Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
21 Aug

Gender Differences in Fat Metabolism

A few months ago, I addressed the role gender plays in how we respond to intermittent fasting. That post sparked a great discussion, and I’ve since received a fair number of emails from readers eager to learn other ways in which gender plays a role in our health and nutrition. One email in particular set me off on a round of research. So, a hat tip to you, Winifred, for giving me something to think, learn, and write about. I hope everyone finds it to be helpful.

As you may know, women and men store and metabolize fat differently from each other, and a 2008 paper (PDF) reviewed the evolutionary reasons for these differences. Here’s a summary of their findings and few other noteworthy factoids:

Women carry more fat than men. They are better at storing fat than men. Moreover, when women store fat, they do so in different places than men. They’ll preferentially store fat in in the hips, butt, and legs, whereas when men gain weight, it usually goes to the upper body (hence why you see massive beer bellies atop stick legs). Furthermore, when both men and women store upper body fat, men are more likely to develop visceral fat – the abdominal fat associated with metabolic syndrome – while women are more likely to develop subcutaneous fat.

On women, body fat seems to be healthier and less problematic. The characteristically female lower body “gluteofemoral fat” is actually a strong sign of metabolic health, whereas abdominal fat is not. In men, high body fat levels correlate strongly with insulin resistance, while this relationship is much weaker in women (probably because of their lower tendency to store visceral fat).

Women burn fat differently than men. Upper body fat goes first, while lower body fat tends to stay put. Except during pregnancy and lactation, when the lower body begins to give up lower fat stores far more readily. Interestingly (and not by coincidence), women tend to preferentially store the long chain omega-3 fatty acid DHA – the one that’s so important to the baby’s development during and pregnancy – in their thighs.

Women make more triglycerides than men do, but their serum levels are similar. This indicates that the fat is being taken back up into adipose tissue at a higher rate in women than in men.

Women are better at burning fat in response to exercise. During endurance exercise, they exhibit lower respiratory exchange ratios than men, which indicates more fat burning and less carb burning.

Women are better at converting ALA into DHA, and they also tend to have more DHA and AA circulating throughout their serum than men, who have more saturated and monounsaturated fat.

These differences in fat metabolism aren’t seen in isolated muscle cells of men and women, which isn’t really surprising. We’re made with the same basic building blocks; we just run on different software. The differences are systemic and hormonal.

Why does this sexual dimorphism in fat metabolism exist?

Well, the name of the game in evolution is reproduction, and reproduction is far more nutritionally expensive for women than it is for men. I don’t think I have to spell out why – for a man, the reproductive process is a brief moment in time, a half tablespoon’s worth of effort; for a woman, the reproductive process lasts the better part of a year and represents a significant drain on nutrient stores. As such, women are “designed” to hold onto said nutrients because, as far as evolutionary fitness is concerned, her primary purpose is to feed, nurture, and cultivate an entire other human being inside her body for nine months. Think about that for a second: women have to create and support another life inside their bodies. They have to provide the food, the water, and the shelter. If something goes terribly wrong in the “outside world,” that nutrient flow to the fetus could be interrupted, thus putting her evolutionary purpose at risk.

Now, imagine if the body didn’t know best. Imagine if the expectant mother had to know precisely what the fetus needed at any given moment – what precise nutrients were needed, which foods to eat and when to eat them in order to provide said nutrients, what to drink and how much of it, what not to eat nor drink – and then make a conscious decision to provide those things right on schedule? It wouldn’t work. We wouldn’t be here. Luckily, the body “knows.” The body will draw on what’s stored and what’s provided to make a health baby. And if it’s not all there, it’ll even convert other stuff into the stuff that it actually needs. Sure, a good diet will absolutely improve fetal health, but we’ve all known parents with less-than-ideal diets who have healthy kids. The body knows.

Which is why women store and burn fat differently than men. In order to be able to provide those nutrients to the growing child, female bodies store certain types of fat in certain places on the body. Female bodies “hoard” certain types of fat and are loathe to relinquish them “just cause you had a simple caloric deficit.” Whereas a man could go low carb Primal and lose weight pretty easily because all he “has” to be able to do is provide a bit of sperm, a woman’s body has more important things in mind, like having enough body fat on hand to produce enough leptin for optimal fertility, or enough DHA stored in lower body fat to build a robust baby brain.

How does this affect my recommendations or your diet, if at all?

Women – don’t be concerned about a little (or more than a little) subcutaneous body fat, especially on your lower body. If you’ve been trying in vain to lose that stubborn jiggle on your thigh, consider that maybe, just maybe it’s there for a reason. Even if you’re not interested in having a child, it’s likely that the presence of lower body fat indicates good health. You don’t have to get pregnant, but the ability to do so is probably a marker of good health, and the research outlined above suggests that classically feminine patterns of fat deposition are healthier than classically male patterns. And even if you don’t like your glutofemoral fat, rest assured that the males in your life (even ones as far away as Papua New Guinea – PDF) likely do!

Men – most of the fitness and health literature is geared toward you, so I’ll just suggest that you take this information on gender differences in fat metabolism into consideration.

I’ve always stressed the relativity of a person’s ideal body composition. I’ve discussed my own failings at trying to eat big and lift big to get big. I managed to put on five pounds of muscle by eating and working out way more than was comfortable or natural, but it made me lethargic, and as soon as I skipped a meal or workout, muscle would just peel off. That’s my comfortable body composition. Your ideal body composition might look very different, and, if you’re a woman, it might look very different from a man’s. That’s fine. That’s natural. That’s attractive. That’s how it’s supposed to be, and by trying to fight it – in either direction – your health may suffer.

What do you folks think about all this? Does this take a load off your mind, or does it open up new avenues of inquiry? Let me know in the comment section!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I’m glad this article was posted–was JUST talking about this with a friend. Sometimes it’s frustrating for us women, because we’re involved in a community where men generally seem to have greater/faster success than we do (in terms of fat loss). And yet I still have to endure hearing the “You can eat as much paleo food as you want and LOSE weight!” Not sure who came up with that line of thinking, but it sure isn’t true for someone like me.

    These last ten pounds on my frame are holding on for dear life! That all being said, I def feel better and leaner following this way of life, and I encourage curious friends and family to give it a whirl–better health equals a better life. I’m super glad I made the switch from vegetarian to primal :)

    Liz wrote on August 21st, 2012
  2. Adding another voice here to the requests for post-menopausal women and fat/weight loss/body composition. And maybe the latest and greatest research on estrogen supplementation in those early years of menopause – I’ve been researching this on my own but, Mark, you do it so much better!

    Siobhan wrote on August 21st, 2012
  3. It would be great if this kind of knowledge were published in magazines/on blogs that teenage girls and young women read. They might be encouraged to not worry about their body image so much.

    Maxmilliana wrote on August 21st, 2012
  4. Thanks for pointing out the differences, Mark. I’m another post-menopausal apple shape that can’t seem to budge the weight. I was doing fine until the hormones changed direction! I don’t know that there’s any natural way around that.

    gibson girl wrote on August 21st, 2012
  5. I was expecting this article to say a lot more about testosterone in relation to fat metabolism. My understanding is that the differences between male and female metabolism are largely attributable to differences in hormone levels.

    The reason men on paleo can obtain a lean, muscular build while female role models on paleo are often plumper is that testosterone helps metabolize fat.

    Mitcher wrote on August 21st, 2012
  6. So, if a woman wanted to reduce that fat to a healthy but lower level, would we talk about lowering the fat overall by not adding fat, increase protein to 40-50%, and choosing O3 eggs, wild salmon and g-g beef over the pork, poultry in skin and nuts/avocado. Prefer coconut oil over every other fat source. Avoid high sugar foods? Add 20 min steady state cardio after each lifting workout? What?

    leida wrote on August 21st, 2012
    • The way I’m understanding it is more that what’s a healthy level of body fat for the average woman is higher than what’s a healthy level of body fat for the average man.

      I.e., you may not look like a TV model but if you have strong muscles, good energy and endurance,
      feel good, and your body fat is mainly subcutaneous fat as described in the article (i.e., hourglass shape or pear shape), you may actually be healthier than that TV model.

      TO wrote on August 21st, 2012
      • Mark’s Body Fat % is lower than an average male’s BF%, and nobody is going to argue that he is healthy. So, if a woman wanted to achieve the same, healthy but below average BF%, what are the recommendations? Not a model with no muscle and 15% BF, but a fit woman with 16-18% BF and large muscle size instead of pudgy average woman at 25% BF.

        leida wrote on August 21st, 2012
        • 25% body fat isn’t pudgy for a woman, and I’m certain it’s not average. It may be a little higher than athletic ideal, but it’s still reasonably good.

          darcieg wrote on August 21st, 2012
    • No, just the opposite.

      Greg wrote on August 21st, 2012
  7. I’m trying to build muscle and get a bit leaner lately and it’s been difficult with the available shelter/soup kitchen food. I’ll pig out on stuff like cheap cheese and cereal or other high-carb foods (french fries for ex., even some bread/bagels) and end up bloated and gaining noticeable fat fast, then if I cut back I’ll lose the fat fairly fast but also lose muscle. A few years ago my body probably looked better than now overall, and I was probably in better shape. I recovered a lot faster from workouts too – maybe because I was conditioned to a routine, maybe there was less strain on my system. After 5 years of reckless drug usage I’ve only been off them for about three weeks now – I’m guessing there’s all sorts of healing and cleansing that has to happen before my organs put their resources towards building and maintaining muscle, though ironically I think I have a fairly normal countenance and skin tone, whereas a few years back I was fairly “ripped” at times and had quite a bit of energy but my face looked like that of an addict and my skin tone was kind of patchy. I think I should get a bike. I used to bike everywhere and it was a great thing.
    A couple months ago I was getting abs but unstable circumstances + a dumb diet mess with my body composition constantly, so I guess they’re still mostly there, but not visible. A recent back injury limits my exercise so I’m kind of confined to hiking and a little easy-going tree climbing, some chin-ups and monkey bar sit-ups.. jogging hurts and even push-ups kill my lower back after a bit. I’m finding it difficult to burn sufficient calories by exercise so now I’m toying around with caloric restriction, eating lots of veggies and protein (with some animal fat) to see how that goes, while drinking quite a bit of coffee in the morning and tea the rest of the day, a small amount of molasses here and there for minerals. I’m basically trying to shock myself into ketosis. The huge bowls of rice crispies must go! I feel sore and hungry but kind of good.

    Animanarchy wrote on August 21st, 2012
    • Later on that evening just kind of thought, “forget that”.. went out and did pull-ups and a bunch of curls with a log. Stuffed myself with mostly healthy food, lots and lots of mixed greens, that really helps with satiety.
      Going for more micronutrients and trying not to worry about calories. If I work hard enough, they’ll burn.

      Animanarchy wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  8. *Applause* Thank you, Mark. Well written!

    Ashley wrote on August 21st, 2012
  9. Not sure if it was mentioned above but this post is only correct for younger people. As people age, the fat distribution pattern on their body changes. Not sure if any one has noticed that women approaching and past menopause often lose the extra fat on their *sses and thighs and start to accumulate more on the upper body – primarily the abdomen. You often see ladies in their 50-60’s with tiny butts. In men, as they pass middle age, their fat stores on the abdomen often shift downward onto the hips and legs.
    This may be primarily a result of changing sex hormones. As women age they usually produce less estrogen and more testosterone. In men it is the reverse. This affects emotions as well – older men can be maudlin and older women often become more assertive.
    This process does not happen at the same rate or even in everyone – it may depend on diet, genes, activity etc.
    But is certainly is prevelant in America.

    John wrote on August 21st, 2012
  10. Oh and further to my comment above – don’t forget, womens breasts typically shrink past a certain age and men grow them.
    For younger women who have apple shapes – likely a hormonal factor at play – likley could be changed somewhat though diet and exercise and reducing stress levels.

    John wrote on August 21st, 2012
  11. Wow, thanks Mark! Judging from the comments of all your primal “girl friends” out there, I think more posts like this are needed.

    Susan wrote on August 21st, 2012
  12. Well, I just turned 60 and I don’t have a tiny butt. :) I do agree that fat deposition may change a little. For instance, fat more across the back and arms for some women.

    I have my own ideas (and some will agree with me) about what happens to fat stores around the time of menopause. Women’s ovaries sure aren’t providing anything post-menopause, so where does the estrogen come from? From where it’s stored in the subcutaneous fat, naturally. I think this extra fat is needed transitionally to get through menopause.

    However, yes, in my experience, there comes a time, several years past menopause when the female body, indeed, is “ready” to give up more stored fat. Sure was true for me. At 5’4″, I now weigh 120. I haven’t been that lean since 1994. It’s only my experience, however. I have lucky genes and no diabetes nor much obesity in my family.

    Lynn wrote on August 21st, 2012
    • Interesting thoughts, Erin – and a little encouraging for me. I’m just starting down the back side of menopause and the subcutaneous just does not want to leave – even the extra I put on during the 10 years prior to menopause. Maybe I just have to be patient for a couple of years and keep up with the primal lifestyle.

      RoseAnne wrote on August 21st, 2012
    • Lynn,so true, thanks! I heard that from a health professional, but also from my grandmother and great grandmother,(both lean,french farmer centenarians – old wive’s tales,hehe) that a woman should have an extra few pounds, if she was lean, to get her through menopause. I am like you,small and 105, went down to 100 around peri, then gained to 110, all primal (+ a bit of cheese) to get me through it, with no additional problems. Now back to 103-4 as usual, all muscle but small gluteo-femoral curves, that fall off if I swim more regularly(good for back and arms too.) (Also important is the inherited proportional hip/waist/shoulder ratios.) You mentioned subcutaneous fat estrogen, and estrogen is stored in fat cells, so there you have it! Good luck!

      Elsie Harrington wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  13. What if you’e an androgen insensitive xy? Lol kidding. Seriously, im a skinny legged um Grrrl, with NBAA syndrome, NO BUTT AT ALL? Im starting to wonder about my lack of omega 3s?

    Kim wrote on August 21st, 2012
  14. Great information today. However, I would add my vote for more information about post-menopausal women’s differences and issues. There are a lot of us here in primal-land. Appreciate all you do for us.

    marika wrote on August 21st, 2012
  15. There are also age differences in where people store fat: postmenopausal women typically store a little more abdominal fat. This abdominal fat makes estrogen for you, since your ovaries have slowed down estrogen production. If you lose that abdominal fat entirely, your libido may plummet.

    shannon wrote on August 21st, 2012
  16. Great article, this highlights a good point, that women need to be comfortable with their healthy bodies even when we have a little bit of jiggle left! For me losing weight after my third baby, my upper half has thinned out quickly while my hips butt and thighs take much much longer, and truthfully after three kids not all of it may ever be gone…and I am cool with that! Health is more important….that extra jiggle in my walk is a badge of honor!! I created three little lives….ain’t nothing more Primal than that!! :)

    Joanne - The Real Food Mama wrote on August 21st, 2012
  17. Well, i”ll represent the minority/devil’s advocate…

    Erin wrote on August 21st, 2012
    • Er. As I was saying…

      Articles like this one and the “intermittent fasting for women” one actually make me feel a little LESS hopeful. If the societal ideal is to be lean – not to mention the primal/paleo ideal – then we ladies are kind of up poop’s creek it would seem.

      For 2 years I’ve been eating grass-fed meat, lifting heavy tings, sprinting, going for long slow walks – doing all of the things that are touted as the makers of the lean bodies by the paleosphere: “Not losing fat? Try sprinting!” “Hit a weight loss plateau? Walk slowly for 5+ hours a week!” “Want to ramp up the leaness? Skip breakfast!”

      And then it all boils down to “Actually, you’re a chick, so nevermind.”

      All this means is I need an attitude adjustment, really. But I thought I’d throw it out there in case any other ladies were left feeling a little hopeless in amongst all the “Yay! My thighs are a sign of good health!”

      With the utmost respect for my sistahs who are comfy in their not-super-lean bodies (and wishing I could be cheering for my thighs right about now),


      Erin wrote on August 21st, 2012
      • yeh, Erin, I’m kinda with you…I will NEVER look good naked. not after creating 5 kids. my body is slim-ish and healthy, but my belly is disgusting! primal or not, having children creates lives and destroys the mother’s body.

        Hopeless Dreamer wrote on August 21st, 2012
        • If you have 5 kids, seems to me that someone thinks you look pretty good naked! 😉
          I know it’s unhelpful sometimes to hear it from men because women compare themselves to women, but men enjoy women’s bodies in all shapes and sizes.
          When we don’t point our our “imperfections” to the men in our lives they probably don’t even notice them.
          That said, I don’t appreciate my body nearly as much as my husband does. (He thinks it’s perfect and I still think it needs work.)

          Beth wrote on August 23rd, 2012
      • I will say this: after a couple of years of Paleo/Primal eating, I have noticed my body composition has changed. My waist to hip ratio used to be 4-5 inches. Now it’s 10. And I don’t weigh that much less. I am just storing fat differently. It used to all be in my stomach and waist- I was like a potato on stilts. Now I have a serious hourglass. My pants are a size smaller- bigger in the waist, smaller in the butt and thighs than they used to be. Yes, I’d like to lose weight, but losing weight doesn’t necessarily mean gaining health- unfortunately, we are conditioned to believe that.

        Lady Grok wrote on August 21st, 2012
      • I get what you are saying. At least I think I do.

        I’m someone with squishy thighs who can get to 12-15% bf with a lot of discipline and desire following a body builder style diet. With a lot of desire is key. I no longer have that desire. What I find really surprising is all the “wow” “great post” comments. It’s well written but my goodnes I thought every woman would know this by now. Women carrying more far and having a harder time losing than men because they are the baby growers. And fat on the hips/but/thighs is a sign of health. It’s sort of “no shit sherlock”. What I find depressing is the amount of women this is apparently new information too. Sigh.

        Jenn (GH) wrote on August 22nd, 2012
        • It’s not so much that it’s new information as that it seems to be acknowledged relatively infrequently, particularly any time people are talking about weight loss, or about appearance. It gets frustrating hearing and reading all these things about how to ‘lose those last ten pounds’, get visible ab definition and so on, as if that’s an obviously good thing (some women do look like that when healthy but for many it’s a sign of being underweight). So it’s nice to see it pointed out clearly now and then, in an article that focuses on how to be HEALTHY.

          TO wrote on August 22nd, 2012
      • Thank you, Erin!

        Kaki wrote on August 23rd, 2012
  18. Interesting article. It would be very exciting to dive into a comparative physiology expose on the difference between cohorts for fat metabolism. Like gender, age groups, nationalities and so forth…that is too big a job for me however…

    Ed wrote on August 21st, 2012
  19. Thank you for making me feel better about my huge, un-lose-able ass.

    Rachel wrote on August 21st, 2012
  20. Great post and it does relieve my mind as I have always been one of those whose body type has screamed good metabolic health. :)

    However, I’m now passed the child-bearing years – did any of your research indicate a difference for women after menopause? I’ve been maintaining a primal diet for a year now and about 3 months ago the weight stopped coming off despite still being 40 pounds above what I think is optimal for me.

    RoseAnne wrote on August 21st, 2012
  21. Erm yea.. that doesn’t explain why I have lots of fat on my upper arms, but my thighs are not even big. I must be a freakazoid, because I mostly store fat in my upper body than my lower. =(

    Fyreflies wrote on August 21st, 2012
  22. If I go low carb enough I can easily get to 10/13 body fat and that’s not good for me so I must really watch carefully how much I eat. My problem is carbs are really hard on my system because they damn trigger up fluid retention in ways my heart can’t deal with anymore.
    My target is a healthy 15% which would be easier if I could up my carbs going low gi and gl and by keeping my insulin low, whatever it makes my heart and kidneys happy is ok for me. Since the transplant and medication I developed belly fat, I never had that one before and maybe it’s to blame on meds.
    I have friends who put weight on their breasts, I thought that was cool once but now I just feel like it’s dangerous, not sure why.

    Luce wrote on August 21st, 2012
  23. This article sounds really nice and positive (which is one of your strengths, Mark) but when it comes down to it, women (especially those of us over 30) are screwed when it comes to fat loss. I’ve been reading your site and others for months, diligently following the advice, thinking that the diet changes would work for me. They didn’t.

    I’ve been paleo for over a year. My ass is still the same size (possibly larger!) and my boobs have shrunk. There simply aren’t enough resources and research that focus on women. And I’m not talking about that “firming and toning with barbie weights” crap that’s all over the womens’ mags. I’m talking about real research, real enactable plans with real results.

    The only writer I’ve read who seemed to actually have done the research and provide a sensible explanation on a biochemical level was Lyle McDonald. Not to say there aren’t others… they’re just hard to find.

    I read most of the articles here with half a grain of salt, knowing that most of the sources you cite (and not to say that you’re responsible for the lack of research on women) tend to revolve around male metabolism.

    Ruby wrote on August 21st, 2012
    • “but when it comes down to it, women (especially those of us over 30) are screwed when it comes to fat loss.”

      I had the opposite reaction… women have a huge advantage — they can be healthy, disease-free, and long-lived, without being as crazily lean as a man would have to be to be as healthy.

      No wonder women live longer.

      TO wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  24. Let me extend my line of criticism. I made two major changes to my diet following months of reading MDA and similar sites:
    1) adding more saturated fat back in, in the form coconut oil and butter.
    2) i quit running/biking long distances and focused on bodyweight exercises

    When I look at videos of myself 18 months ago, I was more cut, and slimmer than I am now (when I was running and eating slightly less fat). If anything, the advice here favors men’s bodies and hasn’t favored mine. I’m frustrated and looking for better resources.

    Other reading I’ve done has led me to question my high fat diet diet and lazy cave man ways. I’ve added various forms of cardio back into my strength training regmine. I’ll tell you in a year if it works.

    Ruby wrote on August 21st, 2012
    • I think cardio should be considered necessary. Maybe not to extremes, but I’ve always had better results overall when I’ve been doing cardio. When I focus just on calisthenics and weight lifting I seem to lose mobility. Our muscles aren’t just made for contracting while the rest of our body is staying still and for running in a straight line really fast. They’re meant to move us around in countless ways at varying speeds. Cardio helps with this, especially in nature (fields, forests, trails) and not on some track or sidewalk.

      Animanarchy wrote on August 22nd, 2012
      • I do better with some cardio, also. A small criticism I have with Primal Blueprint fitness is that it focuses more on the man’s walk-sprint-kill-carry vision of fitness. Is that also an accurate reflection of what women’s bodies were built to do physically? If men are the hunters, and women are the gatherers, what does that mean for women’s fitness?

        Deanna wrote on August 22nd, 2012
        • Seems like yoga might be a good idea based on the gathering concept.
          I like to pick wild berries and though I’ve never officially done a yoga class or routine, that’s what it seems like to me.. lots of squatting, leaning, stretching and reaching, lunging, light stepping, high leg lifting to go over the plants – that is, if you want to be elegant about it. You could always Godzilla your way through a berry patch, though I bet our ancestors were careful not to damage the plants that provided them with food.

          Animanarchy wrote on August 23rd, 2012
      • I still think cardio is good. I think paleo/primal is just against boring “do I have to?” cardio, like getting on a treadmill if you’d rather be outside.

        Lisa wrote on September 1st, 2012
  25. I just wanted to say that I LOVE this article. It is almost creepy that you posted it today. I have lost over 25 lbs in the last year eating Primal. I had three daughters back to back (8, 6 & 5) and until a year ago I had pretty much conceded to the idea that I would never be the athletic 135 lb build I once was. However, I am finally within that grasp and I just told my husband last night how great I feel (younger, healthier etc) BUT there was only one place on my body I wasn’t quite happy with. My thighs….This article made me very happy! I will embrace the little extra jiggle in those areas because I have three gorgeous examples of why it is there. (Plus my husband doesn’t seem to mind it!!)

    Thanks Mark for bringing this into perspective for me!

    Tabitha wrote on August 21st, 2012
  26. It’s hard to take an (ex) hardcore athlete with ripped pictures of himself all over his website seriously when he says, “Strive for your ideal body weight and don’t worry about having a little bit of fat on you. Look at me, I can’t build muscle! Oh, but I sit at 6% body fat naturally :-P”

    M wrote on August 21st, 2012
    • I have to agree with M here. It’s real easy for someone whose genes allow them this body type to tell someone like me to just be happy to have fat all over them despite great efforts to rid themselves of it. That’s akin of a gold medalist telling the bronze winner they should be proud of their achievements.

      Liz wrote on August 21st, 2012
      • But maybe us women are looking at it wrong, we shouldn’t have a cut look with hip bones and six packs showing for optimum health.

        Josephine wrote on August 22nd, 2012
        • Yes, that’s what I think. For the majority of women, that look would mean malnutrition and health problems. There are probably occasional women who are ‘meant’ to look like that, but for most of us, it means we’re sick.

          TO wrote on August 22nd, 2012
    • I bet Mark’s workouts are extreme and he downplays them a bit for the emotional comfort of his lazy readers.

      Animanarchy wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  27. I would LOVE to hear more on the peri/post menopausal woman and health. I have been perimenopausal for 8 years now and still going strong…I expect another 10 years at least…I worry the weight I have lost will come back in ten folds once I am fully menopausal…there is very little research on how a woman can maintain a healthy body during and after menopause…I love your articles Mark and I love how you recognize the difference in losing fat in men and women, now how about some help for the older woman in the peri/post menopause time of their lives.

    Brick wrote on August 21st, 2012
  28. “The body knows” during pregnancy. Yes, This!!! When I was pregnant, especially with the twins, it really felt like there was a physical siphon into my vitamin and nutrient reserves. The baby will take what it needs, and it’s up to Mama to go find more!

    Mikki wrote on August 21st, 2012
  29. I love love love how this article describes that although you are not magazine ready you could very well be healthy. We all have a distorted view. I also talked a bit about this here

    Paulina wrote on August 21st, 2012
  30. Wow, Mark’s last statement about trying to build muscle (for the guys) beyond your body’s comfort zone is right! I have never heard it said quite that way before. Years of trying to eat, eat, eat has led to terrible digestive issues. Once I stopped eating for size and stopped using heavier weights(I had back surgery in Nov/11), I felt better. It was hard to see 25lbs go, but I remain at about 8-10% bodyfat with ease and I will be 47. And….I am a former chubby kid.

    Brian wrote on August 21st, 2012
  31. I’m nursing now, and my butt and thighs are becoming fat-free, thanks also in part to PBF. However, my post-partum “jelly belly” has not. budged. at. all. What’s up with that???!

    Em wrote on August 21st, 2012
    • It’s part of the nursing cycle…it will change after your baby is weaned, if not sooner. I found I could notice cycles of fat storage and draw down when I was nursing. For instance, if my baby was fighting off an infection and wanted to nurse nearly incessantly for 24hrs, there would be a noticeable decrease in belly fat. But then over the next few days the belly fat stores would be replenished, ready for the next time.

      postmodernnomad wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  32. I lost my belly fat only once. And that was with no fatsand no carbs for 3 months. True i had no belly for the first time sence having my childern, but my health was not so good. On primal eating i feel much better but have the belly back( not much hips or thighs). I am reaching the 50 mark in life too. Could that be the problem? Alittle help the direction would be good.

    Debi wrote on August 21st, 2012
  33. I would love to see some thoughts about what women who DO have more than enough fat stores can do about them. (I’m pretty sure that if I got pregnant tomorrow I could not eat a thing and still have enough fat mass to get me through the pregnancy and a couple months of breast feeding before I started to look like a skeleton)

    Remy wrote on August 21st, 2012
  34. So this is very informative but kind of depressing…I started eating paleo, and very low carb paleo at that to lose the 70 or so pounds that I need to lose. One of the first steps was to eliminate virtually all omega6 fats – other than what is actually found in meat and fish and replace with coconut oil, organic butter and fish oil (which I actually use as a salad dressing with some lemon juice. My body is not very balanced looking – my thighs are really oversized – and now I read that I’m storing DHA there when I was hoping it would go to my brain so that I could remember stuff for more than 30 seconds! So Mark, what should I do -cut back on fish oil, eat more chicken and beef? Is there any way to tweak this so that I can trim the thighs…no way I’ll ever look like a boy, figure is way too womenly but def need to trim the thighs and backend…any ideas? BTW I am 51 and peri-menopausal so there is no more nursing in the cards for me!!
    Thanks for any advice!

    Elena S wrote on August 21st, 2012
  35. Mark,

    This is a great article! I have been battling hashimoto’s for some time now and am on a very strict protein and fat intake. I am an avid lifter and still maintain wod’s along with the program. I actually just had this conversation with my fiance that our means of I.F. are so different, there are some mornings where I physically just can not I.F. or I will black out or pass out. I would get frustrated because i didn’t understand how he could go so long in between meals and I on the other hand have to keep a bit of meat or avocado at hand so i don’t black out. I hated the feeling of needing this to function through out the day however you are absolutely accurate in that women process differently, My body is in prime time at 25 it’s ready to start popping those kids out at some point and my body I think is going into natural storing mode where it needs to store nutrients for its main purpose to reproduce.

    I guess with all that said it sheds some light as to why I need listen to my body in refueling it every so often. Thanks for the article!

    Jess wrote on August 21st, 2012
  36. Great article. Now, as a 33 y.o. woman who bellydances, CF’s and who is also a fencer–and who has zero current and perhaps 5% future interest in having children–How do I get rid of that extra “glutealfemoral” fat? I appreciate and understand the motive of the article, but it seems somewhat defeatist for those of us who choose NOT to do full-on Paleo to include reproducing. As such, and based solely on the results of the research: Does the research then mean that in order to “fight” genetics, that twice as much effort must be executed to achieve the desired result? Granted, I am not happy that I’ve gone from a 38D to a barely 34B, while my lower half is still thick-ankled-athletic-Beyonce; but for me, I’d still like the encouragement that I will be able to meet my performance goals instead of fighting my body and getting nowhere. I’m moving 5# a year at most. For a competitive athlete, this is a snail’s pace that isn’t positive given my increasing age, the wear on my knees and now a tendonitis in my hip. Bummed. :/

    Susan H wrote on August 21st, 2012
  37. Man, women can’t have anything nice. >.<

    Brianna wrote on August 21st, 2012
    • We don’t have to wash up after an orgasm. That’s a pretty big perk, I think.

      em wrote on August 21st, 2012
      • speak for yourself dear.

        cindy wrote on August 25th, 2012
  38. Another difference between men and womens health is that we ladies tend to eat our feelings – snacking out of boredom or sadness. I do a lot of this. the difference is that the ice cream and chocolate became nuts and fruits.

    the happy girlfriend wrote on August 21st, 2012
    • Actually that’s the one kind of disordered eating that falls equally in men and women. Men just don’t admit it as much.

      TO wrote on August 22nd, 2012

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