What you probably have already suspected is true: Men can eat more than women and gain less weight. This is because of the way their bodies are built. Other factors also contribute to weight gain in women, including premenstrual syndrome and menopause. Weight gain can lead to health problems, particularly if it is concentrated in the belly.
Compared to Men
Women gain more weight than men because men have more active metabolic mass on their bodies, Michele Olson, PhD, professor of physical education at Auburn University Montgomery, told FitSugar. So, if you eat the same amount as a man, you are likely to gain more weight. Men have more muscle, larger kidneys and hearts, and proportionately have less total body fat than women. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so men naturally burn calories more easily than women.
The week or two before your period, you might not gain weight necessarily, but you could feel bloated and heavy. Even if you haven’t put on weight, you might feel and look as if you did. Water retention causes the bloating. Hormones, heredity and diet can all contribute to premenstrual bloating. If you keep active every day, your PMS symptoms probably won’t be as bad, according to MayoClinic.com. Eating healthy food — such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts — and limiting salt in your diet can help. Besides not adding extra salt to your food before eating or during cooking, avoid processed foods, deli meats, soy sauce, and canned soup and vegetables.
Of all the times in your life, you are most likely to gain weight during perimenopause -- the time leading up to menopause. The hormone changes you experience are likely to lead to weight gain, particularly in your abdomen. Factors that contribute to weight gain during this time are a reduction in exercise — menopausal women tend to exercise less than other women, according to MayoClinic.com — and diminished muscle mass. When you have more fat than muscle, you burn fewer calories. If you combine that with eating the same amount of food, you will gain weight.
Many women accept the fact that they will put on some weight around their abdomen during menopause. The term for this is “middle-age spread.” But health risks increase with additional belly fat. The unhealthier kind of fat is called visceral fat and is more dangerous than subcutaneous fat — the fat you can pinch. Visceral fat surrounds the organs and causes an increased risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and breast cancer, according to Harvard Health Publications. You can rid visceral fat through diet and exercise. Start or continue exercising and add some strength training to build muscle. A good rule of thumb is to exercise at least 30 minutes a day and to do strength training at least twice a week. If you are still gaining weight, eat 200 fewer calories every day.
Laura Agadoni has been writing professionally since 1983. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appear in her local newspaper. She has also written and edited for a grassroots outreach effort and has been published in "Clean Eating" magazine and in "Dimensions" magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. Agadoni has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University-Fullerton.