John Rennison/Torstar News Service
When I was in my early teens I was faced with a very unpleasant predicament, one that no kid ever wants to encounter. I was obese — about 185 lbs. and four-ft.-10-in. at age 11 — and things had to change.
My looming entry into high school and a burning desire not to be the “fat kid” prompted me to adopt a diet regimen of salads and exercise, eventually adding weight training in my mid-teens.
Luckily the change of attitude stuck and I’m almost dead on my target weight for my height, even though lingering love handles remind me of heavier days.
Recently at the gym I began wondering why some guys stay ripped, while others linger in overweight limbo, attacking the treadmill with fury but achieving few physical changes.
“The most direct issue that’s going to lead to obesity is eating habits,” explains Rod Macdonald, vice-president of fitness certification and education organization Can-Fit-Pro. “There is a lot of attention paid to activity level, but unfortunately … if a person doesn’t take care of their eating habits, there’s almost no level of human physical activity a person can do that will offset the amount of food that they’re eating.” In other words, go easy on the chicken wings and beer, boys — they’re killing you.
According to Dr. Peter Goldfarb, who runs an Optifast weight-loss clinic out of his Etobicoke medical practice, men are beginning to listen to that age-old message.
“I am seeing a kind of health conscious movement probably based on press because they’re reading about it or their wives are nagging them,” Goldfarb says. “They read an article and they see that the incidence of diabetes is up 30 per cent in the population, obesity is up, therefore they see the connection.”
He adds that in his view, the ideal way to keep weight off is still through proper nutrition and exercise. “If you have to lose 50 lbs. and you’re not willing to invest six months of your time to learn how to keep it off, you’re going to gain it back. I tell most people that.”
A recent StatsCan survey showed that while Canadian obesity rates have largely plateaued, more Canadians are either ignorant of the extent of their obesity or choose to ignore it. The survey found the average Canadian underestimates his or her weight by nine per cent.
Tom Saridis, a 34-year-old Toronto-based entrepreneur, chose to tackle his obesity — which peaked at 478 lbs. — using alternative means after numerous diets and even exercise failed to keep weight off.
Saridis elected to try laparoscopic band treatment, a reversible, adjustable procedure which clamps the entrance of the stomach to limit food consumption.
“The band is definitely the tool that’s going to allow me to get to where I want, but I also have to commit myself to what I’m eating going forward,” Saridis says of the $16,000 treatment, which has so far helped him to drop 64 lbs. in four months.
While the banding treatment is usually prescribed only after other methods have failed — even by its practitioners such as Toronto-based Dr. Patrick Yau — those doctors reluctant to recommend the procedure such as Goldfarb concede it can be effective in extreme cases when a patient’s health is at risk.
But whether you’re dropping weight cold turkey, through exercise, by alternative means or a combination of methods, the experts agree that psychology is often key in enabling men to win the battle of the bulge.
“I think definitely for men there has to be a lifestyle change,” Macdonald says. “While we don’t like being told what we should and shouldn’t do, if we’re given the information and a rational explanation, it gives us the ability to make better choices.”