Weight Loss Programs for Women: What Really Works?
Any discussion of weight loss programs for women should start by acknowledging this fact: Women do not lose weight in the same way men do. Women lose weight differently and often have to approach weight loss differently.
You may have seen this phenomena in your own life, or at least heard other women talk about it. The scenario typically goes something like this …
A wife and husband decide they want to lose weight. They make the same lifestyle changes ― both adopt a healthy diet, scale down portions, cut out wine and after-dinner snacks, and embark on a daily exercise regimen.
And two months into their weight loss routine, the husband’s Dockers are falling down around his ankles, while the wife’ jeans fit as snug as they did on day one.
Like all good stories, anecdotes that illustrate how much harder it us for women to lose weight sometimes use poetic license to drive home the point ― but they are based in scientific fact.
So, before we begin our review of weight loss programs from women, let’s take a closer look at the factors that affect weight loss for women.
Why is weight loss for women more difficult?
There are several factors that make weight loss for women challenging. The best weight loss programs for women take these factors into account.
The number-one reason women have a harder time losing weight than men has to do with body composition ― specifically, the ratio of fat-to-muscle in women’s bodies.
Body composition gives men a metabolic advantage that makes it easier to lose weight … sort of.
We’ll get to the “sort of” part in a moment. But first, here’s a brief explanation of how body composition makes weight loss for women more difficult.
It’s all about hormones, muscle, and metabolism
Men naturally have much higher levels of testosterone, a hormone that promotes muscle growth.
Women, on the other hand, have higher levels of estrogen, which has been shown to promote fatty tissue growth. Thyroid hormone levels, which regulate weight and metabolism, also vary drastically between men and women.
Thanks to all the testosterone coursing through men’s bodies, they are naturally leaner and more muscular, in general, than women. On average, women have between six and 11 percent more body fat than men.
Scientists speculate this is an evolutionary adaptation related to child bearing ― it’s the body’s way of ensuring there’s an energy surplus, in the form of stored fat, to sustain two human bodies through conception, pregnancy and the intense physical experience of labor.
It also contributes to lipedema, a condition that causes women’s hips and legs to accumulate excess fat that can be extremely difficult to lose.
Muscle burns more calories than body fat, even at rest. So, having a lower percentage of body fat and higher percentage of lean muscle, as most men do, results in a more efficient or faster metabolism ― anywhere from three to 10 percent faster than women, studies have shown.
How does the difference in metabolism impact the effectiveness of weight loss programs for women?
In one British study, men and women were each put on the same commercial weight loss programs such as Weight Watchers, Slim-Fast and Atkins. After two months, the men had lost twice as much weight as the women, and three times as much body fat.
So, there you have it ― conclusive proof that men have a head start when they begin a weight loss program. But the key words are “when they begin a weight loss program.”
Remember a few paragraphs ago, when we said body composition makes it easier for men to lose weight … sort of? Well, here’s the “sort of” part: In the British study, the rate of weight loss evened out between men and women by the six-month mark.
So, while men have an easier time losing weight in the early stages of a weight loss program, women typically catch up … as long as they 1) choose the best weight loss program for women and 2) stick with the program beyond the difficult beginning phase.
Choosing the best weight loss program for women
We can use what we know about how women lose weight to evaluate which weight loss programs for women are likely to be successful and effective based on several key elements.
- Weight loss programs for women should focus on steady, gradual weight loss.
As we’ve seen, due to body composition, women often have a slower start when beginning a weight loss program, so rapid weight loss programs are not the best choice for most women.
While the idea of fast weight loss is appealing to everyone, weight loss programs that aim for quick results are not likely to work for most women.
Weight loss is a process, and it is smarter to go into a weight loss program with realistic expectations and an understanding that losing weight will take time.
- Weight loss exercise programs for women should incorporate strength training to build metabolism-fueling muscle.
Cardio exercise such as running, cycling, jumping rope or dancing is an important component of weight loss ― and one of the best things women can do for their bodies. There’s no doubt that sweating it out with cardio exercise helps you burn fat and calories.
But any serious weight loss exercise program for women should include strength training. Yes, we’re talking about lifting weights.
You may be thinking, “Wait, won’t lifting weights make me look bulky?” This is a common misconception. Unless you have Schwarzenegger genes, you’re not going to get huge by lifting weights. Just ask any guy who’s spent years in the gym trying to pack on muscle. It takes countless hours of heavy lifting ― and loads of testosterone ― to build bulk.
What lifting weights actually does is enhance muscle composition ― the ratio of lean, fat-burning muscle in the body compared to body fat ― making it the best exercise to charge up your resting metabolism, period.
- Weight loss programs for women should provide ongoing support.
This point is equally true of weight loss programs for women and for men. In nearly every weight loss study where one-to-one, human coaching was a variable, people who were coached stuck with the programs longer and lost more weight.
Coaches are able to:
- answer your questions about food and exercise
- understand what motivates you as well as your unique, day-by-day challenges
- hold you accountable
- lend an empathetic ear and listen when you just need to talk
- guide you through frustration with understanding and humor
- help you identify problem areas that may be interfering with your weight loss ― and come up with specific fixes
- be a positive force that helps you find inspiration and joy in the little, daily victories that add up to success
But there is another reason why coaching is especially important in weight loss programs for women. Because it takes women longer to build momentum in losing weight, weight loss programs like The LOVIDIA Way that offer personal coaching tend to be most effective for women.
There will be times when you feel like you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do ― eating healthy foods, watching your portions, exercising regularly ― and the scale just isn’t budging. You may feel defeated and think about giving up. A weight loss coach can be that voice in your ear telling you to keep going.
For more information about the benefits of weight loss coaching, visit The LOVIDIA Way webpage.
Final notes on weight loss programs for women
Regardless of which weight loss program you choose, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor first. This should go without saying, but it is worth mentioning that women should never follow any diet or weight loss program that seems dangerous.
Always remember: health first. When you build a healthy life, you will find a healthy weight.