I have a friend whose husband does one thing when he wants to lose weight: He cuts back on beer (not out but just back-he drinks it on the weekends). That's it. And he's usually 5 pounds lighter within a month. It's not fair, but men are natural losers. Why? Their bigger muscle mass helps them burn 30% more calories than we do naturally. Plus, guys are more likely to flock to the weight racks at the gym and build metabolism-boosting muscle, while women are cardio queens who tend to hit the treadmill or Spinning class. Here are 4 lessons from the boys that can help you slim down.
1. He lifts heavy weights
Women are catching on to strength-training, but some experts think women ought to approach weights more like men do. "When a guy goes to the gym, he'll usually pick an exercise that allows him to use the most impressive-looking weights," says Lou Schuler, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and author of The New Rules of Lifting. The result: muscle building in less time, and working a range of muscles at once instead of one in isolation. "A woman, on the other hand, will go for light dumbbells and do an exercise that allows her to use perfect form but will do the least amount of good." To wit: The laborious but ineffective 12 triceps exercises women do to try to rid themselves of underarm dangle, says Schuler.
So drop the "Barbie" weights. If you're doing 2 sets of 12 to 15 reps, your weights are probably too light, says Schuler. Move toward higher poundage that makes you strain to do 8 to 10, says Schuler. Once your body is used to 10, then increase the weight until you're only able to do 3 reps. "At sports medicine conferences, I've seen scans of women's upper arms before and after this kind of training program, and the girth of their upper arms hasn't changed, but you can see the fat tissue is reduced and how much more muscle there is."
2. He doesn't use food as a therapist
Women are twice as likely as men to binge because they're depressed, found a University of Minnesota study. Women are also twice as likely as men to be depressed, which makes for a lot of eat-a-thons. Worse, after a binge, a woman is likely to feel guilty, feel even more down, and soothe herself with more food. But guys don't think they can boost their mood by mainlining frozen dairy products. You shouldn't either. Break the habit by identifying what's behind your need to feed. Rank your desire to eat on a scale of 1 to 10, recommends Santa Barbara, CA , psychotherapist Gloria Arenson, author of Five Simple Steps to Emotional Healing. "If it's an 8, then look at what in your life was an 8 that day. Your boss yelled at you? Your dog ran away? Your kid got into trouble at school?" By matching your numbers-the craving and an equivalent stressor-you'll soon learn how to determine whether you're hungry or medicating a bad mood. With practice, most people who use the rating system stop themselves before taking the first bite, says Arenson.
See 7 ways to outsmart stress cravings
3. He makes time for himself
Here's another reason why men's emotions don't drive them to the fridge. But women are less likely to declare, "I need to take the day off and get pampered." For many women, their only source of gratification and reward is food. Starting today, snag an hour just for you. And give yourself something inedible to look forward to, whether it's a Saturday morning at the outlets or a monthly girls' night out for pedicures at a spa.
4. He doesn't give up favorite foods
When women diet, we deprive ourselves of all those luscious "forbidden foods" until we can't stand it any longer. Then we fall like starved dogs on year-old Halloween candy stuck to the back of the freezer. Austrian researchers, looking at gender differences in eating and dieting, found that "men's approach toward nutrition is uncomplicated and pleasure-oriented." They'll still eat Doritos and guacamole while watching the Super Bowl, but they'll have one-third less then they usually do. Studies by University of Toronto obesity researcher Janet Polivy, PhD, found that restrained eaters-that's the average female dieter-are more likely to not only overeat after dieting but also to gorge themselves if they just think they're going to go on a diet. Scientists call it "the last supper effect." So don't ban your favorite food-nothing can scuttle your good intentions like feeling deprived. "I order my clients to have something they love every day-a portion of ice cream, a small cupcake," says Arenson.
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