Health and Fitness

Health Coach, CPT & FNS 

Health Coach, B.S. Dietetics

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What Is The Best Diet For Women?

Women, I mean where do I even begin. We are such complex beings, our bodies were designed to produce life, and feed life while it grows within us. With that wonderful gift, our health can become quite volatile. The reason is that we experience so much change on a month to month basis, whether we become pregnant or not. To top it off, the evolution of our bodies is not equipped for modern day life. We move less, we typically eat more, and the idea of “beautiful” is set at unrealistic standards. So when it comes to all of that noise, it’s hard to pick a diet or lifestyle that is solely based around optimal health.  We get caught up in extremes and quick fixes, or there isn’t enough information around women’s health today to help solve some of the issues you may be dealing with. But have no fear today we are going to try and help you guys pave the way to the best diet for you!

Caloric Intake Versus Activity

When it comes to calories consumed versus how our bodies burn calories/fat, women got the short end of the stick. Our bodies naturally retain and hold onto fat easier than men, because, yea you guessed it, our bodies always optimize bearing offspring. We really get no choice in the matter. That’s why caloric intake for women is a double edge sword sometimes. Obviously, eating an influx of calories will be a sure way to gain fat, but did you know you still can gain fat while on extremely low calories as well. Unfortunately, lower calories can set a trap when it comes to losing weight. The process is started by withholding all week, then over the weekend feeling the need to let loose. That process may very well be a sure way to gradual fat gain. You see, our bodies are smart, and if they are starved they will slow the metabolic rate way down. Couple that with the added stress of working out, it is going to be very difficult to achieve long term sustainable results. So how do you know how many calories to eat for the amount of activity you can consistently do? In a recent Harvard study it is said, a rough way to estimate your daily calories is, if you are primarily sedentary you can keep your weight stable by eating 13 calories per pound of body weight. If moderately active eat 16 calories per pound of body weight, and if you intensively exercise eat 18 calories per pound of body weight. Now in a sense this may sound counterintuitive, and may sound like if we eat less the weight will always come off. This is where activity can completely change the game, and make your life a whole lot easier when it comes to any health goal. The more active you are the more allowance you have to eat and maintain your weight. Now, the reality is that food is way too accessible, and betting on pure self-discipline and motivation to keep you away from over eating is sure to fail you sooner or later.  So here’s a few ways to know where you are at activity wise to better gauge your caloric intake.

1.) Low Activity Close To Sedentary

  • Exercises one to two times a week, or none at all
  • Hardly moves around at work, if at all
  • Walks less than 8,000
  • Comes home and spends the majority of time seated or laying down

2.) Moderately Active

  • Exercises 3 times a week around 45 minutes
  • Moves somewhat at work
  • Gets around 8,00o steps in a day
  • Does move around after work, engages in chores etc.

3.) Highly Active

  • Exercises 4 plus times a week from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours
  • Moves around throughout the day
  • Gets over 8,000 steps
  • Moves around after work, does chores, takes walks, plays with children etc.

Now, I’m sure you’re like WTH that’s impossible! It’s not and I’l tell you how. Now, it’s harder for women to lose weight, as said before. One way to burn more calories without so much as breathing and being awake, is to have higher amounts of lean muscle mass, and to gain strength. Having both, signals the body that it is ok to let go of calories and fat. Also, gaining strength and prioritizing muscle gain isn’t exactly all that time consuming, and the great thing is that it burns more calories for longer periods than cardio alone. This type of activity intertwined with more steps throughout they day, is a sure way to fat loss and sustainability. You will be able to consume more calories while still maintaining weight, or even losing unwanted fat.

What You Eat Matters

Ladies ladies ladies. IIFYM can work for some, but it doesn’t always work for the majority. If you don’t know what IIFYM means, it means “if it fits your macros.” Basically indicating that you can basically eat anything as long as you meet your macronutrient goals and keep it within your allowed caloric intake. Theres quite a debate over this, some say as long as you’re in a deficit it doesn’t matter what you eat, as long as you burn more calories than you eat you’ll lose weight. Others think only “clean eating” will get you there, and both have been proven to work and fail for some individuals. But for the sake of overall health we are firm believers that the less “bad stuff” you eat the better off you’ll be in the long run. Diets fueled with processed food and high sugar consumption can also do more damage in women. It will not only affect insulin resistance, inflammation, and/or weight gain. It can also affect our hormones, and eventually lead to some serious reproductive problems as well. When your hormones are out of whack, you better believe you will have difficulty losing weight, or even gaining muscle. So judging our diets only by counting calories is not the way to go, always look to fill your diet with natural whole foods, and only occasionally indulge. Two huge macronutrients most women lack in are, getting adequate amounts of protein, and healthy fats. When it comes to proteins .8-1.0 grams per pound of body weight is a safe place to be. Also when it comes to fats, try and focus on omega-3’s because we tend to get more omega-6’s in our average diet. Overall, women need to put more thought into the quality of their food, instead of being so consumed by just eating less. If you eat better, you’ll feel better and actually won’t have to restrict as harshly. To top it off, you will get better results. 

What Diet Is Best?

I am sorry, but there is no magic trick to this. A whole foods approach, no matter what camp you choose, will always be the best diet. If you’re lost just start there, start adding more whole foods in your diet without taking anything away yet. The quicker you distance yourself from highly modified foods, the quicker you’ll see results. We all need to learn to treat food as it should be treated, fuel, not constant entertainment, nor something to fear. There will always be times you should absolutely indulge with family and friends, but learn to know the difference. Balance is key in every aspect of life, and diet is no different. 

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