Ladies, it’s time you know that the weight loss odds are stacked against you. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to lose weight—but it will be much more difficult for some to lose weight than others, and this may become even more apparent as we age. While there are some ways to improve your weight loss or maintenance outcome, it’s important to also understand the internal factors at play that make weight gain a natural process in the female body, even more so than males.
The following are just some of the basic reasons women gain weight, rounded up with a couple ideas of how you can work with your body to still achieve your own unique body goals.
The female body tends to produce a lot of estrogen (as you may well be aware). Progesterone is a secondary hormone produced by the body to rein in the effects of estrogen. When these hormones are out of balance, estrogen dominance sinks in—a key culprit in the accumulation of stubborn thigh fat and abundance of fat tissue elsewhere. Commonly, the body can struggle maintaining a proper estrogen-progesterone balance during puberty, and again during perimenopause and menopause, when progesterone production tends to decline more rapidly than estrogen. As a result, we often see our bodies storing more fat in our teens and increased weight gain as we age. Generally speaking, this path of hormone-linked weight gain is average for most women. However, certain lifestyle and dietary factors can also contribute to higher levels of estrogen or estrogen-like hormones in the body.
Next up, we have to consider metabolism. While there are always exceptions to the rule, the male body generally has more active metabolic mass—more muscle, bigger hearts (physically speaking), larger kidneys, and less body fat in relation to body weight—than the typical female body. Considering that each pound of muscle burns about six calories daily, while the heart and kidneys may each require at least 100 calories to properly function, and fat burns just two calories per pound, it’s clear that the male body is just built to burn more calories based on its makeup alone. Lean muscle mass is the main factor determining our metabolic rate. So, due to a higher active metabolic mass, males tend to be naturally burning more calories and storing less fat.
On top of a tipsy estrogen-progesterone balance as we age, a rise in a specific enzyme—Aldh1a1—is believed to be linked to weight gain as estrogen levels decline. While one of the most prominent studies on this topic was on mice, the same enzyme and hormones were at play. The study found that female mice on a high-fat diet (i.e., the ketogenic diet) experienced higher levels of the enzyme Aldh1a1 and stored more fat, particularly around the abdomen, compared to male mice. Estrogen, it seems, suppresses the enzyme in younger women but as estrogen levels decline with age, the impact the enzyme has on weight gain increases. Unfortunately, the only solution is to increase muscle mass to boost metabolism while eating a healthy, balanced diet that doesn’t overdo it on fats.
On a global scale, among women, depression is reportedly the leading cause of disease burden, which refers to the financial cost, mortality, morbidity, and other impacts of a health concern. While there are many factors that may cause depression, patterns suggest that internal influencing factors affect women the most (such as stress within a relationship) alongside hormonal fluctuations during such periods as puberty, post-pregnancy, menopause, and post-menopause. But what’s the link to weight gain? Well, in a recent study published in the journal Family Practice, a major correlation was found between weight gain in middle-aged women and a depressed mood, with a 1.9 odds ratio and 95% confidence interval, suggesting that the effects of depression on weight may be larger than that of hormonal shifts.
So, it seems the odds are against us, but that doesn’t mean we’re strapped with the weight. Instead, we’ve rounded up some steps you can take to help manage weight gain as you age.
First, practice self-love and acceptance. No matter what the scale reads, your body has done incredible things in its lifetime and has carried you through some momentous times. Once you’re able to accept and appreciate your body for all that it does for you, you can shift your mindset to showing it some physical support by developing your own body goals. The best tip here is to avoid measurements and look at the bigger picture. Make it a goal to exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet to keep your body feeling energized, nourished, and strong. Increasing fitness intensity and regularity alongside healthy shifts in diet (these don’t have to be bland!), can also have a positive impact on mood and mental health.
Once the basics of a healthy lifestyle are covered, depending on your unique body goals, a complementary aesthetic treatment may help boost your results and achieve an outcome that may not otherwise be possible with diet and fitness alone. Cellulite reduction treatments can be the perfect complement to your workout regimen, utilizing targeted energy to disperse fat cells and trigger collagen production to smoothen lumps and bumps. Likewise, radio frequency (RF) body shaping treatments deliver heat far below the skin’s surface to shrink fat cells and boost collagen and elastin production for a firmer, smoother silhouette. Whatever your goals, know that it’s natural for women to gain more weight than men, especially as we age, and there are a variety of options to meet your needs and complement your lifestyle.
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