What does it mean to “eat like a man”?
Granted, guys often need to eat bigger portions that gals. But HUGE portions? Where did this notion come from?
Last week, we looked at how cultural ideas cause us to “eat with our minds” instead of our stomachs. Because of these influences we often eat more than we want, need or can comfortably digest.
Yet another example of this: the belief that mammoth portions are “manly.” Why does eat like a man mean eat more than anyone ever should? When did this happen?
Take, for example, eating contests. One of my friends tells a story of his closest friends, “two huge alpha male guys,” who once challenged each other to an eating contest. As they stared each other down across the table, each dug into 2 lbs. of BBQ meat until it was demolished. And then they threw up.
While of course not every meal is an eating contest for guys, they seem to be surrounded by subtle cultural prodding to demonstrate brawn and determination via their food choices.
For proof, look at advertising: The Taco Bell “fourth meal.” The Hungry-Man frozen dinners. The huge, drippy, doubled-up burgers in Carl’s Jr. and Burger King ads.
These are aimed at having men indentify with them, and they often come with some kind of challenge. Like, can you eat like a man? Are you man enough to eat all this?
And this is purely armchair speculation, but doesn’t it also seem like advertising suggests that saucy, greasy food is what “real men” want? Do an internet search for burger ads. About 90% of the results will feature attractive females, often in swimsuits, eating the burgers—as if to say they go hand in hand. If you like women, then you like loaded burgers. (Or, if you eat loaded burgers, you’ll be attractive to women?)
There are so many messages built into food advertising that take us away from eating to support a healthy, ideal body shape. While women face the suggestion that it’s feminine to eat light, guys clearly face the opposite pressure: to eat heavy.
Where did this stereotypical masculine appetite come from, though?
Did it really come from our caveman days—a primitive instinct that stirs within all men?
That might be nonsense, according to biology professor Marlene Zuk, author of a book called “Paleofantasy.” In an interview she suggests that people rationalize what they want to do using the caveman notion. And that includes justifying junk food, she says.
But our primitive ancestors certainly weren’t chowing down on saucy fried food, and they probably didn’t eat until painfully full in order to show the tribe how manly they were.
Even if our ancestors did have herculean appetites, what worked for them doesn’t necessarily work for us. They probably burned a lot more calories hunting and gathering their food, thus warranting pigging out at mealtimes—if that even *really* happened.
In the end, our food behavior is affected by so many things, including consumer ads that play on our gender identity and even our desire to get back to “primitive” times. In the pursuit of fitness, it pays to be aware of them!
Looking to become more conscious of your eating behavior? IdealShape’s brain training CD Healthy Eating Habits is a great place to start.
By Chelsea Bush