More than half of Canadian men have unhealthy diets: study

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When it comes to diets, a majority of Canadian men prefer eating junk.

According to recent study by the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation (CMHF), as part of Canadian Men’s Health Week, 62 per cent of men said they had unhealthy diets.

WATCH: New study shows men aren’t hearing health warnings

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New study shows men aren’t hearing health warnings

On top of this, 72 per cent of men had two or more unhealthy habits on top of bad diets, including excessive smoking, drinking, and not getting enough sleep or exercise.

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“Think of these categories as a ladder. Most Canadian men can move up a rung by changing just one unhealthy behaviour,” CMHF president Wayne Hartrick said in a statement. “They can go up two rungs by changing two behaviours, like eating five fist-sized servings of fruit and getting seven hours of sleep.”

READ MORE: Manitoba men are some of the unhealthiest in Canada, survey concludes

The report, which was conduced in April with a sample of 2,000 Canadian men across the country between the ages of 19 and 94, also found 54 per cent of men said they under slept or overslept and 59 per cent of men did not get at least 150 minutes of “moderate-to-strenuous” exercise during the week.

Almost 40 per cent of men said they had unhealthy alcohol consumption habits and 20 per cent of the men smoked cigarettes. Only six per cent of Canadian men considered themselves “healthy.”

“We now have a platform to evaluate health behaviours of Canadian men over time,” CMHF chairman Dr. Larry Goldenberg said in a statement. “After all, 70 per cent of men’s chronic health conditions are caused by lifestyle and, unlike genetics, can be changed to improve your health.”

READ MORE: Nine healthy foods that aren’t actually that good for you

Breaking it down by province, the report also noted Manitoba and Saskatchewan were the unhealthiest provinces in the country (78.6 per cent of men were dubbed unhealthy), while in Ontario, 72 per cent of men fit into this category.

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Men vs. women

Nutritionist and intuitive eating counsellor Tara Miller says regardless of sex, it’s important for all Canadians to pause and see how their bodies are feeling.

“Health supportive changes that last are ones that people can feel and enjoy, not things they think they should or have to do,” she tells Global news via email.

“I think people get frustrated with restrictive and conflicting health advice, and just give up. We often make healthy living look so black and white, that is seems unattainable. If we help people to see that health supportive activities and foods can be pleasurable and make them feel good, I think this type of lifestyle gets easier to pursue.”

Registered dietitian Rosanna Lee of Toronto adds rather than viewing factors like sleep, diet and exercises as a standalone, health and longevity studies should consider the genetic, environmental, as well as the social influencers into the equation.

“Think of it this way: we don’t just eat, sleep, exercise, smoke and drink in silos,” she tells Global News. “Certain scenarios or influences play a role in what we do. Unfortunately, we often overlook these other components, which greatly impact health.”

She also thinks research should be based on individuals.

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“It’s too risky to say that one sex engages in certain dietary behaviours over another sex. I believe in a more individualized approach when it comes to diets.”

Keeping a healthy diet

But Lee says that in general, Canadians who want to live healthier lives can start by being more mindful of what they are doing, “from buying foods to prep, to eating our meals, to the time we take for ourselves to exercise and also to relax.”

“It is not until we realize what we are doing that we may be more agreeable to changing our lifestyle habits,” she says.  

Miller adds if you are not sleeping well, you can experiment with reducing caffeine consumption and seeing how that impacts sleep.

“If you notice positive results [like] less tossing and turning, waking up feeling rested, again, it is likely that behaviour change will stick.”

READ MORE: Best and worst diets of 2018 — here’s how to get started

Most of us know the typical recommendations: eat well, drink water and aim for 30 minutes of activity every day. But don’t take on everything at once.

Rather than aiming for the recommended servings of food groups per day, get a sense of what you are eating each day and how much of it. Record it down for three days and include one weekend into the food diary,” Lee says. “The typical recommendation is at minimum 30 minutes per day for moderate to vigorous activity. A good tip is to take a look at your work setting and find opportunities to move more.” 

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