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Men on Diets
Diets for Men

Men's and women's attitudes towards diets differ, as does how they react when one of the partners is on a diet.

Men on Diets

By wlr Consultant DietitianLyndel Costain BSc RD

What is it about men and dieting? To many it’s a dirty word.

According to recent surveys twice as many men as women say they wouldn’t do it - even though 67 per cent of men are overweight (versus 59 per cent of women) and putting their health at risk. Around 1 in 5 feel it’s a ‘girl thing’ and 2 in 5 say lack of willpower is their main barrier to dieting. Then there’s the diet saboteurs – the men who thwart their partner’s best efforts at weight loss…

“He spent sixty pounds and came home with nothing but cakes, wine and beer; there was nothing to make a sensible meal.”

“I feel myself going through the same thing every day.... plan it, prepare it, present it …I think they take it for granted that the plate of food has landed there.”

Let’s face it. Women and men tend to have different attitudes to food, shopping, cooking, and weight control. To be fair though, while men are more sceptical about diets - being tired of picking up the pieces after their partners’ emotional attempts at fad diets is said to be one reason - they are increasingly concerned about their weight, and its effects on their health.

According to men’s health experts, men prefer a more functional approach to weight control than women do (men like facts, figures, measurements and competition), and health problems are their biggest motivator for action. However, many men do admit that that losing weight would also boost their self-esteem.

And what about that issue of men as diet saboteurs?

Dr Howard Shapiro, a weight loss expert based in New York, analysed data from more than 6,000 of his patients and found that 70 per cent of the women had difficulty getting support from their partners, as opposed to 5 per cent of his male patients.

Being the more instinctive carers, in his view women are much more ready to change their cooking habits, keep problem foods out of the house and take care with restaurant plans to help their mates.

But men tend to see their wife’s diet as her problem and are generally unconscious about their own participation in the problem. This could manifest itself by persisting in bringing chocolates, crisps, pizza and cake home and ‘rewarding’ their partners’ weight loss with trips to restaurants.

This type of sabotage isn’t always down to being selfish or thoughtless. It can also be based on the man wanting to be kind to his wife, and not knowing better ways to cheer her up or treat her than with decadent foods.

Then there’s the slightly more sinister reasons for sabotage.

Numerous researchers have reported that some men become jealous as their partners become thinner, and potentially more attractive to other men. Or perhaps they don’t like the way their newfound confidence or interests outside the home unsettle the way their relationship or family life was before.

Many couples don’t realise that a woman’s worry about her weight and body image is a familiar focus for them both, and weight loss upsets this certain stability in their relationship. Indeed I have worked with women, who after going through the cycle of weight loss, unhappy husband and sabotage a few times, have decided it’s just not worth the trouble.

Now for some good news. Sometimes what seems like sabotage is a simple lack of awareness about a partner’s support needs during weight loss.

This is summed up nicely by this story from a colleague working in the Midlands. She was helping a woman who worked hard to makes loads of sustainable diet and activity changes – resulting in a fabulous 3 stone weight loss. When asked about how she rewarded her success and the support she got, she burst into tears.

Her beloved husband hadn’t said one single thing to her about any of the changes she'd made or about the weight she’d lost (which was enough to necessitate a change of wardrobe!).

When she finally confronted him about it he was genuinely amazed. Apparently he’d been telling all his friends how proud he was of her but had never said anything similar to her. He was afraid to make a big thing of it in case she wasn’t happy with her progress, and she thought he hadn't noticed and didn't care. Fortunately they sorted it out before she got so fed up she let the weight go back on out of frustration.

Enlisting support for your diet is vital to success. As is being very clear, when you first embark on your weight loss journey, about exactly how those close to you can support you best.

Finding the right balance between male and female needs will inevitably involve some give and take on both sides. But with a positive mind-set and a large dose of empathy, men (and women) can help their partners achieve their weight loss goals, without the angst.

Men's Diets Success Stories

Glynn Glynn decided to lose weight for his health and confidence. Read how his passion for health and fitness spurred him on to lose over 3 stonein weight.
Adam Tired of relentless jokes from his friends about his weight and worries about heart disease promted Adam  to start his weight loss journey. Read how WLR’s extensive database and a return to exercise helped him lose nearly 4 stone in weight.

From being nearly 20 stone Gareth's lost a fantastic 6 stones and 11 pounds.


Colin's lost 2st 9lbs so far, he likes having the tools to create his own menus.


Quentin finds that being able to record everything keeps his motivation going, he's lost 2st 4lbs.


Rob's motivation is his 2½ year old son; he's lost 2st 9lbs.

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