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Men and body neutrality

As I watch my husband not-even-consciously opt out of this obsessive bullshit, I can’t help but sit back in awe and wonder how I can get some of that for myself.

(Content warning: discussion of food and dieting)

My husband has the luxury of not giving a fuck about his body. He gets to be body-neutral all the livelong day. Ask me how many times someone has come up to Mark with his dad bod and said, “Aww buddy. You really gotta watch out for your health. You’re setting a bad example for the other dads. You guys had that baby four years ago. It’s time to get that body back.”

Nothing reminds you that diet culture and body-image obsession is rooted in the patriarchy like living with a hetero cis male. This is not to say my beloved partner is at all a perpetuator of this form of oppression. But watching him sashay through every day with an attitude about his body and image that is not only bereft of fucks but completely unrebellious is enlightening, to say the least.

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Of course, many cis men suffer from body-image issues. They, too, encounter beauty standards that are often impossible to attain and not at all beneficial to their lives. Yet society permits them — especially if they’re heterosexual — to ignore these standards by, for the most part, not subjecting them to harassment and discrimination when they do. When a cis male doesn’t really care about his biceps, his haircut and his clothes, we just call it “nerdy” and go about our lives.

As I watch my husband not-even-consciously opt out of this obsessive bullshit, I can’t help but sit back in awe and wonder how I can get some of that for myself. Here is a quick guide I have cultivated while observing him in his natural no-fucks habitat.

Step 1: Plan an outfit in two seconds

Joey clothes

One of those seconds will be spent considering the weather, while the other will be spent scanning the room for the closest (and maybe cleanest, if you have another .2 seconds to spare) article of clothing that fits the bill. Spend zero seconds focusing on how it makes your body look. If those thoughts creep in, think of boobs? I imagine that’s how my husband usually gets distracted.

Step 2: Actually wear that outfit in public.

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It’s one thing to plan a comfy outfit, and quite another to get sneak past the guard to the outside world — the goddamn mirror. Don’t look at it. Not even for a second. Then shove yourself out the door, just like Mark does, only pretending it didn’t take all of your psychic energy not to sneak a peek. You’re going to be fine, by the way. My husband has used a full-length mirror maybe a dozen times in the span of our relationship and has yet to burst into flames the minute his image meets a stranger’s eyeballs. Just consider not spontaneously combusting a win.

Step 3: Lift all your food bans

Ron Swanson eating

While abandoning all restrictive behaviors can be extremely hard for those stuck in the dieting cycle, this is a great start. There is no food on the planet my husband doesn’t allow himself to eat. I used to think that if I did that, it wouldn’t be long before I invented a way to make Oreos into a four-course dinner. We have this idea that food rules keep us safe from uncontrollable weight gain or even excess emotional eating, when really they make these foods even sexier because we’ve forbidden them. This is precisely how Mark can have one donut per sitting. It’s just not a big deal. He knows he can have another one tomorrow so why eat a dozen right now?

Step 4: Remove all routine from your exercise

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Mark: “I’m feeling lethargic and my pants are a little tight. I’m gonna and use your stationary bike this week.”

One week later.

Mark: “I feel better.” *spends entire night on couch*

Related: Dear Virgie: I Feel Embarrassed When I Eat in Public

Also, just stop calling it exercise. If you’re like me, that word leaves a terrible taste in your mouth. Notice he named the movement for what it was — using a stationary bike. Listen to your body cues and approach exercise only as a means of making yourself feel physically better if that’s what you want. I should also mention that he actually enjoys using the stationary bike while watching TV. It’s movement he finds not at all torturous, partly because he doesn’t obligate himself to do it X amount of days a week.

Step 5: Weigh yourself only for scientific purposes

Neal Tyson science
Mark: “Babe, guess how much my poop weighed this morning.”

If you’re not a gross weirdo like my husband, though, maybe just don’t weigh yourself at all. Mark hops on the scale maybe once a season out of pure curiosity. And guess what happens after that? Very little. If he’s down, meh. If he’s up, meh. He might make some lifestyle changes (see step two) if his weight is up, but what he definitely doesn’t do is suddenly find himself in a panic and shame cycle that causes him to do anything compulsive with his food or activity.

However, stopping this thought process can be a tall order for the rest of us — so avoiding that scale like the plague might be a better course of action.

Note these are not things we can necessarily do easily or without consequence. Save some of these tips for your bravest, laziest and most fed-up-with-beauty-standard-nonsense days.


Briana is a plus size fashion/body positive blogger at Mamafierce.com. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband, son, and tortie cat, Divvy.

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