Went to hear a talk about how different mutations in the same gene (to do with the semi-rigid network that holds cell nuclei together) can cause a whole range of different diseases: neurological degeneration, heart failure, muscular dystrophies, premature ageing, and problems of fat metabolism. Apparently in one form of the last, patients with inherited mutations are normal until puberty, and then lose most of their subcutaneous fat, instead accumulating body fat in the liver and pancreas. They end up with problems similar to diabetes and chronic heart failure, due to too much fat in places it's not supposed to be as well as too little where it's meant to be.
We heard that the condition is far more readily diagnosed in girls than boys, and indeed that a girl will often be picked up and then her brothers turn out to have the same problem when investigated. Why? Because if a teenaged boy suddenly loses all the fat from his limbs, the uncovered muscles give the appearance of being "cut", and prominent muscles are desirable for teenaged boys. But if a similar process happens to a girl, she panics because her arms and legs are becoming all ugly and muscly, and rushes to the doctor.
The (American) lecturer regarded this as vaguely amusing. But I find it really rather sad, the idea that having visible muscles is such a terrible tragedy for girls. (OK, in this case it is the symptom of a serious disease, but in the early stages there's no reason to think that.) It makes me wonder just how many girls are avoiding doing exercise to make sure their limbs stay soft and unmuscular.
I think it's sad too, although I am perhaps not really qualified to comment, because I am one of those women who can exercise as much as they like and don't develop visible, "knotty" musculature. When I was regularly cycling long-distance, I had extremely strong legs, but nobody would have guessed until I kicked them. ;-)
Having said that, on the bright side I've never heard of girls avoiding exercise for that reason, since you have to do a great deal of exercise to develop obvious muscles. Most of the ones I know go to the gym in droves because they are terrified of becoming overweight, which is... hang on... equally depressing. Oh dear!
But *at* the gym, girls don't tend to do the heavy weights to develop muscles like the guys do.
A couple of times I've joined a gym (I think it's probably a good idea in theory to keep fit, but the practice never quite pans out) and when you do the induction they just *assume* that because I'm female I don't want to do weights, and that they'll have to persuade me to do any at all, because of this fear of muscly bulking up.
I agree that it's sad! Who says what we should look like?
Maybe this view arose (subconsciously) because men are seen as the people who "should" be going out doing things (developing muscle thereby) while women "should" be at home doing the baking (unless it's very heavy cake, probably not much muscling involved).
When I was married, my husband needed to lose some weight (quite a lot of weight, actually), and he joined a gym for this purpose. I have never been very interested in gyms because I'd rather do something that was fun and also happened to involve exercise, like cycling, rather than exercise for the sake of it, but I went along with him to support him. I was actually encouraged to do weights, insofar as I could. (I should explain that, unlike my legs, my arms are very weak because I have a long-term problem affecting my wrists; I've developed them enough that I can now carry quite a heavy weight hooked over my left elbow, but I can't pull or twist to any great extent with my hands.)
But I have never been to any other gym, so this one may have been atypical - I don't know.
Oh, poor you! My mother has a similar problem - she blames it on being bored when pregnant with me and doing jewelry making and knitting to pass the time. It makes me feel very useful when I go to visit and get to open bottles and jam jars and things!
And I should say that the list of gyms I've joined is also very small (two!) so statistically we're not a great sample :)
Some of the gadgets I use may help your mother. I have:
- A thing called the Boa Constrictor, which is basically a very thick strip of rubber with one end firmly attached to a handle and the other end passing through an adjacent slot. Tighten it round the top of a jar or bottle, and it will grip it very nicely for you. I can open most jars with this.
- A handy little lever thingamajig that breaks the vacuum seal on jars; if the Boa Constrictor doesn't work first time, that will usually sort it.
- A stippled gripper pad (ooh, assonance!) made of silicone. Since this is also heatproof, it has a multitude of uses.
I did also have an electric can opener, but I very rarely use cans these days and the ones I do use have a pull tab, which I find easier (though I have another gadget for dealing with more recalcitrant pull tabs, which I occasionally need). Generally I get my gadgets from Lakeland Limited, who are a good kitchenware firm in general, and in particular very thoughtful about catering for the slightly less abled. :-)
I want to be able to lift heavy things, so I've been reading about weight training. It seem that On Average women develop much less visible musculature even when training with heavy weights, apparently prominent muscles are easier to get if you have lots of testosterone or something.
I not-infrequently overhear trainers at the gym I go to explaining to women that they don't need to worry about getting too much visible muscle if they lift weights. On the one hand, this is true: the sort of extremely visible musculature they're talking about is extremely rare in women who don't take steroids along with exercising. On the other, it's part of a pattern. When I was first looking at the gym, the woman who showed me around walked me past the rooms they use for classes, the cardio area, and the resistance-style weight training machines, and dismissively said "this is testosterone city" about the room with the large free weight stuff. That room also has a bunch of other machines, and it's where I now spend a chunk of my time. If I go in at off-peak times, there will usually be half a dozen men there, me, and maybe one other woman.
Nobody except that original gym employee has ever suggested I don't belong in there, but from just her, and lack of encouragement, it took me a while to go in there and start using that equipment, which I learned I like.
One of the things that I like best about my current gym is that it's all very open and vertical. Top couple of floors have the cardio stuff and bottom floor and second-floor balcony have the weights, with the free weights mixed right in with the machines, so it's all very open and airy and convenient, with no need to walk to a whole 'nother room (with a whole 'nother door to open, and whole 'nother set of people inside) when you want the free weights. Very nice design.
I think Steffi Graf once said that she tried to do fewer weights in the gym in order to stay looking 'feminine' which is an illustration of how daft it is a) 'cause the woman needed to be strong for her job, at which she was the best in the world, with the opportunity to break every tennis record and b) 'cause she really did not have to worry about looking attractive..
I often hate that female tennis players are so much hyped for their looks but, at the same time, I think it's good that women who look strong are still considered sexy - Sharapova may have long blonde hair but still looks like she could kick your arse if you pissed her off!
But when women build muscle, it generally develops differently from in guys. Women don't (usually) really bulk up like guys do, even if they follow the same sort of exercise regimens.
So while I despair over teenage girls trying not to appear smart, I'm less worried about teenage girls trying not to become muscly — if you look at what sort of extra-curricular activities the "pretty, popular" girls are involved in, it's often going to be things like cheerleading, which actually takes a lot of muscle, aerobic activity, etc.
G-d knows what I would give for more muscly/defined muscle tissue. I think that it looks great on a woman, just as a man, if it's natural. I mean: our beauty industry *does* dictate we look lean and slender?!
I kind of resent the fact that no matter how strong I could be (not very, at the moment LOL), it never shows in terms of muscle definition. Meh. But that's my personal opinion.
Of course it is sad that both men and women are subject to these pressures. Oy.
As you said it is a desease and not something that usually happens. I wish I would have done more exercise from the beginning not just hindering me getting too much weight also to keep fit and healthy. I feel very unhealthy and keep running to the doctor and spent a fortune on alternative treatments.
isn't it true though, that girls tend not to develop really defined muscles even doing the same exercises as boys? i mean, that's why it gets diagnosed more easily, not that girls are worried about looking muscly? i dunno. i'm not totally typical physique, as a teenager i had pretty full-on defined muscles in my arms and legs, but no-one ever commented on them in a negative way. in the 'old days' women were supposed to be soft and feminine - to me weak and submissive, but perhaps also because they tend to be softer naturally? (sorry if i am believing a myth here). i have had negative comments in China and Taiwan. but i think of the influence of films like Terminator and Alien - i think they made mainstream-acceptance of muscly women, 20-odd years ago, not just acceptable but desirable too.