“Have a drink!”
“Just have some real food (pizza, burger etc.)!”
“Don’t go home yet (3am)!”
I don’t know about where you are, but in Glasgow, Scotland and in much of the UK, these are commonly used expressions. Apparently the more beer you can pour down your neck in a short time, the more of a man you are. The more junk food you eat, the harder you are. And waking up in the middle of the afternoon after getting in at 6am is just a sign of your virility.
Even if you have never been on the receiving end of any of these comments, if you spend enough time trying to get yourself in fantastic shape, looking after your health, losing fat, building lean toned muscle definition or any other pursuit that is both difficult yet rewarding, you will get some kind of pull from your friends, family or associates to try and pull you in their direction.
In a lot of instances I think they are genuinely trying to help.
“Go on, one won’t kill you”, is another that often comes up.
In such cases it could be that, if you’ve been pushing extremely hard for quite a while, your friends have noticed you are uptight and stressed, so they are trying to get you to relax in the best way they know how (alcohol, junk food, party night) and if you have been dedicated and focused for a long period, to the point of obsession or just a poor psychological relationship with food, they might be right. But, that is really for you to judge and if you feel happy and content with the progress you are making, your friends should not then be looking to force you in a direction you don’t want to go.
More often than not though, the reason behind these comments is entirely self-serving. Your friends are just looking for validation for their own actions. The more people drinking, the more natural and acceptable it feels to them. If you are getting into great shape and managing to restrain yourself from temptations, they feel guilty for not doing the same.
It’s not, in most cases, malicious. It is just a way to stop them feeling bad. And it’s much easier to pull you down to their level than to lift themselves up to yours.
The thing is though, that regardless of the reason, the argument doesn’t hold up.
If the consumption of alcohol is considered a manly pursuit, then surely this substance must have some masculine enhancing properties. Unfortunately, science says something very different.
First up, males sporting ‘beer bellies’ have been shown to be twice as likely (in circumstances where their waistline exceeds 106cm/ 42inches) to develop erectile dysfunction than their leaner counterparts. This is on top of the fact that they are also more likely to develop diabetes, high blood pressure and oxidized cholesterol (which, according to the journal of urology (Jul 2004)) causes a reduction in erectile strength).
To add to that, the hops used in beer is a plant from the same family as marijuana and contains potent phytoestrogens that raise oestrogen levels in the men that consume them. Hence the common phenomenon of ‘man boobs’ in those who are heavy drinkers.
What does this all add up to?
Simply that the whole notion that it’s somehow a manly endeavour to drink alcohol is, at its very core, flawed. In fact, given these facts, it is extremely un-manly to indulge in alcohol.
Does this mean you should never drink? In the end that’s down to you. Life is something you should be able to enjoy. It’s not something you should be struggling through feeling like you are missing out. But the simple take away here is, if, knowing the effects drinking will have on you, you feel the level of enjoyment you get from it out-weighs the negatives for you personally, then by all means, have a drink. If, however, you are doing it because your peers will think less of you if you don’t indulge, now you know the truth and hopefully it puts you in more of a position to make your own decisions based on how they will affect you personally.
This really all comes back to the initial point. Why do your peers want you to indulge so badly? Why is it that just having your company is not sufficient? Simply because they know, deep down, that what they are not comfortable with the effects such indulgencies are having on them and by abstaining, you are effectively holding a mirror up to them and they don’t like what they see.
It’s very similar with junk food.
How many of you have worked somewhere that has an unwritten policy that there should be cakes on a Friday? Or that if it is someone’s birthday that they must bring cakes for everyone?
The people that push these agendas generally do so because for them to be sitting eating cake on their own would feel bad, but if they can encourage everyone else to indulge, now they are simply joining in and it’s all ok. But for some reason, whilst this is common place, as with many things, it can be taken to extreme.
For some reason it is a sign of bravado to throw as much abuse at your system as possible and walk away from it. Hence the popularity of things like eating competitions, whether ‘official’ or just among friends. The challenge being, how much of this unhealthy substance can you force down your neck without being sick.
It almost feels like it is the every-man’s route to conquering something dangerous. A gladiatorial match up of sorts. And that is obviously a manly endeavour. But again, it’s a crazy notion. They are not fighting for their lives, their freedom, to conquer a nation etc they are eating a lot of unhealthy food. And whilst they may be putting their health at risk, without the cause, what is the point?
Even if you simply look at the physicality of what most would consider a ‘manly’ physique. In the cold light of day these same people would likely be looking at the Hollywood depictions of Gladiators; MMA Fighters; Bodybuilders or something similar, as their depiction of ‘manly’. And is cramming as much greasy and unhealthy food down in one sitting really going to aid or hinder progress toward such a physique?
Add to that the idea of going home to sleep makes you somehow weak or that a late night blow out will help you relax or destress, again doesn’t hold up. We’ve already looked at the negative (and far from ideal) effects additional fat stores and an expanded waistline can have. Lack of sleep not only promotes a lack of energy (meaning it is harder to burn fat) but also the effective ‘stress’ on the body leads to an increase in cortisol, which has a negative correlation with testosterone and also has an associative correlation with an expanded waistline. It is often the case that those with a bloated gut have reached that level more due to stress than what they are eating. People put so little emphasis on the effects of a good night’s sleep, but this can be one of the most crucial parts in getting that waistline down and burning off stubborn fat.
To be honest the arguments could go on and on and the truth is, everyone who stops to think about it logically knows that these things aren’t ‘manly’ they are just unhealthy methods of escapism. And once in a while, like most things in life, your body is incredibly adept at ‘dealing’ with things that are less than ideal. Just keep in mind it is ‘dealing’ with it, not ‘thriving’ on it. However, from a psychological point of view, sometimes giving yourself some time off the strict and healthy path, is worthwhile.
In the end it’s all about choice. If you are making your own decisions based on the knowledge of the effects those choices will have on your body and you are happy to do that, then you should. If you are doing things because others are trying to goad you into it and you are going to feel miserable and beat yourself up for it the next day, then maybe that’s the time to stand up for what you want to do. Be your own person. Make your own choices. And if your ‘friends’ can’t support that then they are not the friends you thought they were.
It’s your life and you should live it the way you choose to, not the way you feel others want you to or under the dictation of your desire for instant gratification over your long term wants and desires.
Be the persons you want to be!