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Men's Health

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Men on Diets

Move over, ladies -- the men are dieting too.

Diet and masculinity continued...

Or at least they're doing something while they do this. Venturing into territory traditionally reserved for women isn't always easy for men, and they tend to couch their involvement in it differently -- starting with the language they use.

"They don't always call it 'dieting,'" Heller says. "'Dieting' and 'slim' don't resonate well with men. Their goals are more to feel strong and masculine. Not only does the term dieting sound feminine, but dieting also causes them to worry they'll lose muscle mass in the process."

"Fine with me that they don't like that word,” Klein says, “I don't either. To me, dieting implies a beginning and an end, as opposed to the full lifestyle change that they need."

So what ideas do put men in front of healthier plates? Visions of brawniness, it would seem. As Klein, Heller, and a multibillion-dollar dietary supplement industry attest, it's an interest in bodybuilding, stamina, and other hallmarks of masculinity that really get guys to be food-conscious. If the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, the way to his stomach is apparently through his biceps.

The male comfort zone -- How men choose diets

"Men are drawn to diets that promise to make them better at sports or to increase their energy," Heller says. "The supplement market is geared toward men who want more mass and less fat. Problem is those protein shakes don't do anything. We get plenty of protein. Exercise is all that will build muscle. There's no way around that."

Indeed, men don't always know what they're doing in the diet department. And to be fair, there are simpler departments to navigate. Men will order a piece of grilled fish and think they're being healthy, Klein offers as an example. “The fish may be a wise choice,” she says. “But the sauce or marinade will get you.”

Thwarted by such complexities, many men seek refuge in more well-marked terrain. The Atkins diet, Heller tells WebMD, is particularly popular with men.

"They're more comfortable with [Atkins'] all-or-nothing thing for some reason. And a steak is more masculine than a chicken salad. But it's not a healthy diet in the end," she says.

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