Saturday, March 15, 2008

Men and dieting part 2

I interviewed one man who was 30, six foot three, weighed 15 stone and would prefer to weigh 13 stone. Although he said he would prefer to weigh less, he felt that his weight was not that important. He said: 'I don't feel that my fatness has any effect on my attractiveness. Size and attractiveness are separate. People don't notice.'

I also asked him if being heavier than he wanted to be affected how he felt about himself. He replied: 'My self-esteem comes from being able to function to a standard set by myself both in my job and socially. Attractiveness comes from attitudes and personality.' He did admit that he felt more attractive in nice clothes but that 'people are more interested in what you have between your ears than in muscle'.

I interviewed another man who was five foot eleven and weighed 131/2 stone. He said: 'Although I would like to be lighter I don't get depressed about it. I'm more concerned about being fit since there are so many other qualities related to my attractiveness. If I lost a stone I wouldn't be or feel any more attractive, I would simply be a stone lighter.'

He also felt that his worries about his weight were 'my own silly concerns, no one else notices or is affected by how much I weigh. My attractiveness is associated with many other factors.'

Diet Start

Although these men would have preferred to weigh less this did not influence how attractive they felt.

I also interviewed a 26-year-old man who was 101/2 stone and five foot eleven. He wanted to be a stone heavier. I asked him if he felt that this affected his feelings of attractiveness. He felt that, even though he was aware of the ideal man: 'I am not strongly influenced by how men are supposed to look. The world of looking good is a completely separate world to mine and I choose to have no contact with it. I don't really think about attractiveness any more, there are too many other things to worry about.'

Self-satisfaction can be understood in terms of body image and self-image and the relationship between the two. Body image simply refers to the individual's satisfaction with their body, whereas self-image is a more global concept relating to a form of general self-appreciation. Perhaps self-satisfaction reveals a difference between men and women. Women's weight has a greater effect on their body image which in turn has a greater influence on their self-image. Although men may prefer to be of a certain weight, this has little effect on their body image, which is therefore not detrimental to their self-image.

However, some men do report a concern about their weight. I interviewed a 25-year-old man who was six foot three and weighed 15 stone. His ideal weight was about 121/2 stone. I asked him why he wanted to be thinner.

I would feel better about myself. It's not to do with health, but mainly to be attractive to women. Fat is unattractive. When I take my clothes off in front of someone I don't feel embarrassed but neither do I feel proud. I think 'I hope they don't mind and still want to go through with this'.

He felt that being his size was not 'a good selling point'.

So how do men respond to their dissatisfaction with their weight? Two per cent of Weight Watchers' members are men. So men do not seem to go to clubs. But do they diet at home?

I interviewed one man who said:

I don't really do anything, I just worry about it. I try to eat less and drink wine instead of beer, but it's more a matter of thinking about it than doing anything. . . .I would like to be thinner, but I don't want to pay the price. It is not worth the sacrifices.

Another man who was two stone heavier than his preferred weight said: 'I sometimes think about eating less but I never really manage it. It is too much effort.' Yet another who was a stone heavier than he wanted to be said: 'I undereat continuously. I can't remember the last time I ate till I was full. I find it difficult giving up things I really enjoy such as butter, but I generally cut down and eat salad.' However, he did add that he ate salad in addition to other foods!

What else do they do? Most men seem to get fit or go jogging rather than actually diet. They try to change their bodies through exercise not eating less. Maybe this is because food does not play such a central role in their lives, maybe it is more acceptable for women to say 'I'm on a diet'. But they are still pressurised to conform to a specific shape.

If weight is a concern for some men, maybe they also worry about other physical characteristics.

In 1955 a study was carried out to see which parts of the body were of most importance to men and women. Whilst women focused on hips, thighs and waist, the results for the men showed that their equivalent weak point was their height. Height seemed to be the factor which had the greatest effect on their body image. Men associated height with power, sexual strength and intellectual capacity.

Society expects a man to be taller than his female partner, and associates male height with other desirable qualities such as authority and social status. A study in 1968 evaluated the relationship between perceived height and power. Students were introduced to a Mr England and were told that he was either a fellow student, a lecturer, a senior lecturer or a professor. They were then asked to estimate his height. The results showed that his estimated height increased with his supposed seniority. Height was associated with power. Interestingly, this association also extends to politics. As a sociologist, Feldman, said in 1971, 'It is not by chance that every American president since 1900 has been the taller of the two major political candidates.' In addition, in 1960, American voters were asked whom they preferred, and whom they thought was the taller out of Kennedy and Nixon. It was found that preference and perceived height went together.

Why is height so important?

On the whole, men are up to 5 —10 per cent taller than women. Girls tend to have finished their significant growth by the time they reach 13 or so, just after they start to menstruate. They will reach their adult height by the age of 18. Boys start to grow a couple of years later but keep growing for a longer period of time. It seems to be because of this longer growth period that men end up taller.

... andjoyohoxing