Eating like a Man

Joey Chestnut set a world record in 2013 by eating 69 hot dogs (and buns) in 10 minutes at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.

I went out to a middle-eastern restaurant for lunch with a friend who recently started on testosterone. He chowed down. A shawarma wrap, spinach pie, french fries, and a Coke. He told me that he can’t stop eating. He can’t satisfy his hunger. I ordered the salad combination platter with two pieces of falafel and a seltzer. Not exactly manly. I knew if I got hungry later I could always eat an apple. I carry one in my pack.

Four years ago, when everything was still suppressed, I ate anything and everything without thinking about the calories or the Weight Watchers points. WIthout wondering if I was hungry; without stopping when I was full. I ignored or denied the connections between what I ate and how much I weighed, as if they were independent events. I ate whatever looked good or was put in front of me. I was always game for a meal or a snack. I never turned food down. I finished everything on my plate.

The guys I work with eat epic lunches. Overstuffed sandwiches. French fries, onion rings, pickles and coleslaw.ย They would not dare to order a salad with grilled chicken, dressing on the side. At least not in front of anyone else. When they finish they rub their beer bellies and contemplate dessert. They complain that they can’t eat as much as they did when they started out on the job. I used to eat like that.

I never followed the diets my mother tried to put me on. I didn’t want to be dainty or pretty. If I had to eat like a bird I was going to eat like a vulture. In my gender befuddled mind, diets are for women. Trying to fit into a particular size is for women. For years I had no idea how much I weighed or what size I wore in women’s clothing; I only knew my ever-expanding waist size in Levi’s.

I topped out at a 40 inch waist and a 28 inch inseam. I think I was around 190 lbs. Eventually my weight leveled out at 175 lbs., which was easy to maintain without paying any attention to my diet. I was just another overweight butch lesbian.ย I didn’t like being fat, but it was better than being feminine. I took pride in my exuberant appetite. I ate like a man.

The paradox of coming out as transmasculine is that I now take an active interest in what I look like. When I think of myself as a boy, I see myself as solid and handsome. Not chubby. Not dowdy. The girl fat had to go.

It has been three years since I started with Weight Watchers. I’ve been able to get my weight down to 140 lbs. and to keep it there. I eat healthy; lots of fruits and vegetables, yogurt, whole grains, beans, and fish. I don’t deprive myself. I don’t suffer. I don’t feel like I am dieting, but I do miss the abundance and spontaneity of impulse and extreme eating.

I miss eating french fries, fried calamari, babka, ice cream, brownies, and bagels. I’m willing to give them up to keep my weight down. I have a hard time eating those foods in moderation. It doesn’t feel good to overeat anymore. I try to find room to eat pizza and falafel and dark chocolate. I’ve learned how to nurse a pint instead of a pitcher of beer.

I miss eating mindlessly but I don’t want to go back to eating like Joey Chestnut. I’m reconciling my gender with my appetite. I’ve got a full plate, but it isn’t piled up with food.

Notes: Even at my peak I couldn’t win an amateur eating contest. Joey Chestnut is a world champion speed eater. You can read about his exploits here.

Besides going to Weight Watchers, I tamed my random eating habits by following the advice in Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink, a professor at Cornell University and director of its Food and Brands Lab. His research on portion size and plate size helped me rethink dinner.

17 thoughts on “Eating like a Man

  1. PlainT

    Ugh. I hate that weight is conflated with gender. It’s weird because of the physical component (men are usually bigger and have faster metabolisms than women) combined with the societal component (women have to be dainty and thin). I’ve been losing weight just by being more mindful; it’s hard to be mindful though when you’re trying to ignore your body for whatever reason. Even though my gender experience is different, I still get jealous of guys who can eat mounds of calorie-dense food, because really I love eating.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Combination of current weight and metabolism. One of the things that pissed me off when I lost weight was that I had to eat a lot less to maintain 140 lbs. than to maintain 175 lbs. (and probably less than most guys who weigh 140lbs). Doesn’t seem fair.

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  2. butchcountry67

    that’s one of the side effects of testosterone that most seldom discuss… insatiable never ending hunger, it feels like you are starving now matter how much you eat, you can never get enough to feel full, even when your stomach hurts from overeating, it’s sending signals to your brain that you are absolutely famished … I call it Starvin’ Marvin syndrome.

    it’s good that you have gained control and can manage your weight , major kudos to you for being able to maintain a healthy weight and eating habit ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks. It is actually one of the considerations against going on T – I don’t want to put weight back on (and I don’t trust it will be muscle instead of fat). I want to try to keep my weight down and eat healthy because diabetes and heart attacks run on my Dad’s side of the family; not too many made it past 50.

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      1. butchcountry67

        definitely want to tread lightly with testosterone with all that in your family, make dang sure you use it under a doctor’s supervision if you ever decide to start using it, and also be willing to accept the fact that some physical changes will be permanent, should you ever decide to stop taking testosterone, you won’t magically stop growing facial hair or body hair , somethings are permanent side effects .

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      2. genderneutral

        Just so you know – not everyone gets a voracious appetite on T. I did maybe for the first month but after that it is back to normal to slightly reduced, which I find interesting. It may be that I too as a man am interested more in how I look than I did previously. Being mindful about eating is much much easier.

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  3. Vince

    Hey,

    I really liked this post. I’m doing WW now so that I can be recommended for top surgery. 13.5lb off, only another 60-odd to go…

    It’s amazing how much easier I’ve found it to stick to a weight loss plan now that I’m doing it in order to be a trim, sexy man rather than a slender woman. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Fair play to you and keep on battling the bulge! ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      My only complaint about WW is how heteronormative the meetings and website are. l put up with it because it works. I’m aiming for solid and handsome, but I’m in a long term relationship and only have to impress myself!

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  4. Pixie

    I’ve had so much trouble with both under-eating and over-eating, as well as not eating in quantities sufficient to my variable daily exertion. For me I think it was because I hated my female body, couldn’t stand thinking about it. Anything the body needed triggered intense dysphoria. Now that some of that dysphoria is settled (but not gone), it has been a bit easier. I’ve been using the app My Fitness Pal linked to a Garmin Vivofit activity tracker, with a heart rate monitor during exercise. I don’t obsess, but I do check in regularly to make sure I’m within reasonable limits. I’ve been 135 lbs (+/- 5-8 lbs or so) for a few years now, no more crazy weight fluctuations. So it is working!

    Interestingly, to me, I’ve had to recalibrate myself since transitioning. What was over or underweight as a female-bodied person is not the same as for a male-bodied person. And, the signs of being overweight or underweight look visibly different on my body now. It has taken some time to rework my brain to accept the new version of reasonable. Since I’ve been on testosterone I haven’t experienced that intense hunger, but then I don’t feel hunger in general so I didn’t really expect to (though I had hoped!).

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  5. Jamie Ray Post author

    That is interesting. Even on WW I rarely felt or let myself get to a point where I felt hungry. I still eat prophylactically – just less and healthier.
    I have one favorite pair of jeans and I can tell my weight by how they fit when they come out of the wash. I don’t preen infront of the full length mirror enough to really take in what my body looks like, but I no longer see a clearly female form when I look (I don’t see a male body either – but I feel it). I feel solid, not fat and not thin, and I like how I feel in my body.

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  6. micah

    Both my weight and my gender definitely go hand-in-hand with my body image. It has become more motivating to maintain my body once I could envision what I wanted it to look like, gender-wise.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Food and gym are definitely part of the transition tool box, and it is good to use food in a positive way after using it as a way to dissociate or numb out for so long.

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  7. anexactinglife

    Good post! Horrified by the thought of eating all those hot dogs, though! Reading this, I was thinking that weight has been a gender issue for me in a couple of ways. A heavier weight amplifies curves and gives me a more feminine appearance, while a lighter weight makes me feel more androgynous, which I like. So I am quite motivated to stay at my preferred weight. Secondly, the food intake thing. With so many couples, the two end up eating the same amount – even if it is just because food is cooked and shared equally. For most people (all genders), that just doesn’t work because of different sizes and body types. When there is someone in the household who can continually eat more than you, it just seems so unfair ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Fortunately, Donna is a moderate eater and will happily eat whatever I cook or put on a plate for her (in exchange for doing the clean up). My main issue is still portion size, and accepting that if I want to eat a full plate of food I have to bulk it up with extra vegetables and go easy with the oil or butter.
      It is definitely unfair that I can’t eat everything I want to eat in copious amounts (although 2 veggie hot dogs would be my limit). I actively avoid eating at places that I know have buffets or humongous portions because I have trouble being moderate when faced with too many choices and too much food.

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  8. txbridgefarmer

    I guess I’m kinda like you in that I think ordering a salad instead of the cheeseburger is too feminine. When I was with my ex, my weight got up there in the area close to 200 also. It took me a year to get to the 145 I’m comfortable with now. (At 5’7 I’m ok with that number). The biggest thing for me? I bought smaller plates. It’s funny how we feel the need to load them up but since that’s my habit, I decided to downsize my dinnerware.

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  9. janitorqueer

    I’ve been reading this book called “Think Like a Freak,” and just read a part about the hot dog eating contest. Before Joey Chestnut came on the scene, a guy from Japan nicknamed “Kobi,” doubled the world record from 25 1/8 dogs to 50 dogs, just by changing the way he approached eating them (one example: not just wolfing down dogs and buns together, but eating them separately and dunking the buns in water with a small amount of vegetable oil mixture.) He won 6 years in a row. Everyone who came after him and eventually started beating him out did so by appropriating his techniques. Pretty interesting.

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