Living with Obesity: men’s experiences of losing and gaining weight and the implications for policy and services

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Summary of report content

This study from Healthwatch Essex investigates the weight loss and weight gain experiences of men living with obesity, through interviews with 29 adult men with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 30. The data collection took place following the outbreak of COVID-19, with 27 interviews taking place via telephone, and 2 via video call. Alongside the interviews, each participant also completed a survey providing their BMI or height and weight, and demographic information.

The study found that the type of support and weight loss strategies accessed by men plays a key role whether weight loss is successful. Weight-loss strategies built on collective action with other men and women were found to be more engaging than the female-centred group discussion element of conventional weight management programmes.

Commercial weight management programmes were found to often be ineffective, with men who attended them experiencing weight fluctuations rather than sustained weight loss. Many of the men who had attended one described finding it unsettling and a cause of further confusion to their relationship with food. Commercial weight management programmes seem to focus too much on behaviour and not enough on emotion as the cause for weight gain. This can also mean that when men gain weight, the experience cements in them deep-rooted fears that they lack the self-discipline to permanently lose weight.

The study highlighted specific key points in life when men appear likely to gain weight: early adulthood, becoming a father, the peak of working life, and career progression. The study also suggested that a key intervention point could be when men have recently finished, or are about to finish, regular participation in sport.

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General details

Report title 
Living with Obesity: men’s experiences of losing and gaining weight and the implications for policy and services
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Essex
Date of publication 
Wednesday, 14 July, 2021
Date evidence capture began 
Monday, 3 February, 2020
Key themes 
Food and nutrition
Health promotion
Lifestyle and wellbeing

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
What type of organisation requested the work 
If this work has been done in partnership, who is the partner? 
University of Essex
Primary research method used 
Structured interview
Unstructured Interview
If an Enter and View methodology was applied, was the visit announced or unannounced? 

Details of health and care services included in the report

Community services 

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Age group 
All people 18 and over
Does the information include public's views? 
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Not applicable
Does the information include staff's views? 
Not applicable
Types of health and care professionals engaged 
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 

Outcomes and impact

Were recommendations made by local Healthwatch in the report? 
Does the information contain a response from a provider? 
Not applicable
Is there evidence of impact in the report? 
Not applicable
Is there evidence of impact external to the report? 
Not applicable

Network Impact
Relationships that exist locally, regionally, nationally have benefited from the work undertaken in the report
Implied Impact
Where it is implied that change may occur in the future as a result of Healthwatch work. This can be implied in a provider  response, press release or other source. Implied impact can become tangible impact once change has occurred.
Tangible Impact
There is evidence of change that can be directly attributed to Healthwatch work undertaken in the report.