Men are more successful slimmers than women, research of 1.2 million people has revealed. And experts speaking at the Public Health England conference today (10 September) will say they believe it’s because men find it easier to focus on one specific thing and they have fewer emotional issues around food.
The largest-ever study of slimmers, conducted by the UK’s leading weight management organisation Slimming World, found that men lost an average of 6.1 per cent of their body weight over a 12-week period – 1.5 per cent more weight than women, who lost 4.6 per cent in their first 12 weeks membership. On average, men lost 1st 2lbs compared to women, who lost 11lbs. Men also attended more sessions in this period.
According to Slimming World, the modern world is a minefield for people who want to lose weight – with an ‘always-on’ food environment that pushes high fat, high sugar food constantly and cheaply. Financial pressures, lack of time, the demands of a family and emotional issues that cause people to take comfort in food or use it as a reward, combine to make weight loss difficult for both sexes.
However, due to a range of genetic and cultural factors, Slimming World’s experts believe that men are better at blocking out the complexity of the modern environment to focus specifically on their weight loss goals.
“Research suggests that men’s brains are more solutions-based and they often tell us that they have fewer commitments at home, so once they find out how our eating plan works they tend to just get on and do it,” says Dr Jacquie Lavin, Slimming World’s head of nutrition and research. “They’re more focused, get off to a better start and are less likely to be distracted or taken off track by life events. Women more typically want a deeper level of emotional support to uncover their issues around food and to help them take back control over their choices in what can be a difficult and persuasive food environment, and they’re more likely to tell us that stressful or emotional events in their life sabotage their slimming.
“Our study showed that both genders achieve great success with their weight loss at Slimming World and women lose an average 4.6 per cent of their body weight in only 12-weeks. This is excellent when you consider that a five per cent weight loss is regarded by health professionals as ‘clinically significant’, meaning it significantly reduces your chances of developing obesity-related health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and stroke and both men and women regularly achieve this. It just seems from these results that men perhaps get there a little bit sooner.”
While an increased ability to focus on their weight loss was a key reason given by Slimming World experts for men’s diet success, they also highlight other factors. Men’s bodies are more physiologically geared up for weight loss as they tend to have more muscle, which boosts their metabolism so they burn energy faster. They are also likely to have tried fewer diets in the past. This makes it easier for them to follow a new routine, as they are less likely to be carrying over old habits from a previous diet.
Continues Dr Lavin: “There isn’t a single factor that explains why men lose weight faster than women, or why any one person is more successful than another. It’s down to a combination of things including our emotions, genetics, upbringing, culture and the environment we live in. However, allowing yourself some time to focus on yourself and your weight loss is definitely central to success.
“It’s important not to categorise men and women too rigidly, though. Every individual – man or woman – is different, yet they’re united in some common areas. Both men and women want a practical solution to slimming that fits into their lifestyle, one that is accessible and realistic. They both want plenty to eat so they can lose weight without feeling hungry and deprived. They need support to make lifestyle changes, and they want to have a laugh at the same time. For some, losing weight comes easily simply by following our healthy eating plan and building friendship and camaraderie with their fellow members. Others want a deeper level of emotional support from their slimming group, especially when they have grown up with or developed a complex relationship with food.
“For us, the key is to provide a flexible approach that works for both men and women and means that slimmers can get as much support as they need from Consultants, who are highly trained to deliver it, whatever the gender.” -ends-