Men and women need to tackle the problem of dieting and losing weight in a slightly different fashion.
Women, to put it bluntly, are biologically different from men. Those differences imply some guidelines for diet, exercise and health matters in general.
Women, for example, naturally have a higher percentage of body fat than men, 27% on average compared to 15% for a fit individual. That single number alone is helpful information if one of your weight loss or exercise goals is fat reduction. Any woman trying to reduce her percentage should take into account this natural difference, since it can help avoid guilt and provide a realistic goal.
Women experience hormonal changes that differ considerably from that of men as they age. Even young women can have irregularities in menstrual cycle and other physiological changes as a result. This can be seen more clearly by looking at some extreme cases, for example.
Women in concentration camps in WWII frequently discontinued having regular menstrual cycles, as a result of the effects of starvation. Highly trained female athletes also often experience similar changes, as a result of ultra-low body fat and other causes.
The ill effects of PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) can be reduced by stabilizing blood sugar levels, regulating fat intake and other dietary changes. For example, mood swings can be smoothed out to a degree by higher amounts of soluble fiber, which helps produce a slower rise in blood sugar. Apples, oats and beans are good sources.
Combining fat with protein and carbohydrate intake in a balanced way will help slow the rise in blood sugar from the carbohydrate consumption. Ice cream may be a comfort food but the effect is short-lived and doesn't provide the balance needed. Instead, increase consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables. Bananas are a good choice, along with walnuts.
Women are more prone to arthritis, fibromyalgia and other conditions. Certain previously unsuspected food allergies can worsen the symptoms. Testing is essential, but at the same time a healthy diet will help. Rice beverages can be substituted for those sensitive to cows milk, there are wheat-free breads on the market that are still whole grain and peanuts may need to be avoided for some.
For example some women who suffer from rheumatic symptoms will find they are allergic to wheat. A gluten-free diet will help lessen that problem. This includes finding substitutes for ordinary cereal, standard bread, pasta and other foods made from wheat flour.
During the years of menopause, as cycles become less regular and large hormonal changes are occurring, diet can help lessen the severity of any discomfort. Lowering sodium intake is helpful. Substitutes include herbs, garlic or lemon juice for flavoring. Each individual is different, though, and you should consult a physician for proper amounts.
Menopausal women are likely to benefit from reducing saturated fats, beyond that of younger women or males. Since estrogen levels are declining, HDL cholesterol (the beneficial type) will tend to fall and LDL cholesterol (the potentially harmful type) will rise.
One result is that, though men in general have a higher risk of heart attack as they age, during this time a woman's risk is equal to those of men of similar age. Reducing saturated and trans fat can help reduce those risks.
Moderate wine consumption is beneficial. It provides anti-oxidants and other helpful compounds and is generally lower in calories than many alternatives. Lowering caffeine can help reduce loss of calcium, which is more needed as women age.
What constitutes a proper diet varies somewhat by gender and age, so investigate what is right for your particular circumstances. Knowledge is the key to health.
Weight Loss After Pregnancy
It's an obvious truth that after giving birth most women's bodies make considerable adjustments. Broad hormonal changes are common and mood swings are not unusual. But one thing that many women will focus on (sometimes too much) is losing that weight and body fat gained during pregnancy.
In order to do that safely and in a way that produces beneficial long-term results, take it slow and steady. Weight reduction and regaining muscle tone after birth takes time.
Hype in the media about rapid weight loss after pregnancy is common. Articles are written on celebrity moms that show them making miraculous changes after birth to regain those million dollar figures.
But such individuals usually have better than average metabolic systems in the first place. That's part of what gives them an edge in that profession.
They also have very expensive consultants, trainers and money to burn on equipment. The average women could forego a lot of needless guilt by not trying to emulate their results. Instead, focus on what's normal and average for most new moms.
It generally takes up to 6 months for a woman's body to return to 'normal' after giving birth. Normal, here, just means the average metabolic rate and hormonal amounts that were experienced before conception. In some areas, and to some degree, those norms may never return. Motherhood often produces some permanent changes.
Calorie reduction should not be an overriding concern during a period of breast feeding. Apart from the still-required (though somewhat less) additional amount of energy, the added stress of worrying about weight is not something new mothers need. Night feeding and continual round-the-clock care for a year or more is difficult enough without unnecessary, self-imposed psychological burdens.
For the first few months, the focus should be very much on eating a healthy diet. A 2000 calorie diet that includes 50% carbohydrates, 30% proteins, 10% fat with adequate fiber is a good common sense starting point.
Notice the numbers don't add up to 100%. Every diet should leave some leeway for enjoyment, increase or decrease of the other factors, etc. Going to extremes is the most common mistake most make when considering nutrition.
Moderate exercise is good, but here again the keyword is 'moderate'. New mothers are busy enough without having to worry about whether they are getting that 5-mile run in every morning. The focus should be on gradually increasing stamina, tone and overall fitness. The goals should be mood-elevation and general health, not looking like a movie star.
After a few months, the program can be stepped up to desired levels in a graded way. The average gain during pregnancy is between 25-35 lbs and during birth about 12-14 of this is lost immediately. The other 12-21 pounds can be shed over 6-8 months without risk. Take it slow and steady and your results will persist over the long term.