1 September 2011

Busting Food Myths with Nicole Senior

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


Anonymous said...

Excellent news!

Anonymous said...

This really helped me!!
Thank you!

Mick Phillips said...

Such an insulting and patronising view of men!

Throughout this whole article, and no doubt throughout the book which is being quietly flogged on the side, the word "bloke" is constantly used to depict some kind of loveable, dumb male slob who needs a firm but loving female hand to guide him through life. Such bovine solicitude!

Listen to the patronising tone: ". . . but it's the blokes who need the most help"; "it's the blokes who need a bit of encouragement . . ."; "what blokes really need is sensible advice to get them on their way"; "They need straight-talking, no-nonsense information"; "They have outsourced their food"; "They have lost control over what they eat"; "Blokes need to learn more about food and conquer the kitchen to bust their belly"; "You tell them [blokes] what to do and they get on with it"; "male bravado is a barrier"; "Blokes need to shake off their "threatened species" status . . ." etc.

The word "bloke" itself (and especially the word "blokey") has, these days, a sneering and contemptuous overtone quite different from its original meaning, as I perceive it. Once it referred to a genial, easy-going type of Aussie male (such as depicted by C. J. Denis in "The Sentimental Bloke"). I have yet to see a definition of the word "blokey", but I notice it is usually women who use the term and it always appears in a negative and derogatory context. I suspect that its true meaning lies in male behaviour which women cannot control, and therefore despise. It's a great universal put-down of men and we see it being used here, albeit in a pretend-friendly type of way.

The sweeping generalisations about men (sorry, "blokes") are laughable. The corollary of what the diet author has written is that women (presumably all women) are wise, sensible, health-conscious and self-caring when it comes to food. My experience is that most women are anything but the foregoing; many show an almost morbid self-obsession with food and their relationship to it. Indeed, it is the reason why dietitians and the billion-dollar diet industry exist, to make a living out of this type of female dysfunction. The sales trick of scaring people into fearing for their lives then offering some type of solace (in this case a gut-busting diet book for blokes) is as old as religion and snake-oil salesmen/women.

Mick Phillips, a bloke. (sinloi@optusnet.com.au)

Anonymous said...

I am 56 and have never been called a bloke, but I have been called a lot of other things. I just see the word as a substitute for "guy" or "man". I really don't think they would sell too many books if they were calling us stupid...etc.
Life is too short to get that upset .
As a "bloke" with a gut, I just might find something in this book to help with the problem.
Can I get this in the USA?

Adam said...

this blog should have been called Big bellies, bBg bums! Then you wouldnt have needed to be gender specific .

Anonymous said...

Dear Nicole,

Promoting a book with bad advise is not a smart thing to do. A big belly is bad enough. Youre advise to use a lot of protein is making everything worse. It a promoter of cancer (for example prostate cancer). Read again the book: the china study and a lot of research about protein and cancer.

GI Group said...

Re availability in the US - the publisher (New Holland) has informed us that a US edition will be available March/April 2012, probably called Belly Busters for Guys.

Anonymous said...

Former fat belly said...

I was a pre diabetic female who was slim but with a > 80cm waist. With great reluctance and scepticism changed to a low GI diet and am now slim belly and no longer at risk of diabetes.
Not being overweight, and eating what I thought was healthy, I thought I was fine. The problem with pre diabetes is you dont feel any different and don't suspect a problem.
ANY information such as Nicole Senior's is beneficial to alert everyone to revisit their diet.
I would only comment that the title of Nicole Senior's book does not alert slim women with a belly to a potential risk of diabetes.

GI Group said...

Dear Ms Smaller-belly,

Yes you are right: a big belly is also a health risk for women too. You sound like you were a TOFI (Thin Outside Fat Inside) that we’re hearing more about now (read more about this in June GI News). Well done for taking the problem head-on and achieving such great results. But of course we would need to take a whole other approach than simply writing another book called Belly-busting for women! The gender divide is great when it comes to the approach to diet and lifestyle change, and titles for books. You have us thinking though...

Best wishes,