Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows that it isn’t easy. For women, however, it seems to be even harder. But why?
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There are several anatomical reasons to explain why you may have hit a weight loss plateau, while your husband continues to slim down effortlessly – even if you’re both on the same health and fitness plan. They include biology, hormones, muscle mass, metabolism and others.
This article explores five ways in which women are different from men when it comes to losing weight.
The primary male hormone is testosterone. Testosterone is responsible for more than just sex drive; it affects muscle mass by increasing muscle protein synthesis, which impacts how muscles respond to exercise. This well-known link between testosterone and muscle enhancement is one reason why athletes and bodybuilders use testosterone-based supplements.
Women, unfortunately, produce far less testosterone than their male counterparts. Meanwhile, the female hormone, estrogen, is largely responsible for making women’s bodies ready for pregnancy – which means easy weight gain and a lower metabolism. Estrogen also helps manage blood sugar, so when a woman’s estrogen levels are thrown off, it can turn you into a weight-gain machine.
Having a higher percentage of lean muscle mass naturally boosts a person’s metabolism, male or female. This is because muscle burns more energy (calories), even while at rest. Because it is harder for women to build much lean muscle, this keeps some women in a cycle of dieting, in which they try to exercise and lose weight even with a slow metabolism. A slower metabolism also means that the foods women eat are more likely to get instantly get stored – you guessed it – as fat. The best advice for a woman trying to get fit is to do workouts that include weight training to build muscle mass and boost the metabolism.
3. More Biology
The American Journal of Physiology cites a recent study that showed that in women, the hormone ghrelin (the one that screams, “I’m hungry”) spikes after exercise. Additionally, the hormone leptin (the “I’m full” hormone) drops dramatically. This is completely opposite of what happens in men biochemically after a workout. After exercising, it’s more like that women’s brains will be signaling voracious hunger, while men’s brains aren’t hungry whatsoever. Who do you think is going to eat more?
4. Food Stimuli
A 2009 study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined the brain reactions of men and women when the subjects were exposed to the smell, sight or taste of things like cinnamon buns, pizza, chocolate cake, etc. The findings were very intriguing. In female participants, the stimulation caused the area of the brain that controls hunger to be highly activated, but there was zero notable change in the brains of the male subjects. The study concluded that women respond to food-related sensory stimulation far more often than men do. While the science isn’t yet concrete, there’s reason to believe that women have a higher sensitivity toward food stimuli, and may therefore have a harder time saying no to tempting foods.
5. Mental States And Behaviour
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has performed numerous studies on the topic of how psychology affects men and women’s weight loss efforts — and their findings are quite revealing. First, they found that women tend to be more “emotional eaters” than men. This means that more women than men seek comfort in food as a response to certain emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, guilt, anxiety, stress and grief. Emotional eating creates a much more profound reason for eating than simple hunger, and it can be a very difficult cycle to break.
Another finding is that women often change their eating behaviours once they become involved in a romantic relationship. Women in relationships eat more often with a partner than they did when they were single, and they often eat more because their partners (men) tend to eat more, too.
So there are many differences between men and women – more than one article could cover – but the interesting thing here is that when it comes to staying fit and losing weight, there are significant differences between men and women.
Being aware of these differences can help us recognize these pitfalls before they affect us as well as arm us with valuable insight on why it’s harder to lose weight. Hopefully this information has helped you become more aware of your tendencies and behaviors and make the necessary corrections. It may be harder for women to lose weight, but it is certainly not impossible!