Why Do Some Women Struggle to Lose Weight? 

Fitness Expert Stephanie Mansour Interviews Dr. Chavez about Holistic Weight Loss for Women 

Stephanie Mansour and Dr. Kathy Chavez


Fitness Expert Stephanie Mansour (founder of Step It Up with Steph) consults with many women who want to lose weight and feel healthier. Mansour says that often, these women aren't happy with their bodies or energy levels.


The answer to their challenges may not be as simple as exercise and diet. So Mansour sat down with the Raby Institute's Kathy Chavez, ND, to talk about why losing weight is more difficult for some women than others.


As a naturopath, Dr. Chavez sees patients for a variety of chronic issues-everything from high cholesterol and high blood pressure to diabetes and cancer. She says overall, weight management tends to be the most common concern.


"Even if somebody is coming in for digestion or cholesterol, weight management is an issue for a lot of people," Dr. Chavez says in her video interview with Mansour. "My goal is to find any sort of clue as to why you're having an issue."


The discovery process includes a thyroid analysis, which goes more in depth than the standard analysis most doctors do. Because, Dr. Chavez says, "if somebody's having issues with weight, that's the first thing I think of: What does their thyroid look like? Sometimes people have enough of one type of thyroid hormone but not another."


Mansour says she appreciates this thoughtful approach to weight management. "It's not like we're counting calories here, not just looking at blood work and looking to be in the normal range. We're looking to be in the optimal range...to make sure that everything is firing correctly. We're not just putting a Band-Aid on the situation."


Instead, Mansour and Dr. Chavez are out to help people make lifestyle changes.


"If somebody is really tired all the time, getting up and exercising might not be appealing," Dr. Chavez tells Mansour. "If we can figure out what's going on with their fatigue, whether it's sleep patterns, low iron, low thyroid, low B12, or something else, then people will have more energy."


Dr. Chavez adds, "We're very elegantly designed. Everything affects everything else, so you want to optimize as many things as possible."


From there, Mansour asks for Dr. Chavez's take on a series of weight loss questions that she hears from her clients. Read on to learn changes women should make as they approach menopause, why women get addicted to carbohydrates, and more.


Question 1: What happens as I'm approaching menopause? Should I be changing my diet or looking for a supplement?


Answer 1: According to Dr. Chavez, a lot of women complain about weight gain when they go through menopause. Dropping estrogen levels can make women crave carbohydrates more, and on top of that, they may not be sleeping as well as they used to.


"Basically, this is ovarian failure," Dr. Chavez explains. Women stop producing sex hormones through their ovaries, and instead make them through their adrenal glands.


For women who are stressed over long periods of time, this can lead to further complications regarding sleep, weight, and continued stress.


As a result, Dr. Chavez says, "Stress management going into menopause is really important." Women need to prioritize:

  • getting adequate sleep
  • reducing carbohydrates
  • increasing physical activity
  • eating high protein breakfasts
  • taking steps to keep stress levels in check
  • checking thyroid levels and blood work annually


Mansour adds, "When you reduce stress, your body can focus on burning the fat faster and making hormones more effectively."


Question 2: Some people are addicted to carbohydrates. What's the proper carbohydrate amount per day?


Answer 2: Dr. Chavez says the daily dietary breakdown should be:

  • 40 percent carbohydrates
  • 30 percent fat
  • 30 percent protein
  • At least 35 grams of fiber


Those numbers are a far cry from what the average American eats every day-60 to 70 percent carbohydrates.


The dangerous cycle looks like this: When people eat carbohydrates, their blood sugar level goes up. The pancreas then secretes insulin to bring the blood sugar level down. When blood sugar drops, the body secretes cortisol, a stress hormone, which leads to carbohydrate cravings.


The more carbohydrates you eat, especially simple carbohydrates like candy, bread, and pasta, "you're on rollercoaster ride all day long," Dr. Chavez says.


Question 3: So we physically crave carbohydrates? We want that next high?


Answer 3: Dr. Chavez says, "If you go off of carbs and simple sugars for two days, you will not crave them so much. It happens really quickly."


In place of carbohydrates, Dr. Chavez recommends eating more protein, such as meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, and beans. She calls breakfast the most important meal of the day, and says that eating a low-carb or no-carb breakfast can lower sugar cravings throughout the rest of the day.


"Even diabetics who have protein for breakfast, their blood sugar will be stable throughout the day. So for someone who's not diabetic, it will work even better," Dr. Chavez says.


Eating regularly is another step women can take to help keep their appetite in check. Smaller meals every couple of hours speeds up the metabolism. "Your body says, 'Oh she's going to feed me in another few hours, I don't need to store this as fat,'" Dr. Chavez explains.


Regardless of why women experience weight loss challenges, many of their weight issues stem from how modern Americans have conditioned themselves.


"We're rushed in the morning. We want to work through lunch, and then it gets to be dinner time, and we finally have a minute to chill and talk with our families and have a meal," Dr. Chavez says. "We're starving because our blood sugar is really low. So we're going to eat a bunch of food all at once, and your body says, 'She finally fed me food! I'm going to store this as fat because I know she's going to starve me again!'"


Keep these ideas in mind when structuring your days. A little mindfulness can go a long way to keep stress levels down and aid in weight management.


If weight management or chronic health issues are challenging you, contact Dr. Chavez today. She treats patients in Chicago, but is also available for consultations over the phone. Call the Raby Institute at (312) 276-1212 for more information or to schedule an appointment. You can also learn more about Dr. Chavez here.


For even more information, watch Dr. Chavez's full interview with Step It Up with Steph's Stephanie Mansour.


"Take care of your body with steadfast fidelity. The soul must see through these eyes alone, and if they are dim, the whole world is clouded."
- Goethe