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Again today we are looking at the NHS report into obesity from 2008. Although in terms of BMI, men were more overweight that women, there is no allowance made for increased muscle mass in men (see previous blog on BMI), but on the more reliable (in our humble opinion) waist to height ratio women in Britain tend to be larger than men. The report says: “In 2006, 37% of adults had a raised waist circumference. The proportion of people classified as having a raised waist circumference was higher for women than for men (41% and 32% respectively) and this was true for all age groups. Although the prevalence of morbid obesity remains relatively low, women were more likely to be morbidly obese than men (3% for women, and 1%for men). Results from the HSE 2006 show that in England the proportion of adults with abnormal BMI decreased between 1993 and 2006, from 41% to 32% among men and from 49% to 42% among women.”
While it is obviously not true in all cases, women generally have a higher percentage of body fat than men. As the child bearing sex, survival response in evolution means that women carry more fat, and so will be better able to cope with food shortages, thus increasing the likelihood of successful reproduction and survival of the species. This biological difference between women and men is quite marked in terms of body fat %. Body fat content is 25% for women at normal size compared to 15% for men. All other things being equal, such as age and exercise levels, women require fewer calories per pound of body weight daily than do men; this is connected to their lower levels of lean muscle and testosterone. Female hormones also make it easier to convert fat into food, again part of the survival/perpetuation of the species tactic.
Women more often do the cooking in the households, so nibbling and eating on the go is also more likely. In our experience as personal trainers, complications also arise with post-menopausal women, when losing weight can take longer and be less consistent regardless of nutrition and exercise levels. It will come eventually, you can’t deny the laws of physics (energy in vs energy out) so if you do fall into this category, stick with it. HRT (hormone replacement therapy) can also make it much harder for some women to lose weight, particularly those on separate courses of oestrogen and progesterone. Again this is just my own personal experience as a personal trainer in Berkshire dealing mainly with female clients.
Finally, in fat-prone women, contraceptive pills cause the body to produce increased amounts of fat and water. Estrogen alone will cause increased deposition of fat (just like in those instances where HRT is being taken). Anyone on the pill needs to decrease caloric intake by at least 10% in order to maintain the same weight!
Both sexes also suffer from a loss of lean muscle mass with age, and as lean muscle affects the metabolic rate, loss of it will also increase the likelihood of being overweight.
So don’t be so quick to judge females who don’t quite look like Elle Mcpherson. There are a lot of barriers to weight loss success for women, but they are overcome with the correct exercise and nutrition. Have a look at our success stories page.