By Ansley Dalbo
Ian Patton shakes his head as he remembers his past struggles with his weight. “I had gained and lost weight several times. There was more than one occasion where I lost more than 50 pounds and gained it all back. And I definitely had a bit of a macho kind of attitude towards my obesity. It was something that I should be able to handle… I should be able to go to the gym and lift some heavy things and make this work.”
It turns out that Ian is far from alone when it comes to having that “macho attitude” towards weight– many Canadian healthcare professionals say that it’s difficult to get men to take their weight seriously as a health issue. Obesity nurse Rosaline Jarry confirms that, “in terms of obesity, it’s certain that more women will come to see us.”
And yet obesity rates among men in Canada are higher than those for women… and the complications of living with excess weight (increased risk of heart attack, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, gallstones, cancer, osteoarthritis, obstructive sleep apnea, fatty liver, and depression) are just as common for men as women. Jarry says that many of the men who come in to see her for obesity treatment “are very successful in life, but are on ten to twelve medications, and these guys are not old, they’re in their forties or fifties.”
So here are the three things every man should know about reaching a healthier weight…
1. The benefits go way beyond physical appearance…
Many men feel that appearance is the main reason people focus on losing weight, but the truth is that the benefits to one’s health of losing even a small amount of weight are significant. Endocrinologist Dr. Valentin Sanchez points out that losing just 5 – 10% of our body weight (10 to 20 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds) has been shown to improve blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, sleep quality, sexual health, insulin resistance and lower rates of depression.
Jarry says that the men that she works with recognize, “Oh man, this isn’t just a question of looking good in public or society. It’s more than just a question of my appearance, but of my quality of life, my years to live, or the number of pills I should take for diabetes, for cholesterol, or hypertension.” In other words…
2. Reaching a healthier weight will improve your sexual health.
Overweight / obesity can cause erectile dysfunction by damaging the blood vessels and causing a state of inflammation in the body. Obesity specialist Dr. Alejandro Zarruk says that obesity can also cause hormones to shift that can affect men, resulting in lower levels of testosterone and higher levels of estrogen. This can make it more difficult for men to have and maintain an erection during intercourse.
Jarry says that she asks many of her male patients, “Did you know that by losing a very little bit of weight, you can regain some of your sexual function?” Indeed, research tells us that losing ~10% of our body weight over a two-month period will improve erectile function.
3. Taking steps towards a healthy weight now will mean a much happier retirement in the future…
For many men, the goal is providing for their families now and then enjoying their golden years in retirement. Having obesity, however, often means a reduced quality of life as we age. Cardiologist Dr. Paul Poirier puts it this way, “It is crucial that [men] understand that the weight that they have gained over the years is going to lead them to live through a poor retirement and to be sick/unhealthy.”
In addition to all the health benefits of weight loss mentioned above, taking steps to reach a healthier weight now (click here for some ideas on that) will improve your quality of life as you get older. Although it’s not a perfect measure of health, a lower BMI usually means more mobility as we age, resulting in better joint health and less pain. Most importantly, it will help you enjoy all the physical and mental health benefits of regular activity as you get older, including being active with your family and playing sports.
Now that you know why reaching a healthier weight matters for men, click here to learn what men should know about HOW to lose weight in a sustainable way.
To find a doctor in Canada near you, click here.
To sign up for our free online email program to learn the science of weight management, click here.