If you’re a woman who has had a weight loss contest with a male friend, partner, or family member, you’ve probably suspected that he was somehow cheating – and you would essentially be right!
Due to a number of physical and social variables, on average, women tend to have a harder time losing weight than their male counterparts do. Here’s why:
Female bodies run on a slightly slower metabolic clock than male ones do, which can make losing and keeping off weight take more effort and time. On average, higher body fat content and lower muscle mass means that women’s bodies tend to use less energy than men’s over the course of a day. Building more muscle can help with improving metabolic rates.
While men certainly can develop thyroid disease, it is far more common in women. Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, can wreak havoc on hormonal levels and metabolic rates, adding another roadblock to weight loss. If you’re a woman who’s struggling to lose weight and can’t figure out why, or you’re feeling sluggish in general, get checked by your doctor for hypothyroidism.
One of the most common side effects of hormonal birth control (which includes pills, patches, and shots) is weight gain. Medication-related weight gain can thus add to the total number of pounds you want to take off, and can also make keeping them off more difficult. If you’re starting on a new birth control medication, think about adding in some extra exercise to mitigate its effects.
For most men, a little bit of weight gain isn’t a huge deal – it’s more acceptable for men to carry a little paunch around the middle. Likewise, men have far more encouragement to hit the gym and engage in exercises that help them build muscle (and increase their metabolic weight).
Women, on the other hand, have a lot of social pressure to be slim but not muscular. That means that losing weight comes with a significant amount of fear and guilt that can hinder success. Plus, women tend to go for more cardio-based exercises that can certainly help with weight loss, but won’t help improve your overall metabolic rate through increased muscle mass.
Another social influence: men simply have more time to devote to exercise and meal planning. While it’s obviously not the case in every situation, women are far more likely than men to spend their spare time caring for a home, running errands, and performing childcare tasks, leaving them at a disadvantage when it comes to logging hours on the treadmill, and making them more likely to reach for a prepared meal instead of a time-consuming dinner of whole grains, proteins, and veggies.
What to Do?
Ultimately, what’s important is to make your weight loss about you. It’s not a contest. Focus on your own health and well-being and what changes you can make to your life without upsetting the balance of everything else. You’ll be more likely to lose weight and keep it off when it’s not a source of stress, frustration, or guilt.