Have you ever gone on a diet with one of your male friends or partners and noticed that they lost weight faster and seemed to keep it off easier?
Well, you weren’t imagining things. Weight loss is, on average, easier for men than it is for women. This is due to the physiological differences between men and women.
Why is Weight Loss Harder For Women Than For Men?
One significant factor contributing to the disparity in weight loss between men and women is a difference in hormones.
The primary male hormone, testosterone, helps to burn fat and build muscle. While women also have testosterone, they have much lower levels. Because of this, men on average have a much higher percentage of muscle weight. Because muscle is very active metabolically, it burns more calories and therefore promotes a leaner physique. However, enhancing weight loss for a woman is not as simple as adding a testosterone treatment, as this can have unwanted effects.
For women, estrogen and progesterone are the primary hormones. At high levels these hormones have been found to increase how strongly you crave food. Food cravings are one of the toughest barriers to overcome at the beginning of a diet, so it makes sense that men may, on average, have an easier time sticking to a new way of eating.
Pregnancy also causes dramatic changes in a woman’s hormone levels and food cravings. It is no surprise that it also plays a significant role in a woman’s weight. Anyone who has had a child knows how difficult it is to lose the weight that you put on when pregnant.
With all of these struggles, it’s no wonder that many women find weight loss challenging. Fortunately, we have some tips that you can use to help boost your weight-loss potential.
Ten Small Changes That Help Women Lose Weight
Weight Loss for Women Tip #1: Do Some Resistance Exercises
Many people believe that cardio is the best type of exercise for losing weight, but research suggests that resistance exercise is just as important, and maybe more important for women. Resistance exercises help to build muscle and to boost your testosterone levels, which in turn can increase fat burning potential. More muscle mass means a higher metabolic rate, meaning that your body will burn more calories each day than before you added muscle mass. A weight-loss workout for women should definitely include both resistance and cardio.
One thing to keep in mind: gyms, particularly weight-rooms, are tailored to the needs of men, not women. Many of the weight machines are made for bigger, taller people, and may not be optimized for women. Moreover, in many gyms there may be fewer women in these areas containing weights and resistance machines, and so it can be intimidating to try and use weights. Some people (men and women) can often be overwhelmed without professional assistance to help them get started. If this is how you feel, then the best women’s weight loss workout for you might not start at the gym.
The good news? There are still many ways to get a good resistance workout outside of the weight room at the gym.
One very practical women’s weight loss routine is to use body weight or resistance bands at home (or at the gym) to get a full-body resistance workout. Even working in the garden can include some resistance. Surprisingly, incorporating simple elements like these can add value to your women’s weight loss workout.
Weight Loss for Women Tip #2: Find a Partner
Humans are social creatures. It is this aspect of our personalities that can make a diet and exercise change particularly challenging; we often tend to eat what our friends eat and exercise (or not) the way our friends do.
To help set yourself up for success, find someone who wants to make positive lifestyle changes with you. Having a friend or partner to eat right or exercise with provides encouragement and accountability.
Weight Loss for Women Tip #3: Avoid Drastic Diets to Reduce Cravings
When you change how you eat, for most women it’s important to use a balanced and stepwise approach. Common mistakes are aggressively attempting fad or starvation diets, or attempting to follow a plan that is unrealistically strict. For most women avoiding this is important for two reasons:
- It makes cheating more likely: When you’re not eating enough food and the food you eat is excessively restrictive (for instance, a prolonged juice cleanse), it is common to experience intense food cravings. These may set you up for failure, and, even if you are able to push through, it may not be the most enjoyable experience. The best diet for women’s weight loss is a diet that’s healthy but not one that is so excessively restrictive that you are unable to follow it.
- It does not work for long-term weight loss: To maintain this weight loss, you will need sustained integrity around eating healthfully and optimizing your activity level. This involves a permanent commitment to a dietary philosophy rather than a short-term diet, if you are seeking a long-term weight loss result. No short-term diet can possibly result in long-term weight loss, and extreme diets are not sustainable (either mentally and physically) long-term.
Weight Loss for Women Tip #4: Avoid White Flour
Refined white flour has been stripped of the micro- and macro-nutrients that provide actual food value and satiate you, meaning that eating foods with white flour will allow you to eat a higher content of concentrated refined calories, while also leaving you feeling hungrier than an equal caloric load of unrefined grains. One study found that white flour consumption is associated with an increase in visceral and subcutaneous abdominal body fat. Refined white flour also has a high glycemic index, which can cause blood sugar spikes that are dangerous to diabetic patients. Blood sugar spikes are followed by large drops and are also a source of energy lag that may make others crave additional calories later.
Instead, substitute whole grains like quinoa and brown rice for white bread and pasta.
Weight Loss for Women Tip #5: Drink Plenty of Water and Tea
Drinking 80-100 ounces of water daily can help us feel full, reduce cravings, and can help some women lose weight. Water is biochemically necessary to burn fat. It can also help to curb our appetite between meals. And finally, water is actually absorbed in our intestines by active transport, meaning that it consumes a small amount of energy (calories) when we drink water.
A word of caution: for those patients who have congestive heart failure or another medical condition that restricts water intake, it is very important to follow your doctor’s fluid restrictions. Additionally, too much water (more than 10-15 liters per day) can wash critical electrolytes out of your body.
You can also add in herbal teas that are made from spices, herbs, or flowers, like chamomile tea. When drunk without added sweeteners, you may find that tea can help to reduce your cravings by satisfying your need to feel like you are eating something between meals.
Weight Loss for Women Tip #6: Add One Healthy Food Each Week
Instead of abandoning your whole routine for a diet that’s unenjoyable and tough to stick to, try starting instead by substituting one healthy food that you enjoy each week for one food that is less healthy. Many people are much more likely to stick to a plan that involves small stepwise changes because smaller changes are much more manageable (especially if you lead a very busy life). Over time if maintained, these small changes can become new food preferences and new food behaviors.
Each week, substitute in a new healthy food habit. Some ideas are:
- Substitute pasta at dinner for a whole grain like brown rice
- Double your portion of dinner vegetables
- Eat a salad first, or even instead of your meal
- Drink tea instead of soda
- Drink unsweetened beverages instead of sugar-sweetened beverages
- Snack on a small handful of almonds instead of a candy bar
By making small changes that you continue for long periods of time, eventually, you will change what your diet is made up of. Instead of grabbing candy or chips for a snack, you’ll find yourself turning to fruit and nuts. You may “crowd out” soda with tea, or start having a morning vegetable smoothie each day. Healthy weight loss for women, like weight loss for men, is about sustainable long-term change. Slow and steady will always win the race toward your long-term weight loss goals.
Weight Loss for Women Tip #7: Park at the Back of the Parking Lot
It can be hard to find time to hit the gym multiple times each week. Rather than trying to go from little or no exercise to frequent exercise, make small changes that encourage more movement. Finding simple ways to boost the number of steps you take each day can help to slowly improve your metabolism.
Simple choices like parking at the back of the parking lot, taking the stairs, or even using the furthest bathroom from you at work can help you end up moving more every day.
Weight Loss for Women Tip #8: Use Apps for Assistance
Few of us can afford a personal trainer, but it’s hard to lose weight without help. Fortunately, in the digital age, new options are popping up to provide us with both fitness and nutritional guidance. Apps like MyFitnessPal or Daily Burn, which offer a variety of 30-minute daily streaming weight loss workouts, can be powerful. Additionally, online resources such as websites like sparkpeople.com can provide very helpful tips to help you design powerful women’s weight loss workouts for yourself.
Weight Loss for Women Tip #9: Add ANY Type of Workout
So what is the best women’s weight loss workout?
It is very important to note that exercise by itself does not equal weight loss. If you incorporate a daily women’s weight loss workout, but don’t also consciously change how you eat, then you’ll see health benefits but you’re unlikely to see lasting weight loss. This is because increasing activity without complementary dietary lifestyle changes will simply result in a natural increase in calories consumed to maintain weight. In a perfect world, women who are serious about optimizing weight loss will start with a solid dietary plan and then begin at least 10-20 minutes of cardiovascular weight loss every day. From there, the ideal women’s weight loss workout involves increasing this in 10-minute increments to at least 30 minutes of cardio daily at least 5 days per week, and then adding an additional 2-3 days of resistance training. Yet the reality is that most women carry many commitments to work, family, and possibly education. So it can be challenging to fit a women’s weight loss workout into a busy schedule.
One key is to understand that your value and optimal ability to function in all of these settings depends on your health. And exercise is one of the most powerful modifiable factors in building and sustaining your health. Prioritizing a frequent women’s weight loss workout means prioritizing your health, prioritizing you, and having more to give to every facet of your life as a result. Another key is finding any type of activity that you enjoy, and then sticking with it. Whether gardening, pilates, hiking, walking your dog, swimming, fitness classes, or weight lifting…adding activity that you enjoy means that you are more likely to continue your activity. When you continue your activity in the context of complementary dietary changes, you have a better opportunity to lose weight and keep it off. The best women’s weight loss workout is one that’s sustainable and enjoyable for you.
It’s important to exercise safely, and not every type of exercise will be safe for every woman. Running can be a great weight loss workout for women, but if you suffer from joint or back pain, then you should consult an exercise physiologist to develop a safe exercise strategy and decrease the risk of hurting yourself.
If you suffer from heart disease of any kind, then it’s very important that you seek clearance from your doctor before starting any new exercise plan. The best women’s weight loss workout is also always one that’s safe for you.
All exercise is beneficial, as long as you’re exercising safely. The most beneficial workout is a plan that you can commit to long-term, one that becomes a consistent part of your life.
Weight Loss for Women Tip #10: Get More Sleep
Not getting enough sleep can disrupt the hormones in your body responsible for controlling your hunger and satiety. This may not be the only mechanism for sleep deficiency causing weight gain. Disruption in circadian rhythms is associated with weight gain. An example of this is that night shift workers are known to struggle with weight gain. When you miss sleep or alter your circadian rhythms, your stress response and hormones will tell you that you’re hungry even when you’ve recently eaten, which can lead to eating more food at each sitting.
Try to prioritize sleep whenever possible. It’s easy to make this a last priority; but it’s important for your health, and your waistline, that you get enough sleep. If you struggle with insomnia, try early morning sunlight or white light exposure, regular exercise, elimination of caffeine or stimulants, consider melatonin, and avoid screen time within 2-3 hours of your anticipated bed-time. If you are still struggling then you may need see your doctor about adding a sleep aid.
What if Lifestyle Changes Aren’t Enough?
Remember, every woman’s body is different, and what works for one woman may not work for another woman. You may implement all of the above strategies and lose all of the weight you were hoping for, or you may only see a small change on the scale.
If you’ve tried to diet and exercise, and lost 50 or even 100 pounds only to regain it all, then please understand that this is not your fault. If you suffer from obesity, then your body is hardwired to maintain and even add to its weight. In this case, bariatric surgery can be the powerful tool you’re looking for to level the playing field in your battle with obesity. Bariatric surgery isn’t a cure-all: you’ll still need to eat right and exercise after bariatric surgery. But when combined with diet and exercise, weight loss surgery can give you the lasting results you’re looking for.
If you’d like to learn more about what weight loss surgery is and if it’s right for you, go ahead and schedule an appointment today.