But that some women might do as well as men, if not better (!) in the long term.
It also seems as if there might be something we can do about this weighty gender difference!
And if you haven’t guessed already, we’re looking at dietary matters here – not driving differences as you might imagine.
Do men lose weight more easily than women?
After a scientific study to compare male and female participants following a variety of diets (Atkin’s, SlimFast, Rosemary Conley and Weight-Watchers) Dr Sally Norton suggests that men beat the women hands-down for initial weight loss.
After 2 months, men had lost twice as much weight as women – however, their weight loss slowed over the following months, suggesting women were more likely to stick with the new eating regime for longer.
A recent review of 49 studies on the subject found only a small difference in weight loss between the sexes – but it was in favour of the men.
Why do men lose weight more easily than women?
It’s not just one reason. In the same way that weight-gain is due to many factors, weight-loss is influenced by many different factors too and these may affect men and women differently…
+ Most men are bigger than most women to start with.
Men, on the whole, are bigger than women – and the bigger you are, the more energy you burn just by moving around or, even just by sitting on the sofa, doing nothing much more than existing! Their basal metabolic rate is greater….and as basal metabolic rate accounts for about 70% of the energy we burn every day, you can see why they may have a head-start. All they need to do is cut down their intake a bit, and their greater energy-burning capacity means quick results.
+ Men have more muscle.
Men tend to have more muscle (fat-free mass) than women – and bodies with higher muscle composition burn more energy. What’s more, as we get older our muscle mass reduces (by about 8% per decade over the age of 40) – a condition known as sarcopenia…which may help explain why our ability to lose weight is affected by our age as well as our sex.
When we think of exercising to lose weight, we often think of aerobic exercise – pounding the treadmill, brisk walking, swimming. Studies show, however, that people who engage in mixed forms of exercise, adding resistance training to aerobic, tend to lose more weight…especially around the waist where it is associated with more health problems.
It makes sense for women to challenge the men for the dumbbells and build a bit of muscle in their own right!
+ Men are less involved in food preparation
A sweeping generalisation, of course, and I know many men who do all the cooking at home (not mine, sadly!)…
Why are women less likely to diet like men?
+ It’s often the women who prepare and dish out the food to children and partners, giving her more time and opportunity to pick. Those ‘forgotten’ calories soon add up.
+ Women are at home more
Women are more likely to work at home than men and to spend less time away from home than men. We know that over 2/3rds of women are wage-earners with around half of those working part-time for a whole host of reasons including family commitments and overheads.
This puts many women closer to the biscuit barrel and therefore more susceptible to snacking during the working day.
In contrast, men who are busy at work with no easy access to the family fridge or snacking cupboard seem less able to feed hunger pangs in between meals.
+ Women are more likely to be emotional eaters.
Another generalisation, I know, but my years of sitting in clinic back up research that shows that women are more likely to comfort eat, snack out of boredom or frustration or eat for many reasons other than hunger.
Many men, in contrast, seem to just over-indulge in pints and portions!
It can be easier to address simple habits than the underlying stresses and emotions that may drive over-eating; and many diets fail to do anything other than restrict food intake.
At the end of the day – male or female – what can we all do?
We can’t fight our XX chromosomes but we can make some changes to maintain a healthy weight. Our basal metabolic rate may account for 70% of our energy expenditure but that still leaves 30% in our control… and that comes down to our activity.
1/ Keep on-the-go, taking every opportunity to move, and the energy burnt will soon clock up.
2/ Given the choice, walk don’t drive…
3/ Add in some muscle-building exercise too and you will not only look slimmer, but burn more calories even when you put your feet up afterwards!
4/ Look at your diet. Have a sustaining breakfast like porridge to last you through till lunch (or eat it for lunch if the afternoon is a low point for your energy levels).
5/ Banish the biscuit barrel in favour of healthy snacks like fruit, almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
6/ Finally, look at ‘when’ and ‘why’ you are eating as well as ‘what’. Is it guilt-eating or stress from trying to juggle a job and family… and failing to do both as well as you think you should? Take steps to address those underlying issues as well as ensuring you have covered the basics of portion control and eating real, non-processed food.
This is a guest blog by Dr Sally Norton, a UK leading health expert who founded www.vavista.com with the intention of helping people eat better to then live and work better as a direct response.
To interview Dr Sally Norton please email Teresa Dadey or phone 0750 2111 217