Call it the battle of the sexes: When it comes to shedding unwanted weight, men have a distinct edge. True, men are genetically wired to possess more calorie-burning muscle mass and less body fat than women, and women have more fat cells than men, a genetic adaptation designed to prepare their bodies for childbirth. But experts say that guys also approach dieting with a different mentality than women—a mindset we can adopt and use to our advantage. Read on to discover how to lose weight like a man.
Men are less likely to be emotional eaters. Women have a fundamentally complex relationship with our bodies, and so our relationship with food is equally complex. We look at a burger and think, “That’s bad,” or “I shouldn’t eat that” or “I’m so stressed—I need a treat.” Men look at a burger and think, “Oh yum, a burger.”
“Women’s hormonal makeup is far more complex than men’s, and hormones can have a huge impact on emotion and food,” says weight loss coach Jonny Bowden, a board-certified nutritionist with a master’s degree in psychology and the author of nine bestselling books on health, healing, food and longevity.
Women tend to give credence to the expression “eating one’s feelings.” Crappy day at work? Irked with the BF? Time to bust out the Ben & Jerry’s. Men, though, are less likely to turn to food for emotional comfort. They often find other, more productive ways to cope with emotions that don’t involve rifling through the pantry.
Men are better stress managers. “High stress hormones can have a drastic effect on weight,” Bowden says. “Stress management is key to any diet program.” Women, who tend to occupy caretaking roles more frequently then men, are more susceptible to high-stress levels. “I would guess that there is a greater tendency for female caretakers to neglect their own needs, even more so than men,” says Bowden. Between kids and work and household chores, women try to do it all. But make a point of carving out a few minutes of “me” time every day. Take a walk, relax in a hot bath, read a book—allow yourself to just tune out and recharge, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.
Guys fuel up on real food. Ladies, it’s time to put away the rice cakes and low-calorie salad dressing. To lose weight like a man, harness the power of protein to build lean muscle and ward off hunger. Men don’t attempt to satisfy their cravings with cardboard-tasting diet foods; instead, they fuel up on hunger-squashing, protein-rich food. “Eat like a cowboy,” Bowden says. “Eat real foods like whole eggs and wild salmon and grass-fed beef, and eat all of the vegetables you can scarf down. This style of eating will guarantee weight loss.”
Men train dirty. Scan any gym room and you will immediately spot a trend: While women are doggedly slaving away on the elliptical or treadmill, men flock to the weight room in droves. If you are constantly glued to the cardio machine, you miss out on the fat-scorching, muscle-building benefits of weight lifting. “Building muscle mass stokes your metabolism and burns fat,” Bowden notes. “Aerobics is not the best way to lose weight. It never has been.” So the next time you hit the gym, take a cue from men and saddle up to the weight rack.
Men diet less frequently—but more effectively—than women. Be honest: How many times have you psyched yourself up to try the latest diet fad, only to jump ship after a matter of days? Many of us have been dieting on-and-off for our entire lives, creating an endless cycle of frustration and disenchantment. It becomes somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy: Because we are so accustomed to dieting and seeing unsatisfactory results, we might embark on a new diet plan half-heartedly, expecting it to fail.
Men, for whom dieting is often a one-time affair, are more likely to approach their new diet pragmatically, with a definite goal in mind. “Men kind of grit their teeth and tackle their diet like they’re going to defeat it,” Bowden says. To lose weight like a man, formulate a plan of attack and dive right in. Commit to your diet plan 100 percent and don’t let small setbacks deter you from your goals.
Men aren’t diet perfectionists. Women, more so than men, adopt a dangerous “all or nothing” mindset when it comes to their diet. If a woman experiences a diet slip-up and, say, eats a cookie, she is more likely to think, “Well, I already blew it,” and use that as license to binge. Men are more likely to applaud their small weight loss triumphs, even if progress is slow-going, whereas women might throw in the towel early because they aren’t seeing the drastic results they’re expecting.
At the end of the day, losing weight is a challenge, for both of the sexes. “There is a tug of war going on, whether you’re a man or a woman,” Bowden notes. “It’s an uphill battle, and you have to use whatever resources you can to get through the journey.”