Do Women Gain Weight Easier than Men?

Dietitians will often hear women complain that they gain weight a lot easier than their husbands. They insist their diets are the same, yet he can eat as much as he likes, whereas she just has to look at the food and will gain weight! So is this a phenomenon or is their some scientific fact behind it? Below we look at some of potential reasons as to why women seem to be battling the bulge more than men and some tips on how to prevent it.


The recommended weight gain during pregnancy is somewhere between 10-15kg, however, many women are gaining a lot more than this, in excess of 20+ kg. What is worse is that many of these women are not losing the weight after pregnancy. Becoming a new mother is a very busy and hectic time, and often women put their health second to the needs of the baby. Most of the pregnancy weight remains, and when the woman becomes pregnant again, she is starting from a higher base weight, leading her to be even heavier after the second pregnancy!

Women are a major role model to their children, so it is important to portray a healthy lifestyle to them from a young age. It is also important that you remain fit and healthy, for your own physical and mental wellbeing, as well as that of your children. There is no excuse not to follow a healthy diet after pregnancy, and this is even more important if you are breastfeeding. A dietitian will be able to help you with meal plans and meal ideas. Take any opportunity to exercise with your baby. Walking with the pram is a great form of exercise, and there are many ‘Mother and Baby’ exercise classes available in recreation centres now.

It’s in our Genes (and our jeans!)

Unfortunately for women, our bodies will naturally store more fat than the male body. Men tend to carry less fat, and more lean muscle tissue than women. Muscle burns more energy than fat, so overall the male body will be burning more energy each day than the female body.
We can not change our DNA, but we can sway the odds in our favour a little more. Basic resistance training, coupled with aerobic training will help to build more lean muscle and burn more fat. The more lean muscle we have, the more energy we will burn on a daily basis.

Being a Mother, Wife, Cook, Maid and Taxi Driver

For the most part, woman spend more time than men cooking, shopping, cleaning, caring for children and driving ‘Mums Taxi’. With most women working 9-5, there leaves little hours in the day to exercise and these hours are spent preparing meals and spending time with their children. Shopping and cooking are challenges in themselves. Women are around food more than men, leading to the temptation to grab a snack whilst they are shopping and pick while they are cooking. These extra kilojoules add up each day.
This is definitely an area that we can change. Even the busiest of women can find time to exercise. Think about the following;

• Save the housework for one time a week and do it all in one go. Put on some music and make housework a great form of exercise

• Park the car further from work, school, dancing classes and footy training. You and the kids can get a little extra exercise each day.

• If you have small children, put on some music or their favourite children’s dancing DVD and dance with them.

• Negotiate with your partner for some time each week for you
to exercise alone, while he watches the children. If you are a single mum, you can organize with a friend to take turns watching each others children while you go to an aerobic or yoga class.

• Resist the urge to snack at the shops. Shop after a meal, or snack on a piece of fruit before you go. When you’re cooking don’t pick at the salad or vegetables. Put it on a plate and make it a mini meal.

Emotional Eaters

Many women will admit they are emotional eaters. We eat when we are happy, we eat when we are sad and we eat when we are bored. We meet friends for coffee and cake, whereas men meet mates for golf, to kick the footy or shoot some hoops. While we are gaining kilos, they are burning kilojoules, getting fit and having fun in the process.
The trick is to stop using food to fuel emotions. If you are happy and want to reward that happiness, don’t go for a doughnut; make your happiness last by enjoying a nice walk along the beach going to taking the kids to the park to play. If you are sad, don’t reach for the chocolate cake; improve your mood with the natural endorphins we get from exercise. Surround yourself with happy people at a group exercise class or start a weekly dance class. Make a pact with friends to decrease the coffee and cake weekends and go for walks or play tennis instead. All these things will not only prevent weight gain, they will make you feel a lot better emotionally.

A key factor in determining how much weight you put on or lose is your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). In simple terms, this is how much energy your body uses under standard conditions, typically after waking in the morning or 12hours after a meal and in a relaxed state. The BMR represents 60-75% of total energy expenditure in an average person, so because your weight is controlled by how much energy you are either burning or accumulating (food), it is an important factor in determining your weight control.

The Basal Metabolic Rate is determined by how much of your body is low fat or ‘fat-free’, called the fat-free mass. Women naturally have a lower BMR, due to mammary (breast) and gluteal tissue which is higher in fat than in men, for the natural processes associated with child birth and rearing. Consequently, on average women need to eat less food than men, if they are to maintain a healthy weight.

Another way of looking at this is to take the example of Claire, a 28 year old lady who weighs 68kg and is 162cm tall (overweight). Her husband, Peter, is also slightly overweight and weighs 85kg and is 178cm tall. Claire’s Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is 1,420 kilocalories per day while Peter’s is 1500kcal/day. So although it might not seem like a big difference (80kcal/day), it makes a big difference over time. This 80kcal/day difference means that come meal time, if Claire has the same portion size as Peter and neither of them do any exercise, she will actually put on more weight than Peter over time. This is because Peter’s natural BMR will consume the energy eaten at a faster rate. How does Claire overcome this and get back to a healthy weight and look great? Exercise! It’s tough news, but exercise is the answer to your weight woes.

Why does exercise have to be the answer?

The good thing about exercise and weight control is that the fitter you are, you have a higher BMR, so the weight will come off more easily. It’s fantastic! It’s a positive feedback cycle whereby you start dropping off the fat through exercise, the BMR goes up, then you start burning more energy naturally, and the weight comes off and the cycle continues until you are looking trim and terrific in the healthy weight range. It’s that simple!

So why can’t I just do a diet?

Unfortunately for us humans, our bodies react to dieting by decreasing our BMR. This is a kind of reaction to protect us from starvation. When we stop eating, our bodies panic and prepare for the worst by lowering our natural energy usage (BMR) to make our fat stores last longer (and survive, apparently!). Unfortunately for dieter’s trying to lose weight, this makes it harder. It also means that your weight is likely to yo-yo up and down and never be stable, and this is a very unhealthy way to live.

What are the key points?

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is determined by:

  • Fat-free mass (can be related to gender)
  • Dieting/food intake
  • Genetics (body type)

BMR determines how quickly you burn energy and how easily you lose weight.

No matter what your BMR or gender is, you can lose weight through exercise and eating healthily and with moderate portion sizes to control your energy intake.

Information sourced from:,



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