That doesn't mean losing weight is impossible, though, or that you need a fundamentally different approach to weight loss than a man — it just might take a little longer to reach your goals. But diet and lifestyle changes, including calorie tracking with MyPlate, will help you drop fat as quickly as possible, so you can get the body you want.
Why Weight Loss Is Harder for Women
Women tend to struggle more with weight loss than men due to hormone and body composition differences. The primary female sex hormones — estrogen and progesterone — make women prone to strong food cravings.
The primary male hormone of testosterone is present in both women and men, but men have a heck of a lot more it. It contributes to muscle building and fat loss.
Women's challenge with weight loss also comes down to nature. Nature wants to preserve a woman's ability to bear children. When you're in a calorie deficit, it can interfere with your fertility, so your body fights weight loss to prevent jeopardizing your reproductive capacity. So don't cut more than 1,000 calories a day or eat fewer than 1,200 calories daily.
As women age, weight creeps up too, with the average women gaining about one pound per year in their 40s and 50s, resulting in an added 10 to 15 pounds. The drop in estrogen levels during this time of perimenopause (the years leading up to menopause) contributes to weight gain and can change the way you distribute fat. You may gain weight in your belly more readily than you did in younger years.
And as people get older they tend to become less active, which means you burn fewer calories all day long. Plus, you naturally lose muscle mass due to hormonal changes, which further drops your daily calorie-burn rate. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, so a body with less lean tissue has a lower metabolism and is prone to weight gain.
Cut Calories for Faster Weight Loss
The key to losing weight is eating fewer calories than you expend. That creates an energy deficit, so your body taps into other sources of fuel — namely, your fat stores — to make up the difference. You'll be able to lose weight safely by creating an energy deficit of up to 1,000 calories a day, which will allow you to lose up to two pounds per week.
Use a calorie-needs calculator like LIVESTRONG.COM's MyPlate app to figure out your daily calorie needs, then subtract calories to create your energy deficit. With an app like MyPlate, you can factor in your weight-loss goal, and it will tell you the exact number of calories (as well has how much fat, protein and carbohydrates) you need to reach that goal.
For example, a 27-year-old woman who is 5-foot-4 and weighs 160 pounds and gets about an hour of activity a day needs roughly 2,500 calories a day to maintain her weight. She could drop her calorie intake to about 2,000 calories daily to lose one pound a week or go down to 1,500 calories a day to lose two pounds each week.
Here are some easy ways to cut calories from your diet:
- Choose grilled fish or chicken instead of fried versions
- Opt for mustard instead of mayonnaise on a sandwich
- Eat whole fruits instead of drinking juice
- Choose water over soda or juice
- Practice portion control
- Avoid mindless snacking
- Start your meal with a salad (watch the dressing) or broth-based soup
- Load up on veggies to give dishes like stir-fry more volume
While you may be tempted to eat as few calories as possible to lose weight more quickly, as mentioned above, it's important that you don't cut more than 1,000 calories from your daily diet or eat fewer than 1,200 calories a day — even if that means your energy deficit is smaller than 1,000 calories. Eat too little and you'll slow down your metabolism and put yourself on track to regain the weight — often with a few extra pounds.
How Protein Helps With Weight Loss
While you'll need a balanced diet that includes unprocessed foods like whole grains, fruits, veggies and healthy fats to lose weight, you should focus on protein to get the best results.
Many women fall short in their protein intake, according to Precision Nutrition, but getting enough protein can actually help you shed pounds. Protein takes more energy to digest than carbs or fats, so including more of it in your diet actually boosts your metabolism. And protein also provides nutritional support for your workouts, so you can build sleek, lean muscle tissue to get a toned appearance.
Support your weight loss and exercise program by getting between 1.2 and 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram (or 0.55 and 0.73 grams per pound) of your body weight, recommends research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2013. For a 200-pound woman, this would suggest you aim for 110 to 146 grams of protein daily, split up among three to five meals.
Alternatively, you can "eyeball" your portions by including a palm-size serving of a protein-dense food at each meal, such as:
- Lean beef
Slim Down and Tone Up With Exercise
If you want to lose weight fast, you'll need to get moving. Cardiovascular exercise helps you torch more calories. A 125-pound person, for example, burns about 600 calories in an hourlong high-impact step class or about 200 calories in 30 minutes of jogging. These calories burnt help you create a calorie deficit so you can lose more weight.
Experiment to find a few forms of aerobic exercise you like — whether that's a jogging session on the treadmill, a trendy cycling class or a ballet-inspired dance workout — to prevent boredom as you burn calories. If you're older, exercise is all the more important to counteract the weight-gaining effects of your hormones.
And while the weight room can be intimidating for women, pumping iron is key to getting a toned and fit physique. Don't worry, lifting heavy weights won't make you bulky — you just don't have the testosterone to build the size of a man. Lifting will improve your posture, make your arms, core and lower body more shapely and boost your metabolism by building muscle. Resistance training also helps you hold onto muscle that you naturally lose as you age.
Schedule two or three workouts each week, choosing exercises that challenge your entire body each time. If you're not sure how to start, consult a trainer at your gym. A professional can help you find your way around the weight room and choose challenging weights that will give you the best results.
And be especially aware of your eating habits after your workout. In women, the hunger hormone known as ghrelin tends to rise dramatically after an exercise session. Simultaneously, the hormone leptin, which signals your body it's full, decreases, as shown by research published in a 2013 issue of the Biology of Sport.
Research published in the American Journal of Physiology in 2018 shows that people tend to eat more calories when they exercise, effectively eliminating any positive effect of a calorie deficit.
And, unfortunately, women tend to biochemically be drawn to higher-calorie foods as compared to men, as shown by a 2017 study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. Avoid rewarding your workout efforts with a helping of ice cream, a cookie or a bowl of mac and cheese.
Look Thinner Fast With These Style Tips
Unfortunately, even fast weight-loss methods won't change your body overnight. At a weight loss of one to two pounds a week, you'll likely be working toward your weight loss goal for weeks, months or even years.
That doesn't mean you can't make a few tweaks to notice results more quickly, though.
- Pay particular attention to your posture throughout the day; simply standing and sitting up straight makes you look thinner and more confident.
- Use a belt to draw attention to your increasingly defined waist, and play up your best assets with bright colors. For example, show off toned gams with candy-colored denim or a printed skirt.
- Choose clothing that fits your body the way it is right now. Excessively loose or tight clothes usually aren't flattering.
- Wear darker colored clothes over any areas you might be self-conscious about. For example, a darker top can visually slim your waist and upper body, while dark pants or a skirt can streamline your hips.
- Take advantage of the latest in undergarments: Make sure your bra fits, and slide on a set of shapewear if you feel comfortable in them.
- Pick clothing made from fabrics like jersey, fine cotton and Spandex. Avoid bulky materials, including corduroy, leather, suede and angora.
- Wear V-neck tops and dresses to show off a little skin up top to draw attention away from your middle and hips.
What Do YOU Think?
Are you trying to lose weight? What's worked for you? What hasn't worked? Have you followed any of this advice? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
- University of North Carolina: Men Vs. Women: Is Losing Weight An Unfair Race?
- Baylor College of Medicine: Adult Energy Needs and BMI Calculator
- UCLA: Be a Protein Pro
- Harvard Medical School: Calories Burned In 30 Minutes For People Of Three Different Weights
- Precision Nutrition: How to Fix a Broken Diet
- Washington Post: Why It Really is Harder for Women to Lose Weight
- InStyle: 12 Easy Ways to Look Thinner By Tonight
- Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine: Gender-related Differences in Food Craving and Obesity
- Current Opinions in Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Obesity: Testosterone and weight loss: the evidence.
- Yale Scientific: Hunger Plays a Role in Infertility
- Health Status: Calories Burned Calculator
- IDEA Health and Fitness Association: 50 Ways to Cut Calories
- Psychology Today: The Menopausal 15