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Term Paper - Gender & Food: Dieting (6)

The famous becoming phenomenon this chapter will be about is the dieting.

Dieting is the process of purposely losing weight. The reasons therefore will be mentioned later in the chapter about the wherefores. Dieting was long ago only a female thing, but this is also about to change. The by me studied persons had as the very first question if they ever had done a diet or not. It was the first one to make clear what this all is going to be about. If you think of food especially in relation to gender, dieting is the point which comes almost through everybody’s mind. The outcome was that 57% of the female testing persons already had done at least one diet in their life, in contrast to only 14% on the men’s side. So in average more than every second women wanted/wants to reduce weight. Exact dates about the frequency of diets are not possible because the true number of women and men who made a diet cannot be collected. In another survey, 45% of the women and barely 20% of the men admitted that they had at least one diet behind them. Besides, 63% of the female testing persons stated they would daily risk a look at the pair of scales and 42% of the men would do so, too. So women are far ahead in the matter of diet delusion. This is also verified through the fact that women are rather able to really pull a diet through. The men cannot as good as they stick to a low-calorie and health-conscious way of nutrition; they would too often make little “deals” like for example: “just one little Hot Dog/piece of chocolate/etc”. So they have not such a great motivation in general to stay through a diet. This was again found out by scientists of the German Institute for Nutrition Research.

As you can see in the diagram above, women are always and especially in the younger days more successful in complying with a diet.

Now after the conditions all around dieting are clear, so that dieting is on its way up as well as the fact that women are leading the movement of trying to lose body weight, we can ask us about what the causes of this could be.

On the one side, there is the healthy aspect. Diets can be helpful and sometimes even necessary if a person is extremely overweighed, has very high levels of cholesterol respectively uric acid or a high blood pressure. In England for instance, the obesity rate is very high as you can see in the chart, and so it is also in the most western states.

Interesting is also the fact that the “trend” of being overweight even skips to the children, as the diagram shows. Every third boy and girl in England between 11 and 15 years is overweight or obese.
In the USA, obesity is also a present subject.  All in all, more women are affected because the body fat distribution differs in the genders; women carry more fat on their frames whereas men carry more fat within their frames. The reproductive cycling and childbearing in women causes changes in the body fat distribution. Besides, obesity can have a negative influence on the fertility and even raise the risk of a coronary artery disease through an increasing waist-hip proportion in females caused by the menopause. These anatomic and biological differences are also responsible that it suffices for men to fight against obesity and lose weight simply because of dieting, whereas the women again have disadvantages in regard of losing pounds due to not only eat less calories, but also to do lots of sports.
On the other side, to come back to the aspects which are responsible why many people decide to do a diet, there is the most frequent factor namely the psychological one. In our today’s society, we get confronted with slim thin pop-stars, models, actors and so on. In every woman’s magazine there are dozens of tips, tricks and diets to become pretty, to become pretty like everybody else seems to be. To be slim is put on a level with being fit, health and as just mentioned pretty. And to be fat is the biggest sin of all according to the lifestyle magazines. This dramatizes the situation still more because as we already know if women are unhappy and sad they betake to sweets which does not necessarily improve the situation of the women who feel to fat. By the way, this thin ideal runs contrary to the women’s desire for chocolate and desserts. So it is clear that the women feel too thick and do not like their body anymore not to speak of feeling comfortable in it. As a result, they begin a diet of which the market of gossip rags is flooded. Even in my survey with mostly younger testing persons, more than 70% of the women stated they would feel too thick and often uncomfortable in their body – in contrast to no single man.  All these images and visions and mediated ideal images come from the influence of the media in our daily life. In television, magazines, radio and of course in the advertisements all round us. These, in this case food adverts, are specialized on gender, too. In the men’s magazine “Front” for example, there was an ad for Big D Nuts with the slogan “grab your nuts”, so they on the one hand used a clear allusion connected with “male” humor and on the other side the commercial was for a product what can be associated with the inability of men to cook their own proper meals.
Against this whole influence of the media and the image that our society is imposed by them speaks that overweight in case of the women is less harmful to health than it is for the men. A longtime study of the Düsseldorf clinic for metabolic disease and nourishment with 6000 overweighed people showed that there are some “benefits” of having a few pounds too much. First, it is evolutional conditioned that the human body cares for saving some fat stores for famine times, it is something natural and unchangeable. Second, the human immune system can be enforced by fat cells which are able to protect against digestive infections, after the doctor Julia Rautenstrauch in the “Deutsche Medizinische Wochenzeitschrift”.  The cells would also be responsible for the production of the hormone leptin and so support the navigation of the T-helper cells. Third, the Italian gynecologist Alessandra Graziottin claims that for women in the age group 50 + a little bit more body fat can improve the sexual intercourse due to prevention of estrogens during the menopause. In addition, the female body shapes retain as well as the libido and the vagina stays wetter which is also an advantage in relation to sexual acting for the woman.
So as a first conclusion, the media influences our daily life and is responsible for the greatest part of diets and for the fact that the majority of women have to conquer against an unrealistic and idealized image of “natural” beauty.
A further, more illustrative contra point which underlines the arguments above is a movie I saw and which is attached to this essay. The title of the documentary is “Deutschland isst…” with the well-known TV-cook Tim Mälzer. He wants to find out what the best methods of dieting are and if they really help to reduce the body weight for a longer time or even permanent. Therefore, he starts a project with people who want to lose weight by trying different diets. The have to keep a video diary and furthermore their weight and stress levels etc. are regularly controlled by a specialist. Mr. Mälzer also talks to different persons who have to do with the food industry or woman magazines, advertisement and so on. The documentary is quite interesting, in particular what the specialist for influence by advertisement says, namely among others that we get up to 2500 times per day affected by the idealized and often with computer programs arranged pictures of slim and sporty women so that we at some time hardly have a chance to successfully react against this influence.
Finally it can be said that the influence of the media is more or less responsible for this whole dieting delusion. These unnatural images have in particular a very bad affect on children in puberty who dislike their body anyway. In addition, in the film the daughter of one dieting testing person suddenly doesn’t wanted to eat but make a diet like her mother, too. This shows how dieting, if not really necessary because of healthy risks, is something people see as well as exercise in a false way. Our view to the reality of nutrition gets impaired and subjective just as our behavior. Especially the emotional influenced women in regard to the eating habits have to suffer under this pressure of society and as a result they get more emotional burdened. It is a vicious circle, as much as the dieting with its yo-yo-effect although this whole circus is not necessarily needful as we can see in the statements of the two specialists Julia Rautenstrauch, Alessandra Graziottin and in the documentary of Tim Mälzer.


12.6.11 12:50

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