So when it comes to dieting, does sex matter?
According to a new report by U.S. News, it does–and the differences are huge.
Elisabetta Politi, Duke University’s nutrition director of the Diet & Fitness Center, reveals the reasons why in U.S. News’ January report.
“Their experience demonstrates just how much diets can affect people differently, regardless of gender,” says Politi. ““I don’t sit down with a client so much thinking of the gender but from the conversation I have with them, [we come] up with what is a sustainable plan.”
A 2009 study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy on Sciences proves this point even further. In that study, they measured the brain activity of hungry men and women who were exposed to foods people commonly crave, such as ribs, cheeseburgers, and chocolate cake. When instructed to resist these treats, both men and women reported they felt less hungry–but the brain scans showed only men experienced this mentally, proving that the women still craved these foods.
Other evidence also shows men lose more weight faster, while women struggle with it–much to the chagrin of female dieters across the country.
“Any diet can make you lose weight because you eat less,” says Melissa Musiker, chair of the District of Columbia’s Board of Dietetics and Nutrition. “What’s really critical is that maintenance phase and figuring out what’s going to empower you to maintain it–not just help you lose it.”
So what’s best for men and women?
1. For women, a diet emphasizing fruits and vegetables is best. According to Joan Salge Blake, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, women eat more of these foods in the first place, so getting them to eat more is a better–and healthier–choice. As a bonus, fruits and vegetables contain fiber, which promote satiety–a good weight loss tool.
2. For men, diets that focus on building muscle is better. Men, say researchers, don’t like to count calories or follow meticulous rules, preferring to eat foods they enjoy instead. Diets such as Atkins or Paleo diet often include meaty, high-protein foods men enjoy anyways, so it’s a win-win for them.
“They just like the diet where you don’t have to count calories, where you don’t have to control the portion, where you’re just told to eat certain foods–and especially food they like,” says Lawrence Cheskin, a U.S. News Best Diets panelist.
On the contrary, don’t expect to see a man wolf down a bag of fruits or raw carrot sticks. Researchers also say men are less inclined to gorge on these foods, so forcing them to up their intake could backfire.
3. Women like low-sugar or low-calories alternatives to their favorite foods. It’s hard to let go of favorite foods such as chocolate cake or a cheesy tortilla, but more women are willing to compromise by making diet-friendly versions of these treats, says Cheskin. According to him, women are more drawn “to meal plans that are lower in fat and offer sugar-free alternatives to their traditional choices.”
Overall, it’s finding the best diet they can adhere to, however, and not necessarily the one that produces the most weight loss, say health experts. And for men and women, these differences are like night and day.
So remember the next time your diet–consider your gender too.
Readers: What do you prefer to eat in your diet?