According to latest figures from the National Health Survey in 2007-08, men are more likely to be overweight than women, with 68 percent of men now being classified overweight or obese compared with 55 percent for women.
Unfortunately many overweight men don’t recognize their beer gut as a problem, with around 44 percent perceiving themselves as being an ‘acceptable weight’.
Being overweight increases the likelihood of many lifestyle problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and sleep apnea, many of which are preventable via healthy eating and exercise.
Weight that’s around the middle – the apple shape or beer gut that’s typical of men’s weight distribution – poses another health problem. It puts men at greater risk of heart disease and diabetes than women with their pear shape. This abdominal fat is much more metabolically active than weight on hips and thighs as it enters the main circulation far more quickly and sends up your cholesterol or blood sugars.
On the plus side, abdominal fat is much easier to shift, so once a man makes up his mind to eat less and move more, his weight loss efforts are rewarded much more quickly than most women’s.
What weight to aim for?
Use one of these weight measures as a goal for a healthy weight for yourself:
1. Waist circumference
Run a tape measure around your waist at the largest part. Aim for a waist girth that’s less than 102 cm (40 inches) or 95cm (38 inches) if you’re of Asian descent.
2. Body Mass Index (BMI)
Work out your weight in kilograms and your height in meters. Divide your weight by your height squared. Your BMI should be less than 25. This applies to men over 18.
Top 10 diet-wise steps for men
Forget the fads and supplements. Follow the basics and the weight will come off steadily.
1. Aim to halve your alcohol intake. That male beer gut is not a myth – alcohol is a big contributor to kilojoules (calories). Stick to 1 or 2 glasses of red wine a night, trade down to light or low-carb beer, intersperse a mineral water or soft drink when you’re out.
2. Keep portions modest. Unless you’re working out or in training, aim for no more than 200g meat or chicken or 300g fish. Don’t go back for seconds.
3. Fill your plate with more vegetables or salad; cut back on potato, pasta and rice. A large baked/boiled potato or a cup of pasta/rice is ample for most men. Easy veggies for men to cook are tomatoes (also good for prostate health), broccoli, peas (frozen as nutritious as fresh), corn cobs, mushrooms and onions (good to barbecue along with the steak).
4. Steer clear of fast food with its super-sizes and artery-clogging saturated and trans fats. Filled rolls eg Subway, plain burgers, BBQ chicken, sushi rolls and Asian stir-fries with vegetables are usually healthier choices (but not always – it depends on the outlet). Say No to chips.
5. Swap white bread for wholegrain; trade in frosted flakes for high-fibre or oats options. These fill you up and stick with you for longer for the same kilojoules.
6. Look for the high-fibre option when you can in breakfast cereals, soups, cracker biscuits, vegetable sticks instead of crackers.
7. Buy fruit you can eat on the run without having to peel like cherries, grapes or blueberries. Or dice up 4 or 5 different fruits and make up tubs of fruit salad to take to work or have ready as a snack when you get hungry.
8. When dining out, skip entree and order fish or steak as your main. Make sure you ask for vegetables or salad. Avoid rich creamy sauces and gravy. Don’t feel you have to clean your plate.
9. Don’t skip breakfast. A pizza or a danish later in the morning adds more kilojoules than a simple bowl of wholegrain cereal with milk.
10. Get moving. Walk the dog with the kids, find a walking buddy in your street to meet up with twice a week, swim laps or in the ocean, join the local gym. Tip: write in two classes a week into your diary so you don’t forget. Notch up 30 minutes of brisk exercise every day.