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Wellness Center

Weight Management: Men vs Women

08/28/2009

Question:

I am very interested in this question. My husband can eat almost anything he wants and never gains a pound. I can eat half of what he does and I gain three pounds. Not unusual? Different metabolisms, sure... But why?

Answer:

I can hear the frustration in you and understand that maintaining a healthy weight can be very challenging.

Metabolism (or "basal metabolic rate" - BMR) is different for everyone and can vary with change in circumstance, physical condition, health status, or age. Men naturally have a faster metabolism then women, primarily due to their body composition having more lean muscle. [Women naturally have a higher fat content than men do]. Lean body tissue is more active metabolically than fat tissue. That is also why athletes have higher BMR than non-athletes - they have more lean muscle mass and less fat. In addition, the taller you are, the faster your BMR is. Since you can not change your basic body design (gender, height, age), the best way for you to "get some of what your husband has" (a faster metabolism) is to increase your physical exercise, which will build more lean muscle.

The safest way to control your weight is to eat a well-balanced diet, in moderation, and exercise regularly. As unexciting as it may sound, this truly is the best way to attain/maintain a healthy weight. And there are inexpensive ways to exercise. Walking, which costs nothing (except for maybe a good pair of walking shoes) is an excellent way to include fitness in your day and burn those excess calories.

We have made wonderful progress in many aspects of science, but changing "Mother Nature" is not as simple as finding a magic pill or potion to help us lose weight. I find that one of the best ways to control body weight is to use the "non-diet approach". It promotes a healthy lifestyle with reasonable goals while avoiding telling you to "eat this/don`t eat that". It is a much less stressful way to achieve your goal. If you would like to read more about the non-diet approach, try the book “Intuitive Eating” by E.Tribole.

I`d also recommend that you meet with a registered dietitian (RD) for individualized help, support, and encouragement. For other weight loss tips, please browse this website and to find a RD in your area, refer to the website eatright.org.

I hope that this has been helpful to you. Good luck!

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Response by:

Jane   Korsberg, MS, RD, LD Jane Korsberg, MS, RD, LD
Senior Instructor of Nutrition
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University