‘Machobesity’: masculine culture a key factor in obesity in men, report suggests
A culture that encourages men to see eating big portions of high-calorie processed and fast foods and binge drinking as ‘masculine’ and seeking help to manage weight as ‘feminine’ could be a key factor in why men are more likely to be overweight than women.
The ‘Machobesity’ report by Slimming World includes findings from research of men who are overweight, conducted with Ipsos MORI*.
It found that overweight men see typically high-calorie foods like meat pie, fried chicken, chips, ribs and fried breakfast as ‘masculine’. Eating big portions and drinking lots of alcohol in one go are seen as more manly behaviours, too.
On the other hand, eating typically lower calorie foods like salad, Quorn and yogurt, choosing the healthiest thing on the menu and looking at nutrition labels, are seen as ‘feminine’.
The report revealed that overweight men are more likely to choose high calorie ‘masculine’ foods and less likely to choose healthier ‘feminine’ foods which increases the risk of gaining more weight.
When it comes to losing weight, the research reveals that overweight men see dealing with things by themselves and not asking for help as ‘masculine’ and worrying about weight as ‘feminine’. Perhaps as a result, they take around five-and-a-half years to first talk about their weight worries and more than six years – three times longer than women – to try to tackle them.
Dr Jacquie Lavin, Head of Nutrition and Research at Slimming World, says: “Current data shows that men are more likely to be overweight than women and more likely to carry excess fat around their stomach, which has been found to pose an additional health risk.
“While most overweight men say they do want to lose weight, this report suggests there is a cultural expectation that men should consume lots of processed and fast foods that are high in fat and calories and lots of alcohol and this increases their chances of gaining weight. They also feel a social pressure not to seek support to lose weight. The average delay of six years typically sees men gain enough wait to go up several BMI points – increasing their risk of a range of serious health conditions.”
The report revealed that 72% of overweight men see physical activity as a socially acceptable way for a man to try to lose weight, compared to 21% who feel that attending a commercial weight management organisation is socially acceptable for a man.
There are now 40,000 men attending Slimming World – an average of three per group.
However, while overweight men see competitive team sports as the masculine ideal, when it comes to getting active in reality, many said they would find it difficult or impossible to achieve more modest targets like running 100 metres without stopping (31%), doing 10 press-ups (35%) or swimming four lengths of a 25 metre swimming pool (29%).
However, published data referenced in the report shows that when men do join commercial weight management organisations they are very successful and typically lose more weight than women – 5.7% in 12 weeks compared to 4.3% - and attend more frequently.
Dr Lavin continued: “It’s unfortunate for men that the method of weight loss they see as most socially acceptable – physical activity – is also the hardest to achieve when you struggle with weight. People are also less likely to lose weight through physical activity than they are by making changes to their eating habits, though becoming more active is excellent for both physical and mental health and is very beneficial when it comes to weight loss maintenance.
“Men are often worried that they will be mocked if they join a slimming group, imagining that it’s a woman’s world and that if they were to attend then they’d be the only man there. However, there are now 40,000 men attending Slimming World groups in communities across the UK and Ireland – an average of three per group. The results speak for themselves, with men losing more than 5% body weight in 12 weeks, which health professionals agree can reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer. Possibly even more motivating for men though is our finding that they have sex more often after losing weight with Slimming World. Our research found that while the majority had sex once-a-month or more before losing weight, they now have it at least once-a-week!”
Slimming World was founded by Margaret Miles-Bramwell (OBE, FRSA) in 1969. There are now more than 14,000 weekly groups supporting 800,000 members across the UK and Republic of Ireland. Groups are run by a network of 4,000 community-based Slimming World Consultants, who receive specific training in the role of diet and physical activity in weight management, as well as sophisticated behaviour-change techniques.
Slimming World’s healthy eating plan, Food Optimising, is based on the science of satiety and energy density. Our phased activity programme, Body Magic, eases members into activity until it becomes an intrinsic part of their daily routine. The principles behind Slimming World’s philosophy are based on a deep understanding of the challenges faced by overweight people and recognition that those who struggle with weight carry a double burden, the weight itself and a burden of guilt and shame about their weight. Slimming World’s programme integrates practical, up-to-date advice with a highly developed support system based on care and compassion, and Consultant training focuses on facilitating behaviour change in a warm and friendly group environment. Consultant training is delivered through the Slimming World Academy. Slimming World also invests in a comprehensive research programme to develop its support for long-term weight management. The group support provided by Slimming World is recognised as effective by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the NHS.