There is no denying that both women and men gain weight as the years pass. The average weight gain for adult men is 1.7 pounds per year and for women, 1.4 pounds. More than half say that they’ve gained at least 20 pounds since reaching adulthood. And the trend seems to be worsening. Among adults between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four, the average weight gain per year is 2.7 pounds for men and 2.2 pounds for women.
In a survey of overweight men and women conducted for Weight Watchers, women reported actively working at weight management for a longer period of time than their male counterparts. While part of that difference can undoubtedly be attributed to women’s earlier awareness of the excess weight and a quicker decision to take action, the age at which a substantial amount of weight was gained also seems to have played a role. In the survey, 56 percent of the women reported becoming overweight in their twenties. Only 43 percent of the men in the survey said that their twenties was their decade of substantial weight gain. The women in the survey also reported gaining their weight in a shorter period of time compared with the men.
When it comes to life events that trigger a substantial weight gain, the sexes are both similar and different. In another Weight Watchers study, overweight men and women were asked to describe life events that lead to weight gain. In equal numbers, the women and the men linked quitting smoking, going to college, starting a new job, getting married, and getting divorced to weight gain. Men were much more likely than women to associate a gain in weight with a slowdown (or stop) in exercise, as well as with an illness or injury. Three times more women than men, however, linked the death of a family member to a weight gain. Although it is not surprising that 46 percent of women cited having children as a life event that led to weight gain, it may be surprising to note that 6 percent of men did, too. Finally, menopause was cited as a major time of weight gain for women.
From a woman’s viewpoint: Most women know that having a baby (or two or three or more) puts her in a weight-precarious situation. Women at a healthy weight are encouraged to gain about 25 pounds over the course of a pregnancy. Those who go into a pregnancy overweight are encouraged to gain a bit less, 15 to 25 pounds. While gaining the weight usually isn’t difficult for most women (and exceeding the recommended weight gain is not uncommon), taking off the excess weight once the baby is born can be a challenge. It’s hard for some women even to remember what they looked like or felt like before getting pregnant. This is even truer if there are multiple babies over a few years, in which case the likelihood of returning to the pre-baby weight and shape doesn’t occur before a new one is on the way.
From a man’s viewpoint: Although some men, particularly athletes, might be asked to gain weight to enhance their physical performance, men typically do not find themselves in situations where there is a biological vulnerability to gaining weight. Hence, the tendency is that weight gain in men is a slower process. Forty-one percent of the men participating in a survey of Weight Watchers Online subscribers reported that they gained their weight slowly.