Women and Men

December 28, 2008

This morning, I heckled my husband until he got on the scale. I also calculated both of our BMIs. Dan hates me writing about him, so I’m not going to spill the beans about what he weighs today, but I will say that he is usually with me when I’m on reviewing meals and that he loves dessert more than anyone I’ve ever known. In the end, he said he would also like to lose a few pounds. The whole reason I asked him to weigh in is that I’d like some support in my efforts. When you have a buddy–someone who’s along for the weight-loss ride–it can be a huge help.

I don’t know if the wake up call provided enough motivation though. Not enough, certainly, to make him join the gym. It isn’t that he’s less overweight than me (in fact, my weight and BMI have gone up less than his since we met), it’s that he notices nothing different about the way the world regards him. Being a few pounds overweight for a man is nothing.

Like all men, Dan’s BMI would have to shoot well into the obesity range for him to experience the discrimination that women begin facing at a BMI of 27, according to this New York Times piece from back in March. My BMI is 26.4 but just a few months ago it was 27.3. And though I don’t exactly feel discriminated against, it is undeniable that people treat me differently than they did a few years ago.

In 2003, my BMI was 21. Often, running around in my size 10 jeans, I feel utterly invisable to woman and men alike. Rarely does anyone tell me I look good, and if they do it’s because I’m wearing makeup or a dress. At 123 pounds, wearing tiny designer jeans that actually look like doll pants to me now, I had everyone’s attention–bar tenders, cashiers, coworkers, fellow gym goers, morning commuters–in I way I simply don’t anymore. I had this temporary magnetism that was all about the size of my body.

As someone who spent a few years very thin, I know that there is a lot of power in thinness. Thinness in women is revered and even a little extra weight affects the way a woman goes through the world. But in men? Men can feel free to ignore their weight, their BMI, their health, their level of fitness, because no one even notices they are fat until they are morbidly obsese.

When I lost the weight back then, I was in graduate school. A woman professor chastised me for it. “What you are doing is politically incorrect,” she said. I’ve thought about that so many times since then. It was politically incorrect. I was sumbitting to a mysoginistic set of demands placed on women that are not placed on men.

It was wrong, and bad for me, and frankly I wish I didn’t know how differently people treat woman who are thin. I am not trying to fast my way into my old jeans. I would, however, like to get back into my healthy weight range. And I hope my husband is coming with me.


3 Responses to “Women and Men”

  1. Laura Says:

    Thank you for this. I completely agree. Inspired by you I’ve actually just bought a scale for the first time in my adult life. I gained 9 pounds this year. Not a lot to some people, but on top of the 15 I had already packed on over 10 years more than I wanted.

    It isn’t that I want to look like a supermodel or catch anyone’s eye. It’s that I want to feel good about myself again. To be limber in the garden and free to say yes to whatever I want to do. To not envy others the ability to wear any style they want. I remember what it was like to be 130 (slim for my height) in highschool and college and I’d like to come within spitting distance of it again.

    And I’m dragging my husband with me on this adventure because his ideal number is a lot further away than mine. But he’s with Dan in that he doesn’t really feel any pressure to make the change…

    So all that to say, thank you for putting your thoughts out there. I’m along with you for the ride.

  2. Interesting post, Joy, especially the politically incorrect part. I’m not trying to fit into my old jeans, either — the ones I got into by living an unhealthy lifestyle. But I was amazed how different people treated me when I started to get back in shape. This time around, though, by still eating foods I like and running a lot, I’ve found that I like being in shape. I like my time at the gym. I like zoning out the world and hitting the weight machines. I wonder what the professor would say about that?

  3. Here’s another way of putting it (sorry for the double comment): there’s a difference between working out because you want to meet someone else’s expectations and working out because it’s what you want to do for yourself. Maybe that makes better sense…

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