By Laura Carman, M.D.
Hallmark Health Medical Associates
Dr. Laura Carman
Every day, new articles are published featuring the hottest tips for women to lose weight and feel better. But what about men?
Guys, it’s important for you to keep your weight under control, too. Even if you don’t care what you look like, hauling around a hefty midsection is bad for your love life, your muscles and joints, and your wallet.
Check out these three surprising ways your quality of life will improve just by losing that beer belly:
Your sex life improves
Being overweight lowers your testosterone levels. Body fat contains an enzyme that signals the body to produce less testosterone over time. In turn, you feel sluggish, irritable, and tired. Low testosterone also can cause you to desire sex less often, which can strain your relationship with your partner.
Obesity and low testosterone levels also can lead to erectile dysfunction, which often makes men feel depressed and unable to satisfy their partners.
But losing weight can help. When you lose weight, your testosterone levels rise back up to normal and those feelings of fatigue and irritability start to diminish. Your libido also is likely to improve, which will make your partner happy. I’ve worked with erectile dysfunction patients who’ve made full recoveries after losing weight, and the vast majority have agreed that the challenge was definitely worth it.
Knee, back, and breathing problems are reduced
Back pain and knee pain increases for many of us as we age, but they’re also made worse by weight gain. Think about it – it’s easier on your body to carry a 10-pound baby than a 30-pound toddler, right? The same goes for your muscles and bones. The less weight your body has to support, the less pain you’ll feel.
I encourage most of my overweight patients with chronic back pain to lose weight. Sometimes they’re skeptical, but we don’t say lose weight to be mean – we recognize it’s hard, but for most patients, it’s well worth the effort.
I had a patient, a big guy who was about 6-foot-6, who lost about 80 pounds over the course of a year or so. The extra weight coming off his midsection took a lot of pressure off of his back. On a scale of one to 10, his daily back pain went from an eight to a three. That’s huge – that’s quality of life.
Patients who have lost weight also report an improvement in their breathing. When your belly is big and you lie down, the weight compresses your lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. Even overweight people with COPD and asthma notice an improvement in shortness of breath after losing weight.
You may spend less on medications
Carrying fat around your belly is risky for your health. It sets you up for developing metabolic syndrome, a nasty condition with symptoms such as abnormal blood sugars, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and more. If left untreated, metabolic syndrome can lead to serious health conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
If you develop any of these conditions, your doctor likely will prescribe medications to treat them. Depending on your insurance coverage, you could spend hundreds of dollars each month for medications you may not need if you lose weight.
Losing weight lowers your heart rate and your blood pressure. For many people, it also can correct your cholesterol and blood sugar levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. Diabetes and hypertension patients often are able to quit taking their medications if they stick to a healthy diet and exercise plan and maintain a healthy weight. But it’s important to check with your doctor before stopping any medication – some of these conditions aren’t strictly tied to your weight.
Easing into a successful weight loss plan
If you come to me asking for advice about how to lose belly fat, I’ll start by asking if you’ve successfully lost weight before. By recalling past successes, we can figure out what went wrong and set appropriate goals to avoid backsliding this time.
I’ve found that many men are successful with group weight loss programs. There is an element of accountability when you commit to weigh in every week – people are rooting for you and counting on you, and that can be a big motivator. But often people stop going before they truly have a handle on their diet and exercise, and they slide back into old habits. That’s when they start to put the weight back on, and often they end up heavier than they were to begin with.
Once we get your weight loss history and goals figured out, I’ll recommend simple changes to your diet. One is to eat less of the “white stuff”: bread, sugar, rice, potatoes. Those are simple carbs that provide few vitamins, but lots of empty calories that leave you feeling unsatisfied after eating. The key is to increase your vegetable intake – they’re full of vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy and energized and fiber to fill you up.
Finally, I’ll recommend cardiovascular activity throughout the day. You need a combination of a healthy diet and exercise to maintain a healthy weight. We recommend at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity, most days of the week.
Now that doesn’t mean I expect you to run laps around your neighborhood for a full 30 minutes from day one. You can break up your active time into 10-minute chunks and take a walk or jog before work, during your break time, and after dinner.
As we get older, we lose muscle mass and it gets replaced with fat. The older we get, the harder it is to lose that fat. Today is as good a day as any to start living a healthier life. Your partner, your joints, and your wallet will thank you.
Check out Weight Management on the Hallmark Health Systems website, and sign up for their free monthly seminar.