Munching on salad, eating yogurt topped with granola, or sipping green tea does not conjure up a macho image. Neither does standing in line for a Weight Watchers weigh-in. Dieting is just not a manly thing. But, over half of American males weigh too much and many are trying to drop pounds.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 71% of American men are overweight, when classified by Body Mass Index (BMI). Clearly, weight loss is no longer for women only.
But, most weight loss research has been done with women. There are far fewer studies dealing with males. Those studies do tell us that when men diet they lose more weight and they lose it faster. Men—even overweight men—start with more muscle than women and they lay down muscle faster. Women’s bodies tend to store fat to insulate and prepare to be a baby incubator.
The Harvard Health Professionals Study, which tracked more than 50,000 men, cites 3 lifestyle factors that predict weight gain for men – less time exercising, more time watching TV, and eating between meals. A soup bowl of ice cream eaten in a recliner in front of the TV will not make you trim. Men are also more likely to carry excess fat in the trunk and abdomen, and a waist size of 40 or more creates health risks because belly fat releases substances that increase the incidence of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
It is more acceptable for a man to tell his buddies or business associates that he’s watching what he eats to lower his cholesterol or control his high blood pressure. Dieting may be wimpy but striving for health and fitness is manly. Aerobic exercise — walking, jogging, and bike riding – helps to reduce abdominal fat. Lowering body weight by as little as 10% can improve health risks and increase activity both on the basketball court and in the bedroom. Overweight men have lower semen quality and higher rates of infertility.
Sadly, many men don’t take weight loss seriously until they have been diagnosed with diabetes or had a heart attack. What they don’t realize is that making lifestyle changes before a catastrophe hits could prevent it from ever happening. Instead of focusing on dieting, guy-friendly weight loss programs need to focus on health and performance.
When it comes to losing weight men have the advantage. They can eat more food and still lose weight, they lose weight faster, and when they trip up they are less likely to get derailed and feel guilty. A tough and rugged man can diet and do it successfully – he just doesn’t want to announce it to the world.