Losing weight can be a struggle, there is no denying. But for women, sometimes it seems you could be eating basically next to nothing and exercising till exhaustion every day of the week, to only have lost half a pound in a month. You then merely look at a chocolate bar and boom! That half a pound is back, and then some.
Your male counterpart, however, could eat double or triple what they’re used to, do some workouts here or there, and end up at the end of the month losing 15lbs of fat and building some nice lean muscle. No, it isn’t fair and no, you’re not going out of your mind. There are several scientific reasons as to why this occurs, and you will soon see why it’s harder for women to lose weight when that’s exactly what your body wasn’t designed to do.
Oestrogen and Fertility
Mother nature designed the female body for one purpose only; to have lots and lots of babies (I don’t mean this literally. Please don’t send me nasty hate mail). For this, she gave us oestrogen. Oestrogen is probably the single greatest reason women find it easier to store weight and harder to lose weight than men. But alas, it is also the one hormone that makes a woman a woman. (Oestrogen=Estrogen. Steffi is Australian and they spell it differently down-under :p )
While testosterone is a hormone that helps regulate weight loss, oestrogen multiplies the fat-storing enzymes to ensure a woman always has sufficient nutrients on her for reproduction. Mother nature thought where else better than to target these extra fat stores than around the hips, thighs and buttocks. Since women have a higher ratio of oestrogen than testosterone in their systems, it is no surprise that fat-storing enzymes win this battle.
Does this oestrogen make my bum look big?
Women’s bodies will naturally hold more fat than men’s. While men are in a healthy weight range at anything between 14 to 25 percent body fat, the normal fat percentage range for an adult woman can be anywhere between 21 and 31 percent. More fat to store, means more fat to lose.
Smaller Muscle Mass
Women also have a smaller muscle mass than men. Each pound of muscle burns about 5.5 calories a day. As opposed to fat which burns only 1.2 calories per day. This means that even at rest, men will burn more calories than women, it also means that men are able to put on lean muscle easier than women. And the more muscle you have, the greater your ability to be a lean mean fat fighting machine.
Smaller Lung Capacity
Along with smaller muscle mass, women also have smaller lung capacity. This explains why women find it hard to workout to the same volume as men, and often become fatigued earlier. This can also make exercise feel harder in the heat or high humidity.
Any crash-diet plan is based on the simple equation of eating fewer calories then you are burning. It is no wonder with women struggling to lose weight as it is, many believe you have to eat nothing and work out until you basically collapse from exhaustion to see any results. This kind of extreme dieting however, can be counter-productive for women. As our bodies are designed to store as much fat as possible, crash-dieting can lead to your body releasing the stress hormone cortisol, and going into starvation mode by slowing down your metabolism to store even more fat than usual.
Fear of Weights
Many women have a fear of strength training as they believe this will just make them bulky when in fact this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The best way to lose weight is not through chronic cardio, rather through a progressive strength training program and interval training. Just as men have a greater ability to lose weight at rest due to their higher levels of lean muscle mass, women can assist their weight loss efforts through building lean muscle, to make sure they’re burning more calories all day long.
The final reason women have a harder time losing weight is because they simply think too much and over analyse everything. Women have a harder time blocking out obsessive thoughts about diet and exercise and for this reason find it harder to ignore things such as cravings. They also will feel more guilty when they have a ‘cheat meal,’ and rather than just continuing with their diet plans, will fall off the wagon entirely and crash and burn with several pizzas and tubs of ice cream.
Whilst there isn’t much women can do about their genetic build, there are certain things you can do to tweak your diet and exercise practice to make sure your weight loss efforts are actually effective.
The days of crash-dieting are over. If you want to lose weight and achieve great body composition, then it’s time you learnt to eat like your body was designed to be fueled. The Paleo diet (Free eBook when you sign-up) is based on whole, nutritious, real foods that work in conjunction with your body’s natural mechanisms to help you get to your ideal weight. If it didn’t fly, swim, walk or grow in the ground; don’t eat it. It really is as simple as eating plenty of fresh protein, fruit and veg. It’s no quick-fix shakes, no stress, and your body will quickly learn to eat exactly what it needs, when it needs, and you don’t have to worry about counting any calories!
Yep, you guessed it! What’s the best way to build lean muscle and increase your lung capacity?
Interval training (such as HIIT) combined with a progressive strength program, are the best ways you can train your body into being a fat fighting machine without having to spend hours on end each day at the gym.
If you are worried about getting bulky, you shouldn’t be. Women do not have the testosterone levels that would support you ever turning into Arnie. All that strength training will do is help you achieve greater toning, shape and definition. Strength training also means you’ll develop stronger bones, which can prevent diseases like arthritis and osteoporosis as you get older. So hit those weights!
Women can lift a lot heavier than they think, so make the most out of your time in the gym by challenging yourself. If you have no idea where to begin, ask a supervisor at your gym or get a trainer, and always make sure you are using correct form and have a spotter.
Move Past Slip Ups
We all have moments of weaknesses when we succumb to the greater power of tempting treats, but beating yourself up about it won’t help the situation. Women have a tendency to dwell on their mistakes, and this guilt-tripping often results in complete abandonment of your weight loss program, not to mention a negative life-long relationship with food.
At the end of the day, life is too short to constantly sweat the small stuff. Would you really be ok if you died, knowing that you’d never get to eat ice cream again? Trying for the 80/20 rule when it comes to dieting means that you won’t have to worry about feeling deprived. It is ok to have a cheat meal on the weekends, so long as you can honestly say that you’ve worked hard at your diet and exercise for the most part of your week.
Keep it Simple and Think More like a Man
While we may not be able to change our physiology, we can take a few pages out of the men’s weight loss book by mimicking some of their behaviours when it comes to weight loss.
First you can just try making a plan and sticking to it. Men are solution-oriented thinkers and are more methodical with weight loss. Sorting out food and exercise schedules at the beginning of each week takes out the guess-work. Having everything ready to go also means no room for excuses.
Getting fit with friends is also a great way to stay on track as it helps keep you motivated and accountable. Men often play team sports or will just pick up a ball and head out for a game with the boys. If throwing around a ball isn’t your thing though, you can always join a running or walking group, or go cycling or to the gym with some of the girls. Having someone else around will also mean you have a spotter for lifting those weights! You may be as much inspiration to her, as she is to you.
Finally, don’t over think it. Just do it. Men don’t talk about their diet and exercise plans all the time, they just decide on what they’ll do and stick to it. Try to not to over analyse every morsel you consume, or how long or how hard you are exercising. Just eat smart, train hard, and your results will follow.
Editors note: This is a guest post from home girl Stephanie Radnan