You and your boyfriend/husband/male partner decide to start eating healthy and exercising. A week goes by and you're hungry, tired, and haven't lost a pound. Meanwhile, your counterpart is feeling great and has lost 5 pounds!
You start to wonder why you have nothing to show for your effort even though you've been trying just as hard as he has.
This is of course a generalization. Men struggle with weight loss just like women do. But, on average, women have a harder time shedding pounds than men.
Metabolism describes the rate which your body burns calories. Men generally have a higher metabolic rate than women. If a man and a woman sat on the couch all day and did nothing the man would burn anywhere between 3% to 10% more calories than the woman.
Men also tend to have a more favorable muscle to fat ratio. Muscle burns more calories than fat. This is why when you look at the average muscle and fat percentages for healthy adult men and women the numbers are strikingly different.
A healthy man should have somewhere between 8% and 20% body fat.
A healthy woman? 22% to 33%!
This demonstrates that even as a healthy female your body fat percentage is going to be higher than most of your male counterparts.
Yep, we're going to talk about hormones (eye roll emoji).
Men and women both have a hormone called ghrelin. Ghrelin is also known as your hunger hormone. It stimulates appetite and stores fat.
Women naturally have more ghrelin, and it spikes after exercise. Men have less ghrelin and it's not affected by exercise in the same way. So when it comes to eating (especially post-workout) women have a needier appetite.
Additionally, women have lower rates of a hormone called leptin (particularly post-workout). Leptin is the nemesis of ghrelin in the hormone world. Leptin is the hormone that tells us we are full and should probably stop eating.
There have been a number of studies about this phenomenon and it may not surprise you that it comes down to one the biggest differences between men and women - women can have babies. Much of our hormonal activity as women is to protect our storage of fat during childbearing years. And a whole other set of hormones are activated post-menopause which also make weight loss hard.
So when it comes to the biology of it all, unfortunately, women are at a disadvantage.
3. Portion Distortion
This one is more psychological. If you and your male significant other are trying to lose weight you might try to eat healthy foods together. Great!
But you can't eat the same portions and expect the same results. Given the metabolism and hormone facts you know now this shouldn't be all that surprising.
It seems unfair that you're "allowed" less food, but there are plenty of low calorie-dense foods you can pile up on your plate with no guilt.
What's The Solution?
So now you know that it's not just in your head - he really is losing weight faster than you - and I'm sorry. It can be incredibly frustrating.
But it's not all bad news.
Where women do better than men in the arena of weight loss is longevity from social support. Women tend to connect with others about their weight loss goals and men tend to try to "fix it" alone. The community and pack mentality helps women stick to their goals and achieve weight loss goals over time.
When trying to lose weight women often lean heavily on cardio activities (running, swimming, biking, elliptical) which is awesome! But strength workouts are important too. Remember that muscle burns more calories than fat. By building up your muscle mass you can work towards a higher resting metabolic rate!
And perhaps the healthiest thing you can do to overcome the discrepancy is to let .... it ... go. Because stressing about it is only making it worse - physically and emotionally. Our bodies don't function as well when we're stressed - even when it comes to weight loss.
So focus your health journey on yourself and don't worry about what the other person is doing. Encourage them and ask for their encouragement in return. Getting healthier together as a couple can actually be a positive thing - even if the results come at a different rate.
Be patient and kind to your body. Think about all the amazing things it allows you to do.
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