Gender Stereotypes in Dieting: Myths Affecting Both Women and Men

By author photo Jenny Craig Team


Discover why dieting myths about your gender might be holding you back

The weight-loss industry tends to be very focused on women. Perhaps this is because there’s an assumption that women care more about their bodies and the way they look than men do. Or, maybe it’s because it’s assumed that women put on weight more easily than men, and have a harder time losing it.

But these assumptions are myths, and they can be harmful to both women and men who are wanting to embark on a healthier lifestyle, lose weight and get more physically active.

We’ve identified some of the worst dieting myths around gender stereotypes. Debunking myths and sharing the truth can motivate women and men to reach their weight-loss goals and make better-informed choices for their health.

Myth 1: Only women crave sweet things

Like many myths or stereotypes, there is some truth in this generalisation. Some studies in some locations, like the US, have found that more women than men report having chocolate cravings. The figures vary in different studies, but between 40- 90% of women, and 15-60% of men, have admitted to chocolate cravings.

But, are women naturally more inclined to eat chocolate or similar high-calorie, low-nutrition foods like cake and ice-cream? Or have we simply been culturally conditioned to think so? It may be more ‘socially acceptable’ for women to admit to overindulging in foods that most know are more indulgent because popular culture reproduces jokes about women who are chocolate fiends. Chocolate-loving men may just be more likely to keep this fact quiet if they think it’s a ‘feminine’ thing.

This myth may seem relatively harmless, but it can also have a big effect on the way both men and women’s relationship with food and how they approach healthy eating. If women believe they’re naturally more drawn towards chocolate and sweet treats, they may make excuses for overindulging even when they’re trying their best to stick to a weight-loss plan. Similarly, a man who loves chocolate or cakes may be unwilling to identify this as a weakness in his diet if he believes this is a problem only for women.

In reality, eating too many high-calorie foods is a problem for people of any gender if they’re trying to lose weight. An occasional treat is fine and can be part of a healthy eating plan, but cutting empty calories from your diet is an important step on the weight-loss journey, whatever your gender.

Myth 2: Men prefer meat

In many cultures, meat eating is associated with hyper-masculinity. That’s not to say that women don’t love meat, but to many people, masculinity and meat-eating are so enmeshed that there’s something suspicious about a man who won’t tuck in to a big, juicy steak.

But come on: it’s 2020. It’s more widely understood these days how damaging certain gender stereotypes can be to women’s and men’s mental health, as well as their physical health.

Eating lean meat as part of a balanced diet can be healthy, and both men and women who are trying to increase their muscle mass need protein. But, reducing the amount of meat you eat–or eliminating it from your diet entirely–can be beneficial to your weight-loss goals.

Meat isn’t the only source of protein, and a lot of meat is high in saturated fat. The meat you put on your plate doesn’t prove how masculine you are, so it’s time to get over this myth. Healthy eating doesn’t have a gender.

Myth 3: Only women suffer from eating disorders

There are many ways to lose weight in a healthy manner and to have a positive relationship with food, whatever your age or gender. But, some people, through a combination of physical, social and psychological factors, have a less-than-healthy relationship with dieting and exercise, and can develop eating disorders.

Think ‘eating disorder’ and the first image that comes to mind is likely a young woman. It’s certainly important for friends and family members to understand when someone’s healthy lifestyle goals go too far and become problematic. But, young women are not the only people who suffer from eating disorders. Assuming they are risks missing warning signs from men and transgender or non-binary people.

Eating disorders do not only occur when young women aspire to be like their favorite (and often thin) pop stars. There are many more complex psychological factors at play, which can affect anyone, of any gender.

Developing a healthy and positive relationship with your body, your diet, and your fitness regime is essential for anyone wanting to lose weight and get healthier.

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