Weight Loss For Women
What Is Weight Loss?
Is a decrease in body weight resulting from either voluntary (diet, exercise) or involuntary (illness) circumstances? Most instances of weight loss for women arise due to the loss of body fat, but in cases of extreme or severe weight loss, protein and other substances in the body can also be depleted. Examples of involuntary weight loss include the weight loss associated with cancer, malabsorption (such as from chronic diarrhea illnesses ) , and chronic inflammation (such as with rheumatoid arthritis).
Why Can’t I Lose Weight?
Sleeping Too Little Or Too Much – Sometimes we put on weight for surprising reasons. One out of four Americans doesn’t get enough sleep. And it may be that missing sleep is contributing to the obesity epidemic.
Dozens of research studies have sought a connection between childhood obesity and sleep, and most have found an association. Whether being overweight makes it harder to get enough sleep or sleep causes obesity is not known.
Other studies have looked at overweight adults. Those results also suggest a connection between weight gain in women and getting more than nine hours or less than five hours of sleep. It could come down to hormones. Hormones related to appetite and calorie-burning—leptin and ghrelin—are affected by sleep patterns. Then again, people who sleep less tend to feel exhausted, making workouts less likely. Whatever may be the cause, you may want to work on sleep hygiene if you’re having trouble losing weight.
Relying Too Much On Water – Drinking water is good for your body. But drinking more water than you need to fight off thirst is often touted as a miraculous weight loss trick—specifically drinking eight glasses a day or more. There is little evidence that this works, however. It turns out that drinking water—whether its ice cold or room temperature—burns only a tiny number of calories. So relying on this scheme to shed pounds won’t get you very far.
On the other hand, people sometimes eat when they’re actually thirsty. So quenching your thirst before taking a bite is not a bad idea. It’s also better to reach for a glass of water than a sports drink, soda, or caramel latte—any drink with calories will affect your diet, but with water there’s no need to worry.
Too Many Tiny Meal – You may have heard that eating lots of tiny meals throughout the day keeps you feeling full without extra calories. But there is hardly any scientific evidence to support this. Not only are small, frequent meals taxing to prepare, but they can actually backfire, causing you to eat more because it can be hard to stop once you start eating.
If you want to fuel your body this way, go for it. But it doesn’t matter whether your limited-calorie diet is eaten throughout the day or simply two or three times a day. The most important thing is to eat a balanced diet with the appropriate number of calories.
Relying On Restaurant Meal – If you lead a busy life or are just not a fan of cooking at home, you put your body at the mercy of the restaurants you order from. Even dishes advertised as “light” can have more calories than you bargained for, and many restaurants, particularly smaller establishments, don’t list their nutritional information so you can see what you’re actually eating. There’s even evidence that people who eat lunch from restaurants outweigh those who prepare lunch at home by five pounds on average. Therefore, eating out is not a good option to help with weight loss for women.
Taking A Seat All Day Long – Does this sound like you? You sit in the car to work, then walk to an office where you sit for most of the day. When you get home, you’re worn out and just want to—can you guess? Sit down, maybe watch some TV. All of that sitting means your body isn’t moving as much as it should for your best health outcomes.
Studies have shown that people who spend more time sitting tend to weigh more. But some studies say weighing more leads people to sit more often. Which causes the other is a complicated business, but here’s something that’s well known: when you sit, you’re not walking, doing housework or getting up and moving around much. All of that time that could be spent burning a few more calories through activity, and fitness is being sapped by taking a seat. So carving out more time each day to get moving can only help with weight loss for women.
Rewarding Exercise With Food – Some people figure that by working out they can justify an extra helping of pasta at dinner. That may not be the case, however. We tend to overestimate the calories we burn when we work out, and technology doesn’t help. In one study, researchers found that the average cardio machine overestimates calories burned by 19% on average. In that study, elliptical machines were the worst offenders, overestimating by an average of 42%. That adds up over a year of exercise! Fitness watches showed similar problem.
Over Doing Alcohol – Alcoholic beverages may be growing your midsection more than you realize. For many Americans, a drink or two a day is common. But that can really add up. Someone who drinks two shots of vodka a day adds about 1,400 calories to their diet each week—that’s most of a day’s worth of calories! And wine and beer add even more. Two glasses of wine a week add close to 1,600 calories to your weekly tally, and two beers a day add 2,100. So if you’re ready to get serious about weight loss for women, consider putting the beer mug down for a while.
Turning To Snacks While Stressed Out – Have you heard of emotional eating? When you’re stressed out, eating can become an attempt to fill an emotional vacancy in your life. That often means mindless snacking on high-calorie foods, which packs on pounds.
One study had researchers examining locks of hair for the stress hormone cortisol. They found a significant relationship between waist size and high body-mass index (BMI) for participants who showed signs of long-term stress.
There’s a silver lining to all of this. You can ease stress without stretching out your wardrobe. Exercise can be a great way to burn stress as well as help with lose weight for women. And relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and massage can bring peacefulness into your life—no calories required.
Not Planning For Meal Time – Grab-and-go meals are tempting for any busy adult, and most of us fit that category. When your family and job take all of your time and attention, overeating high-calorie convenience food is all too easy. What’s worse, fast food tends to be low in fiber, and fiber is the key nutrient that keeps you full longer, meaning you’ll want to add an extra cheeseburger or soda to that order just to feel satisfied. When thinking about weight loss for women, grab-and-go meals are not a good option.
The solution is to plan ahead. Start by preparing convenience foods of your own in advance. Look for easy-to-prepare, high-fiber options like beans and salads that can be whipped up as soon as hunger strikes. As you get better at this you’ll begin to see your waistline shrink, as well as your food costs.
Thyroid Problems – Sometimes weight gain is related to an underlying health problem known as hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone. It’s more common in women and weight loss for women is usually a priority.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism can be subtle and may include a slow heart rate, thinning hair, a puffy face, a hoarse voice, exhaustion, depression, muscle pain, and feeling cold when others are not. The good news for those who suffer from this condition is that it is treatable with daily medication. So if those symptoms sound familiar and you’d like to be checked out, discuss the matter with your doctor. A doctor can help you get your thyroid hormone levels checked and recommend a treatment or a specialist.
Baby On The Way – Women do and should put on weight when they are pregnant. A healthy, pregnant woman is expected to gain about 25 to 35 pounds. If you are overweight or obese, those numbers should be lower. If you are expecting and find yourself gaining more than this, there are ways to keep your body in check. Try going for a walk after meals. Eat fresh, whole foods like lean proteins, whole grains, and fruits and veggies, which are good for both you and your baby-to-be. There are also lots of exercises that are healthy for expecting mothers, though there are also some that should be avoided, so talk about it with your doctor before beginning a new routine because weight loss for women who are pregnant should be monitored.
Menopause And Weight Gain – Menopause and the hormonal changes it brings impact women’s bodies in many ways. And yes, extra body fat is often one. Menopause slows down the metabolism, meaning women gain an extra 10 pounds on average during this time causing weight loss for women to be a concern.
Also of concern, menopause changes the way the body distributes its fat. Fat is more likely to be stored around the belly during this time, and that has consequences for cardiovascular health and can cause insulin problems.
Does menopause mean you’re doomed to get fat? Not at all. Diet and exercise can still help with weight loss for women. One study followed 17,000 postmenopausal women and put some of them on a diet filled with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The ones on the diet were three times as likely to lose weight. What’s more, they also had less frequent hot flashes. Other researchers studied more than 500 premenopausal women and had about half reduce their calories and increase their physical fitness. Those women had smaller waists on average and were more likely to be at or below their starting weight after five years.
Relying On Weight Lifting – There’s nothing wrong with sculpting your body or building muscle through resistance training. But if your weight loss strategy relies on weight lifting, you may be disappointed.
There are basically two types of exercise. One is aerobic, and includes activities designed to get your heart beating faster over a longer period, such as bicycling, walking, rowing, jogging, and jumping rope. The other is anaerobic, in which you work out at a high intensity for a brief period, making your heart beat even more intensely. These activities make your body perform better in short bursts and include weight lifting.
Studies tend to confirm that for burning fat, aerobic exercises are the clear winner. They keep your heart rate up for a longer duration, which leads to more energy burned, and that equals weight loss. Anaerobic exercise helps too, but not nearly as much. So while both exercises are good for you, they serve different purposes. And if you’re going all-in on weight training, you are missing out on the fat-burning power of cardiovascular workouts.
Drinking Empty Calories– Don’t drink your calories! It’s easy to fall into the habit of chugging a soda, juice, energy drink, caramel latte, or sports drink here and there throughout the day. Each one adds calories unless you’re drinking the calorie-free variety. And it becomes harder to shed fat on two fronts.
The first problem is hunger. Although sugary sweet drinks add calories to your daily tally, they don’t sate hunger. Your body barely registers them as food, so it’s easy to sip down several without feeling full.
The other problem is that even a couple of sugar-sweetened drinks per day add up quickly. Research shows that 1 out of every 4 Americans drinks at least 200 calories every day. If you add that to your diet each day, that’s 73,000 calories over the course of a year. That’s the equivalent of more than 20 pounds of body fat. So just dropping those drinks from your diet can help you lose a lot of weight over the course of a year.
Falling For Fake Healthy Food– Sometimes junk food masquerades as something healthy. How frustrating! You can save yourself the frustration by identifying these health food fakers.
- Juice and Smoothies: Just because it’s made from fruits and vegetables doesn’t make it healthy. These seemingly healthy foods take one of the biggest benefits of fruits and veggies—fiber—and remove it, leaving lots of sugar most of the time. Green juices may be better bets if you need your fix. Smoothies may also contain ice cream or high-fat yogurt, so check the ingredient list carefully.
- Protein Bars and Granola Bars: Sure, your mind probably thinks of athletes and long hikes when you see these on the grocery store shelf. But the average protein or granola bar has as much sugar in it as a candy bar.
- Multi-Grain and Wheat Breads: You spot this bread on the grocery aisle and you vaguely recall something about whole grains. After all, wheat is a grain, right? The problem is that these aren’t healthy whole-grain breads unless the packaging specifically says so. When in doubt, check the nutrition facts for fiber content. Whole grain bread should have about 3-5 grams of fiber per slice, which is what makes it a healthier alternative. These health food fakers often have 1 gram or less.
Dining In Front Of The TV– While it doesn’t pack on pounds all by itself, the more time you spend chowing down in front of the television, the more likely you are to eat mindlessly. That’s risky for anyone who wants to change their dietary habits to lose weight. Studies show that distracted eating usually means eating more. When you’re distracted, you tend to forget what you ate and how much you ate, and that means you’re likelier to eat more later on.
It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you’re full, so slowing down and savoring food helps you remain content with less. So instead of munching in front of the TV, try eating without distraction. Take smaller bites, chewing well. Set a timer for 20 minutes before going back for second helpings. Another trick is to eat with your less-dominant hand, which forces you to pay attention.
Not Asking For Help– Weight loss for women can be a frustrating challenge, and the odds are against you keeping it off if you don’t reach out for help. Fortunately there are many dedicated professionals trained to help in the specific ways you need to reach your healthy weight and stay there.
The first person to go to is your primary care doctor. Your doctor can offer referrals based on your specific health history and needs. A doctor may refer you to a personal trainer, whose job it is to develop exercise routines tailored to your body and your ability. A therapist may help by exposing the areas in your life that lead to emotional eating and other unhealthy diet patterns. Dietitians can provide guidance and meal planning advice, and even take you shopping to discover the tasty foods that will help rather than hinder your journey. Finally, if you’re one of the many people who engages in stress eating, reducing stress with the help of a meditation or yoga instructor could have a profound impact on your ongoing health.
Failing To Set Goals– If you want to change anything in life—whether it’s earning more, improving your relationships, or slimming down—goals can help. Setting goals can help you lose your excess fat, but it may be even more important when maintaining your new, healthier lifestyle. And there are a few rules that can come in handy when setting such goals.
First of all, make your goals specific. Just expecting to eat less isn’t enough deciding how much less, specifically. What foods will you cut from your diet? What will you add? How often? Also, if your goal is measurable, you will have a standard to use to decide whether you’ve been faithful to your goal or not. Finally, make sure your goal is trackable something like losing a certain number of pounds over a certain period of time. If you don’t reach all of your goals, another important step is forgiving yourself and starting again. Every day offers a new opportunity to start achieving the health progress you want and your body needs.
Unexplained weight loss, or losing weight without trying, can be a cause for concern. It might indicate an underlying condition.
A good rule of thumb is to see your doctor if you’ve lost a significant amount — more than 5 percent of your weight — within 6 to 12 months. In addition, take note of any other symptoms to talk over with your doctor.
Remember, not all weight loss is serious. It can happen after a life-changing or stressful event. However, unintentional weight loss may be a sign of one of these medical conditions.
1. Muscle loss
Muscle loss, or muscle wasting, can lead to unexpected weight loss for women. The major symptom is muscle weakness. One of your limbs may even look smaller than the other.
Your body is made of fat mass and fat-free mass, which includes muscle, bone, and water. If you lose muscle, you’ll lose weight.
This can happen if you don’t use muscles for a while. It’s most common in people who don’t exercise, work desk jobs, or are bedridden. Generally, exercise and proper nutrition will reverse muscle loss.
Other possible causes of muscle loss include:
- injuries, such as broken bones
- rheumatoid arthritis
- multiple sclerosis
- nerve damage
2. Overactive thyroid
Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, develops when your thyroid gland makes too much thyroid hormone. These hormones control many functions in the body, including metabolism.
If your thyroid is overactive, you’ll quickly burn calories even if you have a good appetite. The result can be unintentional weight loss.
Other symptoms include:
- fast, irregular heart rate
- heat intolerance
- sleep troubles
- hand tremors
- light periods in women
Possible causes of hyperthyroidism include:
- Graves’ disease
- eating too much iodine
- taking too much thyroid medicine
Treatment of hyperthyroidism depends on your age and severity of your case. Generally, it’s treated with anti-thyroid medications, radioactive iodine, beta-blockers, or surgery.
3. Rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that makes your immune system attack the lining of your joints, leading to inflammation. Chronic inflammation can speed up metabolism and reduce overall weight loss for women.
Symptoms of RA include joint swelling and pain. It usually affects the same joints on both sides of your body. If you have RA, your joints might feel stiff if you don’t move for an hour or more.
The exact cause of RA is unknown. It may be linked to:
- hormonal changes
- secondhand smoking
Treatment of RA typically begins with medication. Medications include disease-modifying and rheumatic drugs, corticosteroids, biologics, and Janus associated kinase inhibitors.
Another cause of unwanted weight loss is type 1 diabetes. If you have type 1 diabetes, your immune system attacks cells in your pancreas that make insulin. Without insulin, your body can’t use glucose for energy. This causes high blood glucose.
Your kidneys remove unused glucose through urine. As sugar leaves your body, so do calories.
Type 1 diabetes also causes:
- frequent urination
- blurry vision
- excessive thirst
- excessive hunger
Treatment of type 1 diabetes includes insulin, blood sugar monitoring, diet modifications, and exercise.
Weight loss for women may be a side effect of depression, which is defined as feeling sad, lost, or empty for at least two weeks. These emotions interfere with daily activities, such as going to work or school.
Depression affects the same parts of the brain that control appetite. This can lead to poor appetite, and eventually, weight loss.
In some people, depression may increase appetite. The symptoms vary from person to person. Other symptoms of depression include:
- constant sadness
- loss of interest in hobbies
- low energy
- poor concentration
- sleeping too little or too much
- thoughts of death or suicide
Behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, and antidepressants are used to treat depression.
6. Inflammatory bowel disease
Unexpected weight loss may be a symptom of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD is a term that encompasses several chronic inflammatory disorders of the digestive tract. The two most common types are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
The chronic inflammation of IBD puts your body in a catabolic state, which means that it’s constantly using up energy.
IBD also disrupts ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and leptin, the satiety hormone. This results in decreased appetite and weight loss.
Additional symptoms include:
- stomach pain
- bloody stools
These symptoms are triggered by certain foods. If you have IBD, you might be hesitant to eat. Treatment of IBD usually consists of nutritional support, medication, and in some cases, surgery.
7. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive lung disease. This includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Many people with COPD have both.
Emphysema slowly damages the air sacs in your lungs, making it hard to breathe. Chronic bronchitis causes inflammation of the airways that bring air to your lungs. This produces mucus, coughing, and breathing issues.
Early COPD is mild. Some people may not show symptoms but those that may appear include:
- shortness of breath
- chest tightness
- mild coughing, with or without mucus
In later stages, COPD can cause weight loss. Labored breathing burns a lot of calories. According to Cleveland Clinic, a person with COPD may need 10 more times more calories to breathe than a person without COPD. It can also feel uncomfortable to eat and breathe at the same time.
Symptoms of severe COPD also include:
- swelling of legs, ankles, or feet
- low muscle endurance
The main cause of COPD is cigarette smoking. Long-term exposure to irritants such as air pollution and dust can also lead to COPD. Treatment includes medications, such as bronchodilators, and lung therapies, like oxygen therapy.
Endocarditic causes inflammation of your heart’s inner lining, or endocardium. It develops when germs —usually bacteria — enter the bloodstream and collect in your heart.
Most people with endocarditis have a fever. This may come along with a poor appetite. Elevated body temperature also increases metabolism and burns fat, causing weight loss.
Other symptoms include:
- heart murmur
- coughing, with or without blood
- abdominal pain
- chest pain
- difficulty breathing
- night sweats
- back pain
- red or purple spots on the skin
Endocarditis is rare in healthy hearts. It’s more likely to affect people with damaged heart valves, artificial heart valves, or congenital heart defects. Treatment of endocarditis includes antibiotics and surgery.
Another cause of unexplained weight loss is tuberculosis (TB), a contagious condition that usually affects the lungs. It’s caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. Weight loss and decreased appetite are major symptoms of TB, but the reasons aren’t fully understood.
TB spreads through the air. You can catch TB without getting sick. If your immune system can fight it, the bacteria will become inactive. This is called latent TB.
Over time, it can turn into active TB. Symptoms include:
- bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or more
- chest pain
- coughing up blood or phlegm
- night sweats
Some people are at risk for active TB. This includes people with weak immune systems, especially those who have:
- low body weight
- substance use disorder
- Hodgkin’s disease
- organ transplant
TB is typically treated with a course of antibiotics for six to nine months.
Cancer is the general term for diseases that cause abnormal cells to quickly divide and spread. According to the American Cancer Society, one of the first signs may be unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more. This is common with cancers of the pancreas, lung, stomach, and esophagus.
Cancer increases inflammation. This promotes muscle wasting and disrupts appetite-regulating hormones. A growing tumor may also increase your resting energy expenditure (REE), or how much energy your body burns at rest.
Early symptoms of cancer also include:
- skin changes
Many conditions can cause these symptoms. Sometimes, cancer doesn’t cause any symptoms.
Treatment depends on the type of cancer. Typical treatments include, surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy.
Best Ways to Maintain Weight Loss
Unfortunately, many people who lose weight end up gaining it back.
In fact, only about 20% of dieters who start off overweight end up successfully losing weight and keeping it off in the long term. However, don’t let this discourage you. There are a number of scientifically proven ways you can keep the weight off, ranging from exercising to controlling stress.
These 5 strategies might be just what you need to tip the statistics in your favor and maintain your hard-won weight loss.
Why People Regain Weight
There are a few common reasons why people gain back the weight they lose. They are mostly related to unrealistic expectations and feelings of deprivation.
- Restrictive diets: Extreme calorie restriction may slow your metabolism and shift your appetite-regulating hormones, which are both factors that contribute to weight regain .
- Wrong mindset: When you think of a diet as a quick fix, rather than a long-term solution to better your health, you will be more likely to give up and gain back the weight you lost.
- Lack of sustainable habits: Many diets are based on willpower rather than habits you can incorporate into your daily life. They focus on rules rather than lifestyle changes, which may discourage you and prevent weight maintenance.
1. Exercise Often
Regular exercise plays an important role in weight maintenance.
It may help you burn off some extra calories and increase your metabolism, which are two factors needed to achieve energy balance.
When you are in energy balance, it means you burn the same number of calories that you consume. As a result, your weight is more likely to stay the same.
Several studies have found that people who do at least 200 minutes of moderate physical activity a week (30 minutes a day) after losing weight are more likely to maintain their weight
In some instances, even higher levels of physical activity may be necessary for successful weight maintenance. One review concluded that one hour of exercise a day is optimal for those attempting to maintain weight loss
It’s important to note that exercise is the most helpful for weight maintenance when it’s combined with other lifestyle changes, including sticking to a healthy diet.
SUMMARY: Exercising for at least 30 minutes per day may promote weight maintenance by helping balance your calories in and calories burned.
2. Try Eating Breakfast Every Day
Eating breakfast may assist you with your weight maintenance goals.
Breakfast eaters tend to have healthier habits overall, such as exercising more and consuming more fiber and micronutrients
Furthermore, weight loss for women who are successful at maintaining the weight have something in common. They eat breakfast most mornings.
One study found that 78% of 2,959 people who maintained a 30-pound (14 kg) weight loss for at least one year reported eating breakfast every day
However, while people who eat breakfast seem to be very successful at maintaining weight loss, the evidence is mixed.
Studies do not show that skipping breakfast automatically leads to weight gain or worse eating habits
In fact, skipping breakfast may even help some people achieve their weight loss and weight maintenance goals
This may be one of the things that come down to the individual.
If you feel that eating breakfast helps you stick to your goals, then you definitely should eat it. But if you don’t like eating breakfast or are not hungry in the morning, there is no harm in skipping it.
SUMMARY: Those who eat breakfast tend to have healthier habits overall, which may help them maintain their weight. However, skipping breakfast does not automatically lead to weight gain
3. Eat Lots of Protein
Eating a lot of protein may help maintain weight loss for women, since protein can help reduce appetite and promote fullness.
Protein increases levels of certain hormones in the body that induce satiety and are important for weight regulation. Protein has also been shown to reduce levels of hormones that increase hunger.
Protein’s effect on your hormones and fullness may automatically reduce the number of calories you consume per day, which is an important factor in weight maintenance.
Furthermore, protein requires a significant amount of energy for your body to break down. Therefore, eating it regularly may increase the number of calories you burn during the day
Based on several studies, it appears that protein’s effects on metabolism and appetite are most prominent when about 30% of calories are consumed from protein. This is 150 grams of protein on a 2,000 calorie diet.
SUMMARY: Protein may benefit weight maintenance by promoting fullness, increasing metabolism and reducing your total calorie intake.
4. Weigh Yourself Regularly
Monitoring your weight by stepping on the scale on a regular basis may be a helpful tool for weight maintenance. This is because it can make you be aware of your progress and encourage weight control behaviors.
Those who weigh themselves may also eat fewer calories throughout the day, which is helpful for maintaining weight loss.
In one study, people who weighed themselves six days a week, on average, consumed 300 fewer calories per day than those who monitored their weight less frequently.
How often you weigh yourself is a personal choice. Some find it helpful to weigh in daily, while others are more successful checking their weight once or twice a week.
SUMMARY: Self-weighing may aid weight maintenance by keeping you aware of your progress and behaviors.
5. Be Mindful of Your Carb Intake
Weight loss for women and maintenance may be easier to accomplish if you pay attention to the types and amounts of carbs that you eat.
Eating too many refined carbs, such as white bread, white pasta and fruit juices, can be detrimental to your weight maintenance goals.
These foods have been stripped of their natural fiber, which is necessary to promote fullness. Diets that are low in fiber are associated with weight gain and obesity .
Limiting your carb intake overall may also help you maintain your weight loss. Several studies have found that, in some cases, those who follow low-carb diets after weight loss are more likely to keep the weight off in the long term .
Additionally, people following low-carb diets are less likely to eat more calories than they burn, which is necessary for weight maintenance
SUMMARY: Limiting your intake of carbs, especially those that are refined, may help prevent weight regain.