Weight Watchers’ SecretsWhat works for women... What works for menKaren Miller-Kovach, RD Weight Watchers International, Inc.Published: September 1, 2007 he fundamental requirement for weight loss -- expending more calories than are taken in -- is the same for men and women. But there are clear differences in the ways in which men and women approach weight loss, including whether they even believe that they need to lose weight.
Couples who understand the male/female differences can work together to achieve their weight-loss goals. Main differences -- and strategies for helping each other...
She’s Aware, He’s Not
Woman’s view: Our society values thin women. As a result, women are always conscious of their weight -- and they are quicker to diet, whether or not they really need to lose weight.
Man’s view: The average man spends little time in front of a mirror and is unlikely to notice that he’s gained a few pounds. Our society values large, strong men, so men often excuse their weight. They’ll say something like, “I’m just a big guy.”
Strategies: Both men and women find it difficult to be objective about their own bodies. To provide some objectivity -- whichever your sex -- you should know your body mass index (BMI), a well-accepted standard for determining a healthy weight. A BMI of 20 to 25 is optimal... 25 to 30 is overweight... and over 30 is considered obese.
You can compute your BMI by dividing your weight multiplied by 703 by your height in inches, squared. Easier: Use the BMI calculator at www.weightwatchers.com.
Also important: Know the circumference of your waist. Even if you have a normal BMI, you could have a high proportion of belly fat -- which is a risk factor for diabetes, heart disease and other health problems. Risks accumulate when a woman’s waist circumference exceeds 35 inches... and a man’s exceeds 40 inches.
Men often think that their pants size is also their waist size -- but most men wear their pants below the belly.
To accurately measure waist circumference, place a tape measure at the top of the hip bone and measure evenly around the bare abdomen. The tape should be snug but not pushed into the skin.
For Beauty, For Health
Woman’s view: Women tend to use appearance-related words and phrases (“I’d like to look thinner”) when talking about their weight.
Man’s view: Many young men also worry about appearance, but most men over age 40 are more concerned about the health aspects of weight (“I don’t want to have a heart attack”... “I want to have more energy”).
Strategies: A man can encourage a woman’s weight-loss efforts by giving her unsolicited compliments, such as, “You look great in that dress.”
Because men respond best to fitness words, such as fit, healthy or in better shape, their partners can encourage them by linking weight loss to health improvements -- “You’ll have more stamina when you play with the kids” or “This will keep your blood pressure down.”
Depressed Eating, Happy Eating
Both men and women engage in emotional eating -- eating for reasons other than hunger -- but the emotional triggers often are different.
Woman’s view: Women tend to consume excess calories when they’re feeling negative emotions, such as stress or depression.
Man’s view: Men tend to overeat when they’re feeling positive emotions -- for example, when they’re enjoying themselves at parties, happy hours and ballgames.
Strategies: Partners can help each other by recognizing their different emotional triggers. If a woman has had a bad day at work, her partner might gently head her off at the refrigerator and suggest that they go for a walk to talk about it.
A man might ask his partner to warn him if he is hovering near the party buffet table or the bar.
Less Food, More Exercise
Woman’s view: Women who are trying to lose weight usually focus more on cutting calories and less on exercise.
Man’s view: Men focus more on exercise to lose weight, rather than on eating less.
Strategies: For the greatest chance of success, both men and women have to combine exercise and calorie restriction. To drop one pound in a week, you have to eliminate 500 calories each day. Very few people can exercise enough to burn that much -- and just cutting calories can take the weight off but doesn’t support keeping it off.
You have to do both. Trim calories, and get 45 to 60 minutes a day of moderate-intensity exercise -- such as brisk walking, swimming or playing golf without riding in a cart.
Little Changes, Big Changes
Women tend to view weight loss as a long-term war. There are times they attack... times they retreat... and times they have a negotiated settlement. Men tend to view weight loss as an all-or-nothing battle.
Woman’s view: Women tend to make small changes that they hope will lead to long-term weight loss, such as substituting low-calorie mayo for regular or having one piece of chocolate instead of two.
Man’s view: Men are less patient. They do better when they make big changes -- giving up beer or desserts completely, for example.
Strategies: The male approach is more effective, research suggests. It’s difficult for most people to maintain their commitment to portion control. If they keep eating the same foods, the portion sizes tend to gradually increase. It’s often better to give up something than to have “just a little.”
Woman’s view: A woman trying to lose weight will solicit advice from friends and share successes and setbacks. She wants the support of her peers and to know all of her options.
Man’s view: Men are less likely to talk to friends about weight loss. They don’t want too many options. What they want is expert -- and specific -- advice.
Strategies: For men, women are often the weight-loss experts. A woman can help a man lose weight by limiting his options, for example, by stocking the fridge with fruits and vegetables. She can point out to him at a restaurant that the grilled fish is a better option than the fried-fish platter.
This approach generally doesn’t work with women. A woman who asks her partner what to have for lunch may well get annoyed if he tells her specifically what to have. In reality, she would rather discuss the possibilities on the menu before making a decision. So if she asks you what to eat, you could say, “There are several good possibilities here. What do you think would be best?”