Punk Rock Ironman Delivers a Veggie Beatdown

If you think wolfing down a rare steak makes you macho, you don’t know John Joseph. The author of Meat is for Pussies: A how-to guide for dudes who want to get fit, kick ass and take names is hardly the typical outspoken advocate for vegetarianism. Joseph is the ripped, fully-tattooed iconic front man for the legendary New York City hardcore punk band the Cro-Mags. He’s also an Ironman triathlete who hasn’t touched a piece of meat in almost 30 years. In the book’s intro he makes it clear: “I’m not some new age health nut trying to get you to eat your sprouts. Most of those people make me want to puke.”

This is no hippie manifesto. Joseph delivers an in-your-face, often raunchy, and occasionally hilarious verbal beatdown about the nutritional and athletic benefits of a meatless diet and also gets vehemently pissed about the current state of our food system. Whether he’s turning stomachs by describing industrial meat production, dishing about the misguided efforts in yo-yo diets, food irradiation, and the war on cancer, or breaking down Monsanto’s (nicknamed “the devil incarnate”) genetic modification of seeds, Joseph offers crass yet effective locker room-speak for the inconvenient truths sitting on grocery store shelves. In addition to railing against toxic, over-processed food, Joseph also offers solutions: nutrient-dense recipes and old-school workouts that mix cardio endurance and homespun strength training.

The language in the book—starting with the title—will no doubt be offensive to some, but it has a target audience. With a quick wit and a foul mouth, Joseph addresses the average dude or misinformed gym rat who doesn’t have the patience to page through The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Ironically, he’s critiquing the ills of modern meat in native meathead tongue. As Joseph recently responded to one of his critics: “My goal with the book was to reach the population of stubborn men who refuse to change their destructive lifestyles.”

Transformation is a big part of Joseph’s personal story. He grew up as a foster kid on the streets of New York in the mid-70s. His dark past includes stabbings, drug addiction, and homelessness, which he recounted in his 2007 autobiography The Evolution of a Cro-Magnon.

Since cleaning up his act, the 48-year-old now gets his mosh pit energy from triathlons, marathons, and quinoa salads.

Even if you’re not interested in giving up burgers, this book is more about making better lifestyle choices and opening your eyes to what you’re being spoon-fed in the mass market. Don’t pick up this book for the elegant prose or exhaustive research. But if you’re the couch potato who needs a gut check and a good laugh, this is a great place to start.