Obesity is a medical condition that now affects about 25% of the Canadian adult population, with the prevalence being slightly higher amongst men than women. Interestingly, it is most often women that seek help to treat their obesity. In fact, in clinical research trials of obesity, enrolment is usually constituted by about 80% women and 20% men – we would much prefer a 50/50 split so that we could study both genders equally well, but the reality is that women are more interested to participate in programs or studies that may help them to lose weight. Why is this?
Though the reasons are likely multiple and complex, and also different from person to person, it seems that at least some of this difference may be thanks to societal views on obesity in women vs men. I heard a poignant commentary from a colleague at a meeting recently. He said:
Next time you are in the grocery store or gas station, have a look at the magazine rack. When you go to the section that is most often read by women – fashion magazines, women’s fitness, social news etc – what do you see? Thin women, often models that are underweight, in skin tight clothing, strutting their stuff and painting the image of what a woman ‘should’ look like.
Now, head to the outdoor and sporting section, which is the section that men most often enjoy. These men are often larger, dressed in bulky clothing, looking large and strong… while many of these photos are very muscular, many are often carrying excess fat tissue as well.
This societal dichotomy is doubly unfortunate, because it leaves women with an inappropriate impression of what they ‘should’ look like, while it could leave men thinking that it may be desirable to carry excess body weight.
I would love to hear from my readers if this resonates with you – feel free to post a message at the end of this blog post.