I’ve never been mistaken for an Olympic athlete or a model for GQ.
When my wife’s sister decided to lose some weight in the months leading up to her wedding and challenged the family to join her, I figured it might be a good way for me to drop some pounds. Three couples all took a Biggest Loser-like challenge, with each couple putting $50 into the pot.
More than the prospect of winning $100, I didn’t like the thought of losing my own $50 to someone else. For the first time in my life, I lost weight. My wife and I won the challenge. But then the motivation was gone, and the pounds started to come back, one by one.
It’s common knowledge that guys respond to competition, but after the victory is won and the $100 is spent, what happens next? How do we keep that weight off for good?
I can’t be the only guy with such questions. More than 72 percent of U.S. men 20 years old or older are overweight or obese. So I’ve been looking for simple, effective weight loss tips and motivators for us men. Here’s what I’ve found:
Check family history
Men are notorious for waiting for a health scare before making a change: a heart problem, a diabetes diagnosis, a back that goes out-of-whack on the golf course. Do what my father did, and don’t wait for a crisis to get you motivated: Check your family history for problems such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes now. If any of these issues are present in your family tree, you’re at increased risk of facing them, too. Several of my dad’s siblings have diabetes, and his doctor told him he could be next if he didn’t make some changes. Over the past year, Dad’s been steadily dropping pounds, and I’m taking a cue from him and trying — again — to do the same. Talk to your doctor about your health and family health history to see how losing weight could lessen risks for diseases and other health issues.
Satisfy a manly appetite
We don’t need research to tell us that guys like meat — and a lot of it — but there are numbers to back this up. It’s important that, when men are looking to change their diet, that they don’t sacrifice the foods that satisfy them. The fact that men’s food preferences tend to be different from women’s is finally being recognized in off-the-shelf diet programs like Jenny Craig.
It is possible, though, to drastically cut back on even meat consumption without feeling deprived, says Kim O’Donnel, author of the The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour. “The perception is, ‘If it ain’t meat, it’s not dinner,’ and that plant-based cuisine is weird, unpalatable, and unsatisfying,” O’Donnel says. “Well guys, it’s time to wake up and smell the cholesterol.”
O’Donnel, whose father died of a heart attack at age 37, understands the importance of men maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthful diet. But she also gets that it can be a challenge to change. That’s why she suggests cutting back on — not cutting out — less-than-healthy favorites. “If you love digging into a bag of chips, I say go for it, just not every day. You love bacon — and who doesn’t? — how about once a month? Make these things treats rather than everyday items.
Give him time
Doug Clemons went from a military career, where physical fitness was a job requirement, to working behind a desk as a mortgage broker in Blacksburg, Va. As the responsibilities piled on — marriage, kids, studying (he has returned to school for further training — so did the pounds.
“My job gets a lot of my time, my family gets a lot of my time, school gets a lot of my time,” Doug says. “I deserve time, too.”
Doug has managed to lose 80 pounds by reducing portions and limiting high-calorie foods to special occasions. He also started running. “I found a walk-to-run program that only required three days a week,” he says. “Once I was able to run three miles, I found a more challenging program.”
The fact that Doug has continued to challenge himself points to another key issue: that there is no finish line to cross if you want to keep weight off long term. The common notion is that once you reach your desired weight, that’s the end. “It’s not,” Doug says. “A person must find a balance he or she can live with.”