There are few women in this world who haven't tried to lose weight at some point in their lives. For many women, life is a daily battle with the scale. Some see the keto diet as a promising tool to help them shed pounds and keep them off. No matter what diet a women chooses, weight loss is a different journey than it is for a man, because – well, women are different.
Women and Weight
While there are many physical, mental and emotional similarities between men and women, when it comes to weight, the differences are key. Women are physiologically designed to bear children. In primitive societies when food shortages were common, a women who could maintain her weight while pregnant or breastfeeding had a reproductive edge. To that end, when compared to men, women readily convert food to fat and store that fat more easily, particularly in the breasts, hips, thighs and buttocks. Women also have smaller muscles – on the average – than men. Since muscles burn more calories than fat, men can often lose weight more easily than women.
The Sex Hormones
Although both men and women produce all three sex hormones (testosterone, estrogen and progesterone), the balance is different, with women being high in estrogen and progesterone. However, the levels of those hormones change throughout the menstrual cycle and change even more dramatically during menopause. While we speak of estrogen, it's not really a single hormone, but three different hormones: estrone, estradiol and estriol. Estradiol, the strongest and most prevalent form of estrogen, helps to regulate appetite and weight. It is this form that decreases dramatically during menopause. The sex hormones can affect your appetite and trigger food cravings. They may also affect your mood and cause sleep disruptions. You may also retain water, which can temporarily increase your weight.
Other Hormonal Issues
Women's hormonal systems are more complex than men's because of the constant interplay and fluctuation among the sex hormones, cortisol, insulin and other metabolic hormones. Women are also more likely to have other hormonal issues that affect weight loss. For example, women are twice as likely as men to have low thyroid levels. One of every eight women will develop thyroid disease in her lifetime. The thyroid regulates body metabolism, so low levels of thyroid hormones increase the chance that you will gain weight easily and find it difficult to lose weight. Cortisol, sometimes called the stress hormone, is an adrenal hormone that triggers the fight or flight response. It helps pump glucose to the muscles for quick energy, and slows down digestion and your metabolism so your body can focus on the immediate task of survival. If you are chronically stressed, however, the cortisol response means you hang onto fat, especially that stubborn abdominal fat. Women often have more stress than men, especially during the child-bearing years and menopause, which can disrupt cortisol function.
The keto diet is based on the concept that weight loss is most successful when you decrease your carbohydrate intake and increase your healthy fat consumption. The goal is to get the body into a state called ketosis, in which body fat is burned for energy since carbohydrates aren't available. The diet is high in fat – typically about three calories of fat to every calorie of protein or carbohydrate. The paleo diet and the Atkins diet are similar in concept to the keto diet. However, the paleo diet eliminates grains and dairy entirely. With Atkins, the focus is more on decreasing carbs below a certain level. All three diets eliminate refined foods and sugar and greatly restrict or eliminate alcohol.
What Can a Keto Diet Help With?
Before starting out any diet, knowing precisely what it entails is essential. This also means knowing what the diet can help you with. There are a number of reasons why people choose to go on a keto diet, and most of these are incredibly beneficial for almost anyone who encounters these problems. The effectiveness of these, of course, does differ from person to person, and might not always work in the same manner for everyone.
1. Helps To Lose Weight
This is probably one of the main reasons why most people tend to consider the Keto diet - because of the weight loss that it aids in. If you are looking for a fast way to lose weight, this is the perfect way to do so. The diet tries to ensure that you get all of the nutrients that you need while enabling your body to burn fat quickly.
2. Reduces Acne
Cabs are one of the biggest contributors to acne, which is why cutting them out of your diet can help considerably with this problem. Most carbs are highly processed and can alter the gut bacteria, leading to a number of bodily fluctuations. This can lead to breakouts on the skin and other related problems. Trying the keto diet is brilliant if you want to clear up your skin once and for all.
3. Can Help Reduce Cancer Risk
There have been a few studies conducted that showcase that a ketogenic diet is beneficial to those who are undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. Because this diet also helps regulate the blood sugar levels in the body, it works to reduce the complications that arise out of fluctuating blood sugar levels.
4. Promotes a Healthy Heart
Carbs have always been considered to be bad for the heart, which is why the Keto diet is one of the best for those who want to have a healthy heart and keep these problems at bay. The Keto diet promotes the growth of good cholesterol in the body, which can be incredibly beneficial for your overall health.
5. Can Help With PCOS
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a disorder that a lot of women tend to face. This disorder is characterized by the growth of cysts on the ovaries. A diet that has a higher amount of carbs can have a higher impact on women who have this disorder, aggravating their symptoms. Opting to go in for a keto diet is incredibly beneficial for women who are on the lookout for a good diet that can help reduce the symptoms that they experience.
6. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Weight
Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, is the most common reproductive disorder in women of child-bearing age. Symptoms include irregular periods, low fertility, weight gain, excess facial hair, acne and cysts in the ovaries. Although the exact cause isn't known, most scientists feel PCOS has a genetic component that disrupts the production of androgens – male sex hormones – in women. PCOS makes it very difficult for a woman to lose weight, because the condition affects insulin production and makes the body cells less responsive to insulin. PCOS can't be cured; it is a life-long condition that requires constant management. Diet is a big component of the management strategy.
Women Who May Benefit from the Keto Diet
Like your eye color or other genetically-influenced characteristics, your ability to lose excess weight is very individual. Some women never have weight problems until they have a baby or hit menopause. Others struggle with their weight most of the time. If you have any of the following, you might benefit from trying a ketogenic diet:
Can a Keto Diet Help Women With Stress?
Today, women are leading incredibly stressful lives, often trying to juggle their professional and personal lives. Balancing these can often time lead to stress, which can further lead to a host of medical problems. Being able to take care of one’s stress is essential, but trying to indulge in stress relieving activities can sometimes demand time that we don’t have to offer. Eating foods that relieve stress is one of the easiest and best ways to reduce the pressure that one feels, even if it is just to a certain extent. There have been studies conducted that showcase that a Keto Diet in women is something that can contribute to reducing stress. This is mainly because of this diet’s interaction with the hypothalamus and pituitary glands.
When a woman achieves the state of ketosis, the overall functioning of the hypothalamus is improved. This also works on the blood-brain barrier, allowing the ketones to reach there better. This emits several ‘happiness inducing’ hormones that work to improve one's mood. This simple diet can be the one thing that a woman needs to reduce the amount of stress that they incur during their daily lives.
Another reason why the Keto Diet is considered to be ideal for women is that of its interaction with Cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone in the body that is mainly responsible for the feeling of stress that one experiences. Normally, when the body experiences some kind of stress, it uses up cortisol to control it and reach a state of normalcy. However, if this hormone is being produced very often in the body, it can lead to a feeling of constant tiredness and anxiety. When a woman is on a Keto Diet, the cortisol levels in the body are kept in check, thereby helping you reduce the effects of stress that one experiences.
How Does a Keto Diet Affect Periods?
Another reason why the Keto Diet is considered to be good for women is that of the impact that it can have on one’s menstrual cycle. If you are someone who has experienced irregular periods in the past or are experiencing them currently, trying out the Keto diet is one way to get them into check. This kind of diet plan also applies to those who are on some kind of birth control, or who have periods with missed periods as a result of hormonal imbalances.
It is important to note that the changes in the body taking place as a result of this diet can be pretty significant. When a woman first starts to try out the keto diet, she will notice that her periods are a lot heavier than usual. This is because the body is not accustomed to the lack of carbs in the diet, and has a slight difficulty in adjusting to it. This, however, is something that quickly wears off once the body gets more adjusted to the diet. Once this adjustment takes place, the body’s hormonal levels will also start to get regulated. This thereby causes the periods to start coming on as normal and keeps them regulated all through the cycle.
Maintaining the body’s hormonal balance while achieving a state of ketosis is an essential part of the process. Here are a few things that women should do along with the Keto diet to maintain their body’s cycle and estrogen generation:
1. Indulge In Protein Rich Foods
Protein-rich foods help regulate your body’s functioning and help maintain the body’s hormone levels. Increasing your protein intake a few days before your period is also essential since it can help regulate it better.
2. Don’t Worry About Your Weight
It is incredibly common to feel bloated when you are on your period, and this is mainly because of the increased water retention. This isn’t something that is a reflection of the Keto diet since your body will go back to normal after a few days. Dropping the keto diet just because you think you have gained weight during this time is not advised, since it would set you a few steps back, restarting your progress with ketosis.
3. Don’t Forget Your Calcium
Be it in the form of food or supplements; calcium is incredibly necessary for your body. It is essential to take your calcium in the right do as you carry out the keto diet, since it is something that helps your body stay healthier and stronger.
4. Keep Track of Your Fiber Intake
During your period, maintaining a good fiber intake is essential for proper functioning of your body. Increase the number of greens that you eat while you are on your period. The iron from these foods is also something that is incredibly beneficial for women who are on their period.
The keto diet in and of itself is only one of several weight-loss strategies. Exercise is critical for a number of reasons, it decreases stress and promotes restful sleep. Regular exercise also improves your metabolism and building muscle means you burn more calories. Sleep is another important factor in weight loss. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to weight gain, obesity and diabetes. It is critical that you get enough sleep – for most women that means at least seven hours a night. If you wake up before the alarm goes off, feel rested and have plenty of energy during the day, you're getting enough sleep. Stress management through meditation, prayer, counseling or support groups is another important factor for the woman who wants to lose weight. Remember, too much stress disrupts cortisol function, leading to problems such as binge eating or emotional eating.
How to be Successful on the Keto Diet
Most women are more likely to lose weight and improve their health by following some dietary strategies beyond just choosing the keto diet. One of the most important is not to jump in with both feet. Start by decreasing your carbs to about 150 net carbs per day. Eat this way for a few weeks, while assessing your moods and energy levels as well as weight loss. If all systems seem to be a go, cut back by another 50 grams of carbs and monitor for another two to four weeks. You need to find the point that's right for you. Keep track of changes though daily journal entries and adjust as necessary. You may find you do better with some extra carbs at certain points of the menstrual cycle, for example. Stay hydrated – cutting back on fruits and veggies means you may decrease your intake of electrolytes like sodium and potassium. These foods also have a lot of water in them. Shoot to drink half your body weight in fluid ounces of water each day. So if you weigh 150 pounds, drink at least 75 ounces of water. Pay attention to your symptoms. If you're cold all the time, it could mean you have low thyroid levels or need more carbs for energy. Weight gain, insomnia, disrupted menstrual cycles or more severe PMS symptoms can all signal the need for a change. Other alerts are mood swings, digestive issues, insomnia or sleep disturbances in general.
When You're Stuck
Weight loss is a biological process. Your weight will vary according to what you eat but also according to other factors such as where you are in your menstrual cycle. Plateaus are a normal part of the weight loss journey. One of the biggest factors in a plateau is that as you lose weight, your body adapts to having fewer calories. Even more important, the body resists weight loss, because in primitive conditions, weight loss increased the risk of starvation and death. That's why diets that are very restricted in calories only work for a while – eventually the body thinks it's starving, and hangs onto every molecule of body fat.
Strategies to break a weight loss plateau include:
Weight Loss and Menopause
Menopause brings women some unique challenges when it comes to weight loss. Declining estradiol levels affect energy needs and metabolism, while fat accumulation is more common on the abdomen. Other common symptoms are increased food cravings, muscle loss and decreased lifestyle activity, all of which can contribute to weight gain. For menopausal women, important strategies include the following:
What's Most Important: Keto Diet for Women
Humans love to measure things, but the number on the scale is not necessarily reflective of your health. Getting caught up in the pursuit of weight loss to the exclusion of overall health is counter-productive. Your goal in any weight loss endeavor should be to improve your health. Can you exercise longer and harder? That means you have more cardiovascular reserve and protection against heart disease. Are you less stressed and sleeping better? How are your energy levels? Is your body changing – losing inches – even though your weight hasn't changed? That probably means you're building muscle, which weighs more than fat but takes up less space. Never forget that your weight is only one of multiple indicators.
Our modern sedentary lifestyles and the ready availability of food combine to challenge even the most dedicated dieter. It's important to keep your eye on the goal and to make changes slowly, as new habits are more likely to stick that way. Celebrate your successes and don't beat yourself up if you have an occasional relapse – that's a normal part of the weight-loss process. Think of the keto diet as one more important tool in the weight-loss toolbox. Here's to your health!