It”s no secret that men care about their bodies. One would only have to visit a gym to discover this. But it seems to be more acceptable of late for men to not only work out, but also diet and obsess about their weight. Take, for example, Brad Pitt, who is on the high-protein Zone diet, having each meal delivered to him at home or on sets.

Paul Wong
Thousands of tents are seen in the background of Mina Mosque, southeast of Mecca, Saudi Arabia yesterday. Earlier, Muslim pilgrims crowded and crushed each other in an agonizing, slow stampede that killed 35 men and women. <br><br>AP PHOTO

Males” concern over their bodies generally starts now, in college, for a number of reasons: They are participating in fewer sports, their metabolism isn”t what it used to be and, specific to college kids, they are ingesting more beer and take-out. All of this is bound to catch up toward the end of one”s college career. As a senior, I”ve noticed the same guys that once had large pizzas delivered to their dorm rooms (on a nightly basis) trying to trim down for spring break.

One group of boys put themselves on a one-meal-a-day diet for the weeks preceding their tropical departure. They would starve all day, only to feast at four o”clock, and then later go to bed hungry. Such experimental dieting reminds me of high school. Most girls had to watch their weight starting in high school, or even junior high, when most boys were having twinkie-eating contests.

When my childhood best friend and I noticed changes in our bodies, we went on a pasta and strawberries diet-quite literally. We”d even eat the two together, convincing ourselves this meal was tasty. It worked we lost weight. But, as one would imagine, I was cranky and weak and tired. So I went back to regular eating after researching what foods to generally avoid.

Years after our first diets, a number of girls seem to be more confidant in their bodies. I spent spring break in Negril, Jamaica, and I noticed that all types of normal, healthy-looking (read: not skinny) girls were joining the wet t-shirt and thong contests. I”m not necessarily an advocate for such competitions, but it was refreshing to see girls proud of their bodies. My friends in high school would wrap towels around themselves while going in and coming out of a pool, ashamed of their natural, tiny thighs that had developed.

One night in Negril, after a thong contest, the announcer called for men to come up to the stage for a hard body contest. No one went and it was cancelled. Boys are now aware of their changing bodies, and this type of self-consciousness is probably why I spotted some Michigan boys running on the beach in Jamaica. To be fair, they could just really enjoy running. So does my roommate, but in 85-degree weather she thought it best to take a swim.

Men are becoming more aware of their appearances in general. I know a guy who owns far more bottles of lotion and other grooming products than I do, and he is not teased by his friends. Lynne Luciano, in her book “Looking Good: Male Body Image in Modern America,” writes that American men spent $3 billion on grooming aids and fragrances in 1997 alone. The book”s reviewer Holly Brubach comments, “Men in their 20s now have permission to be vain in a way that previous generations did not.

Some are taking this vanity to the surgical table, as Men”s Health magazine has reported. From 1992 to 1997, liposuction tripled among men and face lifts nearly doubled. The article went on to say that men are still not talking openly about having these surgeries like women do.

So while being vain might be more acceptable for males today, it still is not at the same level as for females. And there are certain things that boys still feel they have to do for the sake of their manhood. My friend”s brother, a sophomore in college, drinks diet coke with the family to cut on extra calories and regular coke with his friends, claiming it to be embarrassing to drink diet. Likewise, some boys have reservations about ordering a girlish salad for dinner, even if they like salad. But lately, boys I eat with will order salad for the sake of their expanding tummy.

That men are starting to feel comfortable dieting and catering to their vanities does not imply that they are becoming increasingly effeminate. It suggests that what was once considered female behavior can now be looked at as human behavior. One warning for first-time male dieters: My high school best friend tried many diets after the pasta and strawberries one, including bulimia. Men currently make up 10 percent of bulimics. Now that dieting is not restricted to females, neither is the ugly underside of it. For their sake, I hope college males” newfound vanity does not extend that far.

Gina Hamadey”s column runs every other Tuesday. Give her feedback at www.michigandaily.com/forum or via e-mail at ghamadey@umich.edu.

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