This year’s Men’s Health Week focuses on the link between men, mental health and COVID-19. Recent research from leading weight-loss organisation, Slimming World, reveals that more than one in 10 UK male adults found it more difficult to manage their weight during the coronavirus lockdown.
As well as obesity being linked to an increase in the risk of many health conditions including Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, joint issues, mental health problems, and some cancers, there is also evidence to suggest that people living with obesity are at a higher risk of the more severe outcomes associated with COVID-19, including hospitalisation and death.
With the Government’s new obesity strategy setting out the increasingly urgent need to tackle the epidemic of obesity the UK is currently facing employers are being asked to play their part in taking care of their employees’ health.
Joanne Allen, Employer Partnerships Lead at Slimming World, says: “Our findings demonstrate the uncertainty and pressure this past year has had on people’s physical and mental health.
“Obesity, and associated health conditions, may lead to absenteeism and affect an employee’s ability and motivation to fulfil a role which can lead to difficult conversations about performance. Raising the issue of weight sensitively and encouraging staff to manage their weight can help to ensure a healthier, happier, and more productive workforce.
“Research of Slimming World members shows that weight loss results in significant physical and mental health benefits, and 91% of members report that being a Slimming World member made them feel more positive about themselves. More than two-thirds commented that their Slimming World group makes them feel they are not alone. We know that sometimes men can be hesitant to join Slimming World due to the stereotype of slimming groups being for women. Contrary to the perception, when men join Slimming World, they are quickly welcomed into the group and evidence shows that men lose more weight than women in their first week.
“Businesses are under increasing pressure to provide employees with improved health benefits and promote good physical and mental health. Employers who provide access or signpost to sustainable healthy lifestyle support lead the way in investing in their people.”
Fernanda Siusta, Wellbeing Programme Manager at TfL said: “We know that obesity is associated with reduced life expectancy, it’s the leading cause for developing Type 2 Diabetes and other chronic medical conditions, it can also impact on mental health. This became more apparent at the start of the pandemic with evidence showing that people who have comorbidities such as diabetes were more likely to get seriously ill with COVID-19. We believe that it’s important to support colleagues and invest in their health to give them the tools and opportunities to improve their physical and mental health.”
START WEIGHT: 23st 2lbs
CURRENT WEIGHT: 15st 10lbs
TOTAL WEIGHT LOSS: 7st 6lbs
Having lost 7st, Peter Coburn, 52, from London, says losing weight through a workplace referral has helped him become more confident and improve the way he works.
“I joined Slimming World in October 2020 after seeing an advert for referral offered through my job at the London Underground. The referral via my employer gave me the nudge I needed as I wanted to lose weight for my own health and to be able to spend quality time with my new grandchildren.
“As a teenager I started putting on weight, but at 19 I managed to keep it at bay by working as a bicycle courier. At 21 though, I took a role behind a post office counter which was much more inactive, and that’s when the weight started piling on. I joined London Underground in 1996, and as I went up the ranks, I became more office-bound and hit 24st by 2019.
“Carrying excess weight has affected my health so much over the years. I had sleep apnoea, a condition where my breathing would stop and start while sleeping (which tests suggested was happening up to 97 times an hour!), uncontrolled type 2 diabetes, and narcolepsy; I would nod off at the drop of a hat and not be able to stop myself.
“When I first joined Slimming World I was full of nerves and concern about the initial meeting and sharing my weight with others – and I also believed I would be the only man in a large group of women. My opinion soon changed though, I feel like I am part of a family who trust and support each other, and my Consultant, Alice, has played a massive part in changing my life.
“Alice has been an invaluable help to me on my journey; I feel constantly supported and she goes above and beyond with her availability and honest advice and ideas. The varied backgrounds and obstacles that members share each week either in group or on the temporary virtual meetings (due to COVID-19 restrictions) are so beneficial – it has really helped me to know what my personal motivations are, and what potential pitfalls will send me off course with my weight loss.
“I love the fact that with Slimming World, I don’t feel like I am on a diet, with all of the various tools, the app and the website, I can enjoy anything I like. I still have a cooked breakfast every morning but now I do it the Slimming World-way using a low-calorie cooking spray, and removing all visible fat from my bacon. I love experimenting with food and I am never hungry.
“Losing weight has helped me to make so many positive changes. I monitor and limit my alcohol intake and I no longer smoke. I’ve even become a lot more active – I walk at least 20,000 steps a day now, compared to about 2,000 before I lost weight. This has really helped me to increase my lung capacity, which with the current pandemic, can’t be a bad thing.
“Since losing weight my diabetes is under control, I’ve reduced my medication and my blood sugar levels have stabilised. I’ve also found that I am now no longer nodding off on buses, at work or in front of the television. At work, I am back to the person I was over 10 years ago – my analytical mind is back and I’m able to undertake my role at London Underground making critical decisions so much better! My diabetes and blood pressure medications have also been reduced and I’m going to be reassessed for my sleep apnoea, which I know has improved loads.
“I had twin grandsons arrive last May and I can now get down on the floor with them (and back up). I recently took the twins to soft-play, and whereas before I would never have considered joining in, I was climbing and running all over the place with them. I am able to take them for walks, and I even feel healthy enough to have them overnight giving my daughter and her partner a well-deserved break – before joining Slimming World I wouldn’t have felt confident enough to even consider this.
“I want to thank all at Slimming World for saving my life – I would never have joined if it wasn’t for the referral I got from work. I have completely changed as a person; I enjoy cooking, shopping for food and organising my week so much now that I truly believe that this great new way of life is with me to stay.”
 Slimming World’s Health and Wellbeing Study is an on-going research project. Reported findings are a snapshot of data from the research relating to 1,000 UK adults polled in April 2020 which asked how Covid-19 affected behaviour, compared to previous responses from November 2019.
 Almost twice as many men (45%) as women (21%) lost at least 5lbs in their first week. Data relates to 1.1 million Slimming World members who first joined group between January and December 2016. The research followed their progress for 12 months through to December 2017.