A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reveals that while the obesity rates of men (35%) have hit a plateau, women’s obesity rates (40%) continue to climb. Yet women pay more attention to calories, food labels, and are far greater consumers of health and nutrition information.
Studies show when schools roll out an anti-obesity program, girls are far more likely to change their eating behavior than boys.
Not only that, women do the “lion’s share” of grocery shopping. And Women’s Marketing, a marketing agency focused on women consumers and their buying power, indicates that the next trillion dollar business is “Health & Wellness.”
With that kind of buying and decision-making power, is it any wonder that the food, nutrition, health and fitness industries heavily cater to women? It’s clear that women are more tuned in to the current nutrition advice from the US government than men.
If that’s the case, why are they getting fatter?
First, let’s get the whole idea of sloth and gluttony out of the way. That’s a load of crap. Americans are working out more than ever before. Exercise has nothing to do with weight. It is great for your health, but doesn’t do much when it comes to taking off the pounds, no matter what any fitness coach tells you.
If you think it is simply because women are eating too much, I suggest you read Dr. Jason Fung’s lecture series The Aetiology of Obesity (a 6 part series, but worth it!).
Setting the science aside, I think there are a few reasons why women are continuing to gain weight.
Reason 1: Women Don’t Prioritize Their Health
Women tend to prioritize their partners, kids, family, pets, job/career, friends’ needs and wants over their own health. Your health – mental and physical – should come first. It might seem selfish, but the reality is you’re no help to anyone if you are always sick, in and out of hospitals, or worse.
Think about it. Why do airline safety demonstrations tell you to always put the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping someone else? You can’t help someone if your basic needs are not taken care of.
I’ve been there. More than 4 years ago, my career was all consuming. Sure, I tried all the fad diets and rejoined Weight Watchers I don’t know how many times. But the job always came first. I’d put off leaving work on time and cooking a healthy meal to finish a report, then throw down some fast food. It wasn’t until my health failed me that I finally realized I wasn’t a priority in my own life.
Once I made that change, I immediately became happier (which made my husband happier), and slowly I took control over my health. The weight came off as an awesome benefit.
Reason 2: Too Focused on Quick Weight Loss Remedies Rather Than Optimizing Health
Below is just a random sample of real
clickbate headlines from women’s magazines.
- 5 Bedtime Beverages That Can Help You Lose Weight
- 4 Foods That Burn Belly Fat
- Easy Eating Plan For Weight Loss
- Drop 12 Pounds In 21 Days
- Walk Off Your Belly In Just 4 Weeks
I’m not saying men’s magazines don’t do this … they do. But women are the greatest consumers of this stuff. These types of articles exist en masse because women read them.
Nearly all of these articles focus on diets and weight loss. Not health. A diet is something you go on, lose some pounds, then go off and regain the pounds. By focusing on health, you change how you eat, decrease your risk of disease, and enjoy all the benefits of being healthier.
You want to lose weight? Then stop dieting.
Instead, take control of your health. Focus on what really counts: lowering blood sugar, insulin and triglyceride levels, raising HDL “good” cholesterol, building strength, stopping inflammation (the real culprit in “high cholesterol”), and reducing the risk of diseases.
When you do those things, weight loss is a natural byproduct of your efforts.
Taking control of your health means changing your lifestyle. I made several lifestyle changes, including getting more active, spending less time watching TV and social media. I’m more prone to try new experiences — like mud racing. But these are the 3 key things I did to turn my life around:
1. What I Eat Is Now About My Health Not Weight
Four years ago, I was a 325-pound pre-diabetic with metabolic syndrome and PCOS, and on blood pressure medication. I was on the fast track for congestive heart failure and stroke. Metabolically speaking, I was physically the same age as my parents.
After 25+ years spent yo-yo dieting, I realized diets don’t work. I needed to make changes to save my life. So I stopped dieting and started eating low carb, moderate protein, high fat foods (LCHF).
It was the first time I stopped thinking about my waistline. I was committed to ending my back pain, halting my march to diabetes, and regaining mental focus, strength, and energy. Thanks to my low carb life, all of my poor health markers improved in less than a year. Eight months later, I stopped taking blood pressure pills. Since I started LCHF, I’ve lost 141 pounds and kept it off – but that was a side benefit. I continue to foster good eating and fitness habits to optimize my health.
2. I Know What I Will And Will Not Eat
Despite what nutritionist or health “experts” tell you, we can’t eat anything we want as long as we count calories or points. Our bodies respond differently to broccoli, whole-grain wheat bread, a fatty cut of red meat, or orange juice (for me, red meat is the healthiest option of the four).
Once I chose to eat LCHF, that meant I’d have to avoid certain foods forever: grains, sugars, high carb/starchy vegetables, most fruits, processed foods, and anything low in fat.
There are now foods I always eat: healthy fats (including saturated fat), meat, fish, eggs, full fat dairy (cream, cheese, butter, yogurt), low carb vegetables, and some nuts.
And I have a list of foods I can eat occasionally: berries, sweet potatoes, dark chocolate and alcohol.
I’m not depriving myself of anything. I made a choice to live this way because the alternative meant going into my golden years with expensive medical bills, taking more medications, having limited mobility, and not living the life I want.
This is how I eat for life. Not for 21 days, then back to eating like I did before. I’ve reclaimed my health over the last 4 years eating this way. Why would I want to go back?
3. I Do The Work It Takes To Stay The Course
My new lifestyle means I cook most of my meals. If I cook it, then I control the ingredients. So I created a few habits to keep me on track like weekly menu planning, simple and fast recipes, and prepping meals in advance to speed up my time in the kitchen.
Does this take time? You bet. But when I committed to changing my life, it was surprisingly easy to find the time. I don’t check social media 17 times a day. I don’t spend 4-7+ hours on my iPhone, iPad or in front of the TV. If time is a concern, why waste it looking at a screen rather than living my life and doing the real work?
Reason 3. Not Questioning The “Experts”
Stats show that women, more than men, seek out information on health and nutrition. Perhaps they need to start questioning some of that advice. When I committed to getting healthy, I ended up doubling down on Weight Watcher meetings and exercise. Basically, what I always did (what’s the definition of insanity?).
I gained weight and got injured.
I started questioning what I knew about nutrition and exercise. That lead me to question the conventional wisdom on diets and dieting. When I started learning about the actual science, I realized we’d been fed a bunch of untested BS with low fat foods.
I jumped off the “eat less, move more” ideology and started blazing my own trail: reading about the metabolic pathways of food; watching nutrition lectures online; talking with my doctor about my ideas. Most importantly, I experimented and learned that my blood sugar crashes after eating grains, my weight stalls and goes up when eating fruit, and burpees are the devil.
That’s how I reclaimed my health and lost the fat.
The data shows that women are focused on nutrition and health. Now they need to direct that focus on themselves.