I don’t need to tell any of you how different our bodies are from those of men. When it comes to fat-loss, I hear from women all the time how unfair it is that their husbands or boyfriends can lose weight “just like that” and they struggle to drop a mere 5 lbs. Well, fair or unfair, our bodies are simply made for an entirely different purpose than that of men and when you understand this, you will unlock a new level of understanding of how to lose body fat.
Our bodies are designed to grow, birth and feed a human child. Whether or not you choose to have children is here nor there. The female body is designed for reproduction. Hormones drive the disposition of fat storage which explains why women tend to carry more fat around the hips, buttocks, and pelvis. These fat stores are a physiological advantage, especially during pregnancy. We also have higher body fat percentages throughout our lifetime and less overall skeletal muscle. Like it or not, these are simple physiological facts.
So when it comes to losing weight, men will typically have an easier task initially because they carry more lean mass and higher anabolic hormones. Although weight loss may happen more rapidly for men, it is not necessarily sustainable.
Understanding these differences can help lessen the frustration when the man you hang out with decides to “go on a diet” and drops 20 lbs. in two weeks! But all physiological differences aside, ladies frequently create some of the struggles they have because of how they are trying to shed weight.
The weight-loss and nutrition industry is full of bad advice. Well-intentioned yet uneducated trainers and supplement companies trying to sell you bullshit leaves you confused. Below I have outlined the most common mistakes women tend to make with weight loss and some alternatives to get you eating for life.
Slash calories and increase workouts. Eating less and working out more may create a caloric deficit, but weight loss will come from burning through muscle. Remember, women start out with less muscle to begin with. Decreasing your muscle mass only lessens the number of calories your body will burn on a daily basis. The instant you increase your calories, you will gain the weight right back. These sort of weight fluctuations will result in inflammation, only making fat-loss even more difficult and leave you more prone to disease.
What to do instead. Eat real food, in the amount to support your activity. While this may result in slower initial weight loss, the weight you do eventually lose will be fat and not something you regain quickly. How do you know how much to eat? You need to have basal metabolic rate determined (an InBody scan or DEXA scan are great options) and as a rule of thumb, don’t go below that unless completely sedentary. Too drastic of a caloric deficit causes a stress response, increases cortisol, disrupted hormones and ultimately stubborn retention of body fat. My best suggestion is to get help from a qualified nutrition coach.
Intermittent fasting. Thanks to the likes of Bob Harper, The Biggest Loser and a host of other weight-loss celebrities, the new trend is to intermittent fast. While there is compelling clinical research linking health and longevity to CR (calorie restriction) and IF (intermittent fasting), it is not something to take on without guidance from a qualified practitioner (and NO! that doesn’t include Gwyneth Paltrow or Tracy Anderson). Most women dipping their feet into IF are merely skipping meals, while still freely munching down processed foods and alcohol. This will not lead to healthy weight loss and will most likely result in major hormone and gut disruption. If you are new to exercise, have sleep disorders, a history of eating disorder, chronic stress or are pregnant, intermittent fasting can be downright dangerous.
What to do instead. Eat real food, in the amount to support your activity. Sound familiar? A solid nutritional foundation is necessary before ever employing any variations of fasting. Learn the essentials of good nutrition first.
Latching on to the newest diet trend. Because women often times struggle more than men to lose weight, there is a tendency to search for a quick fix. Women’s fitness and lifestyle magazines compound the pressure by constantly shoving unrealistic, flat tummies in our faces in the grocery store lines and headlining stupidity like… “Lose 30 lbs. in 3 weeks Just by Cutting Out One Simple Food Group”.
What to do instead. Stop lying to yourself! No matter how much you try to convince yourself it is the fault of the industry, at some point, you have to take ownership of your body. You cannot tell me you ACTUALLY believe these bullshit claims to get fit quick. If weight loss was that easy, the world around us wouldn’t be overly fat! Love yourself enough to stop lying to yourself and start embracing the truth.
Juice “cleansing”. While all these new juice bars and multi-level marketing supplement reps will sell you on the idea that juices will provide antioxidants to cleanse your system, the truth is they don’t allow the body to complete the elimination process. In order to completely remove waste products from your system, your body requires they bind to amino acids. These amino acids are supplied by protein. Fiber is also necessary to feed healthy gut flora that plays a vital role in detoxification. Juices provide neither of these.
In addition to providing less than complete detoxification, juicing also increases blood sugar and causes insulin spikes. When it comes to losing weight, the last thing you want is irregular blood sugar.
What to do instead. Give your body what it needs to naturally detoxify in the form of high-quality, whole food, organic protein sources, and fibrous vegetables at every meal.
Living on the scale. We know that fast weight loss tends to only result from a loss of muscle, so checking your weight on the scale every day or two will only reinforce your acceptance of muscle loss. Women really struggle with the notion that you have to eat more, not skip meals and get exercise in the form of resistance training for optimal long-term fat-loss. When you are jumping on the scale constantly, you are feeding the impatience and sabotaging your long-term success.
(Left: 33 yrs. old, 123 lbs., 26% body fat Right: 44 yrs. old, 149 lbs., 13% body fat)
What to do instead. Throw out the scale and take body measurements once per month. While muscle does not weigh more than fat, it does take up less space. Guage your progress in inches lost and how well your clothes are fitting.
Your body doesn’t hate you, nor has nature played an evil trick on you. Start accepting your body for what it is and give it what it needs to be healthy and thrive. It will reward you by shedding fat.