Why Weight Loss is Harder for Women

Life is not fair, and that can not be truer when it comes to the differences between men and women. Weight loss is harder for women because of hormonal and psychological differences. The physiology and mental makeup of men and women are different and she be treated as such when it comes to losing weight. The hormones that dictate a female’s function need to be understood so that they can adjust to see results.

Hormones play a more prominent role in a women’s fitness journey. Estrogen is the sex hormone that helps regulate menstruation for women, among other functions like bone density, and healthy brain function (Bradford, 2017). Women will carry more fat than men do because of their higher estrogen levels. Higher estrogen levels correlate with lower testosterone levels. Testosterone is a vital hormone in the muscle synthesis process. Testosterone responds to the stress of training by magnifying the results, muscle synthesis. Meaning men build more muscle easier than women. Females will also carry more fat on their frame because of these hormonal differences, leading to a slower metabolism. Women are also more anemic than men because of lower concentration levels of hemoglobin in their blood. This factor will inhibit the blood oxygen-carrying capacity, thus lowering their Vo2 max level. The more oxygen you can deliver to the muscles, the more you can train. Pregnancy also plays a factor in weight loss. Although all women will not go through a pregnancy, those who do will undoubtedly gain more weight. Newborn mothers will find it challenging to find time to work out or even sleep. Both are needed to lose weight. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal imbalance that hinders the weight loss process. This condition affects up to 10% of women (Russa, 2019).

Psychological struggles and their relationship with hormones are understudied in our field. Ghrelin is a hormone produced in the gut that travels to the brain to signal hunger (Mawher, 2016). Leptin is the hormone that tells the brain to stop. I’m full. According to a 2009 study conducted by the American Journal of Physiology — Regulatory, Integral and Comparable Physiology, women saw a spike in ghrelin and a decrease in leptin post-exercise leaving them susceptible to weight gain. As I mentioned in my popular post “Top 2 Stigmas Facing Female Lifters, and why it’s BS,” women are afraid of lifting appropriate weight because they believe it will make them bulky and unattractive. More concerning, women feel judged and exploited at the gym because of the male gaze and will often shy away from the weights and gravitate towards the cardio machines or not go to the gym at all (Knight, 2016).

“In a study published in the January 2009 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, even though women said they weren’t hungry when asked to smell, taste, and observe treats such as pizza, cinnamon buns and chocolate cake, brain scans showed activity in the regions that control the drive to eat (not the case for men).” – (Allen, 2014, pg.1)

Cynthia Sass, a registered dietitian, said, “she has seen many women gain weight as soon as they get into a relationship with men because they start eating as much and as often as their male partners.” These psychological issues must be addressed if women want to make a change in their lives.

Weight loss is harder for women because of hormonal and psychological differences. Hormones have a significant impact on women’s ability to gain muscle and stimulate weight loss. Higher estrogen levels mean more fat tissue, which means that women are going to have to work harder than their male counterparts to see the same results. Psychological struggles and their relationship to weight loss can not be overlooked. Women and men’s brains are wired differently. With that said, women should remember that they can not take the same approach as men, but adapt to a method that is more suited to their well-being.


Allen, J. V. (2014, August 12). Why it really is harder for women to lose weight. Retrieved August 22, 2019, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/weight-loss-it- really-is-harder-for-women-research-shows/2014/08/12/0a95c1aa-1d9b-11e4-ab7b- 696c295ddfd1_story.html?noredirect=on

Bradford, A. (2017, May 2). What Is Estrogen? Retrieved August 22, 2019, from https://www.livescience.com/38324-what-is-estrogen.html

Knight, I. (2016, September 2). Top 2 stigmas facing female lifters, and why it’s BS. Retrieved August 22, 2019, from https://blog.ideafit.com/blogs/ian-knight/top-2-stigmas- facing-female-lifters-and-why-it-s-bs

Mawer, R. (2016, June 24). Ghrelin: The “Hunger Hormone” Explained. Retrieved August 22, 2019, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ghrelin

Russa. (2019, June 04). Why It Really Is Harder for Women to Lose Weight and What To Do! Retrieved August 22, 2019, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-it-really-is- harder-for-women-to-lose-weight-and-what-to-do/

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