Managing body weight – tips and advice

Find out how to deal with excess body fat

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Men's Health Advisor
@AVogelUK
Ask Dr. Jen Tan


18 December 2019

Managing body weight

Figures suggest that excess body weight is a prevalent problem amongst men and, indeed, the population as a whole. To help manage and understand the issue, this blog takes a look at:

  • Causes of excess body fat in men
  • Health risks of carrying extra weight
  • Benefits of losing weight
  • How to tackle body fat
  • Plus, information on different types of fat.

What contributes to excess weight in men?

A poor diet and lack of exercise are the most obvious causes of excess weight in men; however, there are a few additional reasons, some of which are biological, which may explain why men are more prone to carrying extra weight than women.

Health consciousness

Historically speaking, men have been less interested in their health, and even less focused on body weight. Research consistently shows that men are less likely to visit their doctor than women, meaning they miss out on healthy living initiatives and advice from their doctor.

According to a study by the National Pharmacy Association, 9 out of 10 men said they did not like to trouble their doctor or pharmacist unless they were suffering from a serious problem.2

Fat stores

Whilst women tend to keep their fat in places that are metabolically safe, such as the hips and thighs, fat on men tends to go to the stomach (what we might call a beer belly!). This may only cause a small increase in weight, but is enough to push us over our personal fat threshold. The fat threshold refers to how much weight we can put on before it starts causing health-related problems.

Andropause

Between the ages of 48 and 70, men experience a gradual decline in testosterone which, for some, can cause symptoms including low libido, irritability and weight gain.3 This a process is known as andropause and occurs over several years, maybe even decades. This means it is not equivalent to menopause where hormonal changes occur quickly and dramatically.

If we already carry a bit of extra weight then than this can contribute to lower circulating levels of testosterone and, therefore, more noticeable symptoms of andropause.4

Lack of exercise

Some men become less active as they get older due to the demands of family life, low energy levels and illness. All of these pressures can make it harder to exercise, plus these issues can contribute to stress which actually contributes to weight gain as well.

Health risks of carrying extra weight

I've already mentioned that extra weight can carry major implications for our health, but what exactly are these? Below, I've listed some problems can develop.

Type 2 diabetes

Being overweight increases the chance of developing type 2 diabetes.

The pancreas would normally make a hormone called insulin that, when sugar levels get too high, tells the liver to remove and store it. When carrying extra weight, however, fat clogs up these organs so they cannot control blood sugars as effectively.

High blood pressure

Blood pressure gives a measure of how forcefully blood is being pumped around the body. The risk of developing high blood pressure increases when you are overweight. This issue, in turn, raises the risk of heat disease, strokes and heart attacks.

Dementia

Research has shown that a high Body Mass Index (BMI) in midlife can make you more likely to develop dementia.5 BMI is used to measure whether someone is a healthy weight. A high number suggests that one is overweight, whilst a low number suggests that someone is underweight.

How to tackle body fat

Now, if you are struggling with extra weight, there are a few simple steps that can help manage the problem.

Reduce sugar intake - overconsumption of sugars can lead to weight gain. The World Health Organisation recommends that adults consume no more than 25g sugar daily, yet a can of fizzy juice can easily hold 35g!

Eat more wholegrain foods - these are generally absorbed quite slowly, meaning they can keep you fuller for longer, plus they keep blood sugar levels stable which maintains steady energy levels.

Set realistic targets – when it comes to weight loss, people can be put off if they try to do too much too soon as this just isn't achievable. Stick to small goals, like walking more often instead of driving short distances, which you can do quite easily.

Limit alcohol – alcohol contributes to weight gain. Try a few alcohol-free days and see if you notice a difference in how you feel.

Exercise more - have walking meetings at work, use the stairs, play with your kids (run around, do handstands, swim at the local pool, push them on the swings – play!).

Don't fast – fasting isn't sustainable, and research doesn't back it up as a reliable weight loss tactic. Stick to regular meals instead, though you could look at reducing portion sizes.

Make healthier food choices – homecooked meals with fresh ingredients are always the healthiest option. Have a look at some of the recipes on our website to get started.

Don’t forget healthy fats!

It's important to note that we shouldn't cut fat out of our diet completely. Essential fats, such as omega 3 and omega 6, are needed for a wide range of bodily processes, including:

  • Regulating inflammation
  • Regulating hormonal processes
  • Supporting skin and hair health
  • Transporting and breaking down cholesterol.

Essential fats can be depleted by illness, digestive problems and relying on processed foods - plus we need more healthy fats to address issues like inflammation. If a deficiency does develop, various symptoms can occur, including:

  • Inflamed skin
  • Dry skin
  • Dry hair
  • Poor wound healing
  • Stiffness.

Although essential fats are necessary for our health, they can't be produced by the body. This means we need to get them through our diet. Sources of essential fats include: flax seeds, wholegrains, nuts and oily fish. So, make sure any new health plan contains plenty of these! I'd recommend keeping some nuts and seeds in your cupboard for a healthy snack.

Are you feeling bloated?

Bloating is when the stomach feels swollen after eating. Bloating is not an issue of excess weight, though it is important to note here as the two can often be mixed up.

Gas is a normal bi-product of digestion but bloating occurs when these gases build up in the digestive system, usually after eating. A number of factors can contribute to bloating, such as:

What can you do?

Chew food thoroughly – this stimulates digestive enzymes in the stomach, meaning they will be prepared to deal with the arrival of food.

Eat in a relaxed environment – stress can contribute to digestive problems. So, sit at a table, dim the lights and take your time to eat! There should definitely be no eating on-the-go, or eating at your desk.

Try bitter foods - have a salad before your main meal with bitter foods like rocket, or a salad dressing with apple cider vinegar. This will kick-start the digestive processes before you move onto your main meal.

Limit sugar intake – these feed bad bacteria.

Try fermented foods – the likes of sauerkraut can encourage the growth of healthy bacteria.

Stay hydrated – this is good for digestion. Take care not to drink with meals, though, as this can dilute digestive juices.

Walk more - 30 minutes after your meal go for a gentle stroll to help release excess gases.

Try a herbal tea - peppermint is known to be good for digestion.

Manage your portion sizes - this helps to avoid over-eating and bloating.


My Top Tip:


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Health benefits of losing weight:

As well as improving your overall frame, losing fat (particularly around the stomach) can lead to improvements in other areas of your health, such as better memory, less stress and a more positive outlook.

A reduction in body fat is also known to reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers and much more. So, hopefully, with the tips and advice in this blog, you will be well on your way to a healthier, happier lifestyle!

References

https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/health-survey-for-england/health-survey-for-england-2016 

2 https://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/nov/04/men-failing-seek-nhs-help 

3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK222288/ 
4 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3955328/ 
https://www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/high-bmi-linked-increased-risk-dementia-later-life/ 

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