Most of us aren’t carrying excess weight through choice – but in the modern world of 24/7 food availability, oversized portions and an abundance of tasty, cheap treats, it’s become normal. Lots of us don’t really know what to do and how to go about it, yet with the right support and motivation men can, and do lose weight. Though us guys are less likely to diet than women, there’s good evidence to suggest that when we do set our minds to it, we’re more successful!
I’ve seen loads of men well into their 50’s and 60’s who’ve been able to lose packets of weight. I’m talking about 15-20kg (2½-3½ stone) weight losses, and often more. In a recent study I’m involved in (the Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial), lots of men in their mid 50’s reversed type 2 diabetes, came off their tablets, and got a new lease of life after an average weight loss of 10kg (1 stone 8 pounds). Even losing half that amount can make a big difference to things like blood pressure, reducing risks from certain cancers, and just making you feel generally better about yourself.
Where to go for help
So what can we do to take control of our weight and health? Men often prefer men-only weight loss groups, and though there are not many around, a great option for football enthusiasts is the Football Fans in Training initiative which offers free 12 week programmes to overweight men to help them lose weight and get fitter at their local professional football club (http://spfltrust.org.uk/projects/football-fans-in-training/). Other places men can get support are online, through the Man v Fat website (https://manvfat.com), where you’ll find lots of good advice, eating plans and a community support forum of other normal blokes trying to shift the pounds. Another good option specifically for men are ‘The Hairy Dieters’ recipe books (produced by Si King and Dave Myers aka The Hairy Bikers). For me, these are probably some of the best weight loss related recipe books out there, and you’ll still be enjoying proper food (no rabbit food here!), just less of it, with your favourite meals adapted to contain lower calories.
A word on calories…
The bottom line is that to lose weight, you need to take in less calories than your body requires. Weight loss is probably about 80% diet – what you eat is far more important than how much exercise you do. Put it this way, burning off a Snickers will require about a 3 mile jog. Easier to avoid the Snickers I say!
My 10 top tips for weight loss success:
- Set yourself a target for weight loss – whether you want to lose a little or a lot, break it down and be realistic about how long it will take to lose. Weight that has gone on over years will not come off in days!
- Weigh yourself regularly – daily, weekly or fortnightly and keep a record
- Track your dietary intake for at least 7 days – either with a paper/pen food diary or through an app like MyFitnessPal.
- Make a meal plan of what you’re going to eat – 3 meals a day, with 1-2 low calorie (e.g. 100 calories) snacks is reasonable.
- Take a packed lunch to work, and eat out less often in general. Soup (and some bread) is a good option – It’s filling and a good way to get lots of veg in.
- Eat your calories, don’t drink them! This means cutting back on booze, full sugar fizzy drinks and even fruit juices. Opt for fluids that don’t contain many calories, tea, coffee (not the really milky ones!), zero sugar drinks, or just plain old water.
- If you need a snack between meals try and have fruit (or something around 100 calories) but try coping with mild between-meal hunger. Watch out for evening munchies!
- Lose weight with a friend or partner – it’s easier and more fun if you have some support.
- Get more active – exercise won’t take the pounds off on its own but it will help, and make you feel happier and fitter in the process. It can also take the edge off appetite.
- Don’t give up! If you overdo it one day, get back on it the next day, it’s what you do over weeks and months that counts.
It’s never too late to be that slimmer, healthier guy you want to be. If you’ve got too heavy and your health is suffering, and you’re fed up with the “we’re worried about you…” chat from family, or the chaffing between your thighs, then why not make 2019 the year you take control and shift the excess weight? Your future self will thank you for it!
George Thom, Research Associate (Dietitian), Glasgow University