare themselves to the models on the covers of fitness magazines and feel inferior and unattractive.
- Men can dream of feeling confident in a bathing suit.
- Men may feel like lying on the couch and eating a serving of peanut butter after a stressful day at work.
- Men may experience feelings of insecurity, depression, shame and sadness that are difficult to handle.
But men, especially straight men with more traditional gender ideals, may also feel that these things are not allowed to happen or be felt.
The problem is this:
To change our outside, we must meet our inside.
At NP coaching, clients learn to work on their inner game (automatic thoughts, feelings and behaviors) to change their habits and their bodies.
(In our Level 1 and Level 2 certificates for professionals, the NP also shows how to manage the inner change process while developing as a coach).
This means that at some point in the journey, whether you’re a coach or a caregiver, you’re going to have to deal with [dramatic music]….. their feelings.
To change, we must believe differently.
As a health and fitness expert, you can start with practical questions: what foods are you eating, how many reps, how much sleep, etc. But eventually you’ll have to talk about less superficial topics, for example. B. on matters of faith.
For many, unhealthy beliefs about diet, exercise and their bodies are major limiting factors on the road to progress. It may involve gendered beliefs, such as. B. : Men don’t eat salad and women shouldn’t have big muscles.
These beliefs may seem trivial, but they have a powerful influence on human behavior. If someone has beliefs about food or their body, you can be sure that those beliefs will manifest in their life and determine their behavior and results.
Often, beliefs have existed for a long time and can be reinforced by one’s environment or relationships. When they become aware of the beliefs that shape them, they may not like what they see. They can be immature, judgmental and unforgiving.
So it can be uncomfortable to reveal our beliefs. But, uh…
To change, we often need to be uncomfortable.
Coaching can help alleviate this discomfort.
When clients or patients are in this delicate phase of change (which is often necessary and inevitable), a coach can help them:
- Identify core beliefs and assumptions about being a man;
- Be creative and find other, more useful beliefs;
- Apply and reinforce new beliefs ;
- be a healthy role model for someone rebelling against harmful gender stereotypes; and
- Seek additional sources of support, such as a spouse, trusted friend, or the services of another qualified professional. B. a therapist or physician, if necessary.
Having a non-judgmental role model or observer during this uncomfortable phase can help someone feel less alone and more able to change.
How to teach men to change.
So what does coaching a man really look like?
And how can we turn the coaching experience into something more than bullying and superficiality, something meaningful and transformative?
1. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes.
Let’s take the hypothetical male customer Gary. Due to a recent life crisis and a sore back, Gary decided it was time for a change. He just made an appointment to see you.
Gary goes to the gym… and immediately remembers why he hasn’t played sports since high school.
It smells like the inside of a hockey bag in here. The music is loud. The man, a half gorilla in a CRUSH IT t-shirt, looks on before ripping 400 pounds off the ground in one fell swoop and throwing it. Apparently his back doesn’t hurt.
Everyone in the gym seems to live here. Why do these people play sports? Gary asks. You’re not fat or old like me.
His blood pressure is rising and he can barely get past the reception desk.
Then he meets you.
2. Apply coaching skills to help clients calm down.
There are many things you can do in this situation to make this process more comfortable for Gary, increasing the likelihood that he will eventually trust you, open up, and explore change with you.
You can help us:
- Create a safe and welcoming atmosphere;
- to contact you immediately;
- Acknowledge the client’s discomfort (if any) and sympathize with them.
- Normalize the fact that people are often nervous, unsure and/or intimidated when they start something new.
So you step into the gym to greet him. You politely shake his hand and introduce yourself. You are a warm and welcoming person.
You escort him to your quiet office. You can feel his nervousness. You smile and lean forward so he knows you’re giving him your full attention.
Thanks for coming today, Gary. I’m glad you’re here.
From what I hear, it sounds like you’ve never been to the gym.
I know it can be quite intimidating. When I arrived, I felt uncomfortable. Don’t you feel it at all?
Gary is surprised, trainer How is he?
Well, yes. It’s brand new. I feel really… out of place.
You reassure him that this is a bold move.
That’s perfectly understandable. It’s not easy when you’re out of your element.
So really, thank you for coming today.
I hope by the time we’re done, you’ll be more comfortable.
Gary visibly crosses his arms. A slight smile on his face.
It’ll be all right, he thinks. I can do that.
3. Give the process time to reveal the inside.
Often men cannot immediately break down emotional barriers and open up about their relationship with food, diet, exercise or body image.
You may have to spend a lot of time getting to know and understand your client before he feels comfortable enough to tell you what’s on his mind.
For example, they quickly learn that Gary drinks beer and eats chicken wings with his friends every night. If you immediately start lecturing him about liver health and sodium levels, you may miss the opportunity to understand what’s really going on.
But after a few weeks of trust and building rapport, you might be a little curious: Gary, this whole thing with the nightbirds… Do you just love barbecue sauce, or does this habit give you something else?
Gary tells you he doesn’t like beer or salty snacks. The real reason for his habit is that he is struggling with the immense grief he feels after the breakup with his partner, and his brothers keep him from falling into the trap.
He wasn’t ready to dive into his work yet. But now that you know why he is attached to this nightly ritual, you are more likely to help him change it.
New training method Compassion, vulnerability and active listening.
Being compassionate, vulnerable, actively listening and respectful are good coaching principles for clients of all genders.
But these coaching behaviors may be especially important for male clients/patients, who are less likely to get them from other people in their lives, especially other men.
Soft skills are not traditionally associated with men.
Stereotypically, men are said to reject all things masculine.
Feelings are for wimps.
Talking about feelings… even worse.
The traditional male trainer will have no sympathy for your portion control issues (because he always eats an extra portion of steak and then eats the silverware).
Hell will freeze over before he talks about the lack of confidence he felt in the gym.
If you are in pain, he will give you surgical tape and tell you to get dressed and go back to the hospital. Do your best. Stop whining.
However, qualities such as compassion, vulnerability, and listening should be part of a healthy, long-term coaching relationship.
If coaches get better, clients are more likely to change.
The compassion and vulnerability of the high performance coach can :
- Help your customers feel more adventurous by trying new or uncomfortable things,
- Increase clients’ willingness to persevere in the face of obstacles,
- encourage clients to talk about painful or sensitive subjects
- Helping clients become more resilient and recover from failures.
These qualities are at the heart of the coaching process – for all clients. But for some male clients, especially those who are not used to this type of interaction, these coaching skills can have a significant impact.
This can make the difference between a good coaching experience and a life-changing one.
What to do next
Some advice from
If you try to be a little healthier:
1. Having real conversations with other men.
Talk about difficult, sensitive or uncomfortable topics.
Avoid unimportant conversations, such as about the weather, traffic or sports. Broaden and talk about meaningful things like family, goals and (maybe) challenges.
Don’t you have other guys to talk to? This is a great opportunity to get a coach.
If you have other men to talk to, this is a great opportunity to learn more about them as people.
2. Communicate differently during meals.
Invite a male friend (or potential partner) over for a healthy dinner.
Cooking and eating together is a great way to build a friendship or relationship, and it will be much more nourishing than going to a bar for wings and beer.
PN co-founder Phil Caravaggio (left), PN videographer Alex Cimino (center) and Dr. JB enjoy an espresso at a cafe in Montalcino, Italy.
3. Think about what it means to be a man.
If you find that your ideas of what a man should be are rather rigid, you need to pay attention to that.
(If they are more open and flexible, pay attention to that too. Just pay attention to what you think and believe about being a man, and be curious about how that manifests in your daily life choices).
Find out if you are putting pressure on yourself and making bad decisions because you are afraid of appearing weak or asking for help.
Avoid phrases like man, be a man, real men are not _____.
These are powerful phrases that make men feel hyper masculine and not get the support they need.
4. Be brave… Really brave.
It’s not manly to hide or do the same thing over and over again, especially if it has become a habit for you.
What is really courageous?
Do something different for a change.
Ask for help.
Admit that you don’t know – or can’t solve – everything yourself.
Be brave. Define your gender identity – and your path to growth, fitness and health – for yourself.
5. Practice compassion for yourself.
The traditional culture of heterosexual masculinity teaches men that they must be in control at all times, and that if they are not, they have failed or are weak.
It is normal to fight against change.
In terms of health, fitness and nutrition, this struggle can be particularly difficult.
Treat yourself the same way your good mentor, friend or coach would treat you.
For example: I’ll cover you, boy.
If you are a coach with male clients
1. Take the time to build a relationship.
Many male clients, especially older or more traditional clients who have internalized fairly specific gender norms, will not immediately talk about deeper things.
Let the process be a little uncomfortable – even for you! Revealing underlying issues can be uncomfortable for your client, and you may feel a little itchy if your client is uncomfortable. It’s all right, it’s all right.
Spend time building trust, creating relationships and creating support.
2. Be a role model.
Break from the macho stereotype and show some vulnerability. A simple statement like yes, I too have felt bad about myself at times can have tremendous power.
Of course, you don’t want to air your life problems or ask your clients to endure 10 minutes of self-pity.
Just come in with an anecdote about the person that’s enough to make them realize that other people feel the same way they do and that that’s okay.
You can also show your client other examples of men breaking stereotypes, whether it’s a group of celebrities talking openly about their body image issues or the guy at your gym who wears a t-shirt that says CRUSH IT but volunteers to care for the elderly.
3. Think about how you word your instructions.
Some male customers will feel more comfortable if you use specifically male language.
For example, many types respond better to things like projects than to research, and may prefer the concept of thinking to the concept of feeling, for example. B. What goes through your mind when you struggle to eat more slowly?
Message: You don’t have to live in the land of stereotypes (Brother! Husband! Handshake!). After all, if you serve clients with a wide range of gender expressions and a sexuality identified as masculine, this may not be the right approach.
Think about the phrases and ideas that are relevant to each customer and address them as unique individuals.
4. Encourage slow change.
Maybe your male client let go of gender norms years ago and has been willing to talk about emotional eating from day one.
Or… Perhaps you are working with a Vietnam veteran who believes that you should only talk about your feelings when it comes to a physical injury.
The second type is likely to require a slower, gradual approach to change. It’s all right, it’s all right.
Take your time, start with small and superficial changes, get to know him gradually and continue to offer a friendly and compassionate atmosphere.
5. Flag: Clients are complete and complex individuals.
Man is a complex and unique being. They have many rich stories to tell. Gender is only one of many dimensions.
Don’t stereotype or reduce people to one factor, but pay attention to how certain social norms and scripts can shape your clients’ belief system.
Do you want strategies to improve your coaching?
It’s no secret that master trainers develop over time, through training and constant practice, usually under the guidance of a mentor or coach.
The only company in the world that works with thousands of internal nutrition coaching clients and trains health, fitness and wellness professionals in our realistic methods of achieving results.
And here’s the good news: Our next Level 2 certification workshop begins on Wednesday the 22nd. September 2023.
Do you want to gain full confidence in your coaching skills? Attract (and retain) more customers? Develop and strengthen your practice? Then the level 2 certification is for you.
It is specifically designed for Level 1 students and graduates who understand that knowledge of food science alone is not enough.
Part masterclass, part graduate program, part coaching – this is the only course in the world that will help you master the art of coaching, which means better results for your clients and a better business for you.
Since we only allow a limited number of professionals and the program sells out every time, I highly recommend you sign up for our VIP list below. In that case, you will have the opportunity to sign up 24 hours before anyone else. What’s even better is that you get a significant discount on the total price of the program.
[Comment: The Level 2 Master Class is reserved for students and graduates of the Level 1 certification. So if you haven’t signed up for this program yet, start there].
Interested? Add your name to the VIP list. Save up to 37% and reserve your seat 24 hours in advance.
Wednesday the 22nd. In September, we will be freeing up seats for the next Level 2 certification workshop.
If you want to know more, we have put together the following VIP list for you, which offers you two benefits.
- Paying less than others. We want to encourage people who want to get started and are ready to achieve excellence in their coaching practice. That’s why we offer you a discount of up to 37% off the total price when you join the VIP Masterclass list.
- Sign up 24 hours before others and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open a PN workshop twice a year. Due to the high demand and the very limited number of places, we expect the tickets to sell out quickly. But if you sign up for the VIP Masterclass list, you have the chance to sign up 24 hours before anyone else.
If you are serious about becoming one of the best trainers in the world, we are prepared to mentor you for a full year in a PN level 2 certification masterclass.
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