Here we are, trying desperately to trim down that post-holiday belly fat before we get within screaming distance of swimsuit season.

And there’s the other half, Mr. Carb Man, stuffing his face with Cheezies until he has to loosen his belt, then blowing off those extra calories with nothing more than a brisk walk to the fridge to get another beer.

How is that fair?

When Paul Tasner decides to drop a few pounds, says his wife, Barbara Walter, an ambulatory surgery nurse and a wellness coach in the San Francisco area, it seems to happen overnight: “It looks like he had a belly suit on, and then a day later, he takes it off and there’s a slim guy underneath. It really pisses me off.”

Sound familiar to you?

Denise Foley, in Prevention magazine’s Weight Loss Strategy section, takes a funny-but-practical look at How to Lose Weight Like a Guy — she explains the whole thing.

See, men just don’t get it — the weight loss struggle — because the biological differences between men and women just tend to work in favour of men.

Take the larger and more musclar, masculine build, for example: Muscles are more effectient than fat at burning off calories. The good news is that we can go a long way toward grabbing some of those advantages for ourselves — building up a little more muscle. The weight-bearing exercises that help to build muscles are the same kind of exercises that help most to speed up your metabolism, to burn off calories when you’re not even exercising.

Men don’t tend to obsess as much about the scales, either. Most of them couldn’t tell you how many pounds they weigh, from day to day, because they just pay attention to how well their clothes fit. When the belt gets tight, they cut back on the doughnuts at coffee break. No big whoop. And I think it’s true, as Foley suggests, that the biggest difference in men and women when it comes to dieting is probably in our attitude towards food.

To start with, as we all know, women are judged much more on appearance than men are. A guy would pretty much have to be morbidly obese before he’s called hefty, but a girl who’s just pleasantly plump gets compared to the deathly thin models who’ve been airbrushed to a false standard of perfection.

Somehow, we females get sucked into the myth at an early age, and our very identity and self-esteem starts to get tied up with body size issues. Food becomes the forbidden love, coveted, studied, urgently desired — yet at the same time it’s hated, rejected, even purged.

It’s the rare man who goes for the chocolate as a cure for heartbreak or stress. Men are less likely to eat for emotional comfort in the first place, and when they do feel stressed out, they’re more likely to go for muscle-building protein foods, like a slab of steak, instead of a slab of Sara Lee.

A study published last year by researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine found that the secret weight loss weapon of low-carb diets is protein, because it promotes satiety, the scientific term for fullness, which curbs overeating.

-eaters feel full and comforted. Sweets-eaters get a mad sugar high that leaves them feeling lower than ever when their blood sugar level suddenly drops again. Simple as that.

Sure, some of thise whole business of food cravings has a basis in bio-chemical differences between men and women, but some of it’s just conditioning — how we’ve been “taught” to behave by the world around us and the experiences we’ve had growing up.

The good news is that a “learned behaviour” can be UNlearned, once we’re aware of it. In dog training, I get a lot of mileage out of the concept of extinction — a behaviour that is not rewarded will begin to fade away.

That’s why I’ve sworn off sour-cream-and-onion flavoured potato chips. The more I ate them, the more I wanted them… and other salty savoury fat-laden junk food, too. A vicious circle… a bottomless pit… a spreading derriere!

I was reading — can’t remember where, but I’ll try to track it down — about a recent study on food cravings and how we can short-circuit them with taste substitutions, too.

Different food cravings (sweet, sour, salty, spicey, etc.) can be satisfied with different healthy, lo-cal foods… but there’s no point in trying to tame a craving for chocolate with a three-bean salad, or a craving for BBQ Ribs by eating a banana.

That’s because a craving for a certain food is often not about hunger at all. It’s all about the taste buds, and what specific tastes will bring us pleasure.

Following this theory, I’ve discovered that my sour-cream-and-onion flavoured potato chip cravings can be beaten down quite nicely if I have, instead, a piece of cheese on a whole-grain bagel, and — here’s the key — spread the bagel not with mayo, but with a good sharp mustard. It fools the savour-seeking tastebuds, cuts out the chip-related calories, and has helped me drop 4 pounds since New Years Day without doing a single other thing to change my eating habits.

Just imagine what could be accomplished by a bit of exercise to give a little muscle to my lazy winter female metabolism!


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