In honor of National Men’s Health Month, we asked Registered Dietitian Nutritionist David Orozco to give us insight on men’s health and nutrition.
NPB: As a dietitian, do you see different ways men and women prioritize nutrition?
David: Yes, I believe men have distinct differences when it comes to prioritizing nutrition. Men tend to unconsciously focus more on gender roles when it comes to eating. They seem less connected with food, but in the long run the emotional issues similar to those with female clients come up. For example, we all eat socially, yet men tend to be very competitive. Men like big bold flavors, meat and potatoes, large portions, eating faster than the next guy, and foods that enhance their manliness. Men are also straightforward about what they like and don’t like. Most of us have strong memories and strong first experiences with food as children where we learn behaviors from our parents or adults. Men tend to eat very fast and have this unconscious “auto-pilot syndrome” when eating. In many cases men may not tune into their emotional side or listen to basic physiological or psychological cues, and in fact they may view listening or paying attention to these cues as weakness. One of my goals as a registered dietitian and nutritionist is to help my male clients learn to listen to their bodies and help them view this type of listening as a strength.
NPB: Do you see differences in age groups?
David: Yes and no. It depends on the individual and what kind of childhood they’ve had, their work and life situation, and their health. Some younger men I’ve worked with in their 20’s and 30’s are “super healthy” eaters, yet I’ve worked with men in their 60’s and 70’s eating “super healthy” as well. What I find is that men tend to really take a 100 percent hardline, all-or-nothing approach to changing their diet once they suspect their health and/or youthfulness in danger.
For example, I had a 72-year-old client previously diagnosed as obese; with heart disease, hypertension and an enlarged prostate. When he came to see me he was at a healthy weight, exercising 2 to3 hours a day 5 to6 days a week, eating tons of fruit and veggies, lean protein, and incorporating healthy fats like peanuts and peanut butter into his diet. He wanted help enhancing his diet for an ultra-triathlon. I’ve also had a 39-year-old client with severe depression and he could care less about eating healthy. It just depends on what’s going on in someone’s life at the moment.
NPB: What specific issues do your male clients come to you with?
David: The most common issue from my male clients is when they first get a medical diagnosis like diabetes, obesity, hypertension, or high cholesterol. Most guys want to try to fix it first through diet and exercise, which is very commendable. Yet, sometimes it’s the only thing they do, ignoring the need for continued medical care or use of medication. I find my male clients are either extremely unaware of what they’re eating, or become hyper-focused on “super healthy” eating. Therefore, one of my biggest challenges as a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist is helping men find and become more balanced. I suspect that going to extremes with diet and exercise has a lot to do with that issue regarding our manliness or role as a leader or expert perhaps. We are taught from an early age to “clean our plates,” the man of the house is supposed to eat more/larger portions/use bigger utensils for eating, etc., and visiting a doctor only when there’s blood. However, it’s never too late to learn different ways to manage nutrition.
NPB: We know that peanuts are a nutrient dense super food with more protein than any nut. How do you encourage your clients to include them in their daily eating regime?
David: I usually have some kind of peanut option in any of my meal plans, programs, or food options. I think peanuts are beneficial in so many ways. They help my clients feel satisfied longer. Peanuts help provide monounsaturated fats and oils that can help improve cholesterol and aid with absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. I let my clients know that peanuts also can be a source of protein. Protein is such a buzz word in the health arena, that I use it to my client’s benefit. I might suggest they add a small handful of peanuts, which really helps keep him full, and provides those good fats and protein. My goal is to help my clients learn how to find balance and make small changes over time.
About David Orozco, MS, RD, LD: David is an Atlanta-based Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist with a Master’s in Health Science from Georgia State University. He also holds certifications as a Health Fitness Specialist from the American College of Sports Medicine, is a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, and is a Certified Quit Smart® smoking cessation counselor. As the owner of t+d wellness®, David enthusiastically equips people with the knowledge and motivation to be healthy by providing one-on-one counseling, teaching nutrition and fitness classes, and consulting various clients and organizations.