By Emma Carson
BBC News, Nottingham
Commercial slimming clubs are too geared towards females, according to some men battling to lose weight.
Cledwyn Rowles and his friends formed their own slimming group
A new study by the Men's Health Forum has revealed that more men (65%) are overweight or obese than women (55%).
Despite the health risks, it appears many men are reluctant to tackle the problem by going to group events dominated by women.
So is it a question of "real men don't diet" or could more be done to encourage men into the clubs?
National Obesity Council chairman Dr Ian Campbell formed the men's weight loss group fatmanslim.com three years ago.
The Nottingham GP said: "I don't think it's because of embarrassment - I think it's because men prefer to do these things in private rather than in groups.
"It's just the male psyche - perhaps it's about problem solving. We're retreating into the cave, so to speak."
And a spokesman for an exclusive men-only self-help group - Leicestershire-based Big Blokes - said a commercial slimming club did not work for him.
Cledwyn Rowles said: "When I went to (a commercial slimming club) it was being run by a very nice young lady.
"She had a life-size picture of herself in a bikini before she lost her weight - that didn't do anything for me because I don't wear a bikini."
The Big Blokes group, which uses the services of a cognitive therapist in addition to calorie counting, tells its members it would be difficult to share their experiences with women in the way they can with each other.
'Break the ice'
But Phil Hucknall, of Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, who lost about 12 stone (76kg) with Weight Watchers, said: "It is true to a point that the meetings and the literature are female-biased, but the kind of person I am I just made a gag of it - for example I said 'I'll drop a dress size for Xmas'," he said.
"It actually helped break the ice in some ways."
Phil Clarke, a member of Weight Watchers in Nottingham, said he valued the support of a group.
"I don't think that genetically men want to do things on their own, " he said.
"After all, team sports are a part of every male's upbringing, both at school and in later life. They play football together, they're in darts teams together, they have lads' nights out, they go on stag nights.
Phil Clarke lost weight with one of the commercial groups
"So most of their adult life is surrounded with friends and mates. And there is no rational reason why they should object to taking part in a 'slimming group'."
One organisation which has introduced men-only groups is Slimming World. The number of men who have joined has grown from 2% to 5% in the past few years.
Partnerships manager Jacquie Lavin said: "The majority of our men are still going to the mixed groups with their wives or partners. We give them the option.
"But I have to admit that some men love being the only man in a group of women."
I had to lose weight because of high blood pressure. I had tried all the fad diets like Atkins which worked for a time before the weight came back on again. I decided to join Weight Watchers and now have a handle on the situation. I am the only male at my Saturday meeting but figured that my health is more important than my male psyche. I have lost 22 pounds and I give most of the credit to attending the meetings. When there is temptation around every corner you need all the help you can get; male vanity should not be an issue.
Peter, Monroe, NJ, US
It is very true commercial groups are geared towards women, but if more men wanted to be involved in such groups then the bigger companies would be interested in the money for membership. It needs men to speak out about it and that involves losing the male pride thing. I am currently dieting again and when down the local pub after a lovely meal I decided to leave out the beer so that I wouldn't overdo the calorie intake - try getting people around you to not be cruel about the only man in the village dieting! I can laugh it off and have some really good comebacks but many men take it to heart. They have no-one to confide in about their weight and the mickey taking goes too far. It's going to take the men that need the service to stand up and be counted for something they need.
Darren Girling, Calne, Wiltshire
Three years ago I joined Weight Watchers with my then fiancee, partly to loose weight and mostly as a support to her. Over six months I met my target weight and shed a stone and a half. It was a little intimidating being one of only two blokes there, but I was never made to feel unwelcome, the exact opposite if anything! I'd certainly recommend it as a means to just start a healthy diet if nothing else.
Paul Graham, Manchester
In March 2004, I weighed over 23 stone, and with a jaw operation pending, I decided that something had to be done about it. I never used to exercise a lot, and spent most of my time in front of the computer. Through a combination of using an exercise bike for an hour a day, then swimming, and now a gym, I came down to 14.5 stone in just 1 year! I haven't radically changed what I eat, I just spend 2 hours exercising, 4 times a week.
Andy, Leeds, UK
I have lost 4 stone in 4 months with Lighterlife. They have single sex groups, different programmes and have books for men, although the videos are of women. In Luton there is even a male counsellor.
Dave Ferris, Luton, Beds
My weight has hovered between 17 and 18 stone for the past five or six years. I have tried various commercially available diets and have never had much success. Just last month I started on a weight loss programme which I'm sure I won't be allowed to name! One of the things that attracted me was the fact that the men's programme is completely different to the women - different routines, different literature, the lot. Also, counselling groups are single sex so I get to spend a couple of hours every Friday night with a supportive group of like-minded blokes in the comfort of our counsellor's home. As of Friday 10 June, I have been on the programme for just 4 weeks and lost 2 stone. Yep, that's stones, not pounds. There are places like this for fat blokes everywhere - you just have to look hard enough. I just wish I could tell you what it is!
Tim Morgan, Rayleigh, Essex
I've been going to Weight Watchers for about 3 months, lost 23lbs and achieved my 'goal weight'. The diet is both easy/healthy and the motivational support of the group works wonders. I'm the only bloke that goes, but it's worked, so who gives a stuff?
Matthew Towle, Gloucester
I am 23st and happy with my size. I gained a lot of weight when I stopped smoking, which was hard work. I know I am over weight and I have joined my local gym and I do go 3 times a week but my weight has not changed much. But in the last 6 months my fitness has improved so much, and I am going to stick at it. The last thing I want to do is to go to a sliming club, even if it is just for men.
I went to a Weight Watchers club which had a bloke running it, it was great when he was there I lost about 4 stone, then he left, a very nice lady turned up to run things, on the second evening she stood up and said "OK tonight's discussion is how to stop eating too much on that certain time of the month", I didn't go again.
I've been to clubs before and they just aren't useful to men. The motivation will be to "drop a dress size by xxxx" and the talk is all about how to avoid cream buns or chocolate. Try asking how to avoid a curry craving or minimise your intake while not looking stupid on a lads' night out and they will just look at you blankly. I was even told to explain to my mates what I was doing and ask them to get me diet Cokes! That might sound sensible to a woman but I think every man reading this will understand what useless advice that is! Sessions included how to cook meals for me to diet whilst still satisfying my husband's appetite and how to maintain skin condition while losing weight. Of course this was all to satisfy the majority who were women but that's no surprise considering that all of the weekly sessions are during the day or early evening when working men are unable to attend. I lost count of the times I was late for the late (7pm!) session.
Phillip Holley, UK, Cambs
I've been to Weight Watchers and Slimming World and have not been fazed by the majority of women in the group. What did put me off is the lifestyle, a lot of the women were home-makers so had a different set of hurdles to tackle in the day - nothing I could relate to working full-time. I spoke to my consultant (Slimming World) about men only groups and was told they weren't as popular as first thought, so new groups weren't being formed. I think that every slimmer, regardless of gender, needs practical help at home, in the kitchen to plan the meals on a weekly basis and get them into the routine of eating healthily, it's more about the structure of the day to ensure time is there to prepare a meal from scratch with fresh ingredients.
Mark, Chelmsford, UK
I have signed up to the gym numerous times, and try to go as much as time permits but due to the high fat content of many ethnic foods I find sticking to a strict regime very hard, I also get ridiculed from my workmates, they say I look like Cartman from South Park! How understanding is today's society?
I want to loose 5 stone and recently I looked at joining Weight Watchers. After browsing their website I had decided against it simply because it is aimed at females, there is no two ways about it. However, after a lot of searching around on the site I did find the MP5 program that is aimed at men. I started on this program at the beginning of May and since then I have lost over a stone and a half and still going. I would recommend this to any man who needs to loose weight. As with anything it takes commitment and determination but it's well worth it.
Frank Carroll, Gravesend
I am clinically obese and have tried fruitlessly to seek out self help groups or communities where men like me can face up to our problems. The only place I can find like-minded blokes is in the local pub with a pint in their hand! Maybe that's part of the problem!
Dave Silkstone, Sheffield, England
I must admit I would feel a little out of place in a slimming club maybe because it is mainly females who attend. I have managed to lose about 2 stone, in the past year or so, just from my own commitment, change of diet and increasing the amount of exercise each week. Slimming clubs are not always the answer. I think from my own personal view, it comes down to how much a person wants to lose weight and how much dedication they want to put to that task. It worked in my case and am trying to continue that.
Mark, Didcot, Oxfordshire
I go to slimming club each Wednesday night, and I am the only man that goes. Sometimes there are boys that have been dragged kicking to the class by their mums, but that's about it. It is hard sometimes to keep motivated in a class full of ladies.
I would like to see more men in my class, but I don't think that would happen. A number of the members have said that they will get their overweight husbands to come as there is a man in class, but to date none have come, why? Well that's $64,000 question. Why did I start going to class to lose weight, well, a doctor told me "lose 8 stone or die in the next 5-10 years". I'm only 35 and it's one hell of a wake up call. I was 22 stone when she told me that. That was five weeks ago, I have lost about 1.5lbs per week so far. As of last Wednesday I was 21.6 stone.
Why did I get so heavy, bad diet, sat at a desk all day, lack of exercise, too much drink. I have start to change the direction of my life and you can too.
Tony Dixon, Northampton, UK