The Scientific Reasons It's Harder for Women to Lose Weight

An in-depth look at the many biological factors that make weight loss more challenging for women


Nearly everyone’s heard this story (or some variation of it) before: A husband and wife vow to lose weight as a couple. They start by exercising together and cutting soda from their diets. After a week, the husband is already down a few pounds, but the wife, well the scale hasn’t quite budged for her yet.

Sure, the story sounds cliché, but we hear slightly different versions of it all of the time because scientifically, it really is more difficult for women to lose weight. And for several different reasons.

“In my clinical practice, I see every day that women can have a much tougher time than men in losing weight,” said Dr. Linda Anegawa, F.A.C.P., founder of OSR Weight Management in Hawaii and metabolic medicine and clerkship director in medicine for the University of Hawaii. “Particularly, when I have patients who are married couples losing weight together, the camaraderie is sometimes overshadowed by the woman’s jealousy in how quickly her partner can lose weight compared to her.”

For any woman aiming to lose weight, though — whether with a male partner or on her own — it’s important to understand exactly why the endeavor poses a greater challenge for females.

Know that it’s not just all in your head or some crazy voodoo curse that makes it more challenging. There are several scientific reasons why it’s harder for women to lose weight, and by understanding each you can not only lessen any frustrations that might arise, but also develop a plan to work around some of the common obstacles.

Women Have Less Lean Body Mass


In other words, women don’t naturally have as much muscle as men. “As muscle is our ‘engine’ that burns calories for us, given that men’s muscle mass is on average greater than a woman’s, men have a naturally higher basal metabolic rate,” Anegawa explained. “This means that even without any exercise, a man’s body will burn more calories daily, leading to a greater caloric deficit and weight loss.”

Women Have Less Testosterone


“The big advantage men have over women, when it comes to losing weight, is more testosterone,” said Dr. Scott Schreiber, a chiropractor, licensed dietitian nutritionist and certified nutrition specialist who has been helping people lose weight for more than 10 years. It provides an advantage, he explained, because it’s an anabolic steroid that promotes muscle growth.  “In fact, men have seven to eight times more testosterone than women," Schreiber said. "In short, due to testosterone, men can build muscle a lot easier than women.” So not only do men naturally have more muscle to start with, but it’s much easier for them to gain more of it and effectively increase their metabolic rate even further.

Click here to see more scientific reasons it’s harder for women to lose weight.

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