Is It Really Harder For Women To Lose Weight? Or Is It All In Your Head?
Is it harder for women to lose weight? A brave question for a man to tackle. Some might say fool hardy.
Truth is, this could go one of two ways.
If I say, "Yes. It IS harder for women to lose weight." I'm heralded as a knight in shining armour. Finally, a man who appreciates the challenges women go through, without casting judgements, dispersions, or an eye roll emoji.
But if I tell you it's all in your head and simply say, "just get on with it", well you may never hear of me again. Burned at the stake in a fire of feminine vitriol.
So, with my reputation (and life) balancing on a knife edge, let me tell you what's in store, should you dare read on.
- Why it's harder for women to lose weight (there's a big hint at which side of the argument I'm on).
- The role gender and genetics play in losing weight
- Unique challenges that make it harder for women to lose weight.
- 6 proven strategies to make weight loss easier for women.
So what'll it be? Do you want to kill me, or keep reading? I hope it's the latter.
Is It Harder For Women To Lose Weight? The Short Answer
Yes. It IS harder for women to lose weight.
But that doesn't mean dudes get off lightly. So spare a thought for the guys as you dance with "I told you so" glee. Because, it's still tough and a pain in the ass. Albeit marginally easier.
It would be too simplistic to say it's harder for women to lose weight, purely because of gender differences. Issues associated with society and culture also play a role.
The biggest non-genetic difference is this...
You ladies still love to eat a fuck ton of food.
What Makes It Harder For Women To Lose Weight?
You like food, I like food, we all like food. Eating has become a much loved past-time. And just because you're a women, doesn't mean you have an automatic off switch.
Our society isn't really geared up to helping you either. Look at it this way.
You don't exactly go to a restaurant and order from the 'women portion-sized' menu, which has been carefully adjusted to be 10-20% lower in calories than the male equivalent. No, when you order the double cheeseburger and fries, you're getting the full monty. And you're stealing your fella's fries off his plate while his having a piss too. Don't lie, you've done it.
So portion control is on you. Either you've got to manage calories throughout the day, so you can have the man-sized meal. Or you've got to develop the willpower of a Tibetan Monk to not finish all your food.
But let's face it, that ain't fucking happening any time soon.
Man Or Woman, You Still Love Food... And Lots Of It
If my ex-girlfriends are reflective of the female species then your appetite isn't far off my own.
The differences in the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) of men and women is quite large when you look at the averages (more of that in the next section). But anecdotally, I'd rarely say the differences in appetite and hunger were as wide.
It's Not Exactly Difficult To Get What You Want
But what's the reason for this? Why are hunger levels not vastly lower for women if they simply don't need as much food?
To me, it comes down to Western society and food culture.
You and I live in a world where food is more easily accessible that it has ever been. We are certainly not the hunter-gatherers of yesteryear. Your local supermarket isn't full of roaming wild deer that you have to hunt and kill each week. And when you fancy Chicken Kiev and chips for dinner, you don't have to chase a chicken around the garden with an axe, nor pluck potatoes from the ground. It's just there.
Neatly packaged and ready to go whenever you want it. Hell, you can even have it delivered to your door.
And It Tastes Fucking Good
And herein lies the other part of the dilemma. The food simply taste too fucking good. Convenience and deliciousness are a devilish combo when it comes to dieting. It might be harder for women to lose weight, but this is a universal truth for both sexes.
When food tastes good, it becomes easier to overeat. You feel like you can go for hours. And, of course, there's always room for dessert, right?
It doesn't matter if in theory you should have less of an appetite. When the first spoon cracks through the soft icy layer of that tub of ice cream, all bets are off. This bad boy is going down!
So you can see already, food environment matters. And the challenges within managing what and how much you eat, within the framework of modern society, does make it harder for women to lose weight.
But where does genetics come into it? Good question, I'm glad you asked...
And Then There's The Genetics
On average women are smaller than men. In terms of height, weight, and muscle mass. And this results in a distinct difference in BMR, ie the number of calories you burn at rest.
If you're not familiar with BMR, think of it like your 'coach potato calories'. Sat at home, on the sofa watching reruns of Sex In The City as your man bring you wine, snacks, and ice cream with each click of your fingers, still burns calories. Because your body has shit to do and it needs energy to do. This is your BMR.
So let's put some numbers around this for context.
The Average Man Vs The Average Woman
The average man is 90kg and 175cm tall. If we assume this particular average man is 30 years old, his BMR will be 1,970 kcals per day.
Conversely, the average woman is 77kg and 160cm tall. Again, assuming an age of 30, her BMR would be 1,541 kcals per day. A not insignificant 429 kcal difference. that's the size of decent meal every day.
And I know what you're thinking, "No wonder it's harder for women to lose weight."
Exactly, couple this significant difference in BMR with a not-so insignificant difference in appetite and you could be forgiven for thinking you've drawn the shortest fat loss straw.
Is There Anything Else Making It Harder For Women To Lose Weight?
And it doesn't stop there.
"You what? How much worse can it get?"
I didn't say this was going to be pretty reading. But hang on in there. In the next section, you'll get those 6 tips to make this whole dieting thing a little easier. But first, let's talk time of the month.
Dare I Say It... That Time Of The Month
I frequently say to my female coaching clients that I know more about your period than you do, which is often true. In fact, I wrote a whole article about right here. Take a look, I think it'll open your eyes and help you make sense of what's going on.
Despite the dudes complaining about listening to their partners moaning once a month, the challenges around your period and weight loss are real. Increased cravings, metabolism, and hunger are all real. And that's before you even mention pain and reduce desire to work-out.
But there are ways you can manage the situation (it's point number 6 on the top tips list).
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. A condition many women suffer with, which can have huge implications on weight management. And it 100% makes it harder for women to lose weight. Often, PCOS causes a reduction in BMR. And some case studies have shown the difference can be as great as 40%. So, if you were an average women, but had PCOS, you're BMR could drop as low as 925 kcals per day.
And ok, that's an extreme example, but it does highlight just one of the challenges PCOS brings.
But it is possible to lose weight with PCOS. For example, here's the weight loss chart of Laura, one of my coaching clients. It shows a 6kg drop in weight over 2.5 months. Consider how awesome that breakthrough felt for her after years of struggling to lose weight, because she didn't understand how to manage her nutrition effectively.
And if you want some more specific information on managing PCOS through nutrition, check out this episode of the podcast for all the detail you need.
This Might Be Unpopular... Your Kids
I feel like I'm stepping into murky waters now. An inbox full of hatred could be winging its way to me if I don't get each one of the next few keystrokes right.
Your kids, as wonderful as the little darlings are, might make it harder for you to lose weight.
Of course, a new born is a challenge for both parents. After all, sleepless nights aren't specific to gender. Although, you may disagree, if your other half sleeps through every 3am whine and cry.
But when it comes to having children, women have a unique challenge. Often, there's a desire to snap back to pre-baby weight as quickly as possible. And this can be tough. Life just got way more crazy than ever. You're dealing with more and you've got even less time to do it. So trying to lose weight on top of that isn't easy.
Ok. So If It's Harder For Women To Lose Weight, What Can You Do About It?
But despite all of this, you can ease the pressure, lighten the load, and make achieving your best body ever, less of a hardship. So here are my top 6 tips to help you get on the right track.
1. Despite It Being Harder For Women To Lose Weight, The Deficit Still Matters Most
Man, woman, or beast, the calorie deficit matters. everything boils back to this principle. Yes, your BMR is lower, but you're going to have to deal with it head on. You simply can't ignore the maths.
Chances are, you've been trying to diet too hard. Crash diets and stupid fads that ram calories through the floor might have worked for a week or two, but rarely can they be sustained. So set your calorie target at a number you feel you can stick to for the long-term.
And it might mean progress is a little slower than you hoped. But that's better than no progress at all.
2. Increase Those Steps As Much As You Can
Step count plays a huge role in weight loss. Most focus on trying to smash themselves in the gym. But that's typically not the most efficient way to go about things.
Let me give you an example using part of an initial client consultation a while back.
Lydia joined my programme, The Lean Life Method, wanting to lose some body fat. Maybe not unlike you, she worked an office job and didn't do much activity outside of an hour in the gym 4-5 times per week.
After crunching some numbers, I calculated her maintenance calories to be 1,785 kcals per day, based on her BMR, the intensity of each work out, and the relatively small amount of steps she did per day.
Instantly, her first reaction was to look to increase gym sessions and cardio. But here's the thing. Those things probably wouldn't have the greatest impact. Plus, she'd begrudge doing them.
Targeting a step count c.8k+ would put her in the bracket 0f 'lightly active', instead of 'sedentary' (these are just my own categorisations). This would push maintenance calories to 2,067, a 282 kcal difference. Which might not sound like much. But it's the equivalent of a couple of snacks, or a slightly larger meal during the day.
Essentially, increasing step counts allows for more food, which kinda helps with the whole appetite and hunger scenario.
3. Think About What You're Eating
Foods that fill you up are important here. Eating your own bodyweight in food might be a real possibility, so start to make more conscious decisions about what ends up on your plate.
Soups, high protein foods, low calorie vegetables, low calorie fruit (ie watermelon), and potato are all great options for increasing those feelings of fullness. And if you want more ideas, there's an article you can read, right here.
Now, there might be some experimentation required before you nail what works for you. But make the effort. You'll be glad you did when you're no longer hungry every minute of every day.
4. Think About When You're Eating
Meal timing doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things for fat loss. If you want to do the whole skip breakfast thing, that's cool. Vice versa, if you love a huge meal early in the day, then that's cool too.
But this isn't what I'm talking about.
You need to find the eating strategy that works for you. I guarantee there's periods of time during the day when you're always hungry. For argument's sake, let's assume that's towards the end of the day. You've finished work, it's been a tough day, and you just fancy crashing on the sofa and eating.
But if you've already eaten all your calories for the day, you're back to an epic battle with your mortal dieting foe... willpower. And It's a battle you've yet to win.
Here's the thing.
Instead of fighting it, embrace it. If you know your weakness is evening snacking, then save calories for that time of the day. Because there's nothing wrong with having some chocolate at 8pm with a glass of wine if you want it. Manage those calories and make them work for you.
Believe me, the article you read saying you couldn't eat past 6pm and lose weight was utter bovine excrement.
5. It's Sounds Boring, But More Plain Foods And Less Variety Works
Not all helpful tips can be sexy and having you pinging off the walls in excitement. Chances are, those ones don't work.
But this one does.
Reducing the palatability of food works in your favour. If less of the foods that are high in calories and easy to overeat appear on your plate, the more likely you are to stick to your calorie target.
And generally speaking that means more plain tasting foods. After all, you rarely hear people overeating on lettuce and broccoli.
Now, that doesn't mean to say your diet has to consist of dust and the moisture of an elephant turd. No, you can have the tasty shit too... just keep it to a minimum.
So maybe less refined sugars, fewer takeaways, and limited processed foods. You know, stuff like that. Basically, foods you already know you should probably keep better tabs on.
6. Adjust And Plan Calories Around Your Menstrual Cycle
And so on to the 6th and final top tip. By now, you should appreciate 2 things.
- I firmly believe it is harder for women to lose weight (but don't use that as too much of an excuse).
- I know more about your period than you do.
And it's point 2 that's the focus for your last tip.
Plan your calories and adjust your nutrition to suit how your menstrual cycle affects you, personally. And I say personally for good reason. Because it's hugely individual. Which means I can't give you a definitive approach to follow that's going to solve all your problems.
But what I can tell you is this.
Map out where in your cycle you feel most vulnerable.
Do hunger levels get particularly bad post-ovulation? If so, it's time to plan ahead. Because, you don't have to think about calories in defined 24 hours blocks of time. You don't even have to think about them weekly. Let me show you what I mean.
How To Adjust Your Calories To Control Raging Hunger On Your Period
Let's assume your daily calorie target is 1,500 kcals per day.
In a 30 day month that's 45,000 kcals in total.
Now, in your case, the demons of cravings and hunger rear their ugly heads for 10 of those 30 days, just after ovulation. So, to meet those fuckers head on, you raise calories to 2,000 kcals for that period of time.
Leaving you with 25,000 calories for the other 20 days of the month, which is 1,250 kcals per day. If you're able to stick to those numbers, your daily average will be exactly the same as before.
You need to find the balance. The elusive balance between your calorie target on paper, and your ability to stick to it. For you, 1,250 kcals per day might just be too low. And that's ok. Simply experiment and find what approach helps you crush those hunger demons for good.
The Bottom Line On Men Vs Women In Weight Loss
Yes. It's true. It is harder for women to lose weight. Men get the better deal (slightly). But it doesn't mean it's an impossible task. With the right strategy, mindset, and approach you can build a lean, healthy, strong body, without question.
The last thing I want is for you to finish reading this article, throw your hands in the air and say, "See. I told you this shit was harder. What's the fucking point?"
Because, my intention was not to solidify your negative thinking and give you an excuse, nor a get out. It was to inform and educate. To help you understand more about WHY it's harder for women to lose weight. More importantly, I want you to feel empowered to be able to take control of your nutrition and finally make the weight loss breakthrough, you've been so desperate for.
Take these 6 tips, put them into practise, find the approach that works for you, and flourish.
Your Next Step To Mastering Nutrition And Shaping A Leaner, Healthier, Stronger Body
Here’s what to do next to get on the fast track to a leaner, healthier, stronger body. Simply click the link below and I’ll send you my Lean Life Kickstarter Pack. In it you’ll find a free 4 week beginner’s training programme (complete with exercise videos and a workout tracker), a guide on calculating your calories, plus so much more.
If you want it, grab it here.
But for now, all I’ll say is… Keep living the Lean Life and I’ll see you soon.