Weight Loss For Women- The Unique Challenges & What We Can Do

Weight Loss For Women- The Unique Challenges & What We Can Do


Of course, both men and women can struggle with achieving weight and health goals, but is weight loss sometimes harder for women?

There are some issues that play a big role for women. For a sustainable lifestyle change and weight loss, it is important for women to keep these in mind and have an action plan on how to combat against them!


Let’s take a look at 5 issues specific to women and the actions you can take.


Effect of hormonesWhen we talk about hormones, often people think about the reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone. These definitely influence women during monthly cycles, lead to cravings and water retention, along with mood changes for many! If your menstrual cycles are off, you are noticing new facial hair growth or struggle with infertility, you might have a condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). It is important to seek medical evaluation to diagnose this condition. It predisposes women to insulin resistance, weight gain and other health issues. Read more about PCOS HERE.  

Are there other hormones to consider? Yes...

Cortisol is one such hormone, which comes from the pituitary gland, and is released in response to stress. Men have stress too of course and it is essential to work on healthy coping mechanisms.  Often, women additionally deal with the juggling act of work, domestic chores, and raising kids, leading to a disproportionate burden of cognitive load and stress. With constant stress, there is an ongoing elevation in cortisol levels, which in turn leads to an increase in other hormones like insulin (increased fat storage), increased hunger hormones (grehlin) and decreased satiety hormones. This combination of hormone signals can increase hunger and appetite and make weight loss for women more challenging. 



  • Work on healthy ways to cope with stress- recognize you can’t change all the stressors, but you can change your response.
  • Work to build more pauses and mindfulness in your life. As women, we are often trying to please everyone, but remember you cannot pour from an empty cup!
  • Learning to say “no” by drawing boundaries, meditation, active stress reduction and making time for your own well-being is a start!
  • Make time for self-care daily- can you take 10 mins daily to make yourself a priority? You don't need to come LAST. 


Emotional eating: Has anyone else done this? We eat for many reasons! We can tend to eat when we are happy, when we are sad, when we are anxious… and breaking the food reward cycle and it’s link to our emotions is essential if this is playing a role in your food decisions. It’s not that chocolate cake is “bad” in and of itself once in a while when you choose, but if we turn to high sugar, high fat foods to feel better often, this cycle can lead to a cycle that can lead to excess weight gain and health concerns. What can you do?



  • Work towards finding alternative ways to show yourself love and comfort. Is your love language food? 
  • In the moment of stress or high emotions, pause and recognize the feeling, and before you reach for that treat that will give you transient relief, consider a substitution.
  • A walk, a call with a friend, some deep breaths, a nice bath or just some “me time” can be great options. Can you think of something that brings you joy that is not food related?


Menopause: Oh, we are back to hormones! In peri-menopause and post-menopause, reproductive hormones are changing again! Menopause itself does not lead to weight gain always, but there is a re-distribution of weight to the belly area, which many notice! Also, with age, metabolism slows down and there is loss of muscle mass- more on that below. With progressive weight gain and advancing age, often women (and men) develop insulin resistance, which leads to an increased risk for cholesterol abnormalities, high blood pressure, pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. The changing hormones also affect sleep, which is an important factor in our metabolism. As these changes occur, the nutrition, exercise and other methods that were working before, start being less effective. That can be super frustrating!



  • Embrace the fact that your body will change with age. Practice good health habits because your body deserves the best and love yourself at all stages!
  • Try something different! It is not impossible to lose weight during this time, but it does take recognizing that with a decrease in metabolism, you will need to change a few things.
  • While portion sizes need to be cut down, you might feel hungry! Eating more protein and fiber can help with hunger.
  • Exercise, aerobic as well as muscle resistance training, can help not only burn calories, but also help you get better sleep, reduce stress and maintain your muscle mass.


Changes in Metabolism: With age and loss of muscle mass, our metabolism slows down! You may notice what used to work is not effective. So, is it futile? No.


SOME SOLUTIONS: Few things to help your metabolism:

  1. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep
  2. Work to ACTIVELY reduce & cope with stress
  3. Move!
  4. Work out especially to build muscle 
  5. Eat your fiber: 35 g/day! Prebiotic foods (high fiber foods) get converted into substances by our gut bacteria that help prevent insulin resistance & improve metabolic health 


Accepting nothing less than perfection: Both men and women can fall prey to all or nothing thinking. The unrealistic expectation to be perfect is a surefire way to not make a sustainable lifestyle change and leads to crash dieting. We have to be okay with not being perfect, accepting that we will sometimes deviate off our path (ex. a holiday meal or vacation) and it is not necessary to be perfect to change the foundation of what we do every day.

When you are driving on the highway and you take a wrong exit, do you keep going in the wrong direction or do you get back on the highway? Of course, you get back on, right?

Accept that your journey will be full of wrong exits, pit stops and you might stop and enjoy some sights along the way- but get back on with intention towards the health goals you seek!

In health, 

Dr M


*As always, please note this is not medical advice. Please discuss specific health concerns and lifestyle changes with your personal physician.



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