Obesity rates worldwide are rising, and in Singapore, we aren’t faring much better. In 2010, 40% of the population was overweight, with 10% being obese. It’s much more prevalent in men too, with obesity in men 12.1% than in women. Obesity has several adverse health effects. The most serious dangers include hypertension, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Joint problems and psychosocial hardship can also be very distressing.
Abdominal obesity is even more dangerous
While obesity in general is a major predictor of serious ill-health in men, abdominal obesity — excess fat around the stomach — is an added health risk. This is bad news for men as they typically store fat around their middle. Men under stress are doubly at risk as stress triggers the release of the hormone cortisol which appears to stimulate fat storage around the stomach and abdomen. Abdominal obesity is one of a number of interlinked conditions that comprise the condition known as metabolic syndrome. This disorder has been identified as a complex risk factor for cardiovascular disease. An estimated 1 in 3 of overweight or obese men have metabolic syndrome.
Health benefits of a modest weight reduction
Although untreated obesity may have serious health consequences, even modest weight loss can bring noticeable health benefits. For example, a weight loss of as little as 10-20 pounds can eliminate the need for hypertension or type 2 diabetes medication. In addition, it can raise HDL cholesterol (the good blood-fats) reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides (the bad blood-fats). And, thus reduce the risk of heart disease. Even so, the more weight you can lose in a steady sustained way, the greater the health improvements, especially if you can reduce the amount of fat around your middle.
Diet advice for men
A nutritious calorie-controlled diet is the foundation for lasting weight loss. And don’t worry about cutting down on junk food. Actually, a person’s appetite for high-fat or high-sugar foods falls dramatically within a couple of weeks of healthy eating. If you want to lose weight but can’t enjoy a meal without a huge slab of fatty red meat, a large helping of mayo, or a bag of tortilla chips, try switching to a healthier diet for 2 weeks. And see what a difference it makes to your taste buds.
Improve your health saves money in the long run
Instead of simply cutting calories and thinking “I must diet”, make a point of choosing healthy foods and think “I want to eat healthily”. You may even motivate yourself by focusing on the reduced health insurance costs you will achieve by getting into shape.
Personalise your eating plan
There is no single diet plan that fits every man. Moreover, eliminating all your favourite foods is not a winning weight loss strategy. As long as your regular daily diet is calorie-controlled and contains enough healthy foods, you should be able to include a few treats without interfering with your weight reduction.
Healthy eating guidelines
As a general guide, choose foods which are lower in fat — especially saturated or trans-fats – low in sodium, and less refined. To be more specific, eat at least five daily servings of fruits and vegetables — more is better. Also, eat a wide variety of both, because different fruits and vegetables contain different nutrients. Opt for whole grains, which are richer in nutrients and higher in both soluble and insoluble fibre compared to more processed products. Their extra fibre content means they help to maintain healthy blood glucose levels, which reduces the risk of appetite swings and cravings. Go easy on fat. Enjoy low-fat dairy products. Remember, full-fat cheese is a huge source of saturated fat and don’t add extra fat to food in the form of mayo or sour cream. Stay away from chips and other high-fat, high sodium snack foods.
For men who enjoy red meat…
Red meat, like beef and lamb, is highly nutritious. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the main sources of saturated fat, the type implicated in atherosclerotic heart disease. If you enjoy red meat, make sure you remove all visible fat before eating, and limit your intake to 3-4 3-ounce servings per week. Fish is a healthy alternative protein source, especially oily fish like mackerel, herring and salmon, as is skinless chicken and turkey.
Eating out for men
If you are serious about losing weight, be extra-choosy when dining out or ordering take-out food. Here are some important tips.
- Do not order deep-fried food.
- Look for light appetizers, such as salads, non-creamy soups, fish platter.
- Avoid entrees with sauces. If necessary, ask for them on the side. Choose plain fish, broiled lean steak, or tomato-based pasta.
- Make sure half your plate contains vegetables, without added oil or butter.
- For dessert, choose any fresh fruit dish, and if offered cream say No. If these suggestions are too arduous, it may be best to skip eating out until you feel more confident.
Get up and move!
Keeping active is one of the most effective methods of protecting ourselves against serious disease, and maintaining a good quality of life. This introduces the basic male dilemma. In order to achieve a comfortable standard of living for himself and his family, a man typically has to spend extra hours working instead of exercising. However, by neglecting his fitness, he ends up racking up numerous health problems which are going to hurt financially, emotionally and physically in the long run. This is particularly true for men over 40!
For men who really want to lose weight, we suggest you first see your doctor for a quick check-up. Then, if all is well, we advise you start with 45 minutes/day of light exercise. Do this for 2-3 weeks or until you notice obvious benefits such as improved breathing, sleeping and appetite. Then gradually increase the duration and intensity of your training program up to 60 minutes a day. The best way to avoid overstrain is to loosen up with stretches at the beginning of each exercise session, and wind down with stretches afterwards.
Improving your lifestyle
Quitting smoking is the top priority for any man with weight-related health problems. Another essential improvement is stress reduction or at least better stress management. Moving to a less stressful job, reducing your work schedule, or taking regular physical exercise are useful ways to reduce stress. This will definitely assist weight loss and general health. Spending more time with your family is also a great stress reliever.
Obesity in men may be rising, but if you care, there’s no reason why it can’t be fixed. Eat healthier and get moving!
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