Couples making a joint New Year’s effort to shape up may be surprised to find that they don’t see eye-to-eye when it comes to tackling weight loss. A recent nationwide survey* of 1000 adults revealed that men and women differ not only in their strategies, but also in what motivates them to shed excess flab.

The survey, sponsored by Herbalife, shows that the main factor driving weight loss efforts for women is appearance – nearly 40 percent were motivated to lose because “I don’t like the way I look.” Looks matter to men, too, but feeling out of shape also ranked high – “not feeling healthy” was the top reason that drove 27 percent of the guys to take action.

Even though the prevalence rates of overweight are about the same in men and women, the survey showed that women get dissatisfied with their weight much earlier in the game than men do. A gain of five pounds or less was enough to motivate nearly 18 percent of women to step up their shape-up efforts, while nearly the same percentage of men said it would take a gain of more than 20 pounds or more before getting serious. The tipping point for the majority of both sexes is 10 pounds.

Portion control was equally important to both men and women, but a higher percentage of men focused on more frequent exercise as their main tactic. On the flip side, a higher percentage of women in the survey focused on healthier food choices, suggesting that men might be choosing to eat less, but not necessarily better.

Men and women might have much to gain – and more weight to lose – by borrowing some ploys from one another. “Men might be wise to think more like women in deciding to tackle their weight early on,” said Dr. Luigi Gratton, vice president, nutrition education at Herbalife. “For one thing, it’s easier to lose a little than to lose a lot, and as weight goes up, so do the risks to health,” he noted. And while increased exercise is critical in the weight loss struggle, long-term success is more likely when healthier food choices are part of the package.

Women could take a tip from the guys by focusing more on the end result, to avoid feeling frustrated if they don’t see results early on. A shift in focus – noting that better dietary choices and more exercise makes them feel healthier – might help women to stay on track. And, said Gratton, “Feeling stronger and healthier may help women to focus less on their appearance, and to be more accepting of their body’s natural shape.”

*Survey of US adult population, conducted by Synovate eNation, 12-06-2010 through 12-08-2010, margin of error +/- 3 percentage points.

Source: Herbalife Ltd.