The question the title asks is a rather loaded one. It implies that I am, in fact, a jerk. This is a very subjective assessment of anybody. One person's behavior could be seen as crude and boorish or lighthearted and carefree. It all depends on who is doing the judging and what kind of mood they are in in that particular instance.
With that in mind it has been brought to my attention that I've recently become more of a jerk than usual. Specifically, since I lost some body fat and put on a little muscle. I'm going to hold off on agreeing or disagreeing for right now as I don't feel that I've become a jerk per se. Chippy, quasi-confrontational, and a little shorter fused? Yes. A jerk? No. In any case the part that intrigued me was that everyone agreed that it came about when I changed my body composition.
I mentioned this to a client who had lost a significant amount of weight and he said, "The same thing happened to me. My youngest [child] said just the other day that I was more fun when I was chunky." This got me thinking that maybe it's not just a coincidence. Let's take a look at the evidence.
Studies have shown that obese men have higher levels of estrogen and lower levels of testosterone. This is a fact. If you're carrying some extra stuff around the mid section you've probably got some issues with your endocrine system. This is true even in young men. Many men know they are not the virile go getters they were when they were young. Until recently it has just been something that was relegated to the just-a-part-of-getting-older category. While testosterone production does naturally decrease as men age the fact that a lot of men gain abdominal fat is also a contributing factor.
One thing I found interesting while researching the subject is that winning has a positive impact on future success and testosterone and all the good things that come with it. In animal studies it has been shown that there is a natural surge of testosterone when one wins. And the more you win, the more likely you are to win again. What does this have to do with me? Maybe that I get a sense of winning satisfaction any time I win an argument. Or set a PR. Or feel that my hard work is paying off in the way that I want it to. Have I perceived myself winning anytime I mock one of accusers speech impediments? Have I perceived myself as winning when I watch one of my accusers warm-up for 45 minutes and only lift for thirty and I think to myself, "What an effing girl that guy is."? I'm going to say that I do feel a sense of winning because all I'm thinking in my head is, "SWISH!" when that stuff happens.
But are these contests with a with a winner or loser that will actually feel the repercussions of winning or losing?
I'm not sure and I really have no way of knowing for sure if those situations parallel the animal models, especially since those were physical contests over territory. One could maybe say we have a pissing match here or there but that's hardly as stressful as a dispute over territory or females that the animals go through. This also leads to a chicken and the egg type question. Am I competitive because my testosterone is high or is my testosterone high because I'm competitive?
Is my testosterone even higher than what is considered normal? Not sure.
But I'm sick of talking about me. Let's talk about my accusers. Remember, being a jerk is dependent on who is judging and what they are feeling. If we flip the situations previously described in the evidence supporting my increase in testosterone and decrease in estrogen we come to some interesting results.
First let's look at probably the biggest factor, body composition. I'm going to tread lightly here. None of us, myself included, are going to be gracing the cover of GQ or Muscle and Fitness anytime soon. We are all decently fit guys, but male models with 6% body fat we are not. Some of my accusers are carrying a little, as I like to say, extra shit. That extra subcutaneous fat does not bode well for free testosterone. In the study cited it is thought that sex hormone binding globulin (this stuff sticks to sex hormones thus rendering them useless) gets an upswing when one is carrying extra fat. Strike one.
Now let's take a gander at the living/social situations of my four accusers. Of my two biggest accusers one is married with a kid on the way and the other lives with his girlfriend. Survey says?! Men who are in committed, romantic relationships have lower testosterone. It's the name of the damn study for crissakes. In our society this is probably a good thing since evidence has shown that lower testosterone leads to better paternal care and problem solving and all that jazz. Whatever, they have lower test. Strike two.
Those are the two biggest factors. We could argue over a strike three all day since the only other things I've found to lower test are piddly shit like types of music, lavender scented things (wtf?), warming up food in plastic containers and blah blah blah. Don't get me wrong, I do everything I can to keep my testosterone high and estrogen low, but at the end of the day I sometimes just say, "Yeah? But who gives and shit?" when confronted with stuff like that.
So let's take stock of where we're at. I've decreased fat mass, increased muscle mass, and perceived myself winning. On the other side of the ball we've got some guys who have a bit of extra weight and are all in committed day-to-day relationships.
So what the hell am I getting at? I'm sure everyone has connected the dots that I think I've experienced an upswing in my testosterone thus leading me to be more aggressive and an otherwise outwardly asshole while I think my accusers have experienced a downswing in testosterone and a possible upswing in estrogen thus rendering them overly sensitive and easily offended by my witty repartee. Open and shut case, right? If you know anything about me then you know if you've been thinking this your new name should be Lord Wrongsley of Dumbassfordshire. Part Two is going explore just what all of this nerdy stuff means. You might be surprised.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21771886 Independent and Additive Contributions of Postvictory Testosterone and Social Experience to the Development of the Winner Effect.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17426100 Visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue assessed by magnetic resonance imaging in relation to circulating androgens, sex hormone-binding globulin, and luteinizing hormone in young men.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20433613 Socially explosive minds: the triple imbalance hypothesis of reactive aggression.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21403636 Combining behavioral endocrinology and experimental economics: testosterone and social decision making.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2401584 Obese men have elevated plasma levels of estrone sulfate.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3293358 Hormonal abnormalities in obesity.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20666639 Between- and within-sex variation in hormonal responses to psychological stress in a large sample of college students.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13129483 Men in committed, romantic relationships have lower testosterone.