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Many middle-aged men think gaining weight is inevitable, study finds

Experts say weight gain may negatively affect men’s self-esteem

Man measuring waist with tape measure
Photo (c) Matelly - Getty Images
While gaining weight can be a touchy subject for many consumers, a new study conducted by researchers from Anglia Ruskin University explored middle-aged men’s experience with weight gain

According to their findings, many middle-aged men view weight gain as an inevitability in their lives. As a consequence, their self-worth and overall moods may take a hit. 

“Obesity is increasing in the U.K. among men despite public health messaging, and one of the factors is that we are becoming increasingly time-poor,” said researcher Dr. Mark Cortnage. “One of the themes in our research was how some men had undertaken successful weight loss initiatives in the past, but had soon put the weight back on because the diets had been incompatible with their lifestyles in the longer term.”

Understanding perceptions of weight gain

For the study, the researchers interviewed eight men between the ages of 35 and 58 who were enrolled in a football-based weight management program, the Alpha Programme (TAP). The participants answered questions about how they felt about their weight gain, what they thought contributed to weight gain, how they felt about their health, and any previous weight loss efforts. 

The researchers learned that weight gain impacted the participants on an emotional level. Many of them felt bad about themselves for gaining weight and had lost a lot of the hope they had about living healthier. 

Many of the men in the study said their job and family responsibilities were primarily responsible for their weight gain, but there was also an overarching theme that gaining weight was inevitable for them. Many of the participants reported accepting weight gain as an expected part of life, primarily because of their lifestyles. However, the researchers also learned that few of the men recognized how their own eating habits impacted their weight gain.  

“There is a tendency to forget how much our lifestyle, in particular family and employment, impact on weight gain,” Dr. Cortnage said. “This weight gain takes place over years and decades, and as such, short-term dietary options fail to influence the deeper behavioral and lifestyle issues.” 

Increasing education on nutrition

While many of the men felt hopeless when it came to weight gain, it was difficult for them to make lasting changes to their eating habits. The goal now for the researchers is to help make nutrition information and education more widely accessible to help consumers make better choices. 

“Although they often mentioned comfort eating, participants also showed poor awareness of other factors that cause weight gain,” said Dr. Cortnage. “Many men would benefit from an education around food, such as food selection, integration of diet, sustainable weight management practices, in order to develop a more complete understanding of the relationships between food and lifestyle.” 

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