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

Gender Differences in Fat Metabolism

malefemaleA 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. There is no need to read the comments to know it is too easy to confuse the issue with self-image.

    Txomin wrote on August 21st, 2012
  2. THANK YOU MARK! The more interested I get in health, the more I realize that a) women respond vastly differently in almost every arena of health than men do, and b) there are not enough studies that look at these gender differences. Then, of course, all the bro scientists on paleo forums like to tell women to try IF and go keto and all this stuff that works great for them but not for us. It makes me so happy to see the “patriarchs” of the paleosphere (I mean that in a good way!!) addressing these issues. From what I understand, estrogen regulation is super complicated and I don’t expect a non endocrinologist to really be able to disseminate it understandably to the masses — but it’s rare to find even a broad review of current literature.

    On a side note, going primal pretty much addressed all my body issues. It’s kind of ridiculous, in one month I lost something like two inches in my belly (probably from gut inflammation) and half an inch in my thighs. I weigh more than I did in college, but for the first time in my life I can put on some short-shorts and run around feeling like a million bucks. I’m still pretty squishy (probably like 27%-30% body fat) but it’s more evenly distributed now. Clothes suddenly fit me incredibly well. And better yet, I just feel great, inside AND out!

    elaine! wrote on August 21st, 2012
    • Also, Robb Wolf had a great episode of the Paleo Solution Podcast that sent me down a rabbit hole looking at sympoms of estrogen overload: http://robbwolf.com/2012/06/12/estrogen-brad-davidson-episode-136/

      While I firmly believe that women do, and SHOULD, have significant body fat, there was some interesting info in there about stubborn thigh fat plus bad PMS symptoms being possible signs of too much estrogen. There are tons of estrogenic chemicals in our environment (not to mention conventional beauty products…) so I don’t think it’s that far-fetched.

      I do think that eating primal can help women reset their hormone balance, though. I’m in the middle of making some changes in my life to reduce excess estrogen, and I’m looking forward to finding out how that will affect my body and mind.

      elaine! wrote on August 21st, 2012
  3. I’m a marathoner, 170 cm/65 kg, strong and athletic. From the hips down, I look like a model. But the rest of me looks like I’m five months pregnant. My belly won’t bulge no matter what I do. I don’t drink alcohol nor coffee, I do lots of yoga, I sleep well, eat lots of vegetables, no trans fats, no fast food etc etc. Tried non-dairy no grains for two years. Ate lots of grass-fed beef, eggs and butter. Tried IF. Nothing happened except that I got fatigue, hair loss, recurrent colds and generally felt like shit. So I upped my carbs and started to eat grains again. I feel an instant increase in my energy levels and feel great! Now I’m actually able to stay awake after 9PM and do other things than work, work out and house work. And my belly looks like it’s always done (semi-bloated with rolls of fat), but at least I feel a helluva lot better. Any advice on that?

    Lindsey wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  4. To the AB FAT questions, the solution for me was to get my body used to eating MORE carbs!!!

    I am shedding torso/ab fat rapidly by having day-by-day increased my carb intake to between 80 and 115g. Now before you laugh, I was reading Paleo For Women and decided to see if my low thyroid and adrenal exhaustion were resultant from too few carbs. But I never crave carbs, and didn’t know how much I was eating, so I tracked myself for a few usual days, and averaged between 15 and 35g per day. Not enough!

    I never even considered that I would need more. I have birthed and breastfed five children this way, but while they have been thriving, I have not. As Mark said, “the body knows”, but I’m the last priority! So I was not likely even getting any of those carbs since I am still nursing.

    Anyway, more carbs = less stored ab-fat for me. I am losing fat so quickly that it is visible every morning. Not only that, but fat is growing in a very pleasant way on my butt! I used to be a bit boxy-looking there, but in three weeks, I have turned into an up-side-down heart-shape and now have visible venus dimples! My man can hardly believe it! But it’s even more shocking to *me* to see a shape I’ve never had that is *my* body!

    More carbs. At least for a while. Maybe I’ll hit a point where it doesn’t work at this level anymore and I’ll have to eat more, or less, carbs. I don’t know, but adjusting carbs seems to be the key for me.

    Also, my low thyroid and adrenal exhaustion seem to have improved drastically; I’m not taking my thyroid replacement anymore either. And I sleep much better.

    Carbs. More. If you’re a woman. Not if you’re a man; that won’t work.

    Imogen wrote on August 22nd, 2012
    • I have had exactly the same experience. Low carb primal for me meant stalled weight loss, heart palpitations, insomnia, hair loss, and changes in my menstrual cycle. I found Paleo for Women, added in a lot more carbs, and now feel much better. The questions is, how do we achieve weight loss without these symptoms?

      Lauren wrote on August 23rd, 2012
  5. “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. ”

    Funny – this could be a reason why HCG works so well for me. I literally dropped most of the weight at the thighs and belly… still so much to go, though.

    Gila wrote on August 22nd, 2012
    • Interesting….I have 2 bottles of HCG left and it worked well for me for the week and a half that I tried it; but then went paleo and added back the good fats. Wondering though if I should try again and see if the thighs can melt down a bit…

      Elena S wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  6. This is very timely because I am taking on a couple products that promise men more muscle mass and strength. It promises them to “get big”. Although I haven’t gotten in depth into the programs yet, I am sure there are dietary components that demand excessive eating that might be ultimately unnatural for some individuals. I will put them onto this article so they understand the reality of the difficulty trying to do something sustainable when it isn’t natural.

    Cheryl Boswell wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  7. This is great stuff. I’m a midwife and discuss all of this with my clients when we talk about healthy pregnancy weight gain. On a personal note, I haven’t been able to menstruate in about 5 years. My BF is 12-13% and all my hormone levels are too low. How does one boost lepitin levels to help induce hormonal change? I’ve researched it to death…I sleep 8 hrs most nights (except when at work), reduce stress, eat primal (except for the occasional piece of gluten free toast). What gives? Any suggestion would be welcome

    Meghanne wrote on August 22nd, 2012
    • Hmm, it does seem that low BF percentages for women can lead to loss of menstruation. I’m sorry if this is a stupid question, but have you tried to gain more bodyfat to regulate yourself? Or is is that you have low hormones due to some genetics that have lead to having such low bodyfat in the first place? That is, was the low bodyfat intentional? Just curious!

      Liz wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  8. I will now eye the “Stubborn Hateful Three” pounds with (slightly) more tolerance. ;)

    Katrina wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  9. Great subject, you definitely addressed the majority of your readers which seem to be peri-menopausal women. So please clarify the omega 3 to 6 issue. You mean all this marketing about 2 to 3 grams of fish oil plus good paleo diet is being converted to extra fat to our legs and hips. Please address this issue. I will not be taking any more omega 3 until you do. Thanks

    Jina wrote on August 22nd, 2012
    • LOL! Maybe I’ll go on an Omega3 hunger strike with you til we get an answer…I want DHA for my brain, not my thighs!

      Elena S wrote on August 22nd, 2012
      • Maybe they’ll have a surgery for that some day. Thigh fat being extracted and then pumped into the brain. 8O

        Animanarchy wrote on August 23rd, 2012
        • It would do that to the recipients’ eyes too.

          Animanarchy wrote on August 23rd, 2012
  10. I’m a pudgy 25% body fat and the only way I can ever get thinner is with chronic cardio and starvation. It’s the only thing that works. All the PB diet does is get the insulin resistant extra fat off and restore health, which admittedly is a heck of a lot. But it’s not a weight loss diet. The PB fitness helps some with tone, but it doesn’t make me thin. If anything, it makes me fatter because the old CW when I was a kid was you shouldn’t lift weights because as soon as you stop it turns to fat. So true! Miss a week and it’s all turned to fat and I look worse than ever. The only way to be thin is to eat only vegetables and run run run. Sadly, this leads to severe depression. Women can’t win on this and everybody judges the pudgy 25% ones like me as having no will power and not trying hard enough to be healthy.

    Diane wrote on August 22nd, 2012
    • I’m curious if there’s any real evidence that 25% body fat in a women is actual unhealthy in any way if the woman is healthy by more direct measures (fit, strong, energy, endurance, not getting sick)

      My suspicion is that it’s one of those things driven more my pop culture (everyone should look the same and there’s a particular body type that’s the ‘fashion’ every generation) than by actual health.

      25% body fat in an otherwise healthy woman… to me doesn’t sound ‘pudgy’ particularly, it sounds like it could very well be just normal genetic variation in healthy people.

      TO wrote on August 22nd, 2012
      • I.e., it sounds like you’re healthier when you’re at 25% than when you try to go lower.

        Maybe the solution isn’t ‘cardio and starvation’ but dumping the fashion magazines or whatever’s messing with your mind and/or getting healthier friends (i.e., ones who are active and eat well and aren’t obsessing about body fat percentage).

        TO wrote on August 22nd, 2012
        • Sure, I’m certain 25% is just fine and dandy for me. But you won’t see someone who looks like me in the Friday Success Stories and my own appearance isn’t going to make anybody run out and buy the Primal Blueprint.

          Diane wrote on August 22nd, 2012
        • I would love to read Primal Success Stories from people who haven’t turned into supermodels. Healthy comes in a wide range of body types and distributions. Hearing about impressive blood work changes and about finally feeling good and energetic is just as much a success story as “I lost weight and now I am a size 4″. I really want to hear from other women in their 40s-50s who maybe still have a few pounds hanging around but feel better than in their 20s and 30s. How about it??

          Rhonda the Red wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  11. Thoughts on body fat storage & post menopausal (non hormonal using) athletic women? Thx…

    DR wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  12. I knew there was a reason I liked big butts. ;)

    sportsfan wrote on August 22nd, 2012
    • Well for one they’re gratifying, it sounds like you’re getting a standing ovation.

      Animanarchy wrote on August 23rd, 2012
  13. As a woman, this news actually makes me sad although it’s something not at all surprising. I live in an area where there are scores of women around me without extra lower body fat (this is a place of marathon runners), and I’ve managed to achieve a similar look in the past but it was only at extreme cardio levels. I was physically exhausted all the time for the amount of lower body exercises combined with the running.

    I wish we could program our woman genes to change this, particularly if we have no children or aren’t going to have them. Ah well.

    Parson wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  14. Thank you so much for writing this article. I have such a battle with my body and the way I feel I should look. This article is exactly what I needed. I know that being healthy isn’t looking like a model and being small, it’s about my ability to workout, recover, and do my day to day tasks. Thank you again for this!

    Joleene wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  15. Thanks for the post Mark.

    Have you ever seen cases where women transition into a Primal diet and actually put on more body fat?

    I am 5’8 and starting the diet I weighed 127lbs and had 15.4% body fat. 2 months later I’m 130lbs and have 17.8% body fat.

    I’ve been eating Primal since the beginning of July because I was suffering from inflammation issues (psoriasis, joint pain, ect). I’ve had a hard time transitioning into being Fat Adapted i think mostly because i was so good at burning glucose. I felt like crap until about day 18 where i think i made the switch. I can now skip a meal and not crash and have seen inflammation reduce. But i can’t reconcile why i put on body fat when i thought the opposit was supposed to happen.

    According to your post i should be ok with a little extra because I’m still very healthy, but I just don’t like the way i feel with a little extra “coosh” :-)

    Any advice would help.
    Thanks!

    AFro wrote on August 22nd, 2012
    • It sounds like for your height, the extra pounds are probably much healthier. There’s definitely such a thing as too little body fat.

      TO wrote on August 23rd, 2012
  16. Great article at a great time. Just as I’m complaining about how whenever I get pregnant the first thing that expands is my hips and thighs. I’m walking around at 20 weeks with my booty sticking out as much as my stomach. Which, thankfully, this being my first Primal pregnancy, isn’t half as much as previous pregnancies! Now I have a good reason not to worry about it. And I imagine continuing to squat 130# and deadlift #160 is helping all that as well.

    Marie wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  17. I so agree with you.

    If only our doctors would look into this properly and stop making their patients frightened of their own bodies all the time.

    We need more of this sort of thing so that people stop feeling bad about looking normal.

    Sue wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  18. What a great article!

    George wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  19. I love, love, love this article. It just slays me when I talk to my friends who are a little over weight when they come back from the Dr.’s office having been told they are “obese”. Seriously! Sure they could stand to lose 10-15 pounds but if they lost more than that they wouldn’t look healthy. Women are supposed to be curvy. I am not a fan on the BMI at all and love how you explained the differences between the sexes. Nicely done.

    Sheila wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  20. I absolutely cannot do IF, I become dizzy, light-headed and just generally bitchy when my calories get too low.

    Lauren wrote on August 22nd, 2012
    • Me, too. And, it seems like the stricter I get with my diet, the less I can IF. It used to be that I got crabby. Now I don’t get crabby, but my stomach makes all kinds of horrendous “FEED ME NOW” noises within 3-4 hours of my most recent meal. I really think I need to eat 4 times a day.

      Deanna wrote on August 22nd, 2012
    • That’s how I usually feel when trying to fast. It’s an exercise in discipline and something you might have to approach incrementally.
      Or you could cheat.. and sleep while fasting. That’s how I managed my first and so far only 24 hour fast (though I think at some point I drank a little coconut milk so I’ll have to do a real fast some day).

      Animanarchy wrote on August 23rd, 2012
      • Remembered – it was a little bit of flax oil, not coconut milk. But maybe a “fast” with small amounts of high omega 3 fats would be a good thing.
        The oil ended up going rancid though and I made a bad decision to eat some anyway, thinking it wasn’t yet too rancid. Felt terrible, vomited up half a jar of peanut butter and had to sleep / lie there suffering for a while on my tarp.. the vomit fed some squirrels though.

        Animanarchy wrote on August 24th, 2012
      • That’s a good idea. Usually when I fast, I try to make it from dinner to dinner, but at the end I’m counting down hours and end up breaking down around 18 hours. Recently, I’ve been playing around with giving myself at least 12 hours between dinner and breakfast with pretty good results.

        Also, in response to another of your comments, I never thought of yoga in a hunter-gatherer context. I like it well enough, though, so I might play around with that.

        Deanna wrote on August 28th, 2012
    • there are different ways to do IF. i never fast for a whole day or more. i eat 3 meals between the hours of midday to 8pm most days and don’t eat between 8pm and midday. easy. if your hungry in the morning have some coffee, you could even go wild and have some milk in it if you can handle dairy. coffee may help suppress your appetite.
      check out leangains.c o m as the author is pretty much the daddy of IF.

      greg grok wrote on August 23rd, 2012
  21. Would also love to read about the fact that higher (not obese, just not skinny) BMI is associated with longevity in women. And curious about all these people citing their “body fat percentages” How was that calculated? I was under the impression that the only way to get an accurate number for that was to do that water submersion test.

    Josephine wrote on August 22nd, 2012
    • I think even in men it’s more complicated than people often make it out to be.

      There’s a radical difference in the effects of subcutaneous fat (especially when there’s only a bit of it anyway) and visceral fat, for example. That goes for both men and women, though it’s particularly relevant to women who tend to have more of the former.

      But even for men I’m not sure if there’s any actual advantage to losing that last couple of pounds if you’re active, strong, eat well, etc.

      IMO we should measure health by looking directly at HEALTH.

      The extreme low body fat ideal is more of a (recent) fad than an actual sign of health, IMO. And it’s not universal, either – it’s easy to see by artwork that there have been many times over history when they would have found our extreme low body fat ideal to be unattractive.

      TO wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  22. I know I’m supposed to take comfort that nature is my behind my body’s refusal to relinquish its grip on the fat on my thighs but I don’t! I found this somewhat depressing. It would be better if you would maybe utilize the research so I could end up closer to the photo of Mark’s wife! I want her body!

    Lisa wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  23. Very interesting and informative article! However, evolution really has nothing to do with it! In fact the chances of evolution developing such a complex process inside of such a complex organism not only defies the laws of psychics but is statistically impossible! The truth is the reason our bodies work so well and the male and female systems are so distinctly & brilliantly different are because the were genuisly DESIGNED

    Lindsay wrote on August 22nd, 2012
    • http://www.talkorigins.org/

      Read it and learn

      lolwut? wrote on August 22nd, 2012
    • +1. but no matter one’s beliefs this PB thing works for most people. should I be eating/exercising etc like a 20 yr old guy ? no. do I need to experiment a bit to find what works for a 50 yr old lady? yes. does it matter if I believe in GOD? maybe only to me and HIM…!

      Hopeless Dreamer wrote on August 22nd, 2012
    • Do tell us more about the laws of psychics, genuis, and how God or evolution alone explains the existence of trolls.

      Moshen wrote on August 23rd, 2012
      • Last night a guy who was “high” on opiates and drunk lectured me about Satan and Jesus when I answered to his inquiry if I liked Satan that yes, sometimes I do, and also Satanism, though I look at Satan as a mythological figure and not an actual being.
        Then I thought about how self-righteous I acted last time I got drunk (even though I was right, overall at least) and have now decided not to get drunk anymore. Chances are I’ll drink except moderately.
        I read that alcohol opens up all sorts of cell membranes and ion channels, basically at random, causing general havoc within the body so it seems like getting sloshed is a risky endeavor.

        Animanarchy wrote on August 23rd, 2012
    • I don’t believe that, nor do I discount it. One species, two genders.. how does that evolve? (and this goes for a great number of species)
      I’ve read/heard of sexual reproduction with bacteria, when they “lock” and trade some DNA, but I think it’s mind-boggling to think all gendered species resulted from that.

      Animanarchy wrote on August 23rd, 2012
  24. I think a lot of women are hinting at the same question, but how does Primal affect a woman’s hormones? At any stage in life? And what does that mean for the amount of carbohydrates we eat, the kind of exercise we do, etc? We talk a lot on this site about life for Grok, but what was Grokette’s life like when Grok went out hunt? What were her daily activities?

    Deanna wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  25. I totally agree with your statements. Like you, I have tried to put weight on by trying to lift heavy and eat a lot! What I saw when I did that was me getting injured and feeling nauseous constantly. When getting to bed I felt extremely bloated and sometimes could not even fall asleep. But its true that everybody is different when it comes to their physique and their metabolism. This article is great insight and I will keep this in mind when trying to help my friends out in exercising! Thanks!

    Sid wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  26. May be, just may be, evolution will some day take into account that flat belly and ripped body is sexy and improves an individual’s chances of mating. Then, we all will naturally start having ripped bodies!!

    Alphalpha wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  27. Cool! After I started supplementing with fish oil and cod liver oil, I suddenly had more hip and thigh fat whereas the rest of my body stayed the same. Not sure if that’s how it works but it is a fun co-incidence.

    Monis wrote on August 22nd, 2012
  28. This is an interesting article and it got me thinking but I still feel there is a missing tile somewhere which is not explained. This information is addressing only young women.

    So my question will be as follows:
    How would you then explain woman in menopause tends to put more weight around their waist?
    Most women during that transition period start putting a lot of weight beyond their control. And for some reason unless they are really at it, they loose hope, they give up and become quite fat. This is nothing to do feeding another human being anymore because by nature they cannot.

    How can we explain this? I am very curious and thank you for all your research, it is very useful to all of us.

    Gonan Premfors wrote on August 23rd, 2012
  29. Self image is also important. A male’s body composition may well be higher than average but is self perseption is that he has the perfect physique, what he sees in the mirror is his own confident perception of himself. In contrast many women who have ideal body composition self-perceive themselves as fat! Sadly.

    Nico wrote on August 23rd, 2012
    • Nice, excellent point! I see some women who I would call downtright perfect complain of being fat!!

      Liz wrote on August 23rd, 2012
  30. I find it interesting that women respond better to exercise than men but not diet. I work with mostly women and they always complain that their diets aren’t working. I tell them diet is only 1 piece of the puzzle but have never really concerned myself with finding any research to share. You have done the leg work for me. Thanks! lol

    stephen wrote on August 23rd, 2012
  31. That is a rockin’ article! I feel insecure only when I know I’m not on top of my food/nutrition game…otherwise, my lady shape has served me well and I SURELY don’t want to look like a man :)

    Alex wrote on August 23rd, 2012
  32. I started following Primal Blueprint on May 1. I am a 38 year old female. I lost 12 pounds within the first six weeks and then my weight loss stalled for 6 weeks. At the same time, I started experiencing distressing symptoms including: Heart palpitations, insomnia, hair loss, and amenorrhea. I recently took myself to the emergency room thinking I was having a heart issue, but all the tests came out fine. Thankfully, I sound the Paleo for Women blog and her thinking about weight loss and/or low carb can cause metabolic and systemic problems for women of childbearing age.
    I have an appointment with an endochrinologist to explore this further.
    I started feeling much better about 3 days after I started adding rice, potatoes, and sweet potatoes (and some sugar) into my daily eating. But of course I am still not losing weight. Even though I have eliminated SO MUCH from my previous diet.
    My theory is that weight loss (and maybe specifically low carb) causes a stress reaction in some women’s bodies making it very challenging to lean out without feeling terrible. Any other experiences like this out there?

    Lauren wrote on August 23rd, 2012
  33. Add me to the “this sucks and is depressing” camp.

    And who are these men who think that women look fantastic with saddlebags and a big butt? I feel like there are some token condescending “but men like big butts!” platitudes being thrown around that are pretty hypocritical. Men don’t, most of them. I don’t want to look like a Victoria’s Secret model (although I don’t see men boycotting those catalogs in mass revulsion either). I want Marilyn Monroe’s size 16 figure! Firm thighs and hips. Not this jiggly People of Walmart butt beneath my slim waist. I want curves, firm curves.

    Anyway. I don’t know who all you saddlebag-loving men are, but you’re not the majority. And you never have been. Ancient Greek statues idolized curvy but firm bodies, ample but tight thighs. I would kill for Botticelli’s Venus’ thighs. Instead I have jiggle and lumps. My husband sure does like the look of those Olympic swimmers and divers. Lean, muscular and strong. You’re telling me that PB can’t deliver that to most women? Fan freaking tastic. Color me depressed.

    GirlFriday wrote on August 23rd, 2012
    • In 2 months I lost nine pounds. Since May, I have lost nothing more, but every day my whole body still improves, including the butt and outer thighs. I still despise them because they are just out of proportion enough to be irritating as hell, but my husband says there is great improvement. Cellulite is slowly but surely vanishing. But it takes time.

      Don’t forget, the PB can’t change our genetic bodily makeup. I’ll never be a Victoria’s Secret underwear model, but I could be a Victoria’s Secret dresses, jeans, t-shirts, bras model because my arms, legs, back, and abs are killer now, *thanks* to the PB and luck in the genetics department in those areas.

      Perfection is for fiction.

      Nicole wrote on August 23rd, 2012
    • Marilyn wasn’t a 16 by past or modern standards.

      Lisa wrote on September 1st, 2012
  34. I wonder if the Venus Willendorf wasn’t a fertility figure, but a feeding figure.. like a cow!
    Imagine in prehistoric times, after giving birth some women were made to keep lactating, as our ancestors knew that breast feeding children for a long time was good for them, and assumed (or realized or knew) that human milk was good for everyone. So they had these woman, sort of like queen bees, who they gave lots of extra food to who then provided the tribe with human milk.

    Animanarchy wrote on August 23rd, 2012
  35. I’m with many of the women on here. I lost 3 stone eating primal but my belly is huge. i have lost 9 ” off my middle but its still huge. I’m apple shaped and as heart disease and diabetes is in my family I’m obviously concerned. I have Fibromyalgia and cant exercise, my sleep is erratic because of the Fibro so dont tell me to get a good nights sleep and relax! it doesnt happen! I would love to have a flat , fairly fat free stomach. I’d also like to know mark, if I stick to my primal way of eating but still carry the belly fat what are my risks of developing diabetes and heart diease in the future?

    cinders wrote on August 23rd, 2012
  36. I’ve always had the proverbial “childbearing hips” and “thunder thighs” no matter how slim I was and had actually resigned myself to the idea that I’d probably have to resort to plastic surgery to get the visual results I wanted. A few months ago I read Nina Planck’s Real Food for Mother and Baby since I’ve been searching for paleo/primal-friendly resources for conception and pregnancy. Her book also discusses that DHA is preferentially stored in the gluteofemoral fat and was a HUGE AH HA! moment in coming to terms with my body. That bit of jiggle is going to be major brain-food (literally!) for whatever podlings I eventually have. It gave me a whole new appreciation for human physiology and all the things that we’re capable of. Not to mention giving me even more reasons to love my curves.

    Laney wrote on August 23rd, 2012
  37. My question is it okay to not have a period for awhile while being on the primal diet/lifestyle? I train hard 4-6 days per week and am very low carb. I am about 10-15lbs from my vanity weight, at about 21% body fat and would like to get leaner. I’m not having a period , should I be concerned or will it come back once my body adjust to this lifestyle?

    Grace wrote on August 24th, 2012
  38. For those of us who have “Wonder Thighs” what brand of jeans do you wear? It’s very difficult for me to find jeans that will accommodate my Wonder Thighs and still fit around the hips and waist. I’ve had luck with American Eagle Boyfriend pants cause they’re larger in the thigh and have a low rise.

    What else do you wear?

    christina wrote on August 24th, 2012
    • Start with a relaxed or curvy fit, then find yourself a great alterations person and plan to have the waist taken in. That’s what I finally had to resign myself to as the ‘perfect’ jean is a MYTH. So look for something that really flatters your butt and thighs and just have the waist altered.

      K.C. wrote on August 25th, 2012
  39. Thanks Mark for that article. I am fairly new to PB, my first miracle being the stabilization of my blood sugar (no more crashes for me!), but I have struggled with fluxuating weight, bouts of fatigue, loss of libido, lost desire to workout, etc, your leptin article really helped with that issue, I figured out I’m one of those that need a certain amount of carbs or my leptin levels go all wonky. This article about the differences in men and women’s fat metabolism makes me feel much better, my husband who has been mentoring me in primal seems to lose the fat so easily when he eats clean true primal where I will bounce back and forth seeming to lose and regain the same pound every other day. I have also lamented the fact that the fat loss seems so slow. I will now have more patience with myself and concentrate on reducing my stress and getting enough sleep. :)

    K.C. wrote on August 24th, 2012
  40. 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.

    THIS makes me feel SO much better! I’ve always had an easier time losing weight in my stomach area. After my face and chest, its the first to go…and usually within a month of exercising on a regular basis.

    So when its been my thighs and hips lately that have been getting slimmer while my tummy stays relatively the same, I’ve been wondering what’s gone wrong? Is it that I have no abdominal strength? Or did my body chemistry change?

    OH! That was it! I’m currently nursing a 7 month old and have been exercising for the better part of 3 months now (5 days/week ~30 min of cardio/day + 45 min of weights 1-2x/wk). This makes me feel so much better. I’ll just keep up what I’m doing and look for the results in February – March!

    Christina wrote on August 24th, 2012

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