Pound for Distorted Pound: Men and Women Have the Same Issues with their Weight, Food and Bodies
MEREDITH CARISKI WRITES...
I’m a woman. Hear me roar! If you’re hearing a roar, that is the roaring of my stomach and it’s always growling. Everytime it roars, I pounce on whatever my stomach wants to devour. What happens after that is a mini mental breakdown every time. I see whatever I eat materialize as a glob of fat on my body. You see, me and my body are in an abusive relationship. Everytime I eat something that I perceive to be unhealthy, I can see my stomach gain another roll, my inner thighs rub more closely together, my back fat drips lower, and I don’t even need to look at the scale because I know that I am ten pounds heavier.
What is crazy about all of this is that I normalize it. I have so many heavy girlfriends and we get together to eat cheesecake and complain about how much we hate our bodies. It seems normal, so the abusive relationship persists. It is an endless cycle of extreme emotions and defused self esteem. What is worse is that I know it is my fault that I feel this way. I can’t blame everything on my hormones even though I want to.
I know that I have Body Dysmorphic Disorder. I understand consciously that one brownie is not going to change my body physically and it most likely won’t change the evil glowing number on my scale. I just have so much overwhelming anxiety constantly thinking about the food I eat, the food I don’t eat, and how that is going to affect my physical appearance. If I eat that brownie, will my boyfriend look at my already fat body and shake his head because I don’t eat ONLY healthy food. If I eat that brownie, I won’t even want to get physical with my boyfriend because I feel, with that brownie, my body has morphed yet again into more of an unattractive blob. I am in a relationship now, but when I wasn’t, if I ate an unhealthy meal and had a date that night, I would cancel it. I wonder if men do the same because the concern of how we look to the opposite sex is universal.
As a woman, I feel constantly pressured to maintain a physique I have never had and don’t think that I’ll ever be able to conceive. I can’t keep up with how many celebrities on TV or fake girls on Instagram I become envious of. I believe that men feel the same way. We are all being fed photos and videos that become famous, not because of their content, but because the people in them are sexy. Sex is everything and I don’t feel like I deserve to have it. Men must have the same psyche. Yes, men are from Mars and women are from Venus, but the overweight people on both planets must have similarities in terms of how we view our body based on societal pressure. Just like I want to have a flat stomach, I’m sure there are men that want more muscle and a perfect slab of abs. That is why all of the weight loss commercials shove the images they do down our throats. That is why so many of us put our fingers down our throats.
The psychosis that men and women experience is partly because of the food industry too. They suck. Don’t even get me started on Big Sugar. Did you believe in the 1960s, Big Sugar paid Harvard scientists to blame fat for heart disease?! That is unfathomable and a perfect example of why the food industry just wants to see the consumer become obese. This is where I believe gender feud ceases. Our identities as overweight people is what brings us together.
There have to be differences though. I think that men might over exercise more because they are more physically involved. That is why I assume that sometimes steroids come into play. It makes me think back to what I said about my girlfriends. We get
together and tear our bodies apart saggy breast by breast. I’ve never had one of my male friends come to me saying they wish they had more muscle. It was always offhanded like: “I want to get more fit so I can crush it at basketball.” Knowing this friend, I felt there was more depth to what he said on the surface. I feel like men are more silent about this subject. Generally, they are more susceptible to pride. I think so many of them are quietly suffering.
The point is, male and females are both hurting physically, mentally, and emotionally because of our concept of body issues. I know that for sure. No matter how we manifest it, both sexes are struggling with this abusive relationship and it can become life threatening. I don’t want my male comrades to hide because they have been indoctrinated to not show emotion. And I, as a woman, don’t want to continue to think that I should turn to drastic measures just to get the results I desire. That’s where the mind goes and it can twist reality so seamlessly; it’s vicious and violent. I feel like my mind and body want me to be anxious, depressed and overweight. But I’m human and men are too. The only conclusion I can glean from all of this is: it sucks being in this abusive relationship and I want out. It makes me wonder about if men want out too.
BRIAN BAUMAL RESPONDS...
Meredith, I think you can take comfort in knowing that men struggle as much as women do with relations to food, body and weight. You know how men are sometimes prone to “exaggerating” certain measurements about themselves? Well, that exaggeration, or dysmorphia, definitely continues into issues regarding a male’s perception of his weight, and his perception and feelings regarding exercise and over-eating. I think a good summary of your thoughts is that men and women differ on the surface in regard to their issues with body, weight and food, but the deeper issues are roughly the same.
Men are scared that one French Fry or M&M will lead to a 10-pound weight gain over night. It is so easy to blow a love handle out of all proportion for both men and women. Men and women have the same black and white thinking patterns that sabotage their behaviours and plans to take control of their relationships with their weight, food, body and health. Both men and women face the same underlying anxieties and even manifestations of those anxieties in their thoughts (e.g. compulsive and racing negative thoughts about their weight, body and food).
However, I do think there is one critical difference on the surface that can lead to some very concerning and deeper issues. From a societal point of view, women certainly incur more pressure to look good and alter their bodies, and I view that as unfair. On a very broad and societal level, it contributes to a huge inequity. One very interesting point about Meredith’s article is that she knows that she has Body Dysmorphic Disorder. One thing I have found is that women definitely know more about eating disorders along with their associated psychology and symptoms. Women that I often see will know for sure that they have an eating disorder, and will be very quick to admit that they hate the
ir bodies. Men on the other hand are somewhat surprised when it is suggested that they may have disordered eating patterns, or problems with over-exercise, for example. Men may not love their bodies, but there does not seem to be the same visceral hate for them that seems to happen among women. I suspect that society plays a large part in developing this self-hatred among women. This dynamic certainly requires more effort on the therapist to address.
In short, Meredith, men and women are largely the same in regard to the deeper issues that are present in their bodies. Men’s thoughts race. Men want to break-up with their bodies. Men can obsess about calories and men can be very insecure about themselves. However, there are huge differences on surface factors, especially in regard to body image issues – and that has to stop.