Monday, February 8, 2010

You eat like a girl!

Before I get started, I wanted to provide a little context for this and other posts that get into man-weight loss…  One of the reasons I decided to start writing this blog was to take the opportunity to explore weight loss from a male (i.e., my) perspective.  While I do not claim to represent all men (I think that requires a majority vote of the population, not to mention getting a petition signed and perhaps an act of Congress), I do think that not enough men talk about this subject.  Based on my personal and professional experience, we are a tad bit touchy talking about both our weight and weight loss.  If in some small way, I can be a contributing voice to the nascent movement of the diminishing center of the man (e.g., the midsection), then maybe that serves some small useful purpose.   To further my aim of describing my own mannish perspective on weight loss, I may from time to time rely on hyperbole, self-deprecation and politically incorrect sensibilities to attempt to illuminate the topic.  I mean no offense resulting from any inadvertently offending statements. 

With that out of the way, I do, in fact, kind of eat like a girl.  And truth be told, I am sometimes a little self-conscious about it.  So what do I mean by “eat like a girl”?  Well perhaps the best way to illustrate this is to focus on stereotypical man-eating behavior.  Perhaps a brief review of some favorite cultural icons is in order:
  • Fred Flinstone.  Need I say more?  I’m curious if anyone has ever tried to calculate the POINTS value of Brontosaurus ribs?  Anything large enough to tip your car over can’t be a proper portion.
  • Henry VIII seemed to be a big eater and proud of it.  And he had a bunch of wives. 
  • Most Roman aristocracy were not afraid of big banquet.  
  • Dagwood had his shockingly large sandwiches. 
  • Bluto from Animal House.  Remember the cafeteria scene?  “That boy is a P-I-G, pig!”  Of course, that slight didn’t go well for her, thereby creating a new use for mashed potatoes. 
  • More recently Mad Men.  Always eating their steak, yet they never seem to gain weight.  Totally unfair.  
  • “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche”.  OK, maybe this isn’t a good example, as quiche really is incredibly fattening and caloric. 

It seems that society continues to expect us to eat in a particular way. 
  • Our mothers and mother-in-law’s become visibly upset not only if we fail to clean our plate, but if we don’t ask for seconds. 
  • We are expected to order steak whenever possible. 
  • We are expected to lunch on burgers and fries. 
  • We are expected to consume large quantities of full-test beer. 
  • If we watch what we eat, we may find ourselves being accused of anything from metrosexuality to prissyness.

So does it matter?  Maybe, maybe not.  I have to admit that I still feel a little self-conscious when I’m having dinner with a bunch of dudes and I order a lightly prepared fish with grilled vegetables while they are metaphorically killing, skinning and eating small animals with blood dripping down the cheeks.  If there is anyone who really shouldn’t feel strange about eating in a careful way, it’s me:  I work for freaking Weight Watchers!  Of course I have to watch what I eat!  But it does make me wonder how other guys who are trying to shift to a healthier lifestyle deal with unstated (or stated) peer pressure. 

Interestingly, these days if I order first (or early in the lineup) at dinner, the fellas who follow me often start ordering fish and lighter dishes too.  It’s as if they were given license to take their foot of the fat absorption accelerator pedal.  I can almost hear their cries to have me take them to a fern bar. 

I do think that male stereotypes around eating are and will continue to change.  There is too much at stake with obesity for them not to.  Obesity has all of the same health consequences on men that it has on women.  The bottom line is that we are all supposed to be eating the same things:  fruits, vegetables, lean meats/proteins, whole grains and low/non-fat dairy.  We are all supposed to be eating sane portions, and we are all supposed to be getting regular activity.  Those guidelines were not written for women in hopes that some men would get a clue.  They were written for all of us. 

So don’t judge me for my newfound love of salad, scallops, yogurt and fruit salad.  Just because I don’t finish everything on my plate doesn’t mean I have stomach flu.   Just because I didn’t order the steak doesn’t mean I don’t like movies where they blow things up.  My masculinity is unbowed no matter how many courgettes I order. 




  1. You make some great points. One friend made a comment to me when we were out to lunch right around New Years. We went to 5 Napkin Burger and I cut mine in half and dilligently ate only 1/2. He basically said that my willingness to do that shows why I look like I do and he looks like he does. A few weeks later we joked that I ended up eating that 1/2 a burger for 2 different snacks for 3 days. Totally true.

  2. What you describe could have been a Seinfeld episode! Think of it, George on a diet, not wanting anyone to know, and his buddies imagining all the possible scenarios for his "eating like a girl".

    Great post! Thanks.

  3. Your posts are always fantastic. I always look forward to reading what you have next to say. You are so real, I LOVE it! Passing your blog on...

  4. I totally LOVE your Blog! As a leader I think its awesome to see our CEO so human and sooo funny!! I just love that part. I always smile when I read your thoughts. I always talk about your blog at my meetings. Keep on rockin!

  5. Delightful post.

    My husband and I went at this together. Peer pressure can be a force for good :)

  6. As a girl who is still substantially overweight (even though I've lost 80 so far) I'm self conscious some days about "eating like a bird." Ultimately, I'm happier that way so I just keep doing it. :) And um, I think it's awesome that you still like movies in which things blow up, but I wouldn't mind if you liked chick flicks too. :)

  7. Hmmm. Instead of "eating like a girl", I like to think of it as "eating like a european man". I spent some time recently with a dear french friend and her french husband and it seems just refreshingly normal for him to eat like we do, lean meats and vegetables and low processed food. Come to think of it, another (male) friend of mine from Luxembourg eats the same way. Maybe it's just an american thing?

  8. This is a great post! Men and women both face different challenges when it comes to eating healthy. I had to laugh at "we have to order steak whenever possible." It's so true!

  9. I look forward to the day when men AND women don't have to put up with peer pressure over what they eat. We all make our own choices, and if I'm choosing a salad and you're going for the Reuben, who really cares?

    I won't hold my breath though....!

  10. Here in California, the restaurant Applebees has introduced a 500 calorie menu, and promoting it on television ads are men! They broach this very issue in the ads-the "maleness" of watching one's diet.

    Your views and insights are so refreshing. Thank you for sheding light on a subject most women (I'd bet) are unaware of.

  11. Fabulous Post! Thank a leader I find one of the biggest issues for men seems to be the peer pressure and social assumptions they live under
    more so than women at times. It is more socially acceptable for women fuss about their weight and the food they eat.

    I will recommend this article to my male members for sure!

  12. Just founnd your blog and look forward to following you. I did not know that a man was the WW CEO.

  13. Loved your thoughts on male eating and I like the way you express yourself. I'm a big WW fan. It gives me guidelines to eat what I like/want in a way that keeps me from being fat. What a deal!

  14. I SO enjoy your blog and look forward to reading it. Love your wit!!

  15. Love reading your a lifetime member that has fallen off the WW wagon it certainly reinforces the fact that "everyone" has weight issues and can connect through food, whether they are the CEO of WW or not! Now it's time for this lifetimer to get back on that wagon and stay on...thanks so much for the ten fingers!

  16. Your take on things is so important to all of us out in the field!! Great job

  17. So funny. I think my husband eats more Like A Girl than I do. But there is so much to it - it does seem to be "manly" to eat brontosaurus ribs. I remember my male cousins and uncles having a major Eat-A-Thon contest at Thanksgiving, the idea being that whoever consumed the most plates of food was the studliest. Not.

    I'm lucky that I have a partner who wants to eat, often healthier than I do. (blush) I know it would be a major challenge to have someone demanding meat n potatoes every night.

  18. I can totally see that. I guess I "eat like a girl" in quality, but rarely in quanitity.

    Ladies have the other type of issue - you look bad if you consume a gigantic amount of healthy food (I eat like a rabbit that is having it's last meal), but the way some of my lady friends eat is tiny portions of the unhealthiest things ever. And they fool themselves into thinking they're healthy because they don't eat much. Sigh...

  19. Wonderful writing. My husband is a European meat lover but today told me he loves my Indian-spices red lentil stew!

  20. Your posts are great!
    I didn't know a guy headed up WW - maybe we (men)can get a little more page time in the magazine and web-site.
    Keep up the good work.

  21. If you think there is peer pressure for men to eat fat, think about all the peer pressure for women to eat sugar. Been to any cookie socials or tea parties lately? If you decline tasting someone's great-aunt's lemon bar recipe you are insulting your tribe on so many levels you can't even count 'em all.

  22. At least you don't throw like a girl.

    . . . do you?

  23. Do I throw like a girl? No. I would say that I throw like the abominable snowman. Not pretty, not feminine, and not enormously accurate.

  24. So awesome. This is one of my favorite blogs, and this post actually made me laugh right out loud.
    On a separate note, I wish there had been more cool CEOs back when I was part of the workforce!

  25. The Fred Flintstone comment made me laugh out loud. I think the wheels on their car were supposed to be made of stone, too. Will definitely avoid the brontosaurus ribs on future buffets - or if I feel I must have them, I will at least try to rack up some activity points first. Perhaps some heavy-duty housework like vacuuming using a mastodon with a stick tied to his back. Love the blog. Thanks!