Does this scenario sound familiar? You’ve started a weight loss plan with your husband—only he’s losing weight faster than you—what gives? Jenny Craig Nutritionist Monica Ropar addresses this common refrain and shares the science behind what is really going on.
There’s no denying, men and women are different. And how they lose weight is no exception. While it may feel disheartening when it seems like your male counterpart is losing weight without as much effort– don’t hit the panic button just yet.
Here are four scientific reasons men lose weight differently than women – and why you shouldn’t feel discouraged.
1. Body Composition
Thanks to very basic differences in physiology, men’s and women’s bodies process calories in distinctive ways. In general, men have a higher concentration of lean muscle mass than women—which means their bodies naturally burn more calories doing the same activity, or even at rest, than women’s bodies do.1 Statistically, it all adds up to about a 5–10% faster metabolism, which may support greater short-term weight loss.2 While men may get the upper-hand initially, studies have shown that after about six months, weight loss usually levels out between the sexes.3
2. Testosterone vs. Estrogen
As it turns out, the hormones that make men and women so different can also have a dramatic effect on weight.4 Men’s bodies are naturally rich in testosterone, which not only helps to build protein, but also fosters the growth of muscle mass during strength training workouts.5
Women, by contrast, have a higher concentration of estrogen—a hormone that is essential for healthy reproduction, childbearing and even breastfeeding.6 From an evolutionary standpoint, estrogen is designed to help women maintain higher fat reserves (around 6–11% higher than men) specifically for these purposes.7 The monthly hormone variations that are part of the menstrual cycle can also cause intense cravings for foods that are high in salt, sugar and fat.8
3. Fat Storage
You’ve probably noticed that men and women “carry weight” differently; this, too, is tied back to physiological differences. When a man gains weight, the excess fat is typically stored around the abdomen as “visceral fat.”9 Women’s excess weight is more often stored around the thighs and hips as “subcutaneous fat.”10 However, when we reduce our caloric intake in order to lose weight, the fat around our abdominal area is usually the first to go.11 So initially, a man’s weight loss may be more noticeable if he holds excess abdominal fat.
4. Numbers Game
Here’s something else that’s important to consider: if you look at weight loss from a purely mathematical perspective—men typically have more to lose. For a 200-pound male, 20 pounds is a 10% loss; for a 150-pound woman, 10% would only be 15 pounds.
Additionally, if a male and female are following the same caloric plan, the numbers also likely stack up in the man’s favor. If he typically ate 3,000 calories a day and she ate around 2,000, reducing both of their intakes to 1,500 per day will produce different results.
The Good News: Sustainability is the Key
While it may seem men have a natural advantage when it comes to weight loss, studies show that in the long run, both men and women’s weight loss becomes comparable.12 While men tend to lose weight faster for the first two months of consistent nutrition and lifestyle changes, the playing field does become more level after the six-month mark.12
The key to success in any life change is approaching it not with a “quick fix” mindset, but with a “small, steady shifts” attitude. Stay committed, and focus on your successes rather than any little missteps that might occur along the way.
For more information on how Jenny Craig can help you with the weight loss journey, contact your local neighborhood Jenny Craig center.
Edited by Elisa - Jenny Craig