By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Dividing their time among work, childcare, and household management leaves little time for many women to take care of their own health, including maintaining a healthy weight.
According to a 2019 Gallup poll, women are more likely than their men to take care of parental duties and housekeeping including laundry, cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping and dishwashing.
Women are also more often the primary caregiver of other family members such as one who is disabled or a senior parent and usually manage the family’s social schedule and health appointments. Homemakers account for some of that division of labor. In 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 57% of women aged 25-64 were employed, compared with 74.4% of men. But especially for women who work full-time, managing their weight often becomes a low priority.
In addition to having many things vying for their time, women’s experiences such as childbirth and conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can also contribute to weight gain. Between 5% and 10% of women have PCOS.
Women also receive a barrage of mixed — and often incorrect — messages about weight gain, as they try to live up to the cultural ideal of a svelte figure. Kerri Howell, online personal trainer, nutrition coach and owner of Rochester-based fitprmomlife.com, likes to keep weight control simple and, for those time-strapped, efficient.
“You only need 15 minutes a day of resistance training to make a difference,” Howell said. “Sometimes that works better than trying to fit in three one-hour training sessions, especially for busy working parents. That, coupled with walking as much as possible will achieve the fitness activity needed to lose weight.”
Resistance training can include performing bodyweight exercises like squats, calf raises, planks and push-ups. Fitness bands, free weights and kettlebells can also help for home resistance training workouts.
To save time on home workouts, Austyn Affronti, president of Affronti Fitness in Rochester, recommends high intensity interval training (HIIT).
“You could do it as you walk the dog, running for two minutes and walking for two,” he said. “Or stop and do 15 squats or 15 jumping jacks.”
It may seem like a series of short workouts would not help as much as one long workout of 45 to 60 minutes. However, Affronti said that for some people, breaking up the exercise sessions is not only more convenient, but it can also help them workout at their highest level throughout each minute instead of putting forth less exertion as they begin to feel fatigued.
“With shorter workouts, you’re putting in maximum effort,” he said.
To get a jump on wellness for the day, rising early to practice meditation can help, according to Affronti.
“A lot of studies say that meditation is like a nap for your central nervous system,” he said. “If you’re extremely stressed, your body wants to hold onto weight. If you’re not getting enough sleep, and stressed, it creates a hormonal imbalance. It’s harder to losing weight, even if you’re working out like a madman.”
He also thinks that a consistent rising and bedtime contribute to improved hormone balance.
Of course, the diet plays a big role in weight loss. Yo-yo dieting has been shown to contribute to weight gain. Consistently eating a reduced calorie diet of balanced foods based on the USDA’s My Plate can yield significant results. My Plate states that half the plate should hold fruits and vegetables, one-quarter should have a lean source of protein and one-quarter should have a carbohydrate source. Three servings of dairy per day, such as yogurt and milk, can ensure adequate calcium and provide more protein.
A healthful diet includes mostly whole foods such as whole fruit, raw vegetables, and whole grains instead of numerous examples processed foods with added sugar, salt and fat. Unhealthful sources of fat are solid at room temperature, such as butter, margarine, shortening and lard. Plant-based sources of fat in moderation is more healthful, including canola oil and olive oil.
Howell and Affronti both said that increasing protein is important for healthful eating.
“Nearly everyone is deficient in protein and you’re likely overeating carbs and fat,” Affronti said. “Protein is the main micronutrient to support muscle mass. It helps elevate your metabolism. If you’re losing muscle, your metabolism is going down. Protein takes longer to digest, so you satisfy your appetite.”
Menu planning for the week and preparing at least a few of the elements in advance can make eating healthfully easier, such as cooking and portioning chicken breasts and chopping vegetables. Using a slow cooker can ensure a healthful meal is ready when arriving home exhausted.
“Have healthy, prepared snacks available at all times,” Affronti said. “Cut up fruits and vegetables and put them on the top shelf so they’re in plain sight.”