Trying to shed a few inches and get leaner? If you're searching for a fat-loss diet plan for females, here is a meal plan for weight loss and muscle gain for females that can help. You can use these lean meal plan ideas as a starting point for your weight loss journey.
Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Meal Planning for Beginners
Weight Loss for Women
If you've ever thought that losing weight is harder for women than it is for men, you are not wrong. Northwestern University explains that it is generally harder for women to lose weight for a number of biological reasons.
For starters, Northwestern University notes that men tend to have more lean muscle and a lower body fat percentage than women, which makes their resting metabolic rate higher. According to the American Council on Exercise, the higher your resting metabolic rate, the more calories your body is able to burn in a day.
Northwestern University says that women's bodies also tend to store fat in different areas than men's. Women typically store fat in their hips, thighs and buttocks, and it can be quite hard to lose that weight. Female hormones also make it more likely that excess calories that are not burnt are stored in the body as fat, and fat occupies more space than muscle does.
Read more: 13 Tips for Women Over 40 to Manage Their Weight
The Benefits of Getting Leaner
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that more than two out of three adults in the United States have overweight or obesity, and that obesity is around 40 percent higher among women than it is among men.
Whether you have overweight or obesity, or you need to lose weight because of a medical condition, or you're just trying to be fitter in general, you should be able to reap the benefits of shedding some pounds and getting leaner.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that even losing a modest amount of weight, like 5 to 10 percent of your body weight, results in health benefits like better blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
For instance, if your current weight is 200 pounds, losing 5 percent of your body weight would put you at 190 pounds. Though 190 pounds may still fall under the categories of overweight or obese, the CDC says losing those 10 pounds reduces your risk of chronic diseases.
A January 2014 study published in the journal Appetite found that apart from physiological benefits, losing weight has psychological benefits as well. The study found that losing weight helped improve self esteem, body image and vitality.
Fat-Loss Diet Plan for Females
It can be tempting to go on a crash diet to try to lose weight quickly; however, Penn Medicine advises against it. Fad diets and cleanses are temporary; they usually help you lose only water weight, rather than body fat, and chances are that you'll gain the weight back as soon as you resume eating normally.
Crash diets can also jeopardize your health. Penn Medicine says crash dieting can deplete your vitamin levels, cause dehydration and lightheadedness, and damage your kidneys. Cleanses can also result in eating disorders and heart problems like irregular heartbeats, a condition known as arrhythmia.
Instead, the CDC recommends taking a slower, more gradual approach to weight loss. Making long-term changes to your lifestyle and building healthy food and exercise habits is a more successful strategy than following a program or diet for a few weeks or months.
The CDC recommends losing weight at a slow and steady rate of 1 or 2 pounds per week, and then continuing to eat healthy and exercise regularly to ensure that you maintain your weight.
So, what's a good fat-loss diet plan for females and how do you go about losing 1 to 2 pounds per week? The first thing you need to do is pay attention to what you're eating, in terms of both quantity and quality.
In terms of quantity, Harvard Medical School says you need to cut down on your calorie consumption by 500 calories per day to lose 1 pound a week. To lose 2 pounds a week, you need to cut back on 1,000 calories per day.
However, Harvard Medical School cautions against letting your daily calorie intake fall below 1,200 calories per day, since that could cause you to lose out on essential nutrients and endanger your health.
According to the University of Colorado, eating fewer than 1,200 calories a day may cause you to lose weight in the short run, but it can drastically lower your metabolism in the long run, because your body will adapt to the limited number of calories available and then store any additional calories you eat as fat.
Apart from quantity, a meal plan for weight loss and muscle gain for females also needs to take into account the quality of the calories. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health explains that all calories are not equal, meaning that a calorie of junk food is not equal to a calorie of a healthy food. While the former usually has little to no nutrition, the calories in the latter are usually accompanied by essential nutrients that your body needs.
The Harvard School of Public Health therefore recommends opting for high-quality foods that provide you with both calories (energy) and nutrition. High-quality foods are unrefined or minimally processed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy sources of protein.
You're better off avoiding lower-quality foods like refined grains, highly processed foods and snacks, refined sugar, sugary foods and drinks, fried foods and foods with trans fats or significant amounts of saturated fat, says the Harvard School of Public Health.
A meal plan for weight loss and muscle gain for females needs to be accompanied by exercise. Harvard Medical School says that if you have a sedentary lifestyle, you should aim to get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week.
An August 2019 study published in the journal PLOS Genetics found that activities like jogging, walking, dancing, mountain climbing and long sessions of yoga can help you lose weight and help your body fight genetic tendencies toward having obesity.
Read more: The Best Workouts for Women Who Want to Lose Weight
Lean Meal Plan Ideas
It's a good idea to visit a dietitian for a meal plan that is customized to your preferences, lifestyle, medical conditions and food allergies; however, in the meantime, the NIH lists some lean meal plan ideas that can help guide you. You can also use a calorie tracking service like MyPlate to calculate how many calories you're eating per day to ensure that you're not eating too few or too many.
For breakfast, the NIH suggests whole-wheat bread with some jelly, shredded wheat cereal with 1 percent milk, orange juice and regular coffee. Alternatively, you can do oatmeal (made with 1 percent milk), orange juice and coffee.
For lunch, the NIH recommends an apple and a roast beef sandwich (made with lean beef, whole-wheat bread, lettuce, tomato and low-calorie mayo). You could also do baked chicken (without the skin), a vegetable salad with an oil and vinegar dressing and some brown rice instead.
The NIH suggests salmon, a baked potato, some carrots and green beans, a dinner roll and some unsweetened iced tea for dinner. Another option is a chicken taco (made with a corn tortilla and skinless chicken breast), Spanish rice (without meat), corn, a banana and some coffee (made with 1 percent milk).
Also make it a point to drink plenty of water throughout the day. The Mayo Clinic says that while many people mistakenly think of water as a magic bullet for weight loss (it's not!), sipping water during the day can contribute toward that feeling of fullness and help you eat fewer calories.
Strategies for Success
Losing weight can be hard, but apart from eating healthier and exercising regularly, there are some changes you can make in your daily habits to make it easier.
For instance, the Mayo Clinic suggests paying attention to what you eat and how much you eat; instead of eating mindlessly, eat only when you're genuinely hungry and stop eating when you're full. Avoid eating while you're working, watching TV or fiddling with your phone, since you're less likely to notice signs from your body telling you that you're full. Take note of the aroma and taste of your food and chew each bite well.
The Mayo Clinic also recommends examining your motives towards the food you eat. It's possible that you're eating out of boredom, to satisfy a craving or in response to an emotional trigger.
When you get the urge to munch on something, the Mayo Clinic advises that you H.A.L.T. first. Before you eat, ask yourself whether you're actually hungry, or whether you're just angry, lonely or tired. If you are in fact emotional eating, start replacing this habit with a healthier one. You can call a friend or take a walk instead.
One way to be more aware of what you eat is to keep a food journal, says the CDC. If you start writing down everything you eat during the day, you will be able to keep track of your calorie intake as well as identify unhealthy eating and snacking patterns.
For instance, you may notice that you eat a doughnut every morning because it's provided in your team meeting every morning at work. Once you notice this pattern, you can take steps to correct it.
You can try carrying a healthier alternative like fruit or a whole-grain sandwich to the meeting with you, so that you have something to munch on and don't feel the need to eat the doughnut. Alternatively, you can eat a healthy, filling breakfast before your meeting so that you're not as tempted by the doughnut as you would be on an empty stomach.
Read more: 10 of the Most Common Weight-Loss Mistakes
- Northwestern University: “Why Is It Harder for Women to Lose Weight?”
- American Council of Exercise: “Resting Metabolic Rate: Best Ways to Measure It — And Raise It, Too”
- National Institutes of Health: “Overweight and Obesity Statistics”
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Losing Weight”
- Appetite: “Psychological Benefits of Weight Loss Following Behavioural and/or Dietary Weight Loss Interventions: A Systematic Research Review”
- Penn Medicine: “Want to Lose Weight Quickly? Here Are Seven Reasons Why Crash Diets Probably Won’t Work”
- Harvard Medical School: “Calorie Counting Made Easy”
- University of Colorado: “Nutrition”
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “The Best Diet: Quality Counts”
- PLOS Genetics: “Performing Different Kinds of Physical Exercise Differentially Attenuates the Genetic Effects on Obesity Measures: Evidence From 18,424 Taiwan Biobank Participants”
- National Institutes of Health: “Menu Plans”
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Losing Weight: Getting Started”
- Mayo Clinic: “Hunger Games: Do You Know Why You Eat?”