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Weight Loss Guide for Women | Science-Backed Weight Loss

Weight Loss Guide for Women

As more adults try to lose weight, statistics show that women are at the forefront of the drive, with 56.4% trying to lose weight compared to 41.7% of men1https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db313.htm.

However, trimming the waistline is proving a challenge for women as it is for men.

On the positive side, studies show that effecting small changes in trivial things such as sleep quality and stress levels can significantly impact weight loss among women. Let’s dive into the weight loss challenge, the common areas women tend to gain weight, and the healthy ways they can trim their waistline.

What Causes Weight Gain in Women?

Both men and women can experience gradual or sudden weight gain caused by factors other than an unhealthy lifestyle. These include:

Hypothyroidism

Women can start gaining weight suddenly when the thyroid gland stops producing enough hormones. The deficiency of these hormones can also lead to depression, triggering further weight gain, thinning hair, dry skin, and feeling colder, tired, and constipated.

Hypothyroidism is diagnosed by conducting a simple blood test to check the hormonal levels in the bloodstream. Medication may include a prescription of artificial hormones.

Age

Age should not lead to sudden weight gain. However, it is normal to gain weight gradually as you age. This happens because we start moving around less, naturally lose muscle mass, and experience a slower metabolism.

Depression or Anxiety

Mental health has a significant effect on a person’s weight. Depression and anxiety are some of the most common mental health causes of sudden weight gain.

When we’re stressed, the body releases the hormone cortisol, which attempts to store fats and restore energy reserves. Thus, we feel like we’re starving and get into a binge of “stress eating.”

Sustaining such high cortisol levels due to exposure to highly stressful environments can lead to excess fat, thus sudden weight gain.

Insomnia

Insomnia

Poor sleep or lack of sleep makes women crave sugary and fatty foods to keep them awake up to the next sleeping cycle.

Insomnia affects hunger hormones and metabolism by raising ghrelin levels, the hormone responsible for signaling the body when it’s time to eat. At the same time, it lowers leptin levels, the hormone responsible for communicating when you’re full.

A 2018 study showed that participants who slept one hour more per week lost more weight than those who slept one hour less2https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/41/5/zsy027/4846324?login=true.

The Common Areas Women Gain Weight

Women store body fat differently than men. Women’s bodies tend to store fat around the thighs and hips, unlike men, who have more belly fat.

Women also tend to have a higher percentage of body fat than men. For the same body mass index (BMI), a woman will carry more fat than a man. Thus, women have a higher healthy body fat range of 20% – 25%, unlike men’s 10% – 15%.

The Barriers Women Face in Losing Weight

The weight loss journey for women comes with a couple of barriers. One study groups them into situational, external, and internal barriers.

Situational Barriers

This is one of the most important perceived barriers to weight loss. Situational barriers include stress, depression, and food craving.

According to the study, the educational level impacts these situational barriers as well. For instance, employed, highly educated women showed greater stress levels than housewives and students, which inhibited weight loss further.

External Barriers

According to the study, the most significant external barriers to weight loss in men and women included exercising lonely and lack of time. Employed women and students were the most affected by external barriers.

Internal Barriers

According to the study, the most significant internal barrier is a lack of motivation. This barrier is more prevalent among older women.

Physical Barriers to Weight Loss

Physiology also has a significant role in discouraging weight loss among women. The most common physical barriers include discomfort, fatigue, and underlying medical conditions.

Dehydration and insomnia can also affect your ability to lose weight. Luckily, there are ways to get around these barriers and start healthy weight loss.

Women Weight Loss

Why Do Women Lose Weight Slower Than Men?

Women tend to lose weight slower than men. So far, research has unearthed the following reasons to try and explain this biological phenomenon.

Different Fat Mobilization

Mobilizing fat is the process of getting it out of the fat cells for fat metabolism. Research shows that fat cells around the belly area mobilize fat better in men than fat cells in the thigh and hip areas for women.

Since men store more fat in the belly than women, they’ll tend to lose weight faster.

Lower Muscle Mass

Men have more muscle mass than women. More muscle mass translates to a higher metabolism since the muscle tissue uses more energy than fat tissues. Having more muscle mass also means that men eat more calories than women.
Women can, however, build more muscle mass through resistance training.

Lower Fat Metabolism

Fat metabolism is the process of burning fat for energy. Women’s bodies tend to use less fat for metabolism, especially in the thigh and hip areas, since this fat is crucial for childbearing. Thus, men tend to burn more fat for energy while at rest than women.

However, research shows that women will use more fat for energy during low to moderate intensity workouts compared to men who rely on carbohydrates in this phase.

Thus, women can see tremendous gains in weight loss by consistently mixing low to moderate-intensity exercise with high-intensity aerobic activities.

Different Eating Habits

Women tend to eat more dairy foods and sugary foods than men, who prefer meat-based foods. Moreover, research shows that women are more likely to turn to food to cope with stress than men.

Emotional eating may result from low self-esteem, depression, or anxiety. Social or cultural factors may also influence the difference in food choices between men and women.

Women Weight Loss Men vs Women

Healthy Ways for Women to Lose Weight

Healthy weight loss is possible for all women. However, before you get started on any of these, make sure you’ve consulted with your physician first, especially if you have an underlying condition.

Reduce Your Intake of Refined Carbs

Refined carbs are less healthy diet options. They undergo lots of processing which reduces the amount of fiber and micronutrients in the final product.

According to research, refined carbohydrates also spike hunger and blood sugar levels and are linked to increased belly fat and body weight.

Drink More Water

Drinking more water is one of the easiest and most effective ways of promoting healthy weight loss. One study shows that just drinking 500ml of water can increase the number of calories burnt after 30-40 minutes by 30%3https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14671205/.

Drinking water before meals also reduces your calorie intake, aiding in weight loss.

Don’t Completely Starve Yourself of Your Favorite Food

Pizza may not be the healthiest meal, but depriving yourself of these foods can lead to yo-yo eating. Give yourself a day or two in the month where you can indulge in reasonable quantities of your favorite junk food, such as ice cream and pizza.

Do Consistent Resistance Training

Resistance training builds muscle mass which burns more calories and fat reserves in the body. Resistance training is especially beneficial for women above 50 since it increases the number of calories the body burns while at rest.

Resistance training also helps preserve bone mineral density, protecting against osteoporosis.

Have a Regular Sleep Schedule

According to research, getting enough sleep is crucial to weight loss as exercise and diet. Sleep deprivation increases the body weight due to higher levels of ghrelin.

Another study showed that having at least seven hours of sleep and better overall sleep quality can increase the chances of weight loss by 33%.

Take More Walks

Walking is one of the most effective weight loss exercises. It is not high-intensity like a one-hour workout in the gym, but it has almost similar benefits. Walking makes for an excellent alternative for someone who’s not yet ready to commit to a gym workout routine.
You can also walk in your own schedule while doing other things, such as listening to an audiobook.

Eat More Protein

Poultry, meat, eggs, seafood, legumes, and dairy, among other proteins, form an essential part of a healthy diet that contributes to weight loss. Studies show that a high-protein diet can cut food cravings, boost metabolism, and increase satiety.

By increasing protein intake by 15%, you can reduce your daily calorie intake by 441 calories. This can result in a weight loss of about 11 pounds.

Take More Smoothies

Fruits make a great alternative to high-calorie diets. Taking more smoothies promotes further ingestion of fruits, leading to better weight loss.

Smoothies make it easier to ingest fruits and veggies any time of the day. You can have a smoothie during the busy morning hours when you’re most likely to avoid breakfast and snack up on junk for the rest of the day.

The veggies and fruits provide a lot of fiber, water, and micronutrients for the body, leaving you satisfied for longer. You can add some protein powder for a boost of protein or Greek yogurt.

Contact a Professional for Further Assistance

Among other ways you can lose weight healthily is by undergoing bariatric surgery. Paired with a healthy lifestyle, it is one of the most effective weight loss methods.

You can get in touch with a bariatric surgeon to consult whether the procedure is right for you and how you can get started.

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This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

Our editorial team strives to present both sides of the argument with in-depth analysis and links to resources.

This article contains scientific and health-related references. The numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.