Men, muscles, and weight loss: Argh!

I remember when my office mate in grad school, a man of course, Philosophy is mostly men, set out to lose weight. Within a few weeks he’d lost 15 lbs and looked great. Stupidly I asked him what he’d done. I’d lost more than 50 lbs that first year in grad school, mostly with lots and lots of exercise and not very much eating. I thought maybe we could bond over hard it is to lose weight.  Turns out he’d switched from regular to diet Coke.

At that point in my life it had been years since I’d tasted a full-on sugar loaded beverage. Mostly, then as now, I drank water and coffee. Diet coke was an occasional treat.

I didn’t scream. I didn’t strangle him. But I admit to being shocked at what different embodied experiences we’d had.

It’s true the playing field evens a bit with age. But not very much.

There’s a man, my age, with whom I ride bikes who loses 10 lbs every spring with his tried and true method: skipping breakfast.

SKIPPING BREAKFAST! Yes, you read that correctly. If there is one piece of advice that nutrition advice givers all give it’s to never skip breakfast. Indeed, they often say, eat more calories early in the day and eat fewer calories later. You know, that saying: eat like a king at breakfast, a nobleman at lunch, and a pauper at dinner. (The extreme version of this is the dessert-for-breakfast diet which I’ve never tried because I don’t feel like dessert at breakfast but if you’re so inclined here’s some info: ‘Dessert Breakfast’ Diet: Weight Loss And Reduced Cravings, According To Study.)

This seems to me to one more area where men’s and women’s experiences of diet and weight loss are just very different. There’s been a huge dust up in the Paleo community over men’s and women’s different responses to IF, or intermittent fasting. Short version: It works well for the boys, and for the girls, not so much. Long version: Read Shattering the Myth of Fasting for Women: A Review of Female-Specific Responses to Fasting in the Literature and Krista Scott Dixon’s piece linked below.

I often think that it would be fun to be a man, just for the ability to make such dramatic physical changes so quickly. Look ma, biceps and a mustache just after two weeks! They’re like starfish, those men.

Men go to the gym, start lifting weights, and voila, they grow visible muscles. It’s kinda cool and fascinating in a science experiment kind of way. Whenever I meet men who don’t lift weights, I admit to being a bit baffled. Come on, you’ve got it so easy. Here, just pick up this bar and let me load some weight on the end. Now just wait, sit back, and you can practically watch the muscles grow.

In her best rant ever Krista Scott Dixon writes about why women should stop listening to personal training advice from young men who live in such different worlds.

To lose weight, they do crazy shit like give up drinking so much beer. I hear women from all over the globe gnashing their teeth at their partners’ superhuman abilities to get riptshizzled with no effort. I’ve been busting my ass and I lost 1 lb in a month! That jerk’s doing my nutrition plan along with me and he’s lost 40 lb in the same time, just by eating one less strand of spaghetti a day! I hate him!

I hear ya. My home dinner table conversation sometimes goes like this.

Me: Ugh, I feel the estrogen demons again. I feel like an inflated wet sponge. The only thing that fits me is the Snuggie my grandma gave me last Christmas.

Him: I don’t feel so good myself. I had a whiff of anxiety today and dropped 5 lbs. Then my shirt tore itself on my abs.”

Mostly I try to regard the muscle growing abilities of the male of our species with wonderment and awe, rather than envy. Some of the time I even succeed.

(And yes, there’s a ton of variation between men and a ton of variation between women.  And lots of people for whom those categories aren’t meaningful. I don’t mean to suggest here that all men are alike in their ability to lose weight and gain muscle. What does bother me a lot–and it’s the subject of another post–is how much of the research in the nutrition and fitness realm is carried out on young men and then becomes advice given to women of all ages.)

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