By Ansley Dalbo
Alex Scherzer can point to the moment when he knew he needed to do something about his weight– “My grandparents had passed away from cancer, I had another colleague who passed away, and it really put a frame around my life. What do I want to achieve?” It was that moment that spurred him to seek medical attention for weight loss, as he recognized that his weight was impacting his health and all the diets he’d attempted in the past never led to long-term success.
So we asked several physicians who specialize in weight management to tell us what men should know about reaching a healthier weight. Here are three things that they shared with us…
1. Successful weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint.
Most men (and women too!) think that the answer for losing weight is to “go on a diet.” Unfortunately though, restrictive diets enable people to lose weight in the short-term, but the overwhelming majority will gain it all back (often even more) in the long run. Strict diets are difficult to stick to, and eventually almost everyone “falls off the wagon”… and once we go back to the way we used to eat, we end up right back where we started.
Diabetes care and education specialist Melinda Maryniuk puts it this way– “A diet is something that you go on, you go off, it’s short term. When someone is living with obesity or excess weight, you want a way of eating that you can stick with, and follow, and enjoy for your whole life, not just for a short period of time.”
The question to ask yourself is, what lifestyle changes can I make that I’ll be able to stick with over time? If you’d like some ideas for small changes that can have big results over time, this article has some great suggestions…
The benefits of even small changes are huge though– as obesity nurse Rosaline Jarry says, “I help [my patients] understand that just a small decrease in their weight, 5%, would allow us to take them off of nearly half of the medicines they are taking.”
2. Reaching a healthier weight is not always a DIY project.
For many people with obesity, making lifestyle changes (like changing one’s diet and getting more exercise) alone is not enough to reach a healthier weight.
For many men, though, asking for help isn’t their first choice. Dr. Zarruk points out that if we’re having problems with our sink and we can’t figure it out, we may need to call the plumber. As he puts it, “We’re trying to read the manual, trying to figure things out but we’re [realizing] that maybe sometimes we actually need the plumber. We need the specialist in these fields and we have to realize that obesity [is] chronic and something that keeps on coming back with different consequences. We need to approach the specialist.” In short, if our lifestyle changes aren’t working to address our weight, it’s time to seek medical attention.
Patient advocate Ian Thomas learned this lesson the hard way, saying that he spent years believing that he should be able to lose weight and keep it off on his own– “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.”
After losing and re-gaining the same fifty pounds a couple of times, he says that “I got to that point in my life where I realized I wasn’t going to be able to be around for the people that I needed to be around for. And… I needed to do something different and doing something different was going and getting some help.” It was only by partnering with a healthcare team that he was finally able to see success.
3. There are medical treatments that are effective for long-term weight loss
One of the reasons to seek medical attention is because there are medical treatments now available for obesity and excess weight: psychological interventions, prescription medications and surgical options. All of these treatments have strong data showing safety and effectiveness over time.
Dr. Zarruk is happy to talk about all the success stories he’s seen with men at his clinic. “At my obesity medicine clinic, we’ve seen patients that were 20 years old that had problems with weight and also with testosterone. They lost 15 percent of their weight and all of a sudden they’re more vigorous. There’s more energy. They’re less depressed and they’re feeling better.”
And that’s just a few of many reasons that men who have sought medical help say they’re so glad they did.
“In the 80s and 90s, obesity was considered a ‘woman problem,’” says Dr. Zarruk. “All the marketing was around women losing weight and getting healthier, and unfortunately, we kind of left men on their own.”
Now doctors across the country are recognizing that men with obesity need to be treated as soon as possible to have the healthy, vibrant life (and retirement!) we all deserve.
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.
Warkentin et al. The effect of weight loss on health‐related quality of life: systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized trials. Obes Rev 2014; 15:169–82.
Reference for 5%: Blackburn G. (1995). Effect of degree of weight loss on health benefits. Obesity Research 3: 211S-216S. Reference for 10%: NIH, NHLBI Obesity Education Initiative. Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults.