You might not want to kick everything off with a meal of low-fat ryvitas, before first finding out what’s in store.
The diet is the most effective way of manipulating weight, whether you’re dropping, raising, or even settling. It also has the potential of making you healthier, and adding some stability to the chaos of living. It’s well worth a shot.
Here I am going to focus on weight loss. There just aren’t many women looking to add, maintaining is boring, and getting rid is simply the bigger battle. So, with that covered, what do women have to face? It’s a pretty similar picture for both sexes. Eat less, lift more, try not to binge. But that’s just the base. Have if you ever wondered if..
1 – YOU’VE GOT IT WORSE?
Absolutely right. It’s all bad news. Fat comes on easier, and is less obliged to leave. Women burn less of it after meals, and store more subcutaneous fat in the lower body. Where it’s harder to shift compared to visceral and upper body fat.
To continue this sexist narrative, the body fights even harder against weight loss. After all, women are the ones tasked with keeping humanity alive. Appetite goes higher, metabolism goes lower, kitchen sink gets flung into the mix. Then there’s the case of eating disorders and hormonal imbalances, of which women are more at risk. Metabolism is also slower, since women generally have less body mass. Meaning you’re generally burning fewer calories and therefore less fat.
So it’s a little unfair. But that’s why weight training is such a crucial component. By sparing some of the metabolic curse and encouraging better adherence, you can have an easier time of it. Always look for silver linings!
2 – BUT DROP THE EXCUSES
It’s probably the biggest battle here, looking past reasons your brain conjures up to escape diet prison. And there’s plenty. My metabolism’s too slow. Fat genetics. I’m comfortable where I am. Starvation mode’s kicking in. Life’s just too busy.
Every one of them’s a myth. There’s a clear game-plan here, and you hold most of the cards. Create a deficit and hold it over weeks, months, however long you need to file down. Aim for something realistic and attainable, and chase it down. There is a chance of you having a condition that stunts weight loss, but it’s slim. Have a check, by all means, but don’t delay.
3 – WEIGHT LOSS WON’T BE A STRAIGHT LINE
So basically the best you can hope for in terms of pure fat loss, is 1-1.5 kg per week. At best. Probably better to lower the sights a touch, and aim for half that. Keeping that consistent over a few weeks, a month or two, is challenging but doable. In six weeks, if you stick to your guns and eat cold and calculated, you can lose 4kg of fat mass. The problem is that the scale isn’t going to lay it out that simple.
First week, you’re dropping a ton of water. Not literal, but close. Water you don’t count, it’s just there for the ride. It’s sad but inevitable you lose some muscle here and there. Don’t worry, it’ll grow back. Then there’s the monthly cycle which has a big effect on water retention. Women are 55% water, so the scale is going to lead you on a wild goose chase if you attempt to plot weight loss week by week. You can comfortably shift up to 10 pounds worth of body-weight over a cycle. There might be a downward correlation, but it’s not a fun graph to look at.
The solution is to match Week 1 of your cycle to Week 1 of the previous, Week 2 to Week 2 and so on. Water retention will be at similar levels, so fat loss will not be so obscured. Case solved.
4 – YOU CAN’T ALWAYS DEFEAT CRAVINGS
Sometimes the hunger just won’t go. Driving you closer and closer to edge from which you see red and eat every bit of junk food in sight. During the menstruation period, women tend to pine for high-fat or high-carb foods. Ignoring them outright constitutes psychological warfare that’s painful and dangerous. You might want to do the perfect diet, but it’s extremely unlikely to work out for you in the long term.
Multiple reasons for this. It’s stressful, which blunts fat loss. It’s mean, which makes the body fight back harder. And the body really doesn’t want to lose weight as it is. Once you commit to the binge, it can feel pointless dusting off the crumbs and hopping back on the diet. If these feelings ever get to you, they’re dead wrong, it won’t take much to limit the damage.
Make some concessions. Eat the cookie.
5 – BEWARE CORTISOL
Getting stressed can have huge downside. Mental drama, dieting, lifting, they all increase cortisol, the stress hormone. Women tend to have more emotional attachments to food and can produce more cortisol anyway during the luteal phase. This hormone increases water retention, blunts fat loss, and disrupts sleep. Pretty destructive all-round. It has its uses, but being chronically elevated is never a good thing.
If you think it’s reached a boiling point, take a week or two off, raise calories and rest. Otherwise you’re caught in an upwards spiral of diet problems causing stress and stress causing diet problems. Ease off the crazies, stay as low-key as possible. Wham, cortisol goes down like magic. You’ll be coming back a much more potent fat burning machine.
6 – AVOID THE FAD DIETS
They will take this unfriendly situation and make it worse. Fad diets are glammed up starvation modes that push too hard, return too little, and then blame the imminent failure on you. And they’re pretty much all marketed towards women. Weight Watchers, Juice Detoxes, 800 Calorie Diets, 30 Day Plans, Ryvitas…I’ll go through the lot another day.
These work initially, because water weight, but there’s nothing to ensure long-term survival. Little emphasis on protein, excessive deficits to cripple the system, no chance of learning long-term habits, it’s all buttering you up nicely for the rebound.
But these diets won’t die. Maybe it’s the attraction stressed dieters feel for the extreme avenues. It promises a quick fix in troubling times. Either way, try to avoid.
7 – THE BOLD ALTERNATIVE
I’ve painted a grim picture, so let me dress it up a bit.
If you shun the trendy diets, what then? Considering the damage that can be caused by diving in the deep end, start simple and steady. Raise activity, clean out the junk food, see if you need to reduce food from there.
Chances are, that’s enough to get some wind in your sails. Weight will stall at some point, so you add some more activity, drop a hundred calories, go again. Take breaks when you’re out of legs. It’s a marathon, and perhaps further on, much further, you end up sitting on 1200 calories with an hour of cardio to complete the dose. Save that for the sprint to the finish line.
8 – DON’T GO IN BLIND, KEEP MEASUREMENTS
Some people aren’t too keen on the scales. They’re not bothered about weight. I’d get a little suspicious after they repeat it for the umpteenth time, but sure, what if it’s one big symbol for systematic repression.
If you’re averse to stepping on the scales, whipping out the tape measure, body-fat calipers, then at least keep a close eye on how your clothes fit. It’s part trial and error when you’re kicking off weight change, there has to be a way to confirm on you’re on track.
9 – STICKING TO CARDIO? YOU STILL NEED PROTEIN
Refusing the call of weights, for good reason or none, doesn’t make protein dead weight. It still does a great deal to stabilise blood sugar, curb appetite and minimise muscular breakdown. You may not need as much, but it’s still a big portion of your diet.
10 – LOWER THE CARBS, RAISE THE FATS
It’s not to spread hate for Carbs, they have their uses, and are ideal if you want to keep optimum brain function. Fitness isn’t worth dropping I.Q points over. Defend what you have.
That being said, women rely less on glycogen for fuel. Particularly during the follicular phase. From a fat-burning perspective, you want fuel you can burn off, leading to a deficit. Fat is also 15% more satiating than for men. It breaks down slowly keeping you full between meals. It’s a more optimal macro for your system.
Women suffer more from insulin resistance, which causes fat gain. Low-Carb diets help break down the resistance, while also burning more lower body-fat by way inhibiting alpha receptors. You might find otherwise that you’re losing weight on the waist without really tapping into the hips and thighs.
Keep some carbs, but contain it within 120g per day, more if you’re super active. Fats make up the space you’ve freed up.
You can go lower, to about 50g, but I wouldn’t recommend it as an opener, and not without Carb-cycling. Call it strategic starvation. Adding some more carbs during the luteal phase won’t hurt, since you’ll be using more.
Hope there weren’t too many downers thrown in. Sure, it’s a challenging trek, and men have it a lot easier, which doesn’t help. But it’s a chance to forge yourself in battle and emerge stronger than ever. Best you jump in fully aware of what’s about to hit you. I’ll go over the points again in brief.
Women store subcutaneous fat more readily
They also burn less of it
While fighting harder against weight loss
Get more stressed and use excessive deficits, which further hampers the diet
But all’s not lost if you stick to the yellow brick road
Stay In Shape