Why does it seem like men have it easier when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off? Through a combination of research and my own ideas I have come to the conclusion that there are 4 main reasons why men and women gain and lose weight differently. I warn you, the content of this post may seem very stereotypical, but I am using generalities to help explain.
1. body type: yes it’s true! women and men are built differently! men are genetically designed to have more muscle and less fat. A healthy body fat average for a man is 8-19% while healthy body fat percentage for a woman is 21-33% (Gallagher et al. Am J Clin Nut 2000; 72:694-701). Why is this? Well God is quite brilliant in his design. To be blunt and VERY general- men are designed for hard labor while women are designed to support childbirth (and I realize these are not the ONLY things men and women are designed for). Men tend build muscle more easily and the more muscle you have, the more energy you burn (Nutrition, Thompson & Manore), thus resulting in less fat. This is why it is a good idea for women to do strength training twice a week (according to the FIT principle). In contrast to men, women need more fat stores to be able to get pregnant, sustain the difficulties of pregnancy, and to make breast milk for their babies. Women who are underweight have a lot of difficulty getting pregnant, carrying the pregnancy to term, and producing breast milk. So, thank you Lord for the fat that enables us to have babies!
2. mind set: Women are emotional eaters. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Women tend to be more emotional and we like to sooth, encourage and drown our emotions in tasty dishes. Men are not as emotional as women, typically, and they do not feel the same urge to eat through their feelings. This makes it harder for women to have healthful diets, avoid temptation, or just get through a whole month without eating unhealthful foods.
3. environment and roles: On average, whether working or not, women spend more time in the kitchen. Despite the amount of women in the workforce, women still tend to do the majority of the cooking and grocery shopping. So it is natural for us to eat more (or at least be tempted to eat more) when we are surrounded by food more often (www.medicinenet.com).
4. perception: Women are creatures of beauty and we tend to be more aware of our appearance. On average, men don’t notice or care about their appearance as much as women do. Trust me, I know there are exceptions to this rule, but let’s stick with the majority here. Because of our keen sense of what we look like, we notice slight changes in weight and tend to be more concerned about it then men do. So frequently women will spend more time concerned about and worrying about their weight than a man would. This can give us the impression that men rarely have to worry about their weight the way that women do.
Both men and women struggle with weight, health and fitness. However, body types, mind set, environment and perception all contribute to the sense that women struggle with weight loss more than men do.