Tuesday, June 30, 2015 at 8:18 am
My husband is a conspiracy theorist. But the conspiracies that concern him don’t involve the White House or alien abductions. They concern the dry-cleaning industry of America, which is out to mess with his head by shrinking his suits. No matter what dry cleaner he goes to, the suit comes back smaller! When I point out that lately he’s been eating like an orca storing blubber for the long migration to the Antarctic, he quickly switches rationales. Perhaps its not the (try cleaner’s fault that his suits are fitting him like Pee-wee Herman’s. It’s the weight lifting he’s been doing. You see, his arms and shoulders are getting just massive, so it stands to reason that his jackets are tight.
Neither of us says a word about his pants.
I take comfort in the fact that my husband really does work out at the gym four times a week, and his cholesterol is, miraculously, 180. As for that 200 pounds on his large-boned five-foot-nine-inch frame, well, he’s built like an opera singer–which, in fact, he is. Maybe he’d be better off at 170. But I have a little secret: I like those extra pounds. No, not being exactly a lightweight myself, I love them. Before John, the only men interested in me looked like they’d spent prolonged vacations in the Sudan. How wonderful it is with my husband to feel…if not exactly delicate, then at least not like a Heffalump.
Jody Geist knows exactly what I’m talking about. Jody’s husband is Bill Geist, the humorist and commentator for CBS’s, Sunday Morning. “I’m about five foot ten, and he’s five eleven. When we got married, we were both skinny. Now my goal is to always keep the same margin between us. If he gets big, I can get a little bigger too. Not as big as him, but a little bigger than I was.” It’s her own law of marital weight gain.
Even so, it’s more acceptable to be an over-weight man in our culture than an overweight woman–which may explain why, even though 35 percent of American men are mildly to significantly overweight, 95 percent of Weight Watchers’ members are women. Domesticity makes men cozy and comfortable-but if wives acquire the same postnuptial habits, they are regarded as having “let themselves go.” Worst of all, in a society that still equates bigness with powerfulness, men feel a sense of entitlement about gaining weight. A woman will eat a pint of Haagen-Dazs fully aware that this is an act of gluttony, while a man will eat a pork roast and stack of fried onion rings, all the while confident of his dinner’s natural wholesomeness. And that man’s wife, while perhaps not in denial the same way her husband is, may nonetheless let it slide. “In general, wives are more tolerant of their husbands’ weight gain than vice versa,” says Kelly Brownell, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Yale University in New Haven, CT, who studies obesity and body image.
That’s not to say that the double standard doesn’t rankle. “My husband’s spare tire Could fit a Monster Truck,” says Emily, a flight attendant based in Tampa. “But he’s forever gazing in the full-length mirror, flexing his arm muscles and saying, `Not bad for a forty-year-old guy, huh?'” Last month Emily and her husband band went on a trip to southern Italy together, where they both gained eight pounds. “I come back, and I’m living on carrot sticks. He’s saying, `Hey, I only gained eight pounds! That’s pretty good! Why don’t I grill up a steak tonight?'”
Christy, a book publishing executive in Chicago, complains, “My fiance has these stick arms and legs–and a stomach like a balloon. He feels perfectly entitled to make jokes about my hurt, which is, admittedly, the widest part of my body. But God forbid I say one word to him! He sulks like a little boy.” Women, Christy says, are used to their bodies being scrutinized. “But we’re supposed to be there to support the man’s ego.”
Some men’s egos are wounded by their own weight gain. The once lanky Bill Geist is more than a little disturbed about his expanding waistline. But disturbance doesn’t necessarily translate into action. His idea of a balanced meal, according to his wife, is chicken-fried steak, fried potatoes, something green swimming in butter–and potato chips for an after-dinner snack. “Bill will try everything to lose weight, other than eating less and exercising,” she explains.
Recently Geist asked his wife to get him a copy of Dr. Atkins’s latest diet book. “I started telling him what he could and couldn’t cat, and I noticed his eyes starting to glaze over. Then, slowly, those eyes turned toward the Yankee game.” Later, the Couple bought a treadmill. “Every morning Bill puts on his running shoes, walks over to the treadmill, looks at it, takes off his running shoes, and gets ready for work,” Jody says. In other words, the road to the Big & Tall outlet is paved with good intentions.
MAYBE THE MOST COMMON SENTIMENT about having a flabulous mate can he summed tip like so: I don’t care what lie looks like, as long as he has the life span of a tortoise. Anyone who’s ever been to a retirement community and noticed the presence of 50 blue-haired ladies for every creaky gent (who looks, inevitably, a little too content) can’t help getting irritable when her husband takes an extra helping of fried chicken at the company picnic.
In fact, women who worry that their husbands are going to shuffle off this mortal coil from the ravages of too many Pop-Tarts have some reason to feel a bit calmer. Research from the Framingham Heart study conducted by Harvard Medical School, which has been going on for 50 years, has shown some evidence that men who cat more fat may he less likely to suffer a stroke than men on lower-fat diets. The key seems to he the kind of fat consumed. A Mediterranean diet of fruits, vegetables, pasta with olive oil and garlic (i.e., monounsaturated fits): good.
Still, you should be aware that a man who is more than 25 percent over his ideal weight may face more health hazards than a similarly overweight woman. Both overweight men and women are at risk for the same diseases–among them, heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. But for complex reasons that involve hormones, fat that collects around the belly and waist–the typical male “apple” shape–is more dangerous than fat that collects around the hips and thighs–the typical female “pear” shape.
And while many of its moan that men have an easier time losing weight than we do–well, this is not the whole truth. “It’s not that men have higher metabolisms than women do–metabolism varies from individual to individual,” explains Yale’s Kelly Brownell. “But pounds tend to drop off more quickly on a bigger person. Plus, if a man has a greater ratio of muscle to fat than a woman, he’ll burn up calories faster, because muscle burns up more calories than fat.”
FOR MYSELF, I’VE FOUND A SOLUTION I can live with–at least for now. When John started his familiar moan about the dry cleaner recently, I secretly took one of his “shrunken” suits, told him I was getting it dry-cleaned, and got a tailor to let it out a couple of inches. John was flabbergasted. Here was a dry cleaner after his own heart: a guy who actually made suits grow.
It’s amazing what a grown man will believe when he truly wants to. Tomorrow I’m taking a few more of John’s suits to this new “dry cleaner.” In return, John’s promised to get through the next month without sausage, Scotch, and french fries. A fair trade, the way I see it.