Women aren’t the only ones who complain about their body. Men also fret about body image. Like women, men want to look good. Negative body image is a serious issue among men and women alike. Negative body image is also a key risk factor in development of eating disorders. Men searching for the “perfect body” often find themselves sliding down the slippery slope into an eating disorder.
According to a recent study done by the Centre for AppearanceResearch at the University of the West of England, four out of five men confess to being unhappy about their body. The study involved 384 British men with an average age of 40. The biggest body issue was the “beer belly” followed by "lack of muscles." About 60% said that their arms, chests, and stomachs were not muscular enough.
Their solution? To eat a high protein diet! Sorry guys. Eating a steak for dinner will not create bigger biceps by breakfast. Hard exercise builds muscles. You need to go to the gym and lift weights. And in order to have the energy to lift weights, you need to fuel your muscles with carbs.
Eating a high protein diet will not lead to fat loss (unless you knock off calories when you knock off carbs). To get rid of the beer belly, you need to get rid of the beer – or at least some of it—and consume fewer calories each day (or most days of the week). By cutting out two beers a day (300 calories), you can theoretically lose 30 pounds a year. Cutting out just one beer a day (150 calories) theoretically contributes to 15 pounds of fat loss a year – assuming everything else if your diet stays the same.
Sounds simple? Yes. Fat loss should not be hard. But if you want professional help with sculpting your body, I suggest you consult with a sports nutritionist for personalized advice. To find a local sports nutritionist, use the referral network at www.SCANdpg.org.
If you are a gym rat who reads-and-exercises at the same time, be aware: the kind of magazine you read can influence your state of mind after you leave the gym. That is, if you read National Geographic, you will likely feel better about yourself after you finish your workout. But if you are a man who reads magazines such as Men’s Health or a woman who reads fashion magazines such as Glamour, you will likely end up feeling worse about your body.
Yes, the media has a powerful effect on your self-image! All those lean and beautiful models can make you believe you are fat and frumpy. Please remember, in real life, we rarely see people who look like models. That’s because the photos with models are air-brushed and convey false images of humanity.
Rather than compare yourself to a model, your better bet is to appreciate your body for all the wonderful things it does for you and be grateful for your good health. Your body is likely “good enough” the way it is. Stop comparing and stop despairing!
“I’ve struggled with my weight all my life. I remember going to Weight Watchers with my mom when I was 10 year old. That was humiliating! Ever since then, I’ve been on and off diets. I feel like such a failure,” lamented my client, a 38-year-old medical professional. Like most people who struggle with weight, he grew up with the message that he wasn’t “good enough” and that being over-fat was not acceptable.
To counter all of his negative self-talk, I encouraged Jim (not his real name) to remember that just as dogs come in differing sizes and shapes, so do people. And no one size or shape is “perfect” or able to transform him into a “better” person. I encouraged him to live on a fantasy island, where he could be “good enough” at his current weight.
I also shared these words of wisdom: “To compare is to despair.” I invited Jim to stop comparing himself to others and to simply appreciate all the wonderful things his body does for him. Easier said than done, but certainly a worthy goal.
If you, too, have struggled with being overweight for most of your life, you might also feel imperfect and inadequate. The solution is not to change your body from the outside in (by losing excess body fat) but to change yourself from the inside out. You can be a good person at any size. For help with improving your relationship with your body, you might want to read the chapter on body fat in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook.
More often than not, the avid bicyclists I counsel express concern about the power to weight ratio. As one cyclist, Hal, explained to me. Nancy, biking is all about the power to weight ratio. Ill be more powerful on my bike if Im lighter. I really want to lose about 20 pounds so Ill be able to bike faster. I asked this lean man what his wife thought about this idea. He responded, She thinks Im crazy. I silently agreed with her; Hal didnt have 20 pounds of excess fat to lose.
I reviewed Hals eating patterns and made some suggestions to help him ride faster by being better fueled. In his efforts to lose weight, he currently was actively restricting his breakfast and lunch. No wonder he lagged on energy during his late-afternoon bike rides. He thought he was slow because he was weighed too much. I think he was slow because he was underfueled.
Ill see him for a follow-up consultation in a month. If hes like other cyclists, hell happily report, I havent lost any weight, but by eating better, Im much faster and Ive been setting PRs.
“I’d rather be skinny than at peace with food” she snapped back at me, after I suggested her new weight might be more appropriate given her genetics. “I used to weigh 105 pounds, and I cannot stand being 115.” But 105 pounds was when she was spending four hours a day exercising and being “too busy” to eat.
If you are at war with your body, and “cannot stand” your body fatness, I suggest you check out the following article reprinted with permission from Nourishing Connections(www.nourishingconnections.com) a website for people who struggle with food and weight.
"To be nobody but yourself—in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting." ~E.E. Cummings
Reflections for Staying Attuned
Body hatred is a learned behavior. Have you ever met a baby who hated her body? Somewhere along the way, we learn to dislike, and even hate, our bodies. How did we learn this? To answer that question, let's consider:
• who teaches us to scrutinize our bodies?
• who teaches us to be critical of ourselves?
• who teaches us not to like our bodies?
• who teaches us not to like ourselves?
Start by taking a concerted look at the advertising world. It will become startlingly clear that advertisers want women to feel dissatisfied with themselves; the message is right there in the ad. But—lucky us—the advertisers’ products have the answer to the very dissatisfaction they are promoting.
Now consider prejudice. A woman who hates her body and is constantly concerned about food and weight will rarely break the glass ceiling. There is a great deal of theory about downtrodden groups, like women, and how the oppression they suffer becomes internalized. "Internalized oppression" occurs when people are targeted or oppressed over a period of time. They eventually internalize the myths and misinformation that society communicates to them about their group. For example, women frequently internalize the stereotype that they are not attractive (or smart, productive, happy) unless they are thin. This learned belief causes many women to regularly engage in what is a universally feared experience, living with hunger.
While learning body hatred from many different sources, we absorb and adapt to the rules of what is acceptable. When we begin to break free of body hatred, we are breaking the rules. Consider if a woman said, "Yeah, I'm pretty okay with my body." Many would eye her suspiciously. Why? Because she dares to break some very powerful rules!
Since body hatred is a learned behavior, it can be unlearned. Not easy to do, but worth the effort. Dare to break the rules. Decide to re-learn to like yourself inside and out. Reconnect with the body acceptance with which you were born.
Stay Attuned Tip
One woman, who typically made disparaging comments whenever she saw her reflection, made a commitment to herself to never pass by a reflection without saying, "Hello there, you Gorgeous Goddess." Sometimes she would pass by and try to ignore the reflection, but because of her commitment to herself she would turn around, take a peek, and say, "Hello there, you Gorgeous Goddess." This simple exercise was enough to change her perception of herself. She even began to carry herself differently. The change was dramatic (but not surprising, since neuroscience studies support this result of shifting from negative self-talk to positive self-talk).
So, just for today, whenever you see your reflection, say something powerfully positive to yourself. Take a minute right now to decide what that will be. Some examples are:
• “Wow, what a wonderfully powerful woman!”
• “Hey, bright and beautiful you!”
• “Those women at Nourishing Connections must be crazy, but I’ll give it a try—’Hello there sweet and wonderful person!’ ”
Stay Attuned Affirmation : "I am the exquisite woman in the window. "