Gutless approach to weight-management

01/12/16 . Blog

The Forum's Deputy CEO Tracy Herd visited Gutless, a weight-management programme in Dunstable that puts the Men's Health Forum's research into practice.

I popped up to Dunstable recently to visit the Gutless weight management for men programme run by BeeZee bodies. They had put the programme together using their own team's vast experience in public health, nutrition and design and the evidence-based recommendations in the Forum's How To guide which translates a systematic review of the evidence into practical advice.

On arrival I immediately picked up on the relaxed atmosphere, the guys chatting and catching up on the week, whilst weighing was taking place in a matter of fact way -– the guys recording their weight on scorecards.

The 3 Cs

The group started with 16 men and at week 11, 13 are still regularly attending – a great retention rate. And I can see why. The sessions are run in a relaxed, informal manner and many of things that we know what work for men on weight management programmes are in place. One of the guys called these the three 'Cs': camaraderie, competition, challenge

The group divided into self labelled 'oldies' and 'not so oldies' for the physical activity element of the session.  

While a fitness trainer put the 'oldies' through their paces, I sat with the 'not so oldies' and they talked about how the week had gone.  There had been some 'naughty' nights where too much drink and food had been consumed but on the whole the guys were sticking to the plans.

They have set up a WhatsApp group which has been a key part of the camaraderie, sharing ideas, successes and challenges and bullying (their words, not mine) each other to keep going!  There was complete agreement from the group that the Whats app group would keep going after the 12 week programme.  Some of the guys were also running together, and that has helped motivation and competition in the group.  Some guys were also using apps such as MyFitnessPal to monitor intake and activity and were also sharing food diaries, again to help keep them on the straight and narrow.

Life after the programme

Behaviour change underpins the programme and, as it was week 11, John from BeeZee Bodies, was getting the guys to discuss life after the programme, in order to maintain and continue the weight loss. Planning was a key theme, with real and practical ways of thinking through changing habits and changing the habit before the habit (they have trademarked this hH phrase). In other words what is the thing you need to change so you are not confronted with the decision to have a biscuit of not?  

Tempations in the workplace was something the guys discussed and it was great to see them giving each other tips on avoiding the office biscuits and sweets, especially in the run up to Christmas. That was an area of concern for many, how to get through Christmas temptations, especially nights out. One of the guys said he had already planned and chosen his menu for the works do and was going to drive so he couldn't drink.

True friendships

I also sat with the 'oldies' for awhile, it was clear that friendships and bonding had happened through the programme that would not have existed otherwise. The guys were getting so much more out of the programme than just weight loss, they were increasing in confidence, making new and more social connections and feeling fitter and healthier.  One chap said his neighbour had commented on how well he looked and that it had made him feel great.  

As I left the group were planning a bowling night. What struck me is that you wouldn't put these guys together as natural friends but through bringing them together through a common goal, true friendships were being formed. Key to the group working and succeeding was the delivery and skilled facilitation by John and the Gutless team.

The Men’s Health Forum need your support

It’s tough for men to ask for help but if you don’t ask when you need it, things generally only get worse. So we’re asking.

In the UK, one man in five dies before the age of 65. If we had health policies and services that better reflected the needs of the whole population, it might not be like that. But it is. Policies and services and indeed men have been like this for a long time and they don’t change overnight just because we want them to.

It’s true that the UK’s men don’t have it bad compared to some other groups. We’re not asking you to ‘feel sorry’ for men or put them first. We’re talking here about something more complicated, something that falls outside the traditional charity fund-raising model of ‘doing something for those less fortunate than ourselves’. That model raises money but it seldom changes much. We’re talking about changing the way we look at the world. There is nothing inevitable about premature male death. Services accessible to all, a population better informed. These would benefit everyone - rich and poor, young and old, male and female - and that’s what we’re campaigning for.

We’re not asking you to look at images of pity, we’re just asking you to look around at the society you live in, at the men you know and at the families with sons, fathers and grandads missing.

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