It can be a struggle! Losing weight often isn’t easy for men or women. Otherwise, diet books wouldn’t be so popular! But when it comes to shedding those extra pounds, men have an advantage. Females who change their lifestyle to lose weight will often find their weight loss lags behind that of their male counterparts.
It might be disappointing if your male partner eats the same things that you do and they lose weight faster, leaving you to wonder what you’re doing wrong. But according to science, there are certain factors that make it easier and faster for men to shed excess body fat, although both genders can lose weight over time through lifestyle changes. Let’s look at five reasons men often lose weight faster than women.
Men and Women Have Differing Metabolic Rates
Men are often larger than women and have more lean body mass. In other words, women carry more body fat and less muscle. Since muscle is more metabolically active tissue, the extra muscle gives men a metabolic advantage. Plus, men have bigger organs that use more energy relative to a woman’s smaller organs. Therefore, men burn more calories even at rest relative to women.
One way women can “even things up” is to weight train. Building muscle modestly boosts resting metabolic rate for greater fat loss. Plus, strength training improves body composition even without weight loss. So, don’t skip the weight training! Cardio doesn’t offer the same metabolic advantages as working your muscles against resistance.
Women Are More Likely to Have Health Conditions That Contribute to Weight Gain
Women are more prone to health problems that make it hard to lose weight, particularly hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) and polycystic ovarian syndrome. (PCOS) In fact, females are almost five times as likely to have an under-active thyroid relative to men and the most common cause is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition that damages thyroid tissue. Hashimoto’s is most likely to show up in women after menopause. By reducing thyroid function, resting metabolism slows, and it’s harder to lose weight.
Another cause of weight gain and slow weight loss is PCOS. Polycystic ovarian syndrome is more common in women before menopause. With PCOS, multiple cysts form on the ovaries. This syndrome is linked with insulin resistance and weight gain, particularly in the waist and tummy. Since insulin resistance increases the tendency to store fat, particularly around the middle, PCOS makes it quite difficult to lose weight. Fortunately, lifestyle changes that lead to weight loss can reverse PCOS, although some women need medications too.
Stress is universal and both genders experience stress, but research shows women are more likely than men to channel stress and worry into eating comfort foods, a problem known as emotional eating. It’s important to know that emotional eating is not a diet problem — it’s a problem with emotions.
The type of foods people eat to relieve stress are usually high in fat and sugar, so it’s not surprising that emotional eating contributes to weight gain. Chronic stress also elevates the stress hormone cortisol and that can trigger cravings for sugary foods. In turn, the extra cortisol caused by eating high-sugar foods leads to gains in belly fat.
Although there isn’t an easy answer for stress and emotional eating, physical activity, especially walking outdoors, helps lower cortisol and ease stress. Having ways to relieve stress is important if you’re prone to stress eating. Other stress management techniques include meditation, yoga, and deep breathing. Once you’re aware of the connection between food and emotions, you can use those insights to start slowly making changes in your eating habits.
Female Sex Hormones
Before menopause, women have significantly higher levels of estradiol, a form of estrogen, relative to men. This sex hormone increases fat storage around the hips and thighs. When estradiol drops after the menopausal transition, women are more likely to gain weight around their waistline and tummy and the biggest problem becomes an expanding waistline. So, estradiol affects where you store fat.
Before menopause, fluctuations in female sex hormones, including estradiol and progesterone can also cause changes in appetite and increase the desire to eat sugary food and that makes it harder to win the weight loss war. Studies show sex hormones in women play a significant role in driving the desire to eat sweet stuff.
Higher Levels of Stress
It’s a stressful world, and women often get a double dose of stress between managing a family and a career. Some middle-aged women may have multiple responsibilities, for example, caring for children and aging parents. As mentioned, stress raises the stress hormone cortisol, and that makes it harder to lose weight. Elevated cortisol also causes a shift in fat storage from the hips and thighs to the belly. So, an expanding waist size can be a sign of poorly managed stress.
Unfortunately, fat storage around the waist is the most unhealthy kind. It’s a marker of increased visceral fat, a type of deep abdominal fat that increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. From a health standpoint, it’s safer to store fat on your hips and thighs as opposed to your belly.
t’s important to have ways to manage stress. Moderate exercise helps with stress management, but other approaches, like yoga, meditation, deep breathing, writing in a journal, and spending time in nature, may be beneficial too.
The Bottom Line
Now you know some reasons women lose weight slower than men. Here’s the good news. Research shows that men may lose weight faster, but weight loss evens up after six months and men and women lose similar amounts of weight over the long term. So, if you’re female, be patient and the weight loss will come. Stick to the plan and be consistent with your lifestyle habits.
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