If you’re dieting as a couple, it helps to understand some of the differences between men and women when it comes to weight loss.
Part of the reason is that there are differences in the way “Mars” and “Venus” approach the whole process of weight loss, so they might not even agree on a diet plan they want to follow. On top of that, men tend to lose weight more quickly than women do – which can lead women to resent the men for having an easier time of it. But couples can diet together – successfully – as long as they have an understanding of where their partner is coming from. Here are some ways couples can reach their weight loss goals together, while keeping the peace.
Rates of weight loss differ between men and women. In general, men tend to lose weight more quickly than women do, and there are a couple of reasons for this. First, men are generally taller and carry more muscle mass than women do, which means that their resting metabolic rates (and, therefore, their daily calorie needs) are higher than those of women. So, they can cut more calories from their usual intake – and create a greater daily calorie deficit – which leads to quicker losses. Secondly, men tend to carry their excess body fat around the midsection, which is more easily lost than the more stubborn-to-lose fat that women tend to carry on their hips and thighs.
To support your partner: Both parties need to recognize that it’s unlikely they will lose weight at the same rate. Women, try not to resent your partner when it seems as if he’s having an easier time of it; and men, just because your mate is losing more slowly than you are doesn’t mean she isn’t trying.
Men step up their activity, women tend to cut their intake. When men decide to lose weight, they’re more likely to approach it from the “calories out” side – by ramping up their exercise regimen. Women, on the other hand, or more likely to focus on the “calories in” side – stressing more careful food choices and taking in fewer calories.
To support your partner: A one-two punch of diet plus exercise is the best approach – not only for losing weight, but for maintaining it, too. Offer mutual support – go to the gym together or take up a sport you can both engage in, and try to plan and prepare meals together as much as possible.
Men prefer structured meal plans, women prefer flexibility. For many men, losing weight is seen as a challenge or a task that needs to be crossed off the “to do” list. Once they decide to tackle their excess weight, men are more likely to turn to a more rigid, structured plan from which they probably won’t deviate too much (“just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”) Women, on the other hand, like to have more control over food choices, and may prefer to negotiate the terms of their diet (“can I work a little chocolate into my day?”). Women are also less likely to go it alone – many look for support from friends, groups or healthy professionals.
To support your partner: There are advantages to both approaches to dieting. When you have a very structured plan, there are fewer food decisions to be made every day, which tends to make the process easier. But, it’s hard to stay on a very rigid, structured plan forever – at some point you need to find a way of eating that works over the long haul. On the other hand, being flexible can help you create a way of eating that can not only help you lose weight, but establish a healthy diet pattern that you can sustain. A great compromise for couples might be to stick to a rigid plan together for a few weeks – which might give your diet a bit of a jump start – and then work towards a more flexible plan that works with your lifestyle. And, that mutual support can really work great for both parties, too.
Susan Bowerman, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., F.A.N.D. – Director, Worldwide Nutrition Trainingat Herbalife. Susan is a Registered Dietitian and a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.