Women Are Fat – Men Are Just Big And Strong?

Being overweight or obese has been associated with a poor body image and a lower quality of life specially in females, but the impact on males is less clear.

This relationship was now examined by Saloumi and Plourde from McGill University, Montreal, in a paper just published in Psychology, Health & Medicine.

The analysis was based on data from the nationally representative Canadian Community Health Survey, which included 25,246 males and females aged 15-29 years.

As expected, both satisfaction with their looks and satisfaction with life were inversely associated with excess weight in females.

In contrast, excess weight in older men was associated with greater satisfaction with life (body image in men was not examined).

While older overweight men were less likely to smoke, excess weight was associated with higher rates of smoking, particularly in younger women.

Both men and women with excess weight reported avoiding food because of caloric content and an attempt to control their weight.

Although most males and females with excess weight acknowledged the fact that they were overweight, 20.4, 29.6, and 36.1% of males with excess weight in the age group of 15-19, 20-24, and 25-29, respectively, seemed to think that their weight is “just about right”.

In contrast less than 10% of females with excess weight in all three age groups thought that their weight is “just about right”.

The study points to important differences in how young men and women perceive their excess weight and the strategies that they may adopt to control it.

The authors explain their interesting finding that overweight men appear more satisfied with life than do overweight women with the notion that while men associate excess weight with being “big and strong”, women tend to associate excess weight with being “fat”, something both sexes appear to fear.

Previous researchers have also suggested that while men may avoid high-caloric foods for health reasons, women tend to do so primarily to control their weight.

These differences have important implications both for public health messaging as well as for individual counseling of men and women with excess weight.

I am guessing that distinctly different strategies will be needed to address excess weight in men and women.

I look forward to any ideas my readers may have on how to better convince men that some of that “big and strong” may actually be a significant health risk.

Edmonton, Alberta

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Saloumi C, & Plourde H (2010). Differences in psychological correlates of excess weight between adolescents and young adults in Canada. Psychology, health & medicine, 15 (3), 314-25 PMID: 20480435