When you walk into the average slimming club, you’ll see a sea of female faces and maybe the odd token man. With that in mind, you could be forgiven for assuming that weight loss is a female need, yet 67% of British men are overweight, compared to 57% of women.
According to Aberdeen University’s Professor Avenell, who co-authored a 2014 report into the management of obesity in men: “Dieting is a seen as a feminine activity, particularly strict diets, which men feel may cause them to lose too much weight, look too thin and therefore look less masculine.”
When it comes to appearance, women are much more likely to diet ahead of a special occasion such as a wedding or holiday; while men usually cut calories to improve their health and feel fitter.
The good news for fellas is it could be argued that it’s actually easier for men to lose weight than women. For a start, men lose weight faster, even when they are eating the same number of calories. It seems unfair, but comes down to the fact that generally men have more muscle than women and, pound for pound, muscle burns more energy than fat.
There are psychological differences in the way each gender approaches weight loss too.
Believing in your own ability to make a change is a key factor in committing to a goal and ultimately reaching it. Men tend to have more confidence in their ability to achieve a weight-loss goal and are more likely to have a brain that’s solutions-based, as well as a competitive nature. Women also have a tendency to try (and give up on) dozens of diets during their lifetime, while for men it is more of a milestone.
In addition to being more likely to be overweight, men are also prone to carry excess weight around the middle of their bodies. This increases the risk of high blood pressure, joint pain, impaired mobility and discomfort. What’s more, obesity can cause low testosterone levels, erectile dysfunction and possible infertility.
Gary Williams lost six stone five years ago and has maintained his weight loss ever since. He says: “I was 47 when my doctor put me on pills for high blood pressure. I knew if I lost weight I probably wouldn’t need them at all. It frightened me. I used food in an addictive way – to cope with anger, stress and tiredness.”
Gary started a Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD), combined with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to help him understand why he overate the way he did.
“I lost six stone and I no longer treat myself with food,” he adds. “I still enjoy a beer at the weekend, but I counteract it by eating better the following day. I’m fitter now than I was at the age of 20 and my blood pressure is back to normal.”
Read more about Gary’s weight loss story.