Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more according to the national medical guidelines. However, obesity is also related to the status at which the fat tissue is causing the comorbid condition or medical complications such as hypertension, diabetes, and chronic pain. Whatever the definition is, it may relate to each individual differently. However, the female life cycle and its contribution to the risk factor to obesity is quite different compared to the male counterpart.
The cause of obesity in females is multifactorial, and it depends on the age and risk factors.
The simplest way to put it is that the female body is much more intricate with multiple hormones that affect the various stages of the lifecycle. For example, teenage females risk weight gain during puberty due to the surge of estrogen with the workings of the ovaries. In most cases, then not, puberty causes weight gain. But interestingly, a portion of females do slim out, and environmental factors play a role, especially with activity level into young adulthood.
But then another life event takes place, which is the state of pregnancy in which weight gain is encouraged during pregnancy to sustain the growing fetus. Of course, we like to think that we can eat or we are entitled to eat whatever we want because of the pregnancy state. But in reality, we still need to eat good nutrients, no matter how many calories we end up eating.
This weight gain secondary to pregnancy does not stop there!
A lot of females find themselves having difficulty getting back to their pre-baby weight because of new stresses in life, such as juggling several jobs at once, lack of sleep, and lack of time to exercise due to motherhood. Eating convenient foods with high refined carbs and fats becomes super easy and frankly convenient. And if this same female decides to have a couple more children, then likely, she will gain more weight on top of the added weight from the previous pregnancies.
Now gaining weight is not benign. The process of weight gain results in the inflation of fat cells (adipose tissues). As time continues, the female body continues to change and adapt to the new hormonal signaling and messaging among cells and organs. Also, remember, the body continues to age, which means lean muscle mass continues to deteriorate, which is in the late twenties, also reflecting less calories burned in a day’s time. Overweight people may find themselves craving more refined carbs and processed foods; a larger amount to get the same satisfaction. Sugar causes tolerance, and frankly, it’s addictive.
As one gains more weight, it adds stress on the body, and this can be reflected by mood changes, fatigue, lethargy, decreased libido, and motivation, let alone the need to eat more to sustain the new body composition.
A typical middle-aged female looks like this: Mid Forties, has a couple of teenage children, a homemaker, and has another job, overweight/obese and has feelings of overwhelmingness and not having enough time. This person complains of nagging pains or aches, lack of energy and motivation…and weight gain.
Guess what, it doesn’t end there.
The female body enters into perimenopause physiologically in the late 40s before the iconic “50”. The body starts changing way before menopause as the ovaries slow down with estrogen production, which controls other hormonal pathways responsible for lean mass maintenance and caloric metabolism. If she does nothing, meaning not to change her eating habits and not have a consistent physical activity regimen, she WILL continue to gain weight. Menopause is no joke, and it is a very drastic disruption to the psychological and physical makeup of the female body. Menopause is something we should celebrate, but with modern-day medical advances, females can now embrace it without the impact of embarrassing hot flashes, emotional roller coaster, painful intimacy with the husband (or boyfriend), unexplained belly fat, poor skin quality, decreased energy …. just to name a few things.
The good news is, everyone can lose weight and improve their body composition at any age. Yes, a fifty-five-year-old overweight female does not lose weight as fast as a 28-year-old; but it is still possible. (I have helped many ladies in their golden years achieve this). It really comes down to how bad you want it and your will power to live a healthier life in a leaner body.