Why do women struggle more with weight loss?

Plus: Healthy recipes that can help with weight loss.

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"Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out."

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Wednesday. Why am I still getting “last chance” Cyber Monday emails? Since when did Black Friday and Cyber Monday turn into an entire month? The way all this is going, we will probably see Pumpkin Spice Lattes popping up in July, Christmas music around Halloween, and Black Friday deals kicking off November 1st. It’s just getting to be too much. 

Speaking of frustrating things, weight loss can feel like an uphill battle, specifically for women. Why is that the case, and what is the difference for men? Let’s dive in.

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Why Women Struggle More With Weight Loss

It’s a common frustration for many women: they put in the same effort as men into their diet and exercise routines, yet the results often come slower and are harder to maintain. The truth is that women face unique challenges when it comes to weight loss, rooted in hormonal and metabolic differences. So, why do these differences exist, and how can understanding them help women manage their weight more effectively?

Women generally have more body fat and less muscle mass than men. This fundamental difference in body composition means women typically have a lower basal metabolic rate—the number of calories the body burns while resting. As a result, women burn fewer calories than men during the same activities and at rest.

Hormonal fluctuations also play a significant role. Women are more likely than men to experience thyroid problems like hypothyroidism, which can slow metabolism and lead to weight gain. Conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), affecting up to 12% of women in the U.S., complicate this further, as PCOS is closely linked to obesity and insulin resistance.

Another factor is appetite and cravings. Studies suggest that women may experience stronger cravings and appetite due to differences in the neurobiological mechanisms behind these sensations. For example, research has shown that women’s brain activity related to food cravings doesn’t decrease as much as men’s when they try to suppress hunger.

Pregnancy and its hormonal changes also set many women back in terms of weight. Hormones like prolactin, which rise during pregnancy and breastfeeding, are known to promote weight gain and can affect behavioral pathways linked to appetite. Weight gain during pregnancy often persists long after childbirth, and the hormone changes that occur can make losing this weight challenging.

On top of all that, hormones (especially sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone) can significantly impact women’s body composition and weight. For instance, estrogen levels, which fluctuate throughout a woman’s life, play a complex role in fat distribution, insulin sensitivity, energy expenditure, and food intake. 

Estrogen dominance, or high estrogen levels in relation to progesterone, can lead to weight gain, particularly around the waist, hips, and butt, and can promote insulin resistance. Conversely, too little estrogen can also lead to weight gain and a decline in lean body mass, especially during the menopausal transition. Seriously—it’s like you just can’t win. 

Women’s hormones also fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, affecting weight. For example, women burn fewer calories in the follicular phase (before ovulation) than in the luteal phase (after ovulation). These hormonal changes can also lead to premenstrual food cravings, contributing to obesity and its cardiometabolic effects.

So what can women do about all this if they’ve been struggling to lose weight? 

For starters, women should absolutely prioritize resistance training. This type of exercise can help build and maintain lean muscle and increase basal metabolic rate, which is crucial for women who naturally burn fewer calories. 

It is also imrpotant to focus on including more healthy protein options into your diet. This will also support muscle mass and metabolism. Good sources include nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, and lean meats. All winners that many women don’t get enough of. 

On the flip side, it is also important to avoid hormone-disrupting foods like trans fats, refined carbs, added sugars, and alcohol, which can negatively impact hormone balance. So yea, the wine and chocolates aren’t exactly helping.

And finally, there is stress management. Incorporating stress-reduction practices like mindfulness and meditation can support hormonal balance and aid weight management. This might sound a little fluffy, but the impact stress has on hormones, food cravings, sleep quality, and a bunch of other factors that determine weight loss cannot be overstated. 

The key takeaway? While weight loss can be more challenging for women due to various factors, understanding these challenges is the first step towards developing effective and sustainable weight management strategies. For many women, the frustrations that come with weight loss can lead to fad diets, juice cleanses, and all sorts of counterproductive stertegies that ultimately do more harm than good. 

This is why it is so important to understand why weight loss is so different for women and use the knowledge to come up with a sustainable plan that actually works—even if it takes a little longer to get you to where you want to go. 

Tonic Shots

1. Protein Is Key For Healthy Weight Loss

Grilled chicken is such an easy way to get protein in for the week. Try this recipe to spice this up and make sure your grilled chicken actually tastes great.

2. Snacks Can Have Protein Too!

You shouldn’t just have protein with your big meals. Having some protein as a snack can be a game-changer in keeping cravings at bay!

3. Another Great, Easy Snack!

DIY protein bar for the win! Enjoy!

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