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When given the task of figuring out why men appear to be more comfortable with their bodies than women, I got mad at my husband. This will not be about me, but I have been curious on more than one occasion as to how men don’t appear to feel guilty when over indulging with food. Why don’t they feel compelled to do extra laps around the block and lift weights? Why can they shrug off gaining a few pounds during the holidays where women will go without eating a whole day to attend a party so as not to gain an ounce?

I considered Left Brain versus Right Brain, and then learned that this theory has been disputed. In fact, it seems that if you put a woman’s brain and a man’s brain next to each other, you would not be able to distinguish which one is which on first glance.

There are a couple of structural differences, however that should be noted. You should not be surprised to learn that women have a larger Anterior Cingulate Cortex. This causes them to ruminate over negative behavior more than men. Women also have a bigger fear center, which causes them to avoid taking risks. Those do not explain why perceptions are so different but obviously influence our tendencies to obsess over food.

The next thing we must consider is hormones. Women tend to blame everything on hormones, but what we fail to consider, is that testosterone is a hormone too, and men have 10 times more of it than women do. Testosterone is responsible for the “classic male confidence” and causes men to focus on winning and demonstrating power. Women make up for that with estrogen, which is linked to emotions and mood disruptions. Couple these hormones with culture and social mores, and you will be able to understand why we perceive things so differently, at least on the surface.

I am not convinced that men are not self-critical about their bodies, however the difference could be on what each gender feels is important, and what we will admit about our insecurities.

I would gather that 9 out of every 10 men would rather be 5 pounds overweight than bald. Most women, although critical of their hair and how it looks, don’t typically obsess over baldness, unless there is a medical condition. 

Men are more concerned with being short, and conversely, women typically do not want to be taller than their partner. Men are expected to protect women and therefore can use this as a justification for their size, making extra weight more acceptable.

These are rules that we have learned from our society, which indicates that a combination of nature and nurture exists.

Women tend to attach guilt with eating, and deem foods as good and bad foods. As we age, the reasons of why we judge food changes from maintaining our figures to maintaining our health.

Although women may find their careers very important, the majority of the time, women’s conversations seem to revert back to weight and family. Men, on the other hand, are rarely get caught comparing diets but rather they focus on business, and sports. This makes sense, if these are the areas that we have determined each gender is judged upon.

As the roles of women have changed throughout the decades, we have gone from being primarily in the home, to being bread winners, sometimes surpassing men in our careers. However, we still seem to measure our success on our appearance and our waistline.

Different cultures emphasize different looks. In some cultures, being pin thin is not attractive. Very recently on S-Life this article appeared and illustrated just that. 

Many times, growing up in an affluent American city comes with a lot of social standards that are not necessarily the norm in other parts of the world. The standard that "you can never be too rich or too thin" particularly comes to mind.

The good news is that we can be the voice of the future. As our roles are ever evolving, we have the influence and reach to change perceptions. In a perfect world, we would aspire to look fit, healthy and happy. If we communicate to our children that eating clean, avoiding processed foods and exercising will make us feel better and live longer, maybe we focus on bigger things than our physicality.

Filed Under: Body, Discover, Food, Home base

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