By Lucy Dangiger
Cliche or not, life isn‘t fair—especially when it comes to the fact that men lose weight so much faster than women, and usually when they’re trying only half as hard! Seriously, it’s like magic (but more annoying!): A guy will grab his gut, announce that it’s got to go, and—presto!—a month later he’s a slim Jim. Meanwhile, women toil away at the gym for weeks before seeing a 1-pound difference on the scale. What gives? The editors at SELF decided to investigate, and turns out, guys’ slim-down strategies aren’t all that complicated—surprise—and they can work for women, too! Steal these firm-up-fast secrets, and share them with your girlfriends. It’s time to level the slimming field.
Eat real food
Guys don’t usually munch on things like 100-calorie snack packs; research shows men are less likely to eat goods labeled diet or low-cal. And that’s fine because you get more nutrients (and avoid unhealthy saturated fat) by fueling up on whole foods, which are also more psychologically filling, says Heidi Skolnik, former team nutritionist for the New York Giants. So that means snacking on nuts, yogurt, hummus, cheese sticks, fruit and vegetables and skipping that totally unsatisfying small serving of crackers? Sign me up!
Have a one-track mind
Whether it’s for hitting a golf ball or dieting, men tend to have laserlike focus when they choose to. “They’re wired to concentrate on a single thing, whereas the female brain evolved to approach tasks from a wide perspective,” according to Helen Fisher, Ph.D., a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University at New Brunswick, New Jersey. So a guy might decide to cut out beer entirely or do a Saturday boot camp; that’s his big plan. Most women try to tackle the whole problem at once, vowing to nix all carbs, cut out alcohol, steam every vegetable, and hit the gym daily at dawn. No wonder we fail; it’s a chore just thinking about it! Instead, pick your single worst eating habit (diving into the bread basket at dinners out or late-night ice cream binges or fridge raids?) and a challenging fitness goal (attending Spin classes more often?) and attack only those for four weeks. Totally doable, right? Now add a second goal: Keep building on good habits and watch the pounds drop off.
Start thinking of your gym’s weight room as the “lose weight” room. Strength training, which only about 17 percent of women do, revs metabolism, torches calories and sculpts sexy muscles. It’s so effective, you should think of your current cardio as secondary to strength training, which can be 60 percent of your fitness commitment right now, says Holly Perkins, an ExerciseTV trainer in Los Angeles. Another dude to-do: Spend less time on machines and embrace free weights, especially barbells, which work more muscles. (Borrow these moves from the boys.) And don’t be discouraged if the needle on the scale nudges up a smidgen at first: Remember, the muscle you’re gaining weighs more than the fat you’re losing; you may not drop pounds, but you’ll be smaller and leaner—go by how your favorite jeans fit!
Remember Rocky? The Italian Stallion didn’t worry about when or where he’d train or whether he’d win; he began punching sides of frozen beef. “Most men throw themselves into an exercise program without much planning; most women ask a lot of questions and may even overthink things, which can create excuses and lead you to put off starting,” says Tracie Rogers, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Arizona School of Health Sciences. Skip right to the action—and results! Why not lace up and go for a quick jog right now? Curious about CrossFit? Sign up for a class right now, and pay so you can’t talk your way out of it later. Your new mantra: Try a new fitness class today; pounds gone tomorrow!
Feed your ego
We women are as competitive as guys, but our ego isn’t as tied to how fast we run or what we bench-press. Maybe it should be! Turns out, one’s ego is a powerful motivator. The next time you have an amazing workout, tell a friend, boast to your brother, post it on Facebook, or even just say to yourself, Boot camp busted my butt today! To pump up your body confidence even more, work out with a superfit friend and don’t let her out-exercise you.
It’s no shocker: Men worry less than women do about what random Joe Schmoes think of their body. (Even in the locker room, my husband reports, men of all shapes strut around towelless.) I wish it were as easy as simply deciding to adopt a guy’s total body confidence! But flattering workout clothes can nudge your cute-at-the-gym meter enough that—like the guys—you’re able to focus more on taking that class, lifting the weights or hitting the pool, all of which will get you fit.
Ditch the dinner drama
A guy sees pizza and thinks, Yum, pizza for dinner. Women think, Uh-oh, pizza is my weakness, or, Ah, pizza will be just the mood booster I need, Skolnik says. One study found that women binge eat more than men do, possibly because we eat to soothe ourselves. And when emotions, not your stomach or brain, drive choices, it can be a diet disaster. Instead, try to think of food as fuel. Take bites because you’re hungry or need energy, not because of stress, unhappiness or just plain boredom. Think about what your choices will do for your health and let yourself indulge occasionally without the guilt. Pizza? Yum! Have some, move on.
Guess what else helps guys lose faster? Their attitude and the fact that they give themselves credit for the smallest victories, whereas women have a tendency to be too hard on themselves. “My female athletes become distraught or beat themselves up if they don’t notice results right away,” says Robert Pennino, president of Terrier Tri coaching in New York City. Ban that thinking! Keep telling yourself that not every day will be a winner but that you will win at weight loss. A skipped jog doesn’t mean failure—your next meal or sweat session is another chance to keep at it. And you’ll love your results at the finish line!