Gay guys are stereotyped as being fit and active. But male beauty standards come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. It has been great to see our community embrace different body types, even creating the Bear/Otter community and celebrating the DAD BOD. But even though many love the fuller look, it must be tempered with concerns for our overall health.
(There is a shortage of literature that focuses on the Bear community. Still, the current literature indicates that Bears are more likely to have a higher body mass index, lower self-esteem, and engage in risky sexual behaviors than other gay men.)
Especially as we age, men begin to carry excess weight around our midsection, thus creating the dreaded beer gut. There are numerous reasons why this is bad, but they fall into three categories: Aesthetics, general health, and illness risk.
Belly fat, also known as visceral fat, is the most toxic form of fat. It contributes to an increased risk of inflammation, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and hypertension, which increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, heart attack, and diabetes.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, having a waistline more significant than 40 inches is a sign of large visceral fat deposits.
Determining your belly size
So how do you know if you have too much belly fat?
Measure your waist:
- Stand and place a tape measure around your bare stomach, just above your hipbone.
- Pull the tape measure until it fits snugly around you but doesn’t push into your skin. Make sure the tape measure is level all the way around.
- Relax, exhale, and measure your waist, resisting the urge to suck in your stomach.
The good news is that we can reduce the fat we gain around our midsection, thus increasing our aesthetics and decreasing our risk for health issues and preventable diseases.
Everybody wants to look good. This translates to not only how others see us but how we see ourselves. Personal image is directly connected to how we feel about ourselves, our self-esteem when dealing with others, and either increased or decreased levels of anxiety and depression.
Aesthetics will include everything from how we look in and out of our clothing and even the perceived size and look of our penis.
When it comes to having sex, most men are concerned about the size of their penis. All men want to have a bigger penis and last longer in bed.
But being overweight causes issues. The worst thing you can do to your penis health is gain excessive weight.
At Allure Plastic Surgery Center, we receive many calls from overweight men who want to discuss their penis size.
We have dealt with cases where the men are just too fat, and they can’t see their penis at all. Obese men have growth on their penises. When the surrounding areas of the penis gather extra fat, the penis gets buried under the skin.
Excessive growth of flesh and skin in this manner can also lead to different types of infections. All these are incredibly worrying situations, and serious attention must be paid for improvement.
Of course, all of these come into play in the hyper-competitive world of dating and sex. Your physical health should not be based solely on how others see you, as this leads to many other problems, including eating disorders. But there is no denying that it plays a large role in what we eat, how much we work out, and what we wear.
We are not naive enough to tell you that how others view you should not matter and that you can ignore the haters. But we will remind you that taking care of your weight for your benefit should be your priority. The preverbal icing on the cake is that others may be more attracted to you.
When discussing excessive weight around our midsection, we must first begin with how and why it accumulates in this area. Family medicine doctor Daniel Allan, MD, provides the answers.
Q: How does a so-called “beer belly” form?
A: Too many of any kind of calories, whether they’re from alcohol or sugary foods or just from eating too much food, can increase belly fat. Since an average beer can be more than 150 calories, it doesn’t take long for the calories (and the belly) to build.
Beer can also interfere with fat burn because your liver will preferentially burn alcohol instead of fat when it is consumed.
Q: Are men’s bodies more prone to carrying weight this way?
A: Genetics are involved, but in general, women tend to store fat in their arms, thighs, and buttocks, as well as their bellies. Men, however, tend to store more in their bellies. As both men and women age and their hormone levels decrease, they become more likely to store fat in their midsection. But women do tend to start with smaller bellies.
Beer bellies are more prominent in men as we age because our bodies go through physiological changes. Hormone levels decline, which leads to more fat accumulating around the middle. It is unclear why this fat targets the midsection, but it wraps itself around vital organs, increasing the chance of disease.
With age, muscle mass decreases, and fat tends to increase. This shift changes the number of calories the body burns, therefore requiring fewer calories to sustain daily life. The only way to keep weight from creeping up is to cut down on calories and increase muscle mass by exercising. This will promote and fuel the calorie-burning process at a steady rate.
In men, excess visceral fat is associated with relatively low testosterone levels. Maintaining a healthy weight helps maintain a healthy energy level and sex drive, especially with age.
Hard vs. Soft
Not all beer bellies are the same.
Located in the spaces between organs in your abdominal cavity, visceral fat is packed in tightly, so there’s no jiggle room. As it accumulates in your abdomen, it pushes your abdominal wall outwards, which gives the appearance of having a gut. And while the fat itself isn’t actually hard per se, the tissues that make up your abdomen are, which is why your beer belly feels rigid to the touch.
While a hard, protruding beer belly is caused by the buildup of visceral fat, a soft belly is caused by subcutaneous fat, which is located close to the skin’s surface. If you have subcutaneous belly fat, your belly feels jiggly and softer to the touch. Unlike visceral fat, subcutaneous fat can be pinched.
Carrying extra weight around your midsection is well known to decrease your ability for physical activity, including sex, makes walking and general movement harder, affects your breathing, and disrupts your necessary sleep rhythm. But it also indicates an increased risk for many illnesses and diseases.
Regardless of your overall weight, having a large amount of belly fat increases your risk of:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
- Colorectal cancer
- Sleep apnea
- Premature death from any cause
- High blood pressure
What can you do?
Of course, you know the basic answer is to reduce your belly fat as quickly but safely as possible. If you are a small amount overweight, you might be able to do this by reducing your caloric intake while increasing the amount of calories you expend, usually by diet and exercise. The internet is filled with articles and videos to help you achieve your goals, with or without a gym membership.
If your concerns are more than the above, you should seek advice from your medical provider. Crash diets, weight loss pills, and other extreme methods may take the weight off quickly, but it does not stay off, and there may be adverse side effects to taking this route.
Your doctor will be able to look at your entire medical history, discuss options with you and even provide you with a nutritionist to assist you in getting to a healthy weight that you can maintain throughout your life.