If you have ever stood in line at a supermarket, and glanced at the tabloids, men might get the distinct impression that weight loss programs are not “for them”. There seems to be an avalanche of print, television and even radio commercials aimed at women, many of them complaining that the weight just seems to “fall off” men with the slightest effort, whereas women have to fight for every pound. If you are a man struggling with weight loss, you are probably feeling a little confused right now. You have been trying to lose weight, and it is going incredibly slow. You might be finding it difficult to stick to prescribed plans, or to make healthy eating a part of your busy day. With everything out there telling you that this ought to be effortless, you may be sitting here, convinced you are doing it wrong.
As the wife of a “big guy”, I have seen a lot of these troubles first hand. He has struggled on and off with his weight since he was a teenager, and tried a lot of strange and gimmicky plans before finally getting into a good, healthy rhythm. That whole thing about most weight loss plans being geared towards women is not really an exaggeration. My husband was on a weight loss plan in his early twenties, while at the same time working on a construction crew. After feeling sick and weak for a while, he finally sat down and took a good, long look at his plan: he had been plastering swimming pools, in 100 degree heat, for 14 hour days, and only getting 15 grams of protein on which to do it. Ouch. Now, if you are a 140 pound woman, working primarily in an air conditioned office? That might be a little more feasible (although that protein count is startlingly low no matter what). The point is that men have complex nutritional needs that may extend beyond “just have this meal replacement shake”, and understanding those needs is going to be a key part of your weight loss success. Let’s go over a few important points, and make sure you are approaching this in the healthiest way you can.
Start by Seeing Your Doctor
A friend of mine recently turned his entire life around for the better, and it all began because he visited his doctor. He showed up complaining of a few nagging symptoms that wouldn’t go away, but left with a diagnosis that scared him. He’s a young guy, relatively speaking. Mid 30s, married, good job and a kid on the way. After his lab work came back telling him he was borderline diabetic, had high cholesterol and a fatty liver, he got one heck of a wake up call.
To be clear, I do not want this to happen to you. When you go to your doctor, I hope they tell you you are in the clear, and can begin a program of healthy weight loss anytime you like. Still, if there is an underlying issue, it is vital that you know about it beforehand. It may not be something that can be discovered through blood work either. If your blood pressure is high, or if you have a stress fracture, or if you have an undiagnosed condition like asthma, you definitely want to know about that before you change anything. Addressing it up front is going to benefit your overall health, and give you a better starting point.
As for that friend of mine? I ran into him about six months after his diagnosis, and didn’t even recognize him. He had lost around 50 pounds, was lean and muscular, and even his skin looked healthier. When I asked him how he did it, he answered “I did what I should have been doing all along. I got off the couch, and started eating right.” When I told him that was great, he responded that most people seem upset to discover that. They would rather hear that he found some quick fix (although there are some smart ways to hack your weight loss). Which leads me to…
Understand That There is No (Healthy) Quick Fix
If you landed on this website after looking up diet pills or crazy, restrictive plans, I want you to stay here for a few minutes and hear me out. There are hundreds – thousands – of different weight loss products on the market. Few, if any, have been verified as safe or even effective. They do all have one thing in common however, they are all preying on your desire to get out of your weight problem without working at it. Why? Because if weight loss were easy, everyone would do it. The fact that there are still people with weight problems should be enough to convince you that those gimmicks don’t work.
Also, while some rapid weight loss is to be expected at the beginning of any new plan, beware anything that is promising you sustained, rapid weight loss. At best, it simply won’t happen, but at worst, that could be incredibly harmful. I’ll put it this way: sustained, rapid weight loss is cause for most people to be hospitalized. It is not supposed to happen.
So, you are definitely in this for the long haul, but is that really a bad thing? Think of how much better you would feel being 10 pounds lighter. Now carry that feeling along as you slowly but steadily continue to lose weight. The ride may be long, but you will enjoy being part of it.
Create a Small Calorie Deficit
Okay guys, time for a little math. To begin, you will need to calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), or in other words, the calories you burn daily, regardless of activity level. Use the following formula:
66 + (13.7 x weight in kg) + (5 x height in cm) – (6.8 x age in years)
Next, determine your activity level, and multiply its value by your BMR. Be honest here. Nobody is checking up on you, and if you overestimate your activity level, you are only setting yourself up for a harder time than is necessary. Use the following guide:
Sedentary = BMR x 1.2 (little exercise)
Lightly active = BMR x 1.375 (light exercise)
Moderately active = BMR x 1.55 (moderate exercise)
Very active = BMR x 1.725 (hard exercise)
Extremely active = BMR x 1.9 (hard exercise daily)
The answer you get at the end is your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), or in other words, the energy you expend in a day. That number seem a little high to you? Many people are surprised to see how many calories it really takes to sustain them for one day. That’s quite a far cry from the 1100 calorie plans popular among some restrictive diet plans. Rather than cutting a radical number of calories, thinking that will be more effective and quicker, what you want to do here is create a small deficit.
By subtracting between 300 and 500 calories from your TDEE, you will be burning more calories than you take in, and therefore steadily losing weight over time. Creating a small deficit does several things, not the least of which is preventing your body from going into starvation mode. When your calories are not restricted too far, your body burns off fat at a consistent rate. Because you are eating enough to sustain yourself, you are less likely to “cheat” because you are hungry.
Also, this is a realistic calorie goal for a realistic world. You are going to go out to eat sometimes. There are going to be birthday parties with cake, and cookouts with beer. Telling yourself you are simply going to avoid these forever is not feasible, and adds stress into the situation unnecessarily. Go to the parties, go to the restaurant, just count your calories towards your daily goal, and stop when you get there.
Increase Your Activity Level
Again, going back to the advertisers, they seem to be telling men that they are allowed to lift weights, or… lift weights. I probably don’t need to tell you that jumping into a weight training routine without knowing what you are doing is a recipe for injury. So, ignore any ideas of what you are “supposed” to do. Instead, think about what you like to do.
If you look at exercise as work, then it is just another part of your to-do list. On the other hand, if you incorporate an activity you ganuinely enjoy into your life, you are far more likely to actually do it. So, what do you like to do? Martial arts? Parkour? Hiking? Kickboxing? Even things like gardening, carpentry and playing with your kids all burn calories. If you have found that you have a hard time fitting exercise into your life, then maybe make small lifestyle changes which allow for your exercise and recreation to cross paths.
Instead of taking the family out to a movie, what about a family bike ride? For a first date, what about a walking tour of a historic area, followed by dinner? Maybe look into joining a local men’s baseball league, or hit the golf course more often. If your exercise is fun, you are more likely to do it.