Scottish Daily Mail

At last! An easy way to get your man to lose his love han­dles

Just one prob­lem: he’ll enjoy it so much, and be so smug, he’ll drive you MAD in the process

- by Brian Viner

ON THE first day of my diet, a Sun­day, I got a text mes­sage from my wife ask­ing me to stop at the su­per­mar­ket on my way home from play­ing ten­nis. ‘we need dou­ble cream for the crum­ble,’ Jane wrote.

I’d set my­self the tar­get of los­ing 12lb in 30 days, but that short sen­tence en­cap­su­lated the chal­lenges ahead.

From the out­set Jane was scep­ti­cal about my in­ten­tion to lose weight, reck­on­ing that I would prob­a­bly be half-hearted about it, but also feel­ing that if I did take it se­ri­ously, she might suf­fer col­lat­eral dam­age.

It wasn’t that she was try­ing to sab­o­tage my plans with the dou­ble cream or­der, but fam­ily life had to go on, and food looms large in our house. Two of our three chil­dren have grown up and left our Here­ford­shire home, but meal­times are still ven­er­ated. There are re­li­gious shrines ac­corded less rev­er­ence than our el­derly Aga.

But Jane’s won­der­ful, nur­tur­ing cook­ing wasn’t the only rea­son I thought it would be hard to lose weight. There was also my seden­tary life­style as this pa­per’s film critic.

More­over, when I’m in Lon­don to see movies, I tend to stay with my 90-year-old mother, and feed­ing me is one of her plea­sures in life. She and my late fa­ther adopted me as a baby and I grew up as an only child, en­joy­ing adult por­tions.

From the age of nine I was a fat child. Though I later shed a lot of my boy­hood blub­ber, I have never, ex­cept for a brief time in my late teens, been what any­one would call svelte. yet, re­veal­ingly, when my bi­o­log­i­cal mother tracked me down in the Nineties and I met the five half-sib­lings I never knew I had, they were all per­fectly slim. It was nur­ture rather than na­ture that had made me chubby.

Be­tween the ages of 11 and 15, I was down­right ro­tund, what might now be called obese.

on a fam­ily hol­i­day, in Bournemout­h, I over­heard a man say to his wife: ‘That boy has breasts like a woman.’

It cut me to the quick, of course, but it didn’t make me lose weight: I didn’t know how.

I did slim down over time, but more be­cause of pu­berty and in­creas­ing height, and only to a state of gen­eral pudgi­ness.

For years I was care­ful to keep my T-shirt on in out­door swim­ming pools.

Any­way, 40 years af­ter my lardy ado­les­cence, my old mum still doesn’t care much for diet talk.

ev­ery time I tried to raise it, she changed the sub­ject and asked

It made my other half so grumpy: who wants a man who eats less than you?

me what films I was off to see. There was one mar­vel­lous mis­un­der­stand­ing when I men­tioned The Hunger games. She thought I was try­ing to switch top­ics back to my calo­rie-count­ing regime.

It is a strange busi­ness be­ing a man on a diet. As well as women want­ing to feed you, there’s the so­cial stigma that wafts around you like the smell of a pun­gent cheese.

Twice dur­ing the 30 days I met up in pubs with friends who, like me, are in their 50s and far too grown up, you might think, to look askance at a bloke for re­fus­ing a pint of bit­ter and ask­ing in­stead for a sparkling min­eral wa­ter with lime cor­dial.

But you’d be wrong. If I’d ex­plained I was driv­ing, they would have un­der­stood. But stay­ing off the beer to lose weight? That was un­fa­mil­iar and even faintly threat­en­ing.

For­tu­nately, I had an all-male sup­port net­work al­ready in place. This was an or­gan­i­sa­tion with the de­fi­antly un­am­bigu­ous name Man v Fat, set up by a jour­nal­ist called An­drew Shana­han.

get­ting out of bed one morn­ing in 2011, Shana­han, then in his mid-30s, took a ‘gut­tie’ — a selfie of his ex­pan­sive bare stom­ach — with the in­ten­tion of send­ing it to a friend to make him laugh. But there was some­thing about that im­age that hor­ri­fied him.

He started to look for help in los­ing weight, but quickly found the multi-mil­lion-pound di­et­ing in­dus­try is over­whelm­ingly geared to­wards women.

Over time, by making sig­nif­i­cant life­style ad­just­ments and sell­ing a stress­ful busi­ness, he lost 5st, drop­ping from 17st to 12st.

The man boobs dis­ap­peared. But he felt iso­lated. One evening, as the only man at a Weight Watch­ers meet­ing, he lis­tened for an hour to an an­i­mated dis­cus­sion about how men­stru­a­tion causes bloat­ing.

It was an ex­treme ex­am­ple of men and women be­ing on dif­fer­ent wave­lengths, but even at a ba­sic level there is a gen­der di­vide that the di­et­ing in­dus­try does not even try to bridge.

On the whole, men are taller than women, with a higher mus­cle mass. We have big­ger ap­petites and re­quire more en­ergy to sus­tain us. Our needs, like our bod­ies, are dif­fer­ent.

NOT un­rea­son­ably, Shana­han’s mind wan­dered dur­ing that dis­cus­sion about bloat­ing, alight­ing on the idea that even­tu­ally be­came Man v Fat. If there was no one out there tar­get­ing men’s weight prob­lems, he would do it him­self.

In Bri­tain, no fewer than 67 per cent of men are tech­ni­cally over­weight or obese, as op­posed to 56 per cent of women, but when did you last see an or­di­nary, mid­dleaged man gaz­ing out from the front of a slim­ming mag­a­zine.

Men aren’t sup­posed to diet in our so­ci­ety. Un­like women, we feel no cul­tural pres­sure to be skinny. In fact, there’s cul­tural pres­sure not to be. That’s why a third of men who do go on a diet are se­cre­tive about it.

In June, Shana­han launched a Man v Fat free on­line pro­gramme, whereby groups of five men, in pri­vate fo­rums ac­ces­si­ble only to them, shep­herd each other through 30-day cam­paigns to lose weight, each us­ing what­ever strat­egy he likes.

Shana­han thinks that men, un­like women, tend to be re­sis­tant to pre­scrip­tive regimes such as the Atkins Diet (low-carb), the 5/2 Diet (fast­ing for two days a week) or the Cam­bridge Weight Plan (strict calo­rie con­trol). Like Frank Si­na­tra, we pre­fer to do it our way.

Most men do not have a can­did ‘Does my bum look big in this?’ re­la­tion­ship with their mates. But to vir­tual friends, who are pre­dis­posed to understand your weight and hunger is­sues be­cause they have plenty of their own, you can say any­thing.

It’s a bril­liantly sim­ple idea, and has yielded im­pres­sive re­sults. Eighty per cent of men who have tried it have lost weight, with 9lb the av­er­age over the 30 days.

I started by adopt­ing an on­line name. I chose Chub­ster, reck­on­ing that its faint echo of play­ground cru­elty might spur me on.

Hav­ing de­clared my start­ing weight, my tar­get and a lit­tle about my life­style, I was then re­quired to post twice a day, re­veal­ing what I’d eaten, what ex­er­cise I’d man­aged and the progress I was making, as well as pit­falls I’d en­coun­tered.

The idea is that you draw in­spi­ra­tion from your ‘team’ mem­bers, while also dishing out en­cour­age­ment. More­over, men are com­pet­i­tive beasts. I didn’t want to be the least suc­cess­ful di­eter in my group, the As­ton Villa of the di­vi­sion.

At 13st 12lb, aim­ing to get down to 13st, I was the least heavy. In fact, my weight on the start­ing blocks was the fin­ish­ing line am­bi­tion of the largest of my team­mates (on­line name, CatManDo).

He had reached an enor­mous 22st 7lb in Au­gust, but was al­ready al­most down to 19st, hav­ing given him­self un­til his 50th birth­day in May 2017 to shed nearly half his body weight.

His some­what rad­i­cal way of do­ing this was to en­dure three 36hour fasts ev­ery week, in­ter­spersed by nor­mal eat­ing and one weekly ‘cheat’ day. This, CatManDo ra­tio­nalised, would mean that he wasn’t de­priv­ing him­self of any­thing.

As a re­sult, his typ­i­cal consumptio­n on those cheat days was for­mi­da­ble: a break­fast fry-up so hearty it in­cluded fried pota­toes, a hefty sand­wich for lunch, then pizza with a baked potato for din­ner.

It didn’t sound all that sci­en­tific to me, but it worked for him, and by the end of the 30 days the rest of us were cheer­ing him on through his 36-hour fasts and even through his cheat days.

The ca­ma­raderie was touch­ing. On my birth­day, one of my team­mates sent me a car­toon cake and Jane told me, with dis­ap­proval, that my face lit up more than it did when I opened her lov­ingly crafted home-made card. An­drew Shana­han thinks that, for men, the se­cret of weight loss is 70 per cent about diet, 30 per cent ex­er­cise.

So I made a pri­or­ity of my food and drink in­take, while at­tempt­ing to move more vig­or­ously.

I played more ten­nis. I took our dogs for brisker walks. In Lon­don, I played a silly game with my­self at Tube sta­tions, tak­ing the stairs rather than the es­ca­la­tor, while iden­ti­fy­ing some per­son ahead of me on the es­ca­la­tor and try­ing to over­take them.

I didn’t give my­self a spe­cific daily calo­rie count, but sim­ply tried to mod­er­ate consumptio­n of all the things I knew were fat­ten­ing, or cut them out com­pletely.

For the first two weeks I gave up wine and beer. Ex­cept for an oc­ca­sional slice of dry toast, I stopped eat­ing bread and my beloved pud­dings. I de­nied my­self sec­ond help­ings. I al­most wish I could say that this made me mis­er­able, but it didn’t. It made Jane grumpier than me.

At first, she and the chil­dren were greatly tick­led by the no­tion of me on a diet. But when she saw that I was go­ing at it with ram­pant en­thu­si­asm, she be­came down­right snippy.

I over­heard her say­ing to one of her friends on the phone: ‘Who wants a hus­band who eats less than you do?’

That was the nub of it, I think. A bit like my old mates, she felt threat­ened. Like so many women, she also thought that the whole do­main of man­aged weight-loss is an all-fe­male club. In­deed, she told me as much.

In the mean­time, sur­pris­ingly, I found my­self em­brac­ing hunger. In a vaguely masochis­tic way, I pos­i­tively en­joyed the sen­sa­tion.

One evening I also found my­self in Marks & Spencer, care­fully scru­ti­n­is­ing the calo­rie con­tent on packs of sushi. What I chose in the end con­tained 197 calo­ries; what it ac­tu­ally com­prised of, I have no idea. It didn’t taste of much, but I didn’t care — the calo­rie count was all that mat­tered.

But the thing is that I adore food. It was ob­vi­ous my diet was turn­ing me into some­one I’m not.

I didn’t fully re­alise this un­til I started boast­ing to Jane and saw her eyes glaze over.

Af­ter that, I kept my smug­ness to my­self and my fel­low Man v Fat ad­her­ents, and also tried to diet in a way that would be more sus­tain­able.

So I didn’t skip meals, but did eat off smaller plates. I didn’t deny my­self the odd glass of wine dur­ing the week, but eked out one, rather than pour­ing my­self a sec­ond.

PER­HAPS fan­ci­fully, I thought about the dif­fer­ence be­tween weather and cli­mate: weather be­ing the con­di­tions of the at­mos­phere over a short pe­riod, cli­mate be­ing its longert­erm pat­tern of be­hav­iour.

I de­cided that my diet would fail if I changed the ‘weather’ of my eat­ing habits. I needed to ad­dress the cli­mate.

And I have. I lost 9lb in that first fort­night and added 2lb in the sec­ond. So I didn’t quite make my tar­get, but I still lost half a stone over­all in 30 days, which I’ve con­tin­ued to keep off.

When I next do a Man v Fat 30-day pro­gramme, I’ll tar­get the other half-stone. And I will do it, what­ever do­mes­tic tension it causes.

Be­sides, Jane con­cedes now that I look bet­ter as a re­sult of my 30day diet. She has even ad­mit­ted that she’s quite proud of me.

But I might use an­other name next time. I’m not so sure that I want men fat­ter than me call­ing me Chub­ster again.


WE LAUGHED at the no­tion of Brian on a diet. He’s just not a weight-watch­ing kind of chap, nor is he vain.

As long as I’ve known him, he’s never as­pired to any­thing other than his fa­mil­iar, com­fort­able physique. Some­times he’d turn side-on to the mir­ror and pull in his stom­ach, but that was about as self-crit­i­cal as he ever got. Plus, he really likes pud­ding.

So when he an­nounced his new Man v Fat regime there was much mer­ri­ment. He would never for­sake a cheeky late-evening chocolate in front of House Of Cards or wave away crum­ble and cus­tard at Sun­day lunch.

But he did, and I have to ad­mit, it wiped the smile right off my face.

In the first week, he went at it like a man with a bor­der­line eat­ing dis­or­der and dropped 5lb. He skipped meals, didn’t eat bread, picked pota­toes out of a Salade Ni­coise and gave up al­co­hol.

And in­stead of be­ing sup­port­ive, I found my­self be­ing a bit catty.

One night in the early hours, he went to the bath­room. I as­sumed he’d gone for a pee, but when he came back to bed he said, with smug won­der: ‘Thir­teen stone seven.’

I started to panic. We like food, Brian and I. And who wants a hus­band who eats less than you do?

Of course we women know that it’s folly to crash diet, be­cause you just put it all back on again. But Brian, be­ing a di­et­ing novice, didn’t heed my wise coun­sel. He was get­ting high on his early suc­cess, buy­ing into that an­noy­ing slim­mer’s mantra that Noth­ing Tastes As good As Thin Feels. I hated it.

Thank­fully, he mod­er­ated his be­hav­iour af­ter week one. But by then, he’d fallen into a bro­mance with his fel­low di­eters. They were much kinder than me, but... well, it was kind of ex­clud­ing, him trip­ping off ev­ery night to write to his friends.

But I sound like a cur­mud­geon. He threw him­self into the task with ad­mirable en­thu­si­asm and self­dis­ci­pline. He lost 9lb. He looks great. So now, can we all just have a chocolate?

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 ??  ?? Diet wars: Jane and a slimmed-down Brian Viner
Diet wars: Jane and a slimmed-down Brian Viner

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