Exercise without dieting: a losing battle

When your trousers begin to feel a little snug around the waistline, do you vow to start working out for an hour every day? If so, welcome to the club: you're a typical guy.

Women will try just about any approach to shedding pounds, weight-loss experts say, but men who set out to get slim tend to follow predictable patterns.

Consider a survey published in January by Packaged Facts, a market research firm, which found that 15.4 per cent of women in the United States said they "mostly try to lose weight by dieting." Just 6.3 per cent of men agreed with that statement. That's probably because males often assume - incorrectly - that they can burn fat in the gym, without changing their diets.

"Many men feel that exercise is an efficient way to lose weight. It is not," says Dr. Frank Greenway, medical director of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University. This belief seems to be particularly strong among middle-aged males who were athletes in high school or college, he says. They seem to think that if they can just get back to playing basketball three nights a week, the flab will melt away.

But Greenway, who is also medical advisor for the Jenny Craig weight-loss program, cites studies comparing dieters who don't exercise with dieters who work out. "They conclude that there is very little extra weight loss by the addition of exercise," says Greenway. "Diet is the most efficient way to lose weight." However, he's quick to add, "exercise is essential for keeping weight off, especially as we age".

Once a man realises he can't sweat away his spare tyre, what type of diet is he likely to choose? One that's, in a word, simple. The typical male hates asking for help, so he's far less likely than a woman to seek weight-loss counsel from a doctor or nutritionist, says psychologist Michael R. Lowe of Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Despite differing weight-reduction styles, men and women lose about the same amount of body fat when they diet. But both sexes are just as likely to pack pounds back on over time, says Lowe. The problem with diets, he adds, is that today's world is abundant with tempting foods that overwhelm our ability to "self-regulate" what we eat.

"If you want to control your weight, you have to gain mastery over the food you're exposed to," says Lowe. In other words, if you want to lose that beer belly, don't stock your fridge with beer.

Source: IHRSA Newsletter