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Feb 26, 2008

Do Men and Women Eat Differently?


Conventional wisdom says men are from Mars and women are from Venus when it comes to communicating, but now the differences may include the way they eat.Men who are insecure about their bodies eat more in front of other men, while women insecure about their bodies eat less in front of their girlfriends.And all it takes to affect their eating habits is viewing images of "ideal-bodied" people of their own gender, All of the men and women were average in body weight.Some of the men and women viewed images of fit men and women with no accompanying text. The pictures came from such fashion, lifestyle and fitness magazines as Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Vogue, Shape, Elle, Men's Health, Men's Fitness and Muscle & Fitness.Others viewed slides that contained information on diet and exercise. Then all of the participants adjourned into a classroom, where they ate pretzels without knowing the researchers were watching their every bite.According to the results, women who thought poorly of their bodies and viewed slides with no text or with diet and exercise information, on average, ate one less pretzel than other women. Men with the same poor body-image who viewed the same slides for their gender ate three more pretzels than other men.
First step in eating disorder?
Laying off just a few pretzels a day, thus saving 100 calories and losing more than a pound of fat in a year may not seem like much in women. But some women, even skinny ones, may get carried away with being as slim as possible because of the images they see in magazines and on TV.As for men, three extra pretzels here and three extra pretzels there, and soon you're talking a much larger waistline. If a woman is a regular user of ideal-body media, she may be moved to abstain from eating several times a day, even when she is hungry, which would result in significant weight loss over timeThe fact that this happens even to skinny women means that such weight loss could be unhealthy.Similarly, a man vulnerable to ideal-male images may actually eat more even when he isn't hungry just to reassure himself and other men that he is sufficiently masculine, Eating in response to external cues rather than internal hunger signals is one of the first steps involved in the development of anorexia, bulimia or compulsive eating.Our commercial mass media are filled with such external cues. It is our hope that future studies will be devoted to furthering our understanding of how young people, especially those who are most vulnerable, can resist the pull of those cues.

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