Men Losing Weight
By Dietitian Juliette Kellow BSc RD
It’s not just relationships where men are from Mars and women are from Venus! In reality, the two sexes are usually on very different planets when it comes to perceptions about their weight, shape and eating habits, too.
While most women panic about gaining a pound or two, spend time counting calories or constantly worry about whether their ‘bum looks big in this’, most men simply accept that a growing beer belly is a normal part of life. Added to this, they often don’t even realise or accept they need to lose weight until their GP tells them it’s bad for their health.
According to a recent survey reported in The Independent, 43 percent of men who were overweight or obese actually claimed not to have a beer belly – and more worryingly, seven percent actually said they were proud of their gut!
Two years ago, a survey carried out by Cancer Research UK found similar findings with 25 percent of overweight or obese men being in complete denial that they even had a weight problem.
But while many men might refuse to accept that they need to lose weight, the truth of the matter is they should be just as worried as women about their waistlines, if not more so.
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According to the latest Health Survey for England report, 65 percent of men are either overweight or obese compared to 56 percent of women. And by the time mid-life hits, the differences are even bigger with 76 percent of 45 to 54-year-old men being overweight or obese compared to 59 percent of women of the same age.
Men are also more likely to carry their excess fat around their stomach – think beer belly – and it’s fat distributed in this area that’s particularly related to health problems such as insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The differences between men and women in the weight debate don’t end there – and for men this is generally good news as these differences can work in their favour when it comes to losing weight.
To start with, men don’t need to restrict their calorie intake as dramatically as women to get results.
Quite simply, because men tend to be bigger, they need more calories to maintain their weight. This means they can also lose weight on a higher calorie intake, giving them more leeway in terms of the quantity and types of food they can eat.
Men usually have a higher proportion of muscle than women. This is good news because our metabolic rate – the rate at which the body burns calories – is partly determined by the amount of muscle we have. In general, the more muscle, the faster our metabolic rate and the more calories we burn, even at rest.
And this is where men have yet another advantage over women! Thanks to a greater supply of hormones such as testosterone, it’s far easier for men to build muscle than women when they work out. This is great news as muscle burns more calories than fat.
There are also big differences in the way men and women set goals for losing weight and view their chances of succeeding.
In general, men tend to have a more positive body image to start with – remember, seven percent of men are actually proud of their beer belly! This means they are more likely to set realistic and achievable targets for how they want to look.
Rather than aiming to get the body of Brad Pitt, most men usually set out with the goal of looking a bit fitter, healthier and generally more toned. Because they are more realistic about what they want to achieve, they usually feel happy and positive about any success – no matter how small – and this means they’re far more likely to stick with it. Plus, right from the beginning, there are rarely any doubts in men’s minds that they will succeed.
In contrast, many women start out with an unrealistic image and timescale for what they want to achieve and don’t feel they are successful unless the scales show a 5lb drop each week.
Consequently, even though health professionals consider losing 1-2lb a week a success, many women quickly feel dissatisfied, disillusioned and unmotivated and so simply ‘give up’, undoing all their good work by going straight back to bad habits.
Men also have the advantage of having less emotional attachment to food. Although more and more men are getting into the kitchen, in general, it’s still women who tend to do most of the shopping and cooking. Furthermore, as the main providers of food, women are more likely than men to link food to love and nurturing and are also more likely to turn to food in response to emotional triggers such as tiredness, boredom or depression. In contrast, men usually see food simply as something that they enjoy and that stops them feeling hungry. Ultimately, without any emotional ties to food, this can make losing weight so much easier for men.
It’s not just food where men and women differ either. Exercise is generally an inherent part of most men’s lives and the idea of taking part in a sport is often a more enjoyable concept for men than women.
Many women consider exercise to be a chore, whereas having a game of football or taking the children to the park for a game of Frisbee is something most men enjoy.
Of course, the dieting differences between men and women don’t all work favourably for men. To start with, research shows that many men are often in denial about their weight and so don’t actually consider losing weight until they are diagnosed with a health problem such as diabetes or high blood cholesterol.
Some men also have fixed views about certain foods that stop them eating more healthily. For example, it’s not uncommon to hear men say ‘salad isn’t a proper meal’, ‘you only drink diet cola if you’re on a diet’ or ‘a meal has to contain meat for it to be good for you.’
Foods like vegetables, branflakes, low-fat mayo, skimmed milk and sugar-free drinks are still perceived by some men as being ‘diet’ foods rather than a normal part of a balanced, healthy diet suitable for everyone.
Men are also more likely to be victims of peer pressure when it comes to eating and drinking badly.
Put a group of women together in a restaurant and no one would bat an eye if one of them ordered a gin and slimline tonic or a salad. But as a man out with his mates, if you ordered these you would almost certainly be laughed at – and usually encouraged to go for the steak and chips and a pint.
For practical tips and advice on the best way for men to lose weight read my Guide to Weight Loss for Men or have a look at some of our men's weight loss success stories from the list below:
Men Losing Weight - Success Stories
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 stone in weight.
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.
Chris knew that his surgery was not a quick fix for weight loss and focused on calorie intake to help lose over 9 stone! Read how his gastric bypass was not enough to help lose the pounds…
Feeling despondent with his lack of weight loss, Paul joined WLR on a recommendation in order to overhaul his lifestyle. See how he used WLR’s tools to lose 2 stone in weight and fit back into his dinner jacket.
Unhappy with his weight gain as a result of an excess of hotel living and junk food, Peter was inspired to lose weight by the book ‘Fat Bloke Slims’. See how he lost over 5 stone by following tips on how to lose weight and ways to keep up the weight loss
From his heaviest weight of 22 stone Dean has lost 9st 6lbs and reached his goal of a healthy 12st 8lbs.
Pete's lost over 3 stones and is now just 4lbs away from his target.
Steve's weight loss story is an entertaining and inspiring read - here's how he lost over 2 stones..
Martin's lost over 3 stones in 3 months to reach 12st 1lb.
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