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The Real Reasons Women Have a Hard Time Losing Weight
- Updated: August 17, 2014
Throughout history, women have had a much more difficult time losing weight than men. Unfortunately, it seems that most women stay the same size or drop just a few pounds when following the same diet plan as men who lose a significant amount of weight. No matter the diet or amount of exercise, weight loss for women continues to be a serious and frustrating challenge.
There are actually a number of viable reasons this happens. For example, there are unique differences between women and men from a biological and behavioral standpoint. Even though it seems men have it easier, women need to know that with dedication, determination, and a few struggles along the way, it is possible to reach a healthy weight goal.
The good news – researchers are now finding more information about differences in how women versus men lose weight. As such, this serves as inspiration but also anticipation that in the near future better weight loss programs will be developed and actually tailored to be more effective.
According to a MayGallup poll, more than 33% of Americans are obese, which does not include those in the “overweight category”. Unfortunately, the obesity epidemic has continued to worsen over the years, and as a result, grabbed increased attention of top scientists, researchers, and medical professionals, all working hard to find a workable solution.
For decades, people have been taught the best way to lose weight is to burn off more calories than consumed. While that advice is still good, experts now believe weight loss, especially for women, is far more complicated. For instance, one of the first things to consider is exercise and nutrition. By nature, men have more muscle mass than women do and since muscle burns more calories than it does fat, men typically have a metabolism between 3% and 10% faster than women.
According to a top nutritionist and certified personal trainer, the difference in weight loss between the two genders is exacerbated in the gym. For instance, women often use heavy weights and focus on cardio fitness as a way to create bulk whereas men use heavy weights to increase both muscle composition and metabolic rate.
As far as food, there is evidence that the wiring of the brain is unique for women and men. A 2009 publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences magazine covered information gathered in studies that showed increased activity in the region of the brain responsible for controlling the drive to eat in women. Even if not hungry, the women studied still had higher activity levels after observing, smelling, and tasting foods like chocolate cake and pizza.
Another aspect of women struggling to lose weight is biochemistry. According to a 2009 study in the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integral, and Comparable Physiology, women have two distinct hormones – Ghrelin, which tells the brain the body is hungry after working out, and Leptin, which signals an “I’m full” reaction. In women, these two hormones fluctuate, thereby creating risk for weight gain, whereas in men, they do not.
If women do not consume adequate calories, reproduction hormones and ovulation become suppressed. For this reason, some researchers believe the ups and downs of Ghrelin and Leptin are simply the body’s natural way of fighting deficits in energy as a means of preserving fertility. Of course, there is more involved in the fight against weight well beyond biology to include behavior and emotion, things that impact women very differently than men.
Something else to consider is the way emotions dictate women’s weight. As an example, when women start a new love relationship, they often begin eating more, which ultimately leads to weight gain. On the other hand, when going through a breakup or divorce, women usually eat less, thereby experiencing weight loss.
To better understand differences in weight for women versus men, it is important to look at the various driving forces. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study in 2013 that had determined women are more typically emotional eaters than men. Interestingly, emotional eaters usually grab “feel good” foods to include those high in salt, sugar, and fat, which signal the reward region of the brain. Obviously, these types of foods are notorious for causing weight gain.
As shown, there are differences in how women and men eat but also how they gain weight. Burning more calories than consumed is always a good rule of thumb when wanting to drop unwanted pounds but all of the other things mentioned should also be considered.