Weight loss for women is a real moneyspinner for the diet industry as most dieters are women, the pressure on women to be slim is huge and most women will have been on a diet at some point in their lives. It's a billion dollar industry! However, women usually find weight loss harder than men for a variety of reasons – why is that given that the essential physiology of weight loss is no different for women than it is for men?
Why Is It So Hard To Lose Weight?
Well, the reason is in no small part down to body shape – the distribution of muscle and body fat. In today's society, body shape and weight loss for women is a problem – when Reubens was painting, curvy, natural looking women with lots of body fat were deemed attractive. Nowadays, the super slim body shape of models and Hollywood actresses is considered the ideal – which is totally unrealistic and unachievable for many women, however hard they try!
An overweight man's body shape is often referred to as an “apple” as excess body fat is generally carried around their abdomen. Women, however are usually “pears”, carrying their body fat on their lower body – bottom, hips and thighs as well as their breasts.
The purpose of upper body fat is to protect you when food is scarce. However, the function of lower body fat and breast tissue is mainly to sustain a pregnancy and to breast feed a baby. A growing foetus requires food to grow, as does a baby – around 500 calories a day of breast milk on average!
Men and women both have upper and lower body fat. It's just that due to womens' hormonal balance, oestrogen causes fat to be stored in the lower body and breast tissue to support a pregnancy.
The Effects of Weight During Pregnancy
Through most of human history, women were pregnant pretty much every year until their fertility dropped, so the extra pregnancy related body fat was important. More recently, however, and particularly in western societies women have far fewer children and don't need the extra fat – but their bodies haven't adapted to these changing lifestyle preferences. A women's body is designed to store lower body fat and really works hard to prevent losing it, which is bad news for women who want to lose weight!
And if that wasn't bad enough, contraception can add to the problem. Birth control pills cause the body to deposit and store more fat and water, making weight loss for women on the pill harder. Research would suggest that typically, women on the pill may need to reduce their calorie intake by around 10%, or to increase the calories burned through exercise by 10% to maintain their pre-pill weight.
Furthermore, some body fat is just harder to lose! Upper body fat tends to be easier to lose than lower body fat. As such, men, who store much of their excess fat around their abdomen tend to find it easier to lose weight than women. Lower body fat is much harder to lose and the bad news is that dieting on its own can be pretty ineffective in helping women to lose weight and keep it off in the long term. Again making weight loss for women more problematic.
What's The Ultimate Solution?
So what is the answer? Pretty obvious really – increasing your metabolism, the amount of calories your body burns each day through exercise is the solution. Exercise helps you to burn fat and build lean muscle tissue. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn each day.
Again, this puts women at a disadvantage as women generally require fewer calories per pound of body weight than men because they have less muscle tissue. A pound of muscle burns around 14 calories a day at rest and as many as 50 calories when very active.
Compounding the problem, women generally have more body fat than men – around 25% on average for women at a healthy weight compared to around 15% for a man. And body fat burns very few calories at rest compared to muscle, which is why it's such an efficient energy store. This means that the average women needs around 2,000 calories a day and the average man around 2,500, again making weight loss for women more difficult.
Get In Physical Activity
Of course, the more physically active you are on a daily basis and the more muscle you carry the higher the number of calories burned each day, the more weight you can lose and the easier it is to keep the weight off once you've lost it. The answer to effective weight loss for women is exercise to increase your metabolism, burn calories and build some muscle tissue together with a healthy diet.
But do be realistic about what you can achieve – ban the unrealistic stereotypes, try to ditch any media-distorted images of what your body shape should be and accept your real ideal weight and body shape. Successful weigh loss for women is not about being on a diet for the rest of your life. It's about taking control of your life through healthy eating and exercise and feeling good about yourself. It's the only way to get off the dieting merry-go-round and on with enjoying your life!