Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Men Like Meat, Dogs Like Bones

 "See? Here's a picture of me at 300 lbs. You wouldn't have found me attractive then!"
"No, you're hot at that size! But I wouldn't have dated you because you have a really damaged look in your eyes."

That little exchange happened several years ago between myself and one of my exes. I won't say who said which part, but suffice to say either one of us could have played both roles in that bit of drama.

As touchy-feely as it sounds, I think a lot of what we all face is not problems with our appearance but our attitude. We're led to believe we're not doing well if we're not the "perfect weight", even if we're healthy and happy.  

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal addressed the conflicts of "mixed-weight couples." Interesting that in a lot of cases, it was the overweight person in the couple that felt there was an issue with their weight, and that the weight affected the relationship. In many cases, it was other issues, although those were exacerbated with their feeling about their weight. The thinner partner always seemed to be at a loss.

As I mentioned back in an earlier post, my own BMI still lists me as overweight. And some folks are quite eager to point to my "donut" and say, "You're not THAT skinny!" As if this somehow validates any idea of their own weight maintenance.

But you know what? 75 lbs. less IS skinny for me and it IS healthy for me. I actually walk around the gyn once in a while with a 75 lb. barbell and damn, that's a lot of weight to have been carting around all day every day! If more weight comes off as I increase weight training, that's great, but I know I'm at a good place. And much as I do like hearing compliments about the new bod, I did it for myself, and I think that's the part that shows the most. 

There is movement out there called Healthy at Every Size (HAES), which "supports people in adopting health habits for the sake of health and well-being rather than weight control, " a premise with which I agree. I understand this movement to be a backlash against the diet industry and that's more than fine with me. A lot of websites out there that address HAES, some with good information, others just spewing vitriol. But I can sympathize with that anger and bitterness. We're told (well...mainly women are told) from an early age that you need to look a certain way to be happy, to be successful, to be sexually attractive...which in some roundabout way is saying, "you're NOT that way, so therefore you are not happy or good." And that breeds a lot of contempt for the entire health lifestyle industry, even if the message is just about health and not about appearance. 

However, one of the better HAES supporters is The Fat Nutritionist. Her posts are thoughtful, cogent and evidence-based. She does get the idea that the pursuit of dieting is a futile path, but being healthy and body aware is more important.

And that's the key takeaway: body awareness. Or perhaps just better body awareness. I think we all believe we look different from what we really do look like, often based on the message broadcast to us. And again, it's mainly geared towards women. If you look at different studies on how women and men perceive themselves (or each other), you see that women are more likely to see themselves as not thin enough, even though most men are attracted to women of their size or larger. A far simpler home study can be done merely by comparing the scenarios where women see "ideal women forms": fashion magazines (bony androgynous types), and placing them side by side where men find these "ideal women's forms": in adult "gentlemen's magazines" (Miss Chesty LaRue). Even if those women are inflated with silicone, they're a lot bigger than any fashion body ideal with which women are presented.

Men, however, find themselves to be fairly "on target" with their body image. Less of them believe they are that overweight. Except if you're comparing straight and gay men, such as this study, then it's gay men who think that they're not in good enough shape.

If you had asked a few years back what my Healthy at Every Size goal would be, it would not have been 190 lbs. It probably would have been about 245 lbs. But I think that was my own ignorance of my actual health. But while that initial bit of weight loss was good, it wasn't a cure all for my ills, physical or psychological. So it was important to keep going. Most importantly, I did this not so I wouldn't be fat, but rather so I WOULD be healthier. For me, the journey was about real weight loss.

And yet, I've had some rejections of my new body . Even with bigger chest, arms, shoulders back and legs than I had back in Retro mode, some people like a bit more belly. And there ain't nothing wrong with that!


Bergstrom, Rochelle L, Clayton Neighbors, and Melissa A Lewis. “Do Men Find ‘bony’ Women Attractive?:: Consequences of Misperceiving Opposite Sex Perceptions of Attractive Body Image.” Body Image 1, no. 2 (May 2004): 183–191. doi:10.1016/S1740-1445(03)00025-1.

Bernstein, Elizabeth. “Put a Stop to ‘Do I Look Fat?’” Wall Street Journal, January 21, 2013.
Mills, Jennifer S., Janet Polivy, C. Peter Herman, and Marika Tiggemann. “Effects of Exposure to Thin Media Images: Evidence of Self-Enhancement Among Restrained Eaters.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 28, no. 12 (December 1, 2002): 1687–1699. doi:10.1177/014616702237650.
Singh, Devendra. “Is Thin Really Beautiful and Good? Relationship Between Waist-to-hip Ratio (WHR) and Female Attractiveness.” Personality and Individual Differences 16, no. 1 (January 1994): 123–132. doi:10.1016/0191-8869(94)90116-3.
Tiggemann, Marika, Yolanda Martins, and Alana Kirkbride. “Oh to Be Lean and Muscular: Body Image Ideals in Gay and Heterosexual Men.” Psychology of Men & Masculinity 8, no. 1 (2007): 15–24. doi:10.1037/1524-9220.8.1.15.

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