Wow, wow, wow. I don’t know how many men read me, but I’m hoping those who do will take an hour and listen to this interview. And if you’re not a man but you’ve pair-bonded with a male-identified person, there’s some good stuff in here for you, too.
When I first joined Balance 365, some folks I knew expressed concern that it was only for women. They seemed wary of a program that would narrow their focus to only one gender. The argument for that choice, as I’ve heard Jen and Annie make it, has been that the needs and strategies for women tends to be different than those for men, that Jen and Annie’s prefer to work from a place of their own “lived experience,” and that they wanted to create a safe space where women could explore their needs. I would add that Balance 365 is more inclusive than their “women only” focus implies–as they happily work with folks like myself who were born assigned female at birth and exist somewhere outside of the gender binary, and although I’m not personally aware of any members who identify as trans, it is my understanding that trans women are welcome also.
Do the needs and strategies of men differ than those of women? We are clearly socialized differently, and that includes how we share and manage our emotions, how we solve problems, and how we define our relationships with our bodies. Regardless of how progressive our families might be, the larger cultures we are members of are diet cultures with different physique ideals and expectations depending on gender. So, I think it’s valid to narrow a weight loss and wellness business by gender. And I also think it’s important that men have resources to help them navigate their own unique challenges and needs.
Which brings us to this enlightening conversation with Chris McMahon. There are many interesting and helpful elements, but what really lit me up was when Chris started talking about values, and in particular, how he’s redefined strength for himself. He said he “used to define strength as deadlifting 3x bodyweight,” but now it “is being able to meet yourself where you’re at.” He’s redefined strength as being able to check in with himself and to determine what he actually needs in the moment instead of assuming he just needs to tough it out at the gym. James Clear writes that lasting habit change comes from a place of identity and values, and what I hear in this comment from Chris is how he’s been able to find a healthier identity as a man, to make his choices based on his personal values rather than those that society had taught him. This is powerful work and important for all of us.
There’s a lot of other great practical take-aways in this conversation. I really love the discussion of how men could support each other better by learning to share their feelings. I wish every man (and a fair number of women) I know could follow his advice and learn to listen to what someone says without planning their next comment. And I think we’d all benefit from clearly identifying when we need to vent, when we are looking for support, and when we want help solving a problem. That’s a skill I know I’ve been working on for a few years now. (I usually say something AFTER the other person begins to try to solve my problems; I think we’d both be better served if I could remember to mention before I start ranting that I’m just looking to vent my spleen for a few minutes.)
Gender influences how we navigate the world of health and fitness. I’m so grateful for Jen and Annie’s willingness to explore these issues from a variety of points of view. I hope you give it a listen, and if you do, I’d love to hear your thoughts below!