Busting Food Myths with Nicole Senior

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Myth: A big belly isn’t that bad
Fact: A big belly – while very common, especially in men – is bad news for your health.
There are a lot of folks struggling to wrap their arms around their special someone, and a lot of special someones struggling to tie their own shoelaces because of a big belly. These some ones are mostly blokes because using the belly as an energy storage tank is what the male body does naturally. After the menopause, women change to a more ‘apple’ shape as well, but it’s the blokes who need the most help. While women seem to constantly think about their weight and body shape, it’s the blokes who need a bit of encouragement to see their growing girth might be a problem.

And a problem it is. A big belly is also called ‘abdominal obesity’, and the fat stored there is also called ‘visceral fat’. It is this belly-fat that increases the risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high blood glucose, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes, metabolic syndrome and fatty liver. Not to mention erectile dysfunction, low testosterone levels and poor sperm quality. And it’s hard to look tidy in clothes, or find clothes that fit. Psychologically speaking, it’s a downer when people ask ‘when is the baby due?’, or when blokes can’t keep up with the kids, or can’t do the things they used to do with ease. There’s nothing good about a big belly.

Many fad diets promise the world and deliver little, leaving a trail of nutritional and psychological ‘collateral damage’, but what blokes really need is sensible advice to get them on their way. They need straight-talking, no-nonsense information which helps correct the food knowledge and skills gap. While things are gradually changing, men are at a disadvantage with food because they tend to be less engaged with it. They’ve always left it to their mother, partner, or increasingly to the food industry: they have outsourced their food. And this is where the trouble lies: leaving food to everyone else means they have lost control over what they eat. While ancient man was a champion hunter and gatherer, contemporary man can be hopeless at feeding himself in a healthy way. Blokes need to learn more about food and conquer the kitchen to bust their belly.

In my experience it’s a lot easier for blokes to bust their belly than women. They’re less emotionally tied up with food and just get on with it: you tell them what to do and they do it. But of course in order to take action they have to appreciate there is a problem and male bravado is a barrier here. It’s tough for blokes to admit the fattening world has beaten them, especially if they’re doing so well at other aspects of life (and blokes can be competitive). Rather than punching their swollen belly saying ‘it’s all muscle’ and laughing it off, more blokes need to admit they’re worried and decide to take action. This will give other blokes permission to do the same. Blokes need to shake off their ‘threatened species’ status and pick up their cutlery for the good food revolution rather than digging their grave with a knife and fork. They simply won’t believe how much better they feel with a smaller belly.

Belly busting for blokes (New Holland) is Nicole’s new book of sensible and practical advice with Veronica Cuskelly’s simple, easy and tasty recipes (featuring the hunger-busting power of protein and lower GI carbs). Check out www.bellybusting.com.au