||He Diets, She Diets: More Weight-Loss Plans Target Men
Weight-loss companies are becoming savvier about getting men to go on a diet.
Men and women diet and lose weight differently, research has shown. Men often go for diets with a simple message -- eat this, avoid that -- and don't care about the ins and outs of nutrition science as much as women do, weight-loss experts say. While women might like the idea of dieting, men instead prefer talking about getting in shape.
Biology also plays a role: Men tend to lose weight more quickly and might find it easier than women to stick to a diet, says Jim White, a men's nutrition specialist with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a professional association.
One program that has caught on with some men recently is "The Fast Diet," a best-selling book that tells people to eat normally for five days each week, then sharply restrict intake to 500 calories a day for the other two days. In Britain, where the book launched, some people refer to this so-called 5:2 weight-loss plan as "the bloke's diet."
"I suspect that while few men would ever admit to being on a diet, they are happy to say that they fast two days a week, as that sounds altogether more spiritual and more manly," says author Michael Mosley, a physician and medical journalist.
Men "like being able to eat without thinking about it," says Colette Heimowitz, vice president of nutrition and education at Atkins Nutritionals Inc. So a hard-and-fast rule like "eat for five days, fast for two" is easy for men to follow and has wide appeal, she says.
Ms. Heimowitz says the Atkins diet, which aims to limit intake of carbohydrates, has a similar appeal for men, who make up 40% of the company's customers. "With Atkins, we tell them that they don't need to count calories, and it's easy to eat out," she says.
Nutrisystem, which delivers packaged meals to customers at home, offers separate gender-based menus. Meal plans for men feature more calories and high-protein food like hamburgers and pizza, whereas offerings to women include grilled chicken dishes and fudge graham bars. Men "don't want to go to a meeting, don't want to count calories or have counseling pushed at them," says Chief Executive Dawn Zier. "The ability to remain anonymous on a program and still have success is important to them."
Mr. White, of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says that because men tend to have greater muscle mass than women they also have a higher basal metabolic rate, which means they burn more calories at rest.
And research has suggested that men have an easier time resisting food cravings than women. A 2009 study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that men's and women's brains reacted differently when the subjects were tempted by favorite foods. Gene-Jack Wang, a researcher at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, in Upton, N.Y., says brain scans showed less activity in men than women in parts of the brain associated with decision-making and emotions.
"When those areas show activity, it means that you're still associating food with emotion and struggling to suppress cravings or make a decision about eating it," Dr. Wang says. While it's unclear what's behind the different responses, he suggested it may have to do with higher estrogen levels in women's brains.
Katy Stonitsch has been dieting for about a year, and her husband, Suneeth Samuel, for about 20 months. So far, she has dropped 15 pounds from a high of 190 pounds, while Mr. Samuel is down more than 100 pounds from his starting weight of 290 pounds. "He's disciplined, I'm not," Ms. Stonitsch says. "I cheat way more than he does."
The Chicago couple, both 28 years old, eat fewer calories each day as the week progresses, with Monday having the most calories and Saturday the least. Breakfast typically consists of egg whites or cereal, and lunch is a sandwich with lean meat. For dinner, they heat up a Lean Cuisine frozen meal. Sundays are cheat days and supposedly the only time the couple goes out to eat. But Ms. Stonitsch says she gives in to temptation more frequently.
"I always tried to get him to cheat with me. I could never say no to anything," says Ms. Stonitsch.
For Mr. Samuel, dieting is just "part of my normal routine, like getting up and brushing my teeth," he says.
Men are less food-obsessed than women, says Karen Miller-Kovach, chief scientific officer for Weight Watchers Inc. and author of the book "She Loses, He Loses: The Truth About Men, Women, and Weight Loss." And when it comes to dieting, "men usually get a wake-up call, declare fat the enemy and then do whatever to get rid of the problem."
Weight Watchers, which doesn't offer different menus for men and women, has had greater success attracting men to its online dieting program than its group meetings. Men now comprise 12% of online customers, up from 10% historically. The figure peaked at 18% when the company ran advertising targeting men, a spokeswoman says. A separate Web portal for men includes simpler instructions than for women, and offers such features as a cheat sheet and grilling recipes. Celebrities targeting men for the company's Lose Like a Man campaign include former basketball player Charles Barkley and comedian Lenny Clarke.
"For men, it's about having an idol in society and saying, 'hey, they signed off on it, it's OK to diet,' " says Mr. White, the nutrition specialist. "Ads geared toward women are more emotional and show the everyday mom, who's caring and understanding, saying 'I'm there too, I understand the struggles of being busy.' "
Competition also enters into men's style of dieting. Zoë Sakoutis, chief executive of BluePrint, which offers juice cleanses, says women make up the bulk of the company's customers. But some men's groups have also followed the cleanse program. "They were doing it in a more competitive atmosphere and had turned it into a game."
The Male Appeal
Diet programs take different approaches to draw men.
Nutrisystem: The company, which delivers meals to your home, has a separate menu for men, featuring higher calorie counts and 'man food' like burgers and pizza, says CEO Dawn Zier.
Another pitch: Anonymity. Men don't need to "talk about losing weight or be the only guy in the room," says Ms. Zier.
Weight Watchers: Men want simple solutions, whereas women tend to seek more information on nutrition and recipes when dieting, the company says. Its online portal for men focuses on "quick and easy" food options and cheat sheets. For its Lose Like a Man campaign, pitches feature male celebrities and videos on humor site Funny or Die.
Atkins: No need to count calories, is part of Atkins' pitch to men emphasizing easy-to-follow rules of the carb-restricting diet plan. Also, "satiety is really important to men, so we stress that they can feel full with more protein and fat," says Colette Heimowitz, Atkins vice president of nutrition and education.
The 5:2 Diet: The plan, featured in bestseller "The Fast Diet," is known as "the bloke's diet" in its native Britain. Fasting two days a week "sounds altogether more spiritual and manly" than saying you're on a diet, says author Michael Mosley.
(Source: The Wall Street Journal, 09/06/13)
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