A shocking 40 percent of Canadian men over age 18 are overweight, and 19 percent are considered obese, meaning they have a body mass index of 30 or over. (In comparison, 27 percent of Canadian women are overweight, and 17 percent are obese.)
Carrying those extra pounds could have a big impact on a man’s self-esteem, sex drive, interest in being active with the kids or with you, and even the enjoyment he gets out of life. Most importantly, being overweight is linked to a wide range of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
But some men simply do nothing about their weight problem. One reason? ‘There’s less pressure socially for men to be thin, compared to women. As a consequence, their motivation to get help may be less,’ says Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa, a weight-loss clinic.
Many male patients who do visit Freedhoff’s clinic say they don’t feel comfortable at women-friendly programs such as Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig. A 2011 review study from the University of Massachusetts found that of 244 studies of weight-loss intervention programs, men made up just 27 percent of the participants on average. The fact that the impact of weight-loss programs on men is studied less may mean that men have a harder time finding options that are applicable to them.
However, in his work with men, Freedhoff has found a few gender differences as well. Mainly, men often want to gloss over the importance of food as it pertains to weight loss’reducing portions, counting calories, and watching fat and sugar intake. Instead, guys put their efforts into exercise, and tend to go overboard at the gym, which they can’t sustain for long (plus, they can get injured). But the reality is, monitoring caloric intake should be the primary focus of an effective weight-loss program. Another challenge: When dining out, men are often reluctant to order something healthy’and, especially when they’re out with pals, it’s tough for them to avoid the burger and beers.
If weight has become an issue for one of the men in your life’whether it’s your dad, brother, partner or a friend’ask him, just once, if he’s worried about it. If he wants to talk about losing weight, offer support. That might involve cooking healthier meals for the whole family or joining him in a healthy activity you both enjoy, such as skiing, skating, running or curling. Even if you don’t need to lose weight yourself, make sure you’re not undermining his attempts by baking up a batch of his favourite cookies, or turning down his offer of an evening or weekend walk together.
And if he does want to seek outside support, help him shop around for a registered dietitian who specializes in weight loss. Or suggest he enrol in a program’as long as it doesn’t promise a loss of more than three pounds a week (and you might want to ask your family doctor if the program seems safe). ‘If a program sounds too good to be true, it is,’ says Freedhoff. Maintaining a healthy weight is a lifelong project.