Weight Loss Programs for Men

By Donna Feldman, MS, RD

When it comes to weight loss, men don’t get much sympathy from women. They can lose weight more quickly thanks to higher metabolisms and more muscle mass. They’re free of the scale-tipping effects of monthly hormone swings and pregnancy. They don’t tend to be emotional over-eaters. It’s no wonder promotional materials for diet programs feature women. The Jenny Craig website features 21 pages of success stories from women. From men: A grand total of 3 pages.

Maybe men just don’t need help with weight loss. Well, according to a November 2007 report from the Centers for Disease Control, that’s simply not true. The CDC report shows that obesity rates for men are catching up to women and are in fact almost identical: 33.3% for men and 35.3% for women.

Men Don’t “Diet”

For better or worse, “diets” and women go hand-in-hand. Women focus on appearance and are conditioned from an early age to equate “thin” with “attractive”. Diet plans were designed to appeal to women, emphasizing salads, low-fat foods, and sugar-free sweets. Where’s the beef? Where’s the beer? In the experience of Mary Gregg RD, Director of Nutrition for NutriSystem, men traditionally viewed weight loss as a female concern, and felt embarrassed attending diet classes that were mostly women. Men need more calories and prefer different foods. Clearly programs set up for women were not attracting men.

Trying to lose weight? Start be adding exercise to your daily routine: 

- Get a treadmill and walk while you watch television.
- Get a recumbent bike and ride for 30 minutes after dinner every night.
- Set up a bench press in the garage a la Kevin Spacey in American Beauty (though that did not really end well if you watch the film).

What Men Want

Most weight-loss experts agree that men have different motivations for weight loss. Men aren’t as appearance-oriented as women, and take a lot longer to see the need to lose weight. Medical concerns, whether type 2 diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, or a heart attack, are great guy motivators. Another is fitness. Men will lose weight to get in shape, and they expect that exercise will be part of the program. In fact, they welcome exercise and do better with it.

Weight Watchers and NutriSystem for Men

Armed with more information about the diet divide, major diet programs have now launched men’s programs. Gregg reports that NutriSystem started looking at a men’s program 2 years ago. NutriSystem provides the actual food, delivered right to the client’s door. The meal plans are designed to be high fiber/low sugar. Clients are expected to add their own fresh vegetables, salads, and fruit to the NutriSystem entrée selections.

Weight Watchers has always welcomed men to meetings, and in March, the company announced an Internet-based program aimed at men. The program has features to track food intake and exercise, along with tips on workouts and food choices.

Online Diet Program + Overweight Male = A Great Fit

Online weight loss programs are capitalizing on the fact that, once they decide to tackle weight control, men tend to be more disciplined and goal-driven. Weight control is just another challenge. As Karen Miller-Kovach, MS, RD, of Weight Watchers points out in her book “She Loses, He Loses,” men’s approach to dieting is “just tell me what to do.” This definitely includes an exercise component. NutriSystem has an exercise DVD featuring NFL player Vaughn Hebron, while Weight Watchers offers workout videos that target specific muscle groups and fitness levels.

The most appealing part of all these online plans for men is the flexibility. Men can use the Internet components and exercise videos at their convenience, and pick foods that they like.


These programs can produce significant weight loss results. But can the guys keep it off? Miller-Kovach notes that most men don’t have much basic knowledge about food and nutrition, and tend to depend on one person (i.e., spouse) for support and feedback in their weight-loss efforts. What about men who don’t have that one person? Michelle Berry, MA, LPC, of Denver, CO., spent over a decade as a nutrition therapist in a weight-loss clinic.  She points out that men have trouble with the long-term lifestyle changes needed to maintain weight loss. Traveling, dining out, and cooking all present problems after the structured diet program ends.


The growth of men’s diet programs is a welcome development. Guys can improve fitness and health, while eating foods they enjoy in portions that are satisfying. And thanks to the Internet, they can choose to lose on their own schedule from the comfort of home. No more dainty salads and diet soda lunches: Bring on the real food.



1 http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/07newsreleases/obesity.htm.
2 Gorin A.A., et al. PrevMed 2004 Sep;39(3):612-6.
3 M Kiernan et al. Obesity Res 2001(9):770-777.

*This article is intended for general information purposes only, is not individual-specific, nor is it intended to replace the advice of your healthcare team.