Despite the changing way in which our society views healthy living and eating – which has seen gym memberships increase by nearly 50% and millions of social media users flocking to various sites in search of #fitspo and #eatclean tips – weight loss worries continue to be mostly associated with women.
However, recent research has overwhelmingly proved that it is in factmen's weight that we should be worrying about the most when it comes to health implications. Indeed, a major study of 3.6 million adults worldwide, conducted by a team of Oxford and Cambridge researchers and published just this month, revealed that overweight men are 50% more likely to die before the age of 70 than women of a similar weight.
So what is it that's holding men back? Quite a lot, as it turns out. Earlier this year, the popular weight loss organisation Slimming World released its 'machobesity' report, which went a long way in shedding light on the common weight loss mistakes men make and why. Dr Jacquie Lavin, head of nutrition and research at slimming world, says:
"Current data shows that men are more likely to be overweight than women and more likely to carry excess fat around their stomach, which poses an additional health risk. While most overweight men say they do want to lose weight, this report suggests there is a cultural expectation that men should consume lots of processed and fast foods that are high in fat and calories and lots of alcohol and this increases their chances of gaining weight."
Here, we use some of their most interesting stats to take a closer look at the most common mistakes men are making when it comes to their weight, diet and general lifestyle.
1. They view healthy foods as 'girly'
While there have been huge leaps forwards in terms of tackling everyday sexism in our society, it seems that the idea of certain things being 'gendered' is still ingrained into public consciousness.
Yes, it seems that men view certain food choices as 'masculine', the top-ranking of which (surprise surprise) proved to be typically high in energy density, meaning that consuming large amounts of them would make weight gain more likely. For example, meat pie and fried English breakfasts were reported as 80% and 79% 'masculine'respectively by the 855 men who participated in the research, compared to just 2% and 3% viewing the dishes as 'feminine'. Conversely, at the other end of the scale foods such as salad, yoghurt and diet cola were judged as overwhelmingly 'feminine'by more than half of men.
It also appears that the same issue is present not just in the food men choose to eat, but also the way in which it is cooked and eaten. Deep fried chicken and fish were voted to be much manlier than their grilled counterparts, while 74% of men said that one of the most masculine behaviours was eating large portions of food, with 68%saying that eating everything on their plate was also an important male trait.
2. They don't stop at one pint
According to the report, the most manly 'food' of all is beer, coming in at the top with an 88% masculinity rating. With a relatively high calorie count (the average beer contains 150 kcals), this pub-night favourite is bad news for anybody's waistline, and while men drink for many of the same reasons women do – as a treat, for relaxation or for a social event – it seems that their tendency to binge drink is much higher.
Indeed, 'drinking alcoholic drinks to keep up with others' and 'drinking large amounts of alcohol in one session' were both found to be overwhelmingly male mannerisms, concurring with figures released from the Health and Social Care Information Centreshowing men to be more likely to consume alcohol frequently and more likely to have drunk levels that could increase their risk of harm. The damage that alcohol does to a man's health also reaches beyond the number of drinks consumed, as binge drinking (which one in four admitted to doing weekly) can also lead to less healthy choices around food and physical activity, sometimes having a knock-on effect that lasts for many days.
3. They've lost confidence in kickabouts
Research shows strongly that, despite a change in diet being the ultimate key to weight loss, increasing physical activity is deemed to be the most socially acceptableway to lose weight according to men. However, while competitive team sports were acknowledged by the majority to be the most masculine way to shred the pounds,48% of overweight men reckoned they would find it 'difficult or impossible' to play football for 45 minutes.
In reality, 43% of the overweight men who participated in the study admitted to not achieveing a single session of the recommended 30 minutes of activity each week. This gap in what men believe they should be doing and what they are actually doing has probably come about because it is actually a lot easier to reduce how much energy you consume than increase how much you burn off – especially when you're carrying some extra weight. Dr Lavin reiterates this:
"It's unfortunate for men that the method of weight loss they see as most socially acceptable – physical activity – is also the hardest to achieve when you struggle with weight. People are also less likely to lose weight through physical activity than they are by making changes to their eating habits, though becoming more active is excellent for both physical and mental health and is very beneficial when it comes to weight loss maintenance."
4. They're less likely to ask for help
This is probably one of the biggest mistakes men make when it comes to weightloss, and is also the biggest threat to both their physical and mental wellbeing. Even though 39% of men want to lose weight for health reasons, there is an average delay of six years before they actually decide to do something about it – compared to just over two years for women. As most people gain some weight each year, such a long delay means that men go up several points on the BMI scale, in turn increasing the risk of conditions such as heart disease, strokes and cancer.
There are a number of potential reasons for why it might take men so long to combat their weight worries. One view that came across strongly was that, as men, they should deal with problems on their own and therefore are reluctant to ask for help – as dealing with things on your own was viewed as (you guessed it) 'masculine'. It's also possible that men have a smaller circle to confide in than women. A YouGovsurvey, carried out by the Movember Foundation, revealed that 51% of men have less than two close friends, and that 2.5 million men are going through life feeling totally alone.
It also emerged that only 21% of men thought it 'socially acceptable' to attend a slimming world group or similar organisation, with 70% saying it was an actively'feminine' thing to do. However, it seems that when they do go about losing weight in this style, men are actually more successful than women, suggesting that 'getting them through the doors' is the hardest part.
In order to tackle the many health risks that can occur as a result of men being overweight, it is clear that attitudes towards dieting, exercise and healthy living in general need to be changed. In the same way that the 'pink for girls, blue for boys' mantra has become somewhat tired and outdated in modern society, so too should the 'salad for women, burgers for men' approach to food.
Components for a successful weightloss programme for men are simple. A combination of a healthy eating plan that reduces energy intake, support to increase physical activity and a group environment – or even an encouraging social circle – all combine to give men the best chances at reducing weight, in turn reducing risks and improving men's lifestyles in all sorts of ways. Dr Lavin says:
"The results speak for themselves, with men losing more than 5% body weight in 12 weeks, which health professionals agree can reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer. Possibly even more motivating for men though is our finding that they have sex more often after losing weight. Our research found that while the majority had sex once-a-month or more before losing weight, they now have it at least once-a-week!"
Guys, it's time to ditch your stereotypes and #SlimLikeAMan. For more information about Slimming World, click here. Also, why not check out the video below for some tips on what your diet should look like when you're trying to lose weight (it's not as disheartening as you might think).