Weight Loss for Women

Carrying excess body fat is linked to some of our greatest health threats, namely heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. It can also elevate blood pres- sure and add stress to the body. Obesity is linked to gall bladder disease, gastrointestinal disease, sexual dysfunction, osteoarthritis, and stroke. The emotional consequences of obesity can be just as serious: low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety.

It is important to note that if you are overweight or obese, losing even a small amount of weight can improve your health. Studies have shown that losing 10 to 15 percent of excess weight can help reduce blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. It is important to get your body fat percentage checked. This can be done at a medical centre or health club. The recommended range of body fat for women is 15 to 25 percent.

Factors Affecting Weight Loss for Women

In the past it was thought that diet and activity level were the only factors affecting body weight. We now know that this is not the case. Some people can exercise regularly and reduce caloric intake and still not lose weight. And, of course, we all know women who can eat whatever they want and never gain a pound.

Weight gain and obesity are complex conditions, dependent upon various lifestyle, hormonal, biochemical, metabolic, and genetic factors. Some of the most important factors include:

• Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): The rate at which your body burns calories at rest is called your BMR. Your BMR is dependent on several of the factors listed below, such as activity level and thyroid function.

• Caloric intake: Overeating and consuming more calories than your body uses for energy can result in weight gain—regardless of whether those calories come from fat, carbohydrates, or protein.

• Activity level: Inactivity causes loss of muscle mass, reduced metabolic rate, and increased body fat, whereas regular exercise improves muscle mass and boosts metabolism.

• Stress: Chronic stress can cause weight gain, particularly around the mid-section. Stress increases the production and release of cortisol, a hormone that increases body fat storage. Stress has become a common concern for women today as more women are juggling family, career, and household responsibilities.

• Human growth hormone (HGH): HGH is an important hormone for regulating Weight Loss for Women. Low levels can cause a loss of lean muscle mass and an increase in body fat storage. Levels decline with age, particularly after age 50, causing a shift in our body composition.

• Lack of sleep: Research has found that lack of sleep (less than six hours per night) can raise levels of hormones that increase appetite and decrease levels of HGH.

• Thyroid function: The thyroid gland plays a vital role in controlling metabolism. If your thyroid is low and not functioning optimally, this can reduce your metabolic rate and cause weight gain. Low thyroid is very common in women between the ages of 30 and 50. Symptoms include cold hands and feet, dry skin, hair loss, low libido, constipation, and depression.

• Insulin: When insulin levels are high the body stores more fat and is not able to use fat as a source of energy.

• Genetics: Genetics play a role in determining body type and weight. However, lifestyle factors are more important determinants.

• Sex hormones: High estrogen levels or low testosterone levels are associated with weight gain.

• Serotonin: A chemical messenger in the brain, serotonin regulates satiety (fullness) and appetite. When levels are low we feel hungry, and when they are high we feel satisfied.


Dietary Strategies and Weight Loss for Women

Following a healthy diet is very important for those trying to lose weight. Skipping meals or following a fad diet is not the way to go. In particular, keep the following principles in mind:

• Eat four to five small meals/snacks daily to keep your metabolism and energy level optimized.

• Watch your portion sizes.

• Avoid processed, refined, and fast foods as they are high in calories and low in nutritional value.

• Ensure adequate protein intake. Protein is essential for building and maintaining lean muscle mass, and the more muscle you have the more calories you burn.

• Fill up on fibre. Fibre is digested slowly so it keeps you feeling more full and also helps balance blood sugar levels.

• Drink eight to 10 glasses of water daily. Water works with fibre to keep you feeling full. It also helps with the removal of toxins and waste.

• Limit alcohol. Alcohol floods the body with empty calories.

Fitness and Weight Loss for Women

Regular physical activity is essential to achieving a healthy body weight. Aim for one hour of moderately intense activity daily. If you are currently not active, start slowly and gradually increase your duration and intensity.

Other Lifestyle Strategies

• Reduce your stress. Stress can trigger appetite and food cravings and increases the production of cortisol, a hormone that promotes fat storage around the abdomen.

• Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

• If you find that your eating habits are tied to your emotions, consider counseling or a support group.

Weighing In

If you have decided to lose weight, set reasonable goals and make small, gradual changes to your lifestyle. Be consistent with your exercise program, eat healthily, and make sure you get adequate sleep. Most importantly, be patient. It takes time to lose weight, but the rewards are worthwhile.

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