Alice Robb argues that the new face of “it goes straight to my thighs” is increasingly male:
Calorie-counting has practically become shorthand for female vanity. It recalls Cher from Clueless whining about the “two bowls of Special K, 3 pieces of turkey bacon, a handful of popcorn, 5 peanut butter M&M’s and like 3 pieces of licorice,” that she’s pigged out on. Or Regina George, the villain of Mean Girls, studying nutrition labels in the school cafeteria in an effort to lose three pounds. (Down-to-earth Cady, on the other hand, nonchalantly loads her tray.) …
There is almost a cuteness element to the male diet. Perhaps it’s because—like wearing skinny jeans—it’s trendy, edgeing up to gender norms and then, ever so slightly, transgressing them. “Traditionally, men do not care about what they eat, and prefer a narrow meat-based diet,” says Brendan Gough, psychologist and co-author of Men, Masculinities and Health: Critical Perspectives. Men who do care, and who make a point of showing that they care, are advertising a sort of emotional and physical self-awareness. Weight-consciousness is also relatively new for men, and pop culture hasn’t yet given them a stock of unattractive Regina George–like figures to rebel against.
Or maybe it’s a reflection of the (stereotypically male) impulse to compete, and take things to an extreme. Some of the more all-consuming diets—like Paleo and Dukan—are marketed primarily to men. (According to Grub Street, the Paleo diet is “most often associated with city-dwelling males who go around pretending they’re cavemen.) “Men aren’t just going to be healthy, they are going to be ‘super healthy,’” says Christopher Faircloth, a sociologist and author of Medicalized Masculinities.
Update from a reader:
It is BS that men don’t diet. My dad, a WWII vet, career naval officer, etc dieted. I’ve known men all my life who dieted, including me from age 25 to the present (I’m 60). My weight, when I let it, tends to go about 10% higher than is good for me or attractive to my wife. I associate male dieting with complaints/criticisms from their wives/girlfriends. My wife has asked me several times over the years “when are you due?” That is a non-subtle hint that it’s time to shed some pounds and hit the gym.
I restarted my diet last Sunday. I regained 21 of 27 pounds I’d lost two years ago (largely due to a very heavy trial docket this year and way too much hotel food while on the road). Just finished a delicious protein shake. Salad for lunch, lean meat and veggies for dinner after a workout. And red wine. For the heart.
(Photo by Nellies Beemster-Klaucke)