My husband, Jason, and I both started our first Whole30 on Monday. It’s been seven full days, and I’ve noticed mood swings, cravings, fatigue, and even flu-like symptoms. What I haven’t noticed? Washboard abs, boundless energy, and all the good things that (eventually) come with making healthier choices. As for Jason? Well, he’s voiced a few cravings here and there, but overall he’s feeling good and looking leaner (already!). My clients usually report similar findings: “I’m doing okay and losing some weight, but it’s been tough. And my hubby is already down 10 lbs and feeling great! What gives?!”
Well, a few things. First of all, men tend to be a bit larger and have more muscle mass than women. This gives them the advantage of burning calories at a faster rate, because muscle needs more energy to be maintained than fat does. So (especially when first starting a new program), men will often notice physical changes more quickly than women. And it goes the other way too, unfortunately. I once dated a man who was 6’4” and 185 lbs. By the end of our relationship, we had both gained roughly 30 lbs (yikes). BUT while he could pull it off and still looked pretty good, I wasn’t quite as lucky. One of my favourite authors, Sara Gottfried, (who also happens to be a Harvard trained physician), writes about her own experience in her book, The Hormone Reset Diet:
“My weight came into sharp focus when I got engaged. I had six months until my wedding day to get thin. The Atkins diet was popular at the time, so my fiance, David Gottfried, and I started eating more eggs and bacon, and “Please hold the toast!” David dropped 20 pounds, and I dropped 2. I stared at my tight wedding dress in frustration.”
Many of us have been there. Like Sara, we start the same regimen as our partners, only to wind up frustrated and questioning what we’re doing wrong a few weeks in.
Ladies - you aren’t doing anything wrong!
We’re just biologically different than men, and we need to learn what works for us, not for our significant others, friends, or celebrities. As you can imagine, The Hormone Reset Diet is all about women’s hormones and how they affect weight loss. Which brings me to my next point…
Hormones. This is a big factor in why women tend to hold on to fat more stubbornly than men. Researchers are still working on figuring out exactly why, but one of the theories is that we’re programmed to store more fat in order to be healthy enough for pregnancy and nursing. The bottom line is, we seem to be a lot more complex in this area, and we need to figure out our own best practices for losing excess weight, having more energy, and feeling comfortable in our skin. Comparison only leads to heartbreak and frustration. Know that you are unique, and with some time, effort, and support, you can figure out exactly what works to keep your body humming and burning fuel at an optimal level.
And in the meantime, have patience. Researchers did find that in the long-term (usually about 6 months), weight loss rates between men and women were identical. Until then, you can speed things up by doing HIIT workouts and hitting the weights section of the gym, rather than endless cardio. Remember how at the beginning I mentioned that guys’ increased muscle mass is what helped them burn more calories? Well, if you up your muscle-to-fat ratio, you will notice quicker results as well! Keep it up, ladies!