This article is part of a series on weight loss using European approaches to losing weight and staying fit. If you would like to see the first article in the series, please consult here, “French and Italian Weight Loss Methods: Time.” This latest article looks at the differences between men and women and weight loss. The French and Italian men and women are just like the same gender species world-wide, over here in France, women complain how easy men can lose weight where (us) women must struggle just to lose a kilo. Is it true that men lose weight easier than women? Here is how women and men are different and how both sexes can have a win-win weight loss.
Are men’s bodies adapted to stay leaner and lose weight easier?
Sometimes I counsel couples who want to eat healthier and lose weight together. The problem (for the woman in the couple) is that the male often seems to lose weight faster and easier while the female struggles to keep up. So frustrating when you are trying to be on a disciplined eating track and you see your other half doing (perhaps) less efforts with greater rewards.
We are different, men and women. Different brains, different body parts, different body shapes and different body physiology. And isn’t this great? Because how boring would it be if we all resembled each other? And when you look at the process of reproduction, it wouldn’t work any different way.
In fact, it is these key differences in a man’s and woman’s physiology that makes it so that women (in general) hold weight in different places, hold onto body fat for pregnancy and lactation, hold a different type of fat (that is harder to get rid of), and crave different foods than men. And all these differences mean that women find it harder to lose weight compared to men, unless women stay on track over a longer period with their weight loss plan. Find a determined woman who focuses on losing weight, and over time her weight loss patterns even out with her other male half in the couple and there is no difference in weight loss rate and efficacy.
The key is to stick with it.
Key Differences in Men and Women’s Physiology
The reason that men lose weight faster or can stay leaner easier compared to women is mostly due to differences in body physiology.
Visceral Fat vs. Subcutaneous Fat
Visceral fat, or intra-abdominal fat, is metabolically active fat that is located (often) in men in the abdominal (the stomach) area around organs. This fat is the easiest to get rid of, but is also the most dangerous type of fat for our health when compared to subcutaneous fat, which is located under the skin. Subcutaneous fat is often located in women in the buttocks, hips and thighs, and it is considered as the hardest fat to get rid of because it is there for a reason: reproduction and lactation.
Whether we like to admit it or not (me no!) men have greater ratio of muscle mass to fat compared to women. This is because of the male hormone testosterone. Women have more percentage of body fat compared to men, but this is normal: women get pregnant, give birth and lactate, all reasons that the female body’s physiology is ‘programmed’ to store fat, to help with the reproduction process.
Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, by 5%-10%, so the more muscle to fat ratio, the more calories a person will burn. In this muscle area, men have the advantage (unless they are sedentary couch potatoes) and thus, with their higher muscle mass, men also respond faster to exercise and a quicker weight loss.
Meat or carbohydrates? In general, studies have shown that men prefer eating meat while women want to eat carbohydrates, fruits and veggies. The differences in food preferences may be somewhat due to hormone differences: with testosterone, men may need to eat more protein and iron-rich foods, and these food preferences may make a difference in men’s body weight and weight loss. Additionally, when men start to pay attention to their diet when trying to lose a few pounds, they may initially lose weight faster because they are (actually) changing their diet. Women, in general, usually pay careful attention (already) to what they are eating and going on a stricter diet doesn’t change their weight as much as as it does in their male counterparts.
Testosterone in men vs. Estrogen in women. Testosterone builds muscle, and estrogen plays a key role in a women’s reproduction process. The hormone estrogen increases fat stores, especially around the hip, thighs and buttocks (Oh, lucky us women!). This key reproductive hormone in women is one key reason we have more fat stores around the hard-to-lose fat areas in the hip, thighs and buttocks.
Where fat stores accumulate
In men, fat stores usually accumulate in the middle abdominal area. In women, fat stores usually accumulate below the waist. When men are losing weight, the metabolically active visceral fat (intra-abdominal fat) is lost first. This is why you notice men’s weight loss faster than women’s weight loss-the body fat men are losing is right there in front of us-on the middle. As it disappears, it is more noticable to the eye. For women, that hard to remove subcutaneous fat is hiding under our skirts, dresses and is less well noticed for small amounts of weight loss, unless a women loses a large amount of weight.
Enzyme differences: LPL and HSL
LPL: Lipoprotein Lipase adds body fat and HSL: Hormone Sensitive Lipase breaks fat down.
The fat storage areas in men and women also differ because of enzymes differences. In women, the fat storage enzyme, LPL, lipoprotein lipase, is located and secreted from the fat cells in the hips and thighs, whereas in men LPL is secreted from the fat cells in the abdomen area. The role of the LPL enzyme is to lay down more fat. Women have 3 to 5 times more LPL in the lower body compared to their upper body.
HSL, or hormone sensitive lipase, is an enzyme whose job is to break down fat for the body’s use. In females, HSL is very slow in releasing fat from the hips and thighs, whereas in men, the HSL is high in the visceral fat area so that fat in this area is faster to breakdown.
A diet higher in refined foods, like white bread and other foods you see in this picture, increases insulin secretion and increases fat stores, especially in the abdominal area. For both men and women, a diet high in refined foods increases insulin and increases fat stores, especially in the abdominal area.
Psychology: Emotions vs. Ego
In general, my experience with male and female clients, is that women, more than their male counterparts, tend to make some of their worse food choices based on emotions and emotional eating. Men lean towards having a bigger ego (this is what I have read!), and may not have the urge to indulge when they are having a bad day.
Good news is that perseverance pays off for both sexes
Here is the good news: after a period of a few months, men’s and women’s efforts both pay off and equalize on the mission to lose weight. For women, the focus on sticking to a weight loss plan for at least six months helps women catch up to men.
Yes, it is easier for men to drop a few pounds (and that is frustrating), but at least efforts are rewarded in both camps with continued long-term efforts.
And you women reading out there, if you want to catch up with your other half even faster, here are my suggestions (below) on how to do it.
Stick with your weight loss and fitness goals! It does pay off.
How can men lose weight efficiently and rapidly?
Here are some men’s weight loss tips that work for men (and women too!)
- Keep exercising: building muscle mass helps to burn more calories, stay metabolically efficient, and help with lowering visceral body fat.
- Lower intake of refined foods to help decrease insulin response.
- Increase intake of fruits and vegetables and eat less carbohydrates such as breads, rice and pasta.
- Continue towards a long-term weight loss program, it is only after several months of dieting and exercise, where real weight loss habits are engrained into normal habits.
How women can catch up to men even faster on the men vs. women weight loss battle:
- Weight training: building muscle mass is one key on losing weight faster. A weight loss plan should include a way to increase muscle mass thru aerobic exercise (running, walking, biking) and some weight lifting at home or at the gym. You don’t have to bench press, you can pick up two cans of tomatoes and pump it up!
- End emotional eating and stick with a big ego: A emotion food and drink record can often open eyes on whether you are engaging in emotional eating or have some strong links to food that are not hunger related. By breaking these links, you are encouraging more eating based on hunger and not stress. Why not stick with a big ego?
- Lower insulin response: Lower intake of refined carbohydrates. This is good advice for both men and women. Fresher and less refined foods means lower insulin response and resistence and less fat storage.
- Don’t give up: It takes about 6 months to catch up with men’s faster rates of weight loss. Just keep going.
Hope you enjoyed this article on the weight loss war between men and women. I would greatly appreciate you sharing this article to those who may benefit from the information. If you would like to subscribe to our monthly newsletter and article updates (then you won’t miss the next article in the series) why not subscribe with us? Here is the button to do it:
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