The Best of “Ask Mary” Valentine’s Day Edition

Mary Hartley, RD, MPH, is the director of nutrition for Calorie Count, providing domain expertise on issues related to nutrition, weight loss and health. She creates original content for weekly blogs and newsletters, for the Calorie Count library, and for her popular daily Question-and-Answer section, Ask Mary. Ms. Hartley also furnishes direction for the site features and for product development.

Calorie Count members want to know, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” Here are a few of our readers’ favorite “Ask Mary” questions about the differences in dieting and weight between the sexes.

Ask Mary: Why do men lose weight more easily than women?

Compared to women, men just have higher calorie requirements. It’s easier for them to create the calorie deficit needed to lose weight. Men have high testosterone levels and testosterone makes them build muscle. Muscle is metabolically active tissue that burns calories. If you compare a man to a woman of the same height, weight, age, and activity level, the man will need 15 percent more calories than the woman. Coupled with a man’s tendency to be taller and bigger, it’s easy to see why men need more calories. And so when men eat less, there is a huge gap between the amount they need and they eat, which promotes quick weight loss. Women, on the other hand, have a completely different fat-to-muscle ratio with more fat to support the demands of pregnancy and lactation. Their day-to-day calorie requirements are lower and so their calorie deficit is less.

Ask Mary: Is it true that women have more difficulty losing fat below the waist?

It is more difficult, but not impossible, to lose fat below the waist for women who have a “pear shape” body. Pear-shaped women store calories as fat in their bottoms for release during pregnancy and breast feeding. Their hips are bigger than their bust and, what’s frustrating is that when they lose weight, their tops often shrink while their bottoms remain unchanged. But the good news is that the pear-shape is associated with the lowest risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Around 20% of women have a pear-shape; the other shapes are rectangle, apple, and hourglass. Those shapes generally have an easier time losing weight below the waist. Everyone, including pear-shaped women, should keep their lower body fit by engaging the muscles of the butt, hips and thighs with exercise that targets the lower half like walking, jogging or skating done regularly.

Ask Mary: How can I make my husband see why I want to be thin?

Many guys prefer a woman who is not thin and bony, especially if their mothers were soft and round. They may associate plumpness with a warm disposition or think that fat women are more likely to be faithful. Just be sure your husband understands that obese people are twice as likely to die prematurely and suffer from medical conditions related to obesity. Day-to-day living is no picnic. If your husband loves, then he’ll love you when you are ‘thin’. You have to convince him that you will love him regardless of size. Of course, this assumes you are trying to reach a reasonable weight, as opposed to too thin. Everyone has the right to work toward better health.

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