Illustration by Rick Hudock/The Record

Man vs. Food

Any gal who has ever tried to shed weight in a contest with her husband might be dismayed to find her guy can be the biggest loser.


"In general, men have more muscle mass than women, thus their calorie use at rest is higher than a woman's," said Joan Walsh, a registered dietician with a doctorate in nutrition who teaches at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, Calif. "Older men, however, have less muscle mass as a rule than younger men, so this weight is harder to lose as you age."

A guy with a fast metabolism may see his weight creep up as he hits middle age, and it's not a good feeling.

Just ask Paul Canepa.

He and his wife, Leslie, have been making a conscious effort to exercise and eat healthfully.

"I think if you are going to do something, it needs to be something that you can always live by," said Canepa, who operates several family-owned carwashes and serves on the Stockton City Council. "My wife hates that I can lose weight faster than her. It's a definite sticking point. But it helps if you do it together, because if one spouse is watching their food intake and the other isn't, then it's just miserable."

Canepa has lost 30 pounds by cutting out empty calories, using portion control and exercising. His wife, who still supports him even though he outpaces her, has lost 10 pounds.

"I was 226 pounds. That's not healthy," he said. "I cut out all alcohol. I cut out sodas. I split meals with my wife. If I eat a sandwich, I have it open-faced. I don't deprive myself, but I really watch the portions. I use a smaller plate, and I don't pile it on."

It also helped, the yo-yo dieter said, to set realistic goals.

Canepa said experiences with a well-known diet program left him obsessed with watching every bite. That made him — and his family — miserable.

"I set a realistic goal this time," he said. "Forty pounds is a daunting task, but I set 10-pound increments."

The Canepas tried out a training program that focused on running, they go on brisk five-mile walks and he has started hitting the gym.

"I need to lift weights," he said. "I think that would boost my metabolism."

Good idea, according to Mark Van Ness, Ph.D., an associate professor at University of the Pacific who instructs classes in exercise physiology and nutrition science.

"Doing some sort of resistance training like weight lifting helps preserve lean tissue while you are on a weight-loss diet, uses up glycogen stores and raises metabolism for several hours afterward," said Van Ness, who is writing a book, "Fat Loves Me, A Weight Loss Guide for Weight Loss Experts."

He added that aerobic activity should last a continuous minimum of 45 minutes with a long, gradual warmup. That's best for metabolizing fat, stimulating fat metabolism and improving insulin sensitivity, the professor said.

Canepa said he hopes he's found a healthful path that he can follow for a lifetime.

After all, it's not just women who are worried about their weight. Guys like to look good, as well, and be health-conscious.

"It's sad that people use weight to judge. People treat you differently when you are overweight," he said. "I'm the same old Paul whether I'm fat and jolly or trim and fit. But I feel good. I'm happy. That's for sure."

And he has one last tip.

"Don't eat when you're not hungry," Canepa said. "Just don't."

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