For most guys, dieting isn't bar-stool or even water-cooler conversation. Nor do men generally relish the thought of loading up on salad, lemon water, or brothy soups. "'Diet,' to guys, sounds very feminine," says Brian Wansink, a food behavior scientist at Cornell University and author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.
So many plans have muscled up in an attempt to attract men, going heavy on meat, allowing beer, and emphasizing dumbbells rather than yoga mats. Some have recruited professional athletes, like Charles Barkley, as spokespeople to project that dieting isn't just a woman's game.
U.S. News, which publishes annual Best Diets rankings, took a closer look at 6 diets, listed in alphabetical order below, that are geared toward men. Two plans, the Men's Health Diet and Flat Belly Diet for Men, have not been evaluated by U.S. News. While these plans may resonate better with men, there's no promise that they'll deliver greater better results than gender-neutral diets can.
The Abs Diet. Want to drop up to 12 pounds of belly fat in two weeks and (maybe) rock a six-pack in six weeks? No problem, claims Abs Diet creator David Zinczenko, editor in chief of Men's Health. The New Abs Diet ($25.99, Rodale, 2010) is male-oriented, while its counterpart, the New Abs Diet for Women ($25.99, Rodale, 2011) appeals to a female crowd. When most guys embark on a new diet, they ask one thing, Zinczenko says: When do we eat? The Abs Diet is all about eating more of the right foods more often; followers get at least six meals and snacks a day. And one cheat meal a week is required, a time for men to indulge.
Flat Belly Diet for Men. Men who sign up for the Flat Belly diet get more calories than women who follow the plan. And the Flat Belly Diet for Men ($15.99, Rodale, 2010) features male models and success stories. Recipes are designed to appeal to guys, too. Options include a rancho-chipotle omelet, spicy chicken cheese steak with caramelized onions and peppers, and grilled flank steak with olive oil mojo sauce.
Jenny Craig. Yes, in previous years the diet has been backed by female diet role models like Valerie Bertinelli and Phylicia Rashad. But the company is stepping up its efforts to target men. Last year, spokesman Jason Alexander—a former Seinfeld star—said he lost 30 pounds on Jenny Craig for Men. Guys are paired with a Jenny Consultant who is trained to address male dietary issues; aside from that, the men's and women's plans are identical, and all participants get three meals and two snacks a day. The company has even bragged about the fact that points-counting is unnecessary: "Jenny Craig knows that the only time you want to count points is at a basketball game."
The Men's Health Diet. "This is a diet that puts a man in charge by giving him a list of foods he can order in a restaurant or buy in a supermarket, and rules he has to follow most, but not all of the time," says Stephen Perrine, editor-in-chief of Best Life magazine, who created the diet when he was at Men's Health. Men must stick to seven "rules of the ripped" 80 percent of the time, he says. These include eating protein with every meal and snack, never skipping breakfast, and eating before and after exercise.
The Paleo Diet. Eat like a caveman? Talk about playing to stereotype! Going Paleo means chowing down on, say, Atlantic salmon for breakfast or a cold pork chop for lunch. Grains are outlawed, which may make this plan tough for women, who typically favor carbs. "You might get a little more traction with men on the Paleo Diet," says David Katz, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center.
Weight Watchers. Over the past year, the popular points-counting program has begun touting technology to appeal to men. The company promotes its iPhone and Droid apps that track food, exercise, and weight. "Men like apps," says Katz. The company's website for men promotes a beer cheat sheet that lists calorie counts for various brews, and it boasts that followers can eat anything they want—so heading to a bar or wings joint is OK. Weight Watchers also attempts to connect with guys via spokesman Charles Barkley, whose ads read: "Lose like a guy who hates losing."