You may have heard (or, heh, realized), that it’s more difficult for women to lose fat than men. Immediately most people think it must be estrogen or hormonal issues. But perhaps the biggest factor is NOT hormones, but the simple fact that women are usually smaller and lighter than men.
When you have a smaller body, you have lower calorie needs. When you have lower calorie needs, your relative deficit (20%, 30% etc) gives you a smaller absolute deficit and therefore you lose fat more slowly than someone who is larger and can create a large deficit more easily.
For example, if my TDEE is 3300 calories a day (I’m 5′ 8″ and moderately to very active), then a 20% deficit is 660 calories, which brings me to 2640 calories a day. On paper, that will give me about 1.3 lbs of wt loss per week, rather painlessly, I might add.
If I bumped my calorie burn up or decreased my intake by another 340 a day, that’s enough to give me a 2 lbs per week wt loss.
That’s hardly a starvation diet (Ahhh, the joys of being a man). For smaller women, the math equation is very different.
If your total daily energy expenditure is only 1970 calories, even at a VERY high exercise level, then a 20% deficit for you is only 394 calories which would put you at 1576 calories a day for (on paper) only 8/10th of a lb of fat loss/wk.
If you pursued your plan to take a more aggressive calorie deficit of 30%, that puts you at a 591 calorie deficit which would now drop you down to only 1382 calories/day.
That’s starting to get fairly low in calories. However, you would still have a fairly small calorie deficit. In fact, I would get to eat almost twice as many calories as you and I’d still get almost twice the weekly rate of fat loss!
What this all means is that women who are petite or have a small body size are going to lose fat more slowly than larger women and much more slowly than men, so you cannot compare yourself to them.
It’s great to be inspired by our success stories, but if you’re looking for someone to model yourself after, choose one of our success stories of someone your body size and wt, rather than the folks who started 100 lbs overweight and were therefore easily dropping 3 lbs a week.
ONE POUND a week of fat loss is much more in line with a realistic goal for someone of a smaller body size. Overweight people can lose it faster. The best thing you can do is to be extremely consistent with your nutrition over time.
Suggestion #1: Weigh and measure all your food any time you feel you are stuck at a plateau, just to be sure. When your calorie expenditure is on the low side, you don’t have much margin for error.
Suggestion #2: Take your body comp measurements with a grain of salt, especially if you are using Bioelectric Impedance Analysis (BIA) scales (they are a bit wonky) and remember that body comp testing is seldom perfect. Pay attention to your circumference measurements, how your clothes fit and how you look in the mirror and in photos as well.
Suggestion #3: You might actually want to take fewer refeeds – once a week instead of every 4th day, or even just once every 10-14 days, so you can get a larger weekly deficit.
Suggestion #4: You may want to take 2 or 3 of your long cardio sessions on the treadmill and switch them to intense intervals or ANY other type of activity that has potential to burn more than 362 calories for an hour’s investment of time, or perhaps that equivalent calorie burn in less time. No need to add more days of cardio or more time – get the most out of the time you are already spending.
Suggestion #5: If you do intervals, don’t make the workout too brief (ignore the advertisements for those “4 minute miracle” workouts, etc.), or you may burn fewer calories than you were before! In fact, you might even try the method where you do HIIT
for 15-20 min, then continue for another 30-40 at slow to medium intensity. Increasing total calories burned should be your focus.
Dropping only ONE pound per week (or less) may seem excruciatingly slow, but it’s actually the same type of thing I do. As a bodybuilder, I go from lean to extremely lean when I diet and I don’t expect more than a pound a week during contest cuts.
You are in a similar situation, even if not competing. Even if you get a half a pound a week fat loss, if you get that progress every week, that’s what you’re looking for – steady progress – even if slow.
It’s entirely possible that you HAVE been making progress, only very slowly. With the way water weight and glycogen levels can fluctuate (and lean mass may increase), a half a pound or pound fat loss in a week could have been easily masked… and therefore, missed. That’s one of the drawbacks of going by the scale alone.
Understand the calorie math I explained above and be patient, watching for slow and steady progress, paying special attention to the trend over time on your progress chart.
Keep after it – the persistence will pay, I promise!
Train hard and expect success,
Tom Venuto, author of
Burn The Fat Feed The Muscle
PS. You can learn about more fat loss strategies (including the details about the carb cycling method) inside my e-book, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle. Learn more and see some of the inspiring before and after success stories at: