It’s a joy to welcome back Honest Mum’s monthly health columnist, registered dietitian, Laura Clark.
Whether it’s our dad, brother, boyfriend, husband or son, over the years they change. This week (24-28th April) marks stop snoring week, a habit often associated with men, so I thought a blog focusing on them for a change was in order.
Women may not have got it sorted from a food and fitness perspective – with so many competing priorities it is hard to give ourselves the attention we deserve, but I think if we’ve been through pregnancy, childbirth, maybe breastfeeding or the menopause, we are at least so much more aware of how our bodies have changed than perhaps men are.
The other major difference of course is women like to chat, seeking advice, and support from our friends, family or blogging buddies. Men definitely talk, but I’m not sure it’s about the same stuff!
A man’s body, although not subjected to the same hormonal avalanches as the female body is not bullet proof (despite what they may think). Changes occur gradually and subtlety over time and these changes can have a profound effect on their health. I’m not meaning to sound morbid or dramatic but as men generally like numbers can I share a few?
A waist over 37 inches (waist is measured 2 fingers above their tummy button, not where their trousers sit!) puts them at increased risk of diabetes. Someone needs to get in touch with Daddy Pig because the diabetes stats for men are worrying.
Men aged 35-54 are almost twice as likely to have diabetes compared to their female counterparts. Statistics also show that diabetes has risen four times faster in men aged 35-44 over the last 15 years or so compared to women of the same age, and that, consistently, more men are overweight than women.
Sorry I’m not done. 15% of male deaths are caused by coronary heart disease which is closely linked to diabetes – you’re 48% more likely to have a heart attack than the rest of the population if you have diabetes. (Source: Diabetes UK). Seriously Daddy Pig are you listening?
It’s the little things, clothes feeling tighter, it being just that little bit harder to get up off the floor after playing with the kids, football in the park feeling more exhausting than fun… the signs are there but we’re so good at ignoring them.
Come to think of it you’ve noticed, but have they? If you say anything this is of course defined as ‘nagging’ which can lead to selective hearing syndrome (sigh).
And then of course there’s what to do about it. Changing is tough and here lies another problem. There are huge gaps between our claimed behaviours – i.e. the stuff we admit to, our perceived behaviours, i.e. the stuff we genuinely think we do and our actual behaviours – what we actually do. Living life at a fast, relentless pace often alters our perceptions of what we actually eat and drink.
It’s true that modern life has exposed our tendencies towards gaining weight. Our genes haven’t changed but the world we live in now has given way for our biology to make weight gain easy. There are over 1000 genes which are linked to weight management (perhaps another blog topic there Vicki!) but if we’re talking action movies, our genes may load the gun but it is the environment that pulls the trigger.
So what in that environment can you change? How can you lower the fat content of your diet and eat more veg? How can you make activity an integral part of your life rather than something you think you should just ‘fit in’. How can you eat a little more consciously to help reduce your portion sizes? And what about sleep? Regardless of whether you snore or not, insufficient sleep will interfere with the regulation of hormones which control appetite. Those having six or less hours a night were found to weigh more than their more rested colleagues.
In reality change doesn’t have to be hard, it just has to be consistent and small. Deciding on a healthier habit whether it be eating fruit mid- morning, taking a walk at lunch or having a homemade healthier currier rather than a takeaway, all become easier habits to keep up, with practice. Self –regulation is like a muscle. The more you ‘work it’ the stronger it gets.
Men are often all or nothing creatures though, which is so unhelpful when it comes to changing habits. It’s not productive to cane it at the gym, neck a load of protein supplements (because that’s what all the fit guys at the gym do) and eat salads for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You’ll crash and burn at some point and put all the weight back on, plus some more.
I don’t claim to have all the answers (although there are ) but what works in the business world is having a clear strategy and achievable goals. Why not apply this principle to your own health and fitness?
But the first step is simply acknowledging that it’s a thing. That it’s an important thing and there’s reasons to do something about it.
If you’re a women reading this, let’s not nag, but let’s nudge and perhaps a start is nudging this electronic device under their nose so they can read this. If you’re a man reading this I hope it’s got you thinking.