Recently, I took a continuing education course that I thought was so interesting that I wanted to share. Sometimes I find myself complaining that my husband can lose weight SO easily.  He can skip ONE meal per day and drop 7 lbs in a week! I, on the other hand, would have to skip one meal per day for a YEAR to lose the same amount of weight! Not fair! (as I grumble and stomp my feet!) This continuing education course reminded me WHY it's harder for women to lose weight than men, and that the very characteristics that make us a woman are the same buggers that make it harder to lose weight. But, don't be discouraged - you'll learn great information in this email that you can apply to YOUR life.  - Happy reading and learning! 

Ever wonder why losing weight is easy for some people and difficult for others? You do everything "right" yet it still takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r to drop those last 5 pounds! If you're a woman, it does take longer! Our bodies are built differently than men's bodies - obviously! The hormones that circulate through our body that make us a woman are the same hormones than play a role in weight loss. 
I want to share some information with you that might help you understand weight loss in women: Why exercise is important; Why we need to eat often; and how our bodies work.  

Energy Balance
What is it?

You've heard of metabolism, but do you really understand what it means?  Metabolism, plain & simple, is all the body processes that take place to break down your food. Three categories make up your metabolism; 1) Resting Metabolic Rate, 2) Thermic Effect of Food, and 3) Thermic Effect of Physical Activity.  All three of these affect how your body burns calories. 

Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)
Your body works even when you're resting

Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is the number of calories your body burns at rest. This is 60-70% of your body's calorie burning capacity. A "slow metabolism" is true for some women since RMR varies by 100-150 cals/day. This difference can lead to 16 pounds of fat per year!
RMR is affected by genetics, age, muscle mass, menopause, diet, and hormones. Lucky women - here are those hormones again!
GENETICS - Genetics significantly influences your RMR because they influence your body type and the number of fat cells in your body. The average woman has 27 billion fat cells while the obese woman has 75 billion fat cells. When you lose weight, these cells don't disappear.  They simply shrink, but they CAN expand again. The number of fat cells in your body is determined by age 16. This is a huge motivator to keeping kids healthy and active throughout their life.
AGE & MUSCLE MASS - Yes, as you get older your RMR slows down. Because of this, there is an average weight gain of 20lbs between 25-55 years old. The primary reason why your RMR decreases with increasing age is a loss of muscle mass.  Muscle is metabolically active because it burns calories. Less muscle mass, less calories burned.  
MENOPAUSE & HORMONES- Estrogen can increase your sensitivity to insulin, which could lower your blood sugar levels which would trigger a craving for sweets. It's not just PMS, it's a real physiological process! However, a drop in blood sugar won't justify eating a batch of cookies! Because of the change in hormones with menopause, excess calories are stored in the abdominal area instead of the hips and thighs.  It's not your imagination, your body IS shifting.  Also, if you are too stressed, your cortisol level can increase and trigger a drop in blood sugar which would make you hungry.
DIET - Your metabolism will slow down if you eat less.  Yes, eat less, store more fat, slow your metabolism. The body works to maintain balance no matter what. You must feed it to keep the engine (your metabolism) running.

Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)
What you eat makes a difference

The thermic effect of food is the number of calories burned to digest your food. This accounts for only about 10% of your daily calories burned. This is affected by the composition of the food, the amount of food you eat, and the frequency of your meals.
FOOD COMPOSITION - Different foods burn a different amount of calories during digestion. Protein burns 27 calories in digestion per 100 calories eaten. Carbohydrates burn 23 calories in digestion per 100 calories eaten and fats burn only 3 calories in digestion per 100 calories eaten. BIG difference in the calories needed to digest fat compared to protein and carbohydrates! If you add fiber to your diet, you burn more calories in digestion. A Tufts University study found that if women ate 24grams of fiber/day, they would absorb 90% fewer calories per day! This translates to a loss of 9 lbs in a year!
AMOUNT of FOOD & FREQUENCY OF MEALS - If you eat too much food at one sitting (i.e. one big meal per day), you can actually reduce your metabolism and cause more calories to be stored in your body. This is why you should eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. Aim to eat every few hours. Waiting too long in between meals can actually cause your metabolism to slow down and make you more apt to eat more at the next meal. Never skip breakfast! Breakfast boosts your metabolism by 5%!
Thermic Effect of Physical Activity
Burn baby burn!

The thermic effect of physical activity consists of all activity you perform during the day, including fidgeting.  This accounts for 15-30% of the total amount of calories you burn per day. Again, this includes all activity.  If you stand while talking on the phone rather than sitting, you will burn twice as many calories (because standing burns more calories than sitting). Look at this: if you stand while on the phone for 1 hour/day you will lose 7lbs/year! Of course, you will burn more calories if you exercise.  You not only burn calories during exercise, but you also burn calories afterwards! High intensity interval training is the best type of exercise to get your body revved up enough to keep burning calories for hours after you stopped!
Many factors affect how many calories you burn during and after exercise.  It is common for people to use the cardio equipment in a gym to lose weight, but it's not necessarily the best use of your time. Resistance training works your muscles, which are more metabolically active and is at a higher intensity than cardio. This burns more total calories. You may burn more fat during cardio, but you will burn more calories from resistance training during, and after.  Weight loss is all about burning more calories than you eat. Also, the more trained you are, the more fat you DO burn during a workout. Double bonus: burn more calories AND burn more fat!

What does all this mean?
How can you apply this information?

There you have it in a nutshell - women, exercise, and metabolism! Here are a few key points to summarize all that you've read.
  • Thank your parents for your metabolism - genetics plays a significant role. :)
  • Your metabolism does slow down with age if you are sedentary (not active). If you exercise, your metabolism slows down MUCH less.
  • Start a healthy lifestyle (healthy diet and exercise) early in life to help counter some of the age related decreases in metabolism.
  • Resistance training can help keep your metabolism "up" during and after an exercise session.
  • You burn more calories from fat during a cardio session, but you burn more total calories from resistance training (total calories make the difference for weight loss)
  • The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism is. Muscles burn calories!
  • Protein and carbohydrates burn more calories during digestion than fat.

Here's how you can apply this information to your daily life:

  • Balance your hormones (get acupuncture, reduce stress, eat organic, exercise, etc.)
  • Resistance train 2-3 days/week
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals (eating approximately every 3 hours)
  • ALWAYS eat breakfast!
  • Eat fiber daily
  • Eat approximately 60% of your calories from carbohydrates, 25% from protein, and 15% from fat.

Women . . . enjoy life! Exercise regularly. Eat healthy. Laugh. Smile. Breathe Deeply. Love yourself. Be kind. Plan some "you time". Love your body.

Tanya Miszko Kefer
PO Box 78, Accord NY 12404
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"Instruction ends in the school-room, but education ends only with life."

- Frederick W. Robertson