The Big Mac gender gap

In this scene from the documentary, the two grad students on the left accompany professor James Painter into a health clinic for a pre-project checkup.

I finally got a chance to see “Portion-Size Me,” by sitting in on Marcia Crawford’s nutrition class at IPFW last Thursday.

As expected, based on what I’d heard about the video made by nutrition professor James Painter of Eastern Illinois University, the two grad students who eat nothing but sensible portions of fast-food for a month actually wind up losing a few pounds, along with a few points in their cholesterol readings and other lab work.

But what really struck me was the emphasis on identifying the right portion for your body size. One of the grad students, a hulking 250-pound track athlete, was advised to aim for 4,500-5,000 calories per day, while the other, a 111-pound woman, was to shoot for 1,500-1,600 calories — about the same amount as her partner’s typical lunch.

We all know it doesn’t make any sense for a petite woman to routinely order the “Big Brute Burger,” but the marketing that makes us crave heartier helpings of unhealthy food isn’t just directed at NFL linemen.  Seeing the film really imprinted that visual image of the contrasting body types and their respective food orders in my mind. These past few days I keep reminding myself which camp I fall into: You are the size of an economy car, so don’t eat like you’re an SUV!

It doesn’t seem fair, in this era of equal rights and the shift in some socioeconomic circles toward women becoming the so-called “breadwinners,” for men to have all the fun at the dinner table. But some  guys are obviously eating beyond their needs as well.

At Pizza Hut, the female student took one slice of pizza off the buffet and made herself a salad of mostly veggies, staying away from the mayo-based selections. The guy got a heartier, less disciplined salad and three slices of pizza — more than the girl, but maybe not as much as you’d think a big bruiser might eat at a buffet. He stopped because he’d reached his limit: a 1,500 calorie lunch.

“I love this video because he makes a good point — we all could be eating healthier,” Crawford told the class.

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