Why Can't I Lose Weight? 4 Reasons Women Lose Weight Differently Than Men

By Haley Bass | 10/28/2016

If you’re a woman frustrated by lagging weight loss results, then this article is for you.

You make healthy choices for each meal, work out for at least 30 minutes every day, and after 2 months you’ve lost…3 pounds?! Meanwhile, your husband has followed the same routine and is down 15 pounds. That doesn’t seem right.

It might not be what you’re doing that’s the problem.

Here are 4 reasons that women lose weight differently than men:

Muscle vs. Fat

Muscle burns more calories than fat. Since men tend to have more muscle mass than women, they can burn about 20% more calories, even when doing nothing.1 Higher levels of testosterone might also be to blame. The hormone found more prevalently in men is proven to increase muscle mass by increasing the rebuilding of muscle tissue.2

Women can fight the calorie burning gap by making strength training a priority. Worried about bulking up, women tend to lift lighter weights and focus on cardio fitness. However, regular strength training can help shed the weight and burn calories, even after you’ve finished working out. It can also boost your metabolism by 15%.3

Emotional Eating

A study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women are more likely to struggle with emotional eating than men. In order to feel better during times of stress or sadness, emotional eaters seek food high in sugar, fat, and salt. These treats briefly release serotonin, the hormone that makes you feel good. But the reward is temporary, and the snacks lead to weight gain, especially when you eat too much.4

In times of emotional distress, try opting for an alternative activity that also brings you happiness or joy. It could be your favorite movie or a long bath, but whatever the activity, it will create a distraction from the immediate stress and reduce the urge to binge on bad foods. If cravings still exist, opt for healthier snacks – many times the act of eating is more satisfying than the item being consumed. If you are combating emotional eating or food addiction, check out these sources on how to defeat the problem and enjoy life:

Blame Darwin

Ever hear of Darwin’s theory of natural selection? Evolutionary adaptation may be partially to blame for women’s struggle with weight loss.

Women, even those who are healthy and fit, naturally have between 6 and 11% more body fat than men.2 With higher levels of estrogen, fat is preserved to make it easier for women to get pregnant. As natural selection goes, women with a greater ability to continue the species are going to pass along their evolutionary traits.

So you can thank Darwin (or nature) for those stubborn love handles.

All-or-Nothing Approach

Men and women are both susceptible to falling off the health wagon while trying to lose weight, but the difference is in how the two respond to the blunder.

“Most, but not all, men tend to just try to get back on track with the original plan, or build in a little more exercise,” said Cynthia Sass, registered dietitian. But Sass says she sees more women take extreme, non-sustainable measures to get back on track, like juice cleanses or extreme dieting.4 Because these methods can’t last, dieters are more likely to binge on unhealthy snacks, then fall into a guilt cycle.

Despite all of the factors working against women’s weight loss efforts, there is still hope. Women may not see the weight come off in the first couple months of diet and exercise, but a study out of England5 found that the rate of weight loss evens out between the sexes by six months. So keep making healthy choices and know that your efforts will eventually pay off.

[1] http://www.shape.com/latest-news-trends/why-men-lose-weight-faster
[2] http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/20/health/upwave-weight-gender/
[3] http://www.everydayhealth.com/fitness/add-strength-training-to-your-workout.aspx
[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/weight-loss-it-really-is-harder-for-women-research-shows/2014/08/12/0a95c1aa-1d9b-11e4-ab7b-696c295ddfd1_story.html
[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24103395