Losing weight is a challenge. Although equal numbers of my male and female patients come to me to discuss diets, I find there is less information available that is geared specifically toward men.
Nearly every magazine aimed at women covers dieting, even if fitness and weight loss is not the main focus. Men, on the other hand, need to dig deeper for diet advice. Your doctor is one of your best resources, so I will share what I tell my male patients who are looking to lose a few pounds and improve their health.
Busting the Male Diet Myth
One common misconception about men and dieting is that it is easy for men to lose weight. From treating countless patients over the years, I can assure you that dieting is not easy for anyone.
Perhaps this myth was created because men often lose weight more quickly than women. Wives who went on a weight loss plan with their husbands have come to me frustrated because he is losing weight even though she is spending more time sweating in the gym and eating less.
The fact is that men have more lean muscle mass than women; therefore, their bodies burn more calories. Because the typical male metabolism is faster, weight loss will be noticeable more quickly when most men embark on a diet. I tell my male patients to use this biological fact as motivation, and you should too! It is always easier to stick with a diet when you can see the results of your efforts. As long as you stick to it, the results will keep coming.
Weighing the Popular Diet Plans
As researchers and doctors rush to find the most effective and healthiest diet plan, they study popular diets to find out what works and what does not. Their research can provide a roadmap for creating your own individual diet plan.
The lowfat diet: immensely popular in the 1990s and endorsed by many medical organizations, has lost its luster over the years. Men on this diet tend to lose weight slowly—about a pound or two per month. The diet is effective for lowering bad (LDL) cholesterol, but it tends to raise triglyceride levels, a risk factor heart disease.
The lowfat diet is problematic because it often does not emphasize portion control. Many people eat whatever they want—so long as it was low in fat—resulting in slow or even non-existent weight loss. Furthermore, many of the popular lowfat foods in the diet are “white” or refined carbohydrates that don’t provide much nutrition and fail to fill you up.
The low-carb/high-protein diet: which is the Atkins method, was greeted with suspicion because dieters were allowed to eat bacon, eggs and steak—all foods that make doctors very nervous about heart disease risk. Yet this diet has come out on top over time. Research shows that dieters on this plan lose weight and lower bad (LDL) cholesterol and triglyceride levels while good (HDL) cholesterol remains stable. The diet also improves insulin sensitivity, staving off diabetes.
High protein diets: have been very popular a few years ago in helping men lose weight quickly. One study at Stanford University showed that people on the Atkins diet lost twice as much weight as people on the Zone, Ornish, or LEARN diets over 12 months. While this is impressive, the study also raises an important point—diets are only effective if you follow them. The average weight loss of the Atkins dieters over the 12-month period was only 10 pounds.
So How Do You Lose?
The most important piece of advice I ever give my patients is this: the best diet for you is the one you will stick to. The changes you make to lose weight today must be changes you can maintain for life. Otherwise you run the risk of regaining the weight you lost and more.
I advise my patients to figure out what works for their lifestyle and eating preferences and create their own individualized plan. It’s okay to mix and match elements from various diets to create your own set of guidelines or rules. Simply follow the tips that work for you and dump the rest. If you don’t care for the taste of fish, you can’t succeed on a diet that tells you to eat a salmon fillet for dinner three times a week.
You may muster up the self-control to follow the diet for a few weeks, but studies prove that self-control doesn’t last over time. Soon, you’ll be back to your old habits. To lose weight once and for all, remember that you don’t fit into a cookie-cutter mold, so neither should your diet. Find the changes you can stick with, and you’ll lose weight more easily than you ever imagined.
Photo Credit: winnond