Why women suck at losing weight
The stress, the frustration, the annoyance as your boyfriend/brother/dad effortlessly loses 5lbs/week on twice the amount of food…all while you eat lettuce and live on the treadmill (please don’t do this).
Here’s the thing though…the sooner you understand WHY your weigh-in was up 2lbs while you’ve hit your macros all week, WHY you’re feeling sluggish and weak at certain times of the month, WHY your body wants to hold on to fat, and WHY you just want to eat your bodyweight in chocolate…you can work with your body…not against it.
WHY WE SUCK AT LOSING WEIGHT
1. Evolution. As women, we carry a rather important purpose. Procreation. Our bodies are wired to do whatever it takes to ensure life is supported for not only 9 months…but beyond. Men? Needed for all of 10 seconds (if you’re lucky, longer..wink wink) then byeeeee. Hence their ability to lose weight quicker and easier. So what happens when food is scarce? Our bodies are smart and adapt to low intakes..rather quickly. Our bodies understand that by slowing down (hormonal changes *leptin and thyroid* that lead to slowing metabolism, energy expenditure, blood pressure, even heart rate), we can preserve what may save our lives (fat). How (in)convenient…
2. Hormones. Yes…we know women are complex AF. It’s not just in the way our minds work. It’s also the fluctuations in hormones that make dieting and losing weight harder than it is for our male counterparts. While fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone (female reproductive hormones) influence weight loss, it is how they interact with insulin, cortisol, and various brain chemicals, that makes these changes throughout the month significant. Here’s the extremely simplified breakdown:
A normal menstrual cycle can be broken into two parts: follicular (first 14 days) and luteal (last 14 days). During the follicular phase estrogen levels are higher than progesterone and the opposite is true for the luteal phase. During these phases, your body will experience changes is strength (yes, this is why some weeks you feel like Dana Lynn Bailey and others you feel like Smeagle from Lord of the Rings), fuel storage and expenditure, hunger, cravings, mood, bloating, and shifts in fuel utilization (fat vs sugar).
If you think of this from a reproductive perspective, it makes sense. Your body is literally trying to prepare you to have a baby by stimulating hunger and intake and then storing those resources.
***BIG PICTURE: understand and embrace what makes you a badass female. You can grow a human. Thats cool. Be kind to yourself, your body, and the limits it may present to you at varying times of the month. Adding stress (increasing cortisol levels) will only work against you and hold on to weight. Don’t rely on the scale. With changes in hormones this number becomes less reliable week-to-week. Instead, focus on other markers of success.
3. Total body size. As smaller humans, our bodies just burn less calories. Unfortunately, we simply cannot diet on the same amount of calories and expect similar results. This is extra unfortunate for someone with the appetite of a blue whale (me). sigh. Oh well.
4. Intramuscular vs subcutaneous fat utilization. Women burn/store more fat within the muscle compared to men who utilize more subcutaneous fat for fuel. AKA females won’t see the results of weight loss on the same timeline men will.
SO WHAT CAN WE DOOO?
1. Relax. Stress will only make weight loss more difficult (stress hormones).
2. Refeeds/diet breaks. When in a caloric deficit, tactics (like refeeds and diet breaks) will essentially minimize metabolic adaptation and trick your body into thinking it does not need to enter “starvation mode”. Allowing continued weight loss.
3. Time. Give yourself more time (literally double the amount of time you currently have in your head) and be realistic with your weight loss goals. Allow for more diet breaks to reset your metabolism. Mental and physical breaks will aid in regulating hormones to maximize weight loss over time.
4. Training volume. Sets x reps x weights = training volume. Females respond better to higher volume exercise (could be due to more fat storage/utilization in the muscle) resulting in higher caloric burn.
5. LISS (low-intensity, steady-state cardio). Less recovery time is required while still increasing caloric deficit. Example: incline treadmill walk.
6. Track progress differently. Instead of relying on your weight on a week-to-week basis to track progress, try weighing in every day and averaging those numbers. Or compare the first week of the month to the first week of the next month, second week to the second, etc. Other than tracking your gravitational pull to this earth, take pictures. You may not see the change reflecting back to you on a daily basis. However, when you compare pictures over time…magic.
Your body is designed to survive. Not to look good. We are incredibly fortunate to get to lift heavy things for enjoyment and get the choice to eat in a deficit #firstworldproblems