Why do so few men use weight loss programmes?

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Despite that there are more overweight and obese men in the UK than there are women, only about 20% of participants in weight loss programmes are men.

The health risks associated with obesity are much the same for men and women so why is it that men are so reluctant to join these programmes. We know that those men who do join programmes are equally as successful as women in weight loss terms, so it follows that if more men could be encouraged to join the public health benefits would be considerable.

What about weight loss surgery?

If we look at weight loss surgery, the same picture emerges. About 80% of private weight loss surgery patients are women.  the picture in the NHS is a little different, however. This is because NHS services are targeted at those most in need, based on their state of health. In this scenario we see as many high priority male cases as we do women.

A study conducted by 3 UK universities in 2013, Aberdeen, Southampton and Glasgow, reviewed the published data on weight loss programmes to try and find why they are so unappealing to men. Their findings were very revealing.

  • Men regard weight loss programmes as overly focused on weight loss for ‘cosmetic’ purposes. Slimming as a term is not engaging for many men.
  • Often, men regard weight loss programmes as being overly feminised and ‘not for them’
  • Men are more interested in programmes that focus on improved health and feeling fitter as result of losing weight
  • They also prefer programmes with a degree of personalisation and flexibility, rather than rigid programmes
  • Men prefer programmes with regular input and short-term goal setting

The research also found that men were most likely to address their weight in response to a life or health event. This fits with our experience. We see a lot of male patients and many are motivated to contact us for treatment after receiving some bad news from their GP or a health scare, or in some cases ill health of a friend or family member. 

Less social pressure on men

The research also found that men are much less troubled by their weight. This is probably because they do not feel judged by it in the same as women do. Certainly, it’s true to say that there remains much more social pressure on women to maintain a healthy weight and figure.

The incentive for men to stop and reverse their weight gain is just as important as it is for women. Men are at greater risk of Type 2 diabetes (due to excess weight around their waist) and of heart disease.

Are you looking for a weight management programme focused on health and quality of life? Call us on 0800 313 4618 or request a callback below.

Martyn Berrett

Martyn Berrett

Martyn is the former MD of Healthier Weight. Throughout his tenure he observed many bariatric procedures and took part in several research projects so has a unique perspective on all things weight loss.

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