We all have a tendency to compare ourselves to others. One of the most common things I hear from women in my office is the perception that men lose weight more easily than women. But is it true? As with so many of the questions I get asked every day… it depends.
How rapidly you are able to lose weight depends on a lot of things, including genetics. Men do tend to have a higher percentage of lean muscle mass than women, and this can contribute to a higher metabolic rate. That means weight tends to come off more easily and stay off better. However, I think it’s pretty obvious that this isn’t always clear-cut – I see a lot of guys in my obesity clinic who have built plenty of muscle over the years.
Men and women also tend to carry weight in different places. Many of us have heard the “apple” vs. “pear” comparison. Men generally carry their fat tissue higher, more out in front in the belly, while women tend to gain weight lower, more in the thighs and backside. Again, this isn’t universal. Both patterns occur in both genders, but it is true that belly fat is linked to increased risk for heart disease and other health problems.
Not much we can do about the genetics of gender, but maybe we can turn the lessons they teach to our advantage. Too often in fighting to lose weight the focus is on how fast we can drop pounds, but when we neglect building lean muscle mass we set ourselves up for a harder road later on. Strength training may slow the loss of pounds, but in the long run it means a faster more stable metabolism, which means a leaner, healthier build.
So, when you’re planning your weight loss (or maintenance) activities, make sure there’s something for the muscles in there. Weights, swimming, yoga, Pilates, body weight interval workouts… you don’t have to bulk up or buy lots of equipment to get stronger. And a bonus – activities that strengthen muscles will generally help keep those bones healthier too, reducing your risk of osteoporosis… but that’s another blog.