Despite the increasing pressure to be thin, just over 60 percent of U.S. adult women are overweight, according to 2007 estimates from the National Center for Health Statistics of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Not only that, but just over one-third of adult women are also obese.
The National Center for Health Statistics also estimates that nearly twice as many women are on a diet as men, but these diets often fail or are abandoned within a few weeks because of harsh physical demands and a lack of motivation.
Part of the reason for this is because women have a few bad habits that take them away from the path to weight loss. Here’s a look at five of the most destructive of these habits, as well as some suggestions on how to counter them.
1. Focusing on the Negativity of Dieting
Probably the biggest reason women fail to lose weight while on a diet is the discouragement that comes from the negative aspects of dieting. Calorie counts are tiresome and cause hunger pangs, and cutting out favorite foods or activities can dampen enthusiasm and lead many women to give up before they have successfully lost weight.
And sometimes even the word “exercise” can create feelings of avoidance.
To counteract this, registered dietitian David Grotto suggests that women change their thinking and even their approach about dieting to one of inclusion instead of subtraction.
“Forget diet denial,” Grotto told WebMD. “Adding in really works, taking away never does.”
To do this, women should try adding in healthy treats they love, like cherries, grapes, or snow peas. By adding some fruit to cereal or vegetables to soups and stews, women can achieve a well-balanced diet without having to subtract some of their favorite foods.
Then, over time, they will start to crave healthy foods and eschew fast food or other comfort foods that may be causing problems.
And as for exercise, it is better for women to extend activities they do enjoy rather than forcing themselves onto the treadmill day after day.
“The way good health feels knocks down the roadblocks that were preventing you from exercising in the first place,” Grotto explained.
Women can try burning calories by riding bikes, playing Frisbee, hiking, beachcombing, washing the car, and even enjoying more sex. Over time, the increase in physical activity will pay off.
2. Lying About a Diet
Sometimes women choose to deal with the negativity associated with dieting by lying about it. In fact, a British survey from 2011 reported that women lie to themselves about their eating habits an average of 474 times every year.
This usually manifests itself after a large meal, when women lie awake at night and convince themselves that they didn’t really eat too much—that large slice of cake was really just a sliver, after all. Or, if they happen to indulge in a big breakfast, they tell themselves they’ll eat a small lunch.
However, when push comes to shove, these kinds of little white lies only serve to lessen guilt and perpetuate bad behaviors. Over time, this sabotages dieting for many women.
Instead, maintaining a food diary will keep a woman honest and help her keep track of her calories. Adding entries about the reasons for eating can also help a woman identify emotional or social eating, and then lead her to take steps against it.
3. Giving Into Discouraging Group Think
If a friend tells a girlfriend she doesn’t need to be dieting, or that she should come out to dinner at an unhealthy restaurant, she will most likely do it.
In the same way, the bad habits of friends can sabotage the dieting efforts of even the most determined woman. According to a 2007 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a person’s chances of becoming obese are increased by 57 percent if a friend or neighbor becomes obese. This held true even if the friend lived hundreds of miles away. And, unfortunately, there was no effect if that friend lost weight.
“You change your idea of what is an acceptable body type by looking at the people around you,” explained study leader Nicholas Christakis, a professor of medical sociology at Harvard Medical School.
The solution is obviously not to get rid of overweight friends, however. Instead, women can channel that group think into positive lifestyle changes. If a group of friends wants to go out to eat, for example, they can choose to share a meal instead of eating individually and running the risk of overeating.
For David Anthony, an information technology consultant from Atlanta, that method of thinking is particularly helpful for his wife.
“When we go out, I often share a meal with my wife,” Anthony told WebMD. “We’ve been known to split a dessert, even a pint of beer. That way, we don’t feel stuffed and we save some money.”
This way, women can still enjoy the health benefits of friendship without sacrificing their diets.
4. Stressing Over Little Things
Another bad habit peculiar to women is stress. Whether this stress relates to dieting or not, the effect is the same—an increase in hunger-causing hormones that sabotage the diet and lead to increased weight gain, particularly around the belly.
Increased stress triggers production of the hormone cortisol. Secreted in the brain, cortisol prepares your body for “fight or flight” mode and starts storing fat, sending it directly to the abdomen.
Stress also triggers emotional eating, which is another habit indulged in especially by women. Eating more high-calorie foods may feel good at the time, but it will undoubtedly manifest itself on the hips and thighs later.
“Before eating, ask yourself why you’re eating,” recommends Mayo Clinic oncologist Edward T. Creagan. “Are you truly hungry or do you feel stressed or anxious?”
To prevent stress from taking hold, women should try to recognize the warning signs of stress—anxiety, irritability, and muscle tension. To deal with them, they should find an outlet wither that is through a spouse, friend, or family member.
Women have also found comfort in meditation and yoga.
The American Council on Exercise recommends that every person participate in strength training at least twice a week, but less than 30 percent of Americans actually do. When it comes to women, that percentage declines even further.
Strength training is necessary for protecting joint and bone health, something many women struggle with, and can even ward off cognitive decline and diabetes. However, reaching for the heavier weight at the gym isn’t something a lot of women want to do.
Most women don’t like to head for the weight rack at the gym because they’re afraid of bulking up and losing their curves. However, the truth is that the high levels of estrogen present in the female body counteract these visible muscles from developing and instead help the body simply maintain a firm appearance.
Another fear women have with regard to strength training is being judged by the bodybuilders at the gym. Of course, everyone is welcome at the gym, but if fear is keeping a woman from engaging in strength training, there are plenty of exercises that can be done at home using common household items.
Some strength training exercises can even be performed at the office.
Final Thoughts on Women and Weight Loss
Because it is so much more difficult for women to lose weight than men, it is particularly important that women have the knowledge and tools they need to succeed. By paying attention to the special demands of their bodies and changing these bad habits, women can achieve lasting weight loss without the heartache and stress that comes from an intense weight loss program.
And if they need extra help, there are plenty of diet pills designed especially for women that can be found at this website and others.