Women and weight loss: Why is it harder for women to lose weight?

An angry woman unsatisfied with her weight
EJ
Emeh Joy

It is not just a myth; surely, you must have noticed that it is indeed harder for women to lose weight than males. Have you seen a case whereby a couple start out on a weight loss program, at the end of the day, the husband records a significant reduction in weight while the wife makes little or no progress?

You will find out that both were equally motivated and equally put in efforts to lose weight, but while the husband makes headway, the wife will be struggling to lose one or two pounds. This, however, doesn't mean it is totally easy for the males. Weight loss journey is never an easy one irrespective of the gender.

This is a scenario that plays out repeatedly, and some factors contribute to it. The good news is that there are helpful tips that can help you deal with the challenge of excessive weight gain and difficulty with losing weight.

While some of the differences are as a result of biological factors, some stem from behavioural factors. Some experts have said the genes should be blamed.

Dr Ula Alwahab, an endocrinologist said health practitioners hear the complaint about difficulty with weight loss from lots of women. "Unfortunately for women, their genetic makeup makes weight loss even more challenging", she said.

Factors that cause weight gain and makes weight loss harder for women

Here are some of the factors that predispose women to weight gain and makes it harder for them to lose weight.

Exercise, nutrition and metabolism

People don't know about the role of muscle and metabolism in weight gain or weight loss. Men generally tend to have more muscle mass than women. While females have more body fat, males have more muscle mass and the more the muscle mass, the easier it is for the body to burn calories.

With a faster metabolism, men burn calories faster, thus giving little or no room for weight gain. You will also note another difference when it comes to exercising. You will find out that women tend to avoid gyming activities like weight lifting and tend to focus more on exercises for cardiovascular health.

Studies have shown that weight-lifting exercises boost muscle mass and metabolic rate. Also, women tend to eat more after their exercise session, which again increases the tendency of weight gain.

Pregnancy and its effects

A pregnant woman

Typically, with pregnancy comes weight gain and increased body fat. It makes it worse that after childbirth, the new mother has little or no time for sleep and exercise. These two are essential for her to lose the extra weight. At this point weight loss becomes a challenge for the woman.

Menstrual cycle and menopause

Menstruation in itself may not cause weight gain; however, studies have shown that women crave especially sugary foods and foods with high amounts of calories either during their premenstrual stage or during menstruation. When a woman gives in to the craving and stuffs up with foods containing high calorie, weight gain should be expected.

Also during menopause, many women gain weight in their abdominal region. Factors that cause this include fluctuation or loss of hormones as well as a reduction in the rate of metabolism.

Emotion and mental blocks

Cynthia Sass, a registered dietitian, believes that a partner's eating pattern can influence a woman's eating pattern. She said she has noted several women who start gaining weight immediately they enter a relationship with men as they start consuming as much food as their partners which can turn out to be too much.

This brings up the question of what pushes both genders to eat. Is it really hunger or the craving for something else? Have you heard of emotional eating? Some people eat food not really just to satisfy hunger but for some other reason such as to reward themselves, for comfort, to relieve stress, as a punishment etc.

Emotional eating: A woman munching food angrily

Studies have shown that women are prone to emotional eating than men; they are likely to just reach out to food or snacks each time they want to feel better. Such meals eaten to satisfy some emotional craving can cause weight, says, Pamela Peeke, the author of "The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction".

Hormonal disorders like PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition characterized by the formation of ovarian cysts in the ovary. It presents with hormonal imbalance which causes irregularity of the menstrual cycle and also makes weight loss difficult. Studies have shown that about 5 to 10 per cent of women have PCOS.

Tips to help women lose weight easier

Excessive weight is a worrisome condition. Asides the fact that it doesn't appeal to a larger per cent of the population, it has several health conditions associated with it such as diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular diseases etc.

Thus, weight loss poses a big challenge for women, particularly. The following tips will help you deal with the challenges and obstacles to weight loss.

Start resistance and strength training

There is the common misconception that women who lift weight end up developing manly features but that is hardly true.

A woman doing weight lifting

Strength and resistance exercises will boost your muscle mass, help you maintain your strength and very importantly, help you burn more calories.

You should try doing these exercises 2 to 3 times a week, 20-30 minutes per session.

Keep a food and weight loss diary

Sometimes, we underestimate how often we eat and the amount of food we eat while at the same time, overestimating our level of activeness. Studies have shown that keeping a food diary can help increase weight loss.

You should put down what you eat, how much you eat as well as why you are eating. Since you are on the weight loss journey, you should also keep a record of the changes you have noted in your body.

Stop bad eating habits and keep tempting foods out of sight

Stop eating everything in sight or everything that comes your way. Start being picky with food. Cut out on the foods that contain high carbs or calories.

If it is that hard for you, try keeping them out of sight. It is normal for us to move towards food when it is within reach, so what about putting that candy out of reach? You should instead leave healthy foods like fresh fruits closer. In that way, you don't skip them to go for for the unhealthy choices even when you feel the urge to eat something.

You should control your eating and avoid emotional eating. Ask yourself the reason why you want to eat. Is it because you are really hungry? Or is it because you are tired, angry, lonely?

Manage stress, get enough sleep

Cortisol, the stress hormone is a culprit when it comes to weight gain; thus, you should try to manage stress by avoiding situations that cause you stress and finding activities that will take your mind of the stressors.

A woman getting some rest, sleeping

Try activities like meditation, massage therapy, exercise and yoga to do away with the stress. You should also not underestimate the role of sleep on weight. Sleep affects weight in different ways. It can affect your appetite and cause your hunger hormones to go haywire, thus, making you overeat. Make sure you get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night.

Avoid a sedentary lifestyle

Nothing makes one put on weight as much as sitting all day, all week and worse still, most months being inactive. Get physically active.

If your job is one that involves mainly mental activeness, you need to balance it up with physical activeness. Twice or thrice in a week, take long walks, run around the neighbourhood. You can also sign up in the gym for weekend workouts if you are too busy during the weekdays.

Take away

Weight loss journey is a tough one. Indeed, I have seen many women struggle through this episode of their life. It explains why I will always advise, if you can avoid excessive weight gain in the first, please do. Not gaining weight in the first place will do you a whole lot of good than gaining and going through the whole trouble of seeking remedies to the situation.

If you are currently in the state where you are dealing with it, keep going. Consistency with the dietary plans, exercising etc. matters a lot here and I can tell you that it will pay off in the long run.

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