Obesity: Not Just A Woman’s Problem

Doriane C. Miller, MD | 6/12/2014, 2:53 p.m.
It almost seems unfair. As women, we have to work extra hard to lose weight, but it seems like men ...

It almost seems unfair. As women, we have to work extra hard to lose weight, but it seems like men can simply wish to lose weight and do it with no problem.

We know that obesity is a public health issue, but Chicago seems to be one city that’s leading the struggle. Obesity among 8 to 10 year olds in Chicago is higher than it is for kids across the nation, according to the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children.

And it’s always seemed that African-American women seem to have the hardest challenges. But that’s changing. We’re seeing our men becoming obese and developing obesity-related health problems as a result.

Nearly 1 in 4 African-American boys ages 6 to 11 is overweight, compared to less than 1 in 5 Caucasian boys. By age 20, that number grows to 70 percent of black men being obese, according to a 2012 report from the National Center for Health Statistics.

What can we do about it?

Addressing obesity among our men, means starting when they’re boys. This is not a problem we’ve typically had to even think about with young boys. But today, things are a little different.

For example, children spend an average of 3 hours per day watching television, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. That’s about 20 hours per week, the same amount of time as a part-time job. This is a key risk factor for being obese. The best way to overcome this is to hit the off button.

Instead of watching NBA games, have your son or nephew actually shoot hoops with some of his young friends. Instead of playing a football video game, have him go play a game of flag football.

I know that in many of our communities, safety and violence is an issue. Many parents don’t feel comfortable letting their children play outside. In that case, consider signing your son up for a summer sports camp or a league at the local park district.

Add to that the need to address poor nutrition habits. It might sound ironic but the same foods that contribute to malnutrition can lead to obesity: high-salt fried foods, empty carbs and sugary drinks. If you want your child to be healthy, it’s important to get their taste buds accustomed to the taste of healthy food early on.

What about adult men?

Changes in our society at large are why obesity is becoming more of problem for men. Much of the work that involved physical activity has been engineered out of the work place. Manual labor has been replaced with machines, walking to work has been replaced with commuting by car. That means you lose the opportunity to burn extra calories by walking a few blocks, because you’re driving yourself right to the front door. And if your job involves sitting at a desk all day, that’s even less opportunity to work off the food you’re eating.

A sedentary person should only eat about 2,000 calories per day. But many of our men are still eating the 2500 to 3,000 calories a day that was recommended when manual labor was the norm.