Men over 35 see gaining weight as 'inevitable', due to family and career factors

Middle-aged men working from home with kid. (Getty Images)
Middle-aged men see weight gain as an inevitable result of their lifestyle. (Getty Images)

Men over the age of 35 see putting on weight as an inevitability, giving family and employment as the two main reasons that lead them to the biscuit tin.

While many experienced some success with short-term eating plans, they soon put weight back on as they found these diets 'incompatible' with their busy lifestyles in the longterm, balancing career and personal life responsibilities, interviews from a new study found.

Showing the impact of this 'inevitable' weight gain, researchers unearthed that it produces feelings of despondency, low self-esteem and self-objectification among middle-aged men.

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In the study, they conducted in-depth interviews with men aged 35 and over participating in The Alpha Programme (TAP), which is a football and weight management project provided in local community venues. TAP was run by study lead author Doctor Mark Cortnage.

Interviewers explored the men's relationships with food and diet before enrolling in TAP, including why they felt they had put on weight, whether they were concerned about their health, any previous attempts to lose weight, and how they felt about being overweight or obese.

With family and employment trumping all other reasons for weight gain, due to the lifestyle factors this came with, discussions found a sense of resignation in those interviewed, and that it was an inevitable consequence of their life choices.

Papa please play with me!. A African Father working from home, talking on call while cute little daughter disturb her father to stop working.
Men see their family and career commitments as contributing factors to their weight gain. (Getty Images)

Comfort eating was also given as a reason for gaining weight, but findings, which are published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, showed little awareness of other nutritional factors such as food types and portion sizes.

One man, 43, with a body mass index (BMI) of 38.9, said, "I've always been quite active, always played football, always done something and then the kids came along, that stopped so before you know it you're not younger and I was eating the same sort of stuff."

A BMI of more than 25 is considered to be overweight, while more than 30 is considered obese for most adults. However, it's important to remember BMI is not used to diagnose obesity because people who have a lot of muscle, for example, can have a high BMI, so instead it is a useful first indication of whether someone is a healthy weight.

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According to the Health Survey for England, around two-thirds of men aged 16 and over are overweight or obese. And, of those aged 35 to 64, almost a third are obese (31%).

Another man of the same age, with a BMI of 39.6, said, "There's more pressure at work now because I've got more of a managerial role.

"So there's more responsibility and more time there. So, there's less flexibility in when you eat."

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With the findings showing weight gain impacts men's self-worth, the study also found them to be aware of this impact to their mental state, as well as the health risks of continuing particular eating behaviours. However, attempts to change them were infrequent and non-committal.

Another, with a BMI of 49.9, said, "I feel down: what gets to me the worst is buying clothes and you go into a shop and see a really nice suit and you know they won't have it in my size and a size 54 chest you know is getting quite ridiculous. It's got to stop."

Man on scales
Gaining weight can affect middle-aged men's sense of self-wroth and self-esteem. (Getty Images)

Speaking on the results of the study, Dr Cortnage said, "There is a tendency to forget how much our lifestyle, in particular family and employment, impact on weight gain.

"This weight gain takes place over years and decades and as such, short-term dietary options fail to influence the deeper behavioural and lifestyle issues.

"Obesity is increasing in the UK among men despite public health messaging, and one of the factors is that we are becoming increasingly time-poor."

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He added, "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 lifestyle in the longer term.

"Although they often mentioned comfort eating, participants also showed poor awareness of other factors that cause weight gain."

Dr Cortnage also recommended that 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.

Additional reporting by SWNS.