You're not hallucinating; men lose weight a lot faster. One U.K. study found that after two months of dieting, men had shed three times as much fat and twice as many pounds as women had when following similar weight-loss programs. His advantage? Lean muscle. He's got more of it — even if he has the same body mass index (BMI) as you — which means he torches more calories, whether he's working out or just working the remote.
Men shrink their bellies. Both men and women whittle down their midsections first, but since a guy tends to carry more fat there, it's easier to see when he shrinks a size. Aesthetics aside, that's a good thing, according to Kathryn Kaiser, PhD, an obesity researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham's School of Public Health. In both men and women, a larger waist is associated with high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and more.
Guys lose it solo. When men want to trim down, they're more likely to follow an exercise program on their own, according to research from Stanford University. One way he's ahead: He'll probably aim for an achievable target weight. Studies have found that men tend to set more realistic dieting goals than women do.
Females slowly catch up to males in the slim-down race, but it takes more than just eating less to see progress. "Dieting causes you to lose both fat and muscle," says Caroline Apovian, MD, director of nutrition and weight management at Boston Medical Center. And muscle helps you maintain a brisk metabolism so you can eat normally without gaining. Strength train at least twice a week and up your protein intake to prevent muscle loss.
Ladies downsize more evenly. It will take a while to notice, though. That's because you have more subcutaneous fat, which sits right below the skin and is tough to ditch. You carry that stubborn fat all over but especially on your hips, butt, and thighs. (Blame evolution — you're programmed to hold on to it for fertility.) Combining cardio with lifting weights — while cutting calories — helps. Women who did that lost twice as much fat from their lower bodies as those who did only cardio, researchers found.
Women get with a group. We join weight loss programs about six times as often as men do. Good for us: Support groups can more than double your chances of success. In one study, people enrolled in a group program (most were women) were nearly nine times more likely to drop 10 percent of their weight over six months than those who tackled it alone.
This story originally appeared in the January/February 2016 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.
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