What Men Really Think
Now add the fact that our mental struggle has two layers. "A man thinks, 'Not only does it bother me that I'm fat and my hair is thinning. It bothers me that it bothers me, because I'm not supposed to feel this way,'" says Thomas Cash, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. "The thinking is that it's like a woman to worry about looks."
But other people's jokes sting. Mark Meador, 37, of Westerville, Ohio, returned from a trip to Disney World with photos of himself. "Man, you look like Big Pun," Meador's friend said, referring to the obese rapper who died of a heart attack. Meador laughed off the comment, not letting on that it hurt. That same weekend, his daughter said, "Dad, you look like you're having a baby." Fortunately for Meador, the gentle pokes inspired him to change. He dropped junk food, started Tae Bo, and lost more than 40 pounds.
At the same time, men are also shaping up because they're seeing that people who are fit are more successful at work. "Women are very good at using their looks for competition," Cash says. "So men think, 'I'd better clean up my act.'"
A scary thought that proves the point: When Luciano interviewed doctors who perform penis enlargements, they reported that the main reason men undergo the surgery isn't to improve their relationships, but to be more impressive in the locker room.
"The youth movement has been cruel to men," says Luciano. "The Cary Grants have fallen through the cracks. Today's ideal is younger, buffer, more muscular. A lot of men in their 40s and 50s have trouble trying to emulate that." So men, like women, are swimming against the age current. That might explain why from 1997 to 2001, the number of men who had cosmetic surgery increased 256 percent. (Last year more than 800,000 men—and north of six million women—went under the knife.)
Several years ago, I tried on my wife's post-pregnancy size-20 jeans to see if they were cut differently. The jeans fit me perfectly. I wore those jeans for six months, and I felt leaner every day I wore them. My wife asked me why I didn't just buy a big pair of men's jeans and have a tailor alter them. My answer: Why pay for alterations when I know that tomorrow I'm going to start an exercise routine that will change my body shape forever? It's been my mantra for two decades.
Roberto Olivardia, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School and coauthor of The Adonis Complex, says secrecy reinforces the patients' sense of shame. "I've treated men who would tell people they were alcoholics, but they'd never admit they were bulimic," he says.
"Look at Tiger Woods. The best golfer in the world has an outstanding physique. Golfers used to be everyday men," says J. Kevin Thompson, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of South Florida. "Basketball players used to be skinny. They're all muscular now." Hell, even our president runs sub-seven-minute miles.