Apple to Oranges.
Women are different to men.
We think differently.
Our bodies are different.
So why wouldn’t our journey to health, fitness and weightloss be different to?
Now, I want to first point out that I like men, I live with a small one who one day will be a big one and I am doing my best to make sure he is a good one. I have worked with many male personal trainers and I am not undermining the knowledge, experience and motivations of male personal trainers and weightloss specialists but I honestly believe that women’s weightloss is not a man’s game, even for part of their journey, for additional support when working with male fitness and health professionals and in that weight loss is not just a direct correlation of one thing or one person’s influence over another.
And here is my case:
The Female Mind
We worry, we overthink and we worry some more.
One of our biggest worries is injury and the pain/gain ratio. The ‘is this really worth it’ question. Am I going to be able to function in my every day life? Can I get through the day? Will I have the energy to keep going?
Add into the mix children and it becomes even more heightened.
Unlike men, we do not subscribe to the No Pain, No Gain philosophy willingly or at all.
The ability to withstand pain is not a skill we value, because we already know we can- if we have to. (I mean, childbirth!!)
But we would just prefer to avoid it rather than use it as a mantle to define ourselves. I believe strength for us is not defined in how much pain we can withstand, but in overcoming our struggles and simply getting back up again when we fall or stumble.
Additionally, men have a myopic, linear focus when it comes to achieving goals, whereas women think more systematically, which means we can focus on many things at the same time with many priorities and values. The male mindset makes it easier for men just to ‘get it done’ or ‘push through’, but can often come with excessive or unnecessary force to achieve things, not evaluating all the consequences or where things might go pear-shaped later down the line.
Women tend to be more strategic in their thinking and want to be efficient, whilst being effective in what they do as they know they have so many other demands on their time. An injury is just not worth it for the impact it would have on their WHOLE life.
This is not a cop out or excuse. It is reality. Again, a man might see if that way.
This mindset can something hamper a woman’s progress if the trainer or fitness professional is not empathetic to it or just railroads this way of thinking rather than understanding and motivating in other ways.
One of my greatest fears when I first started working out with a trainer was always that my thoughts and feelings wouldn’t be heard, understood or acted upon and that I would be made to do something that I didn’t want to or that may cause me pain
Our lack of confidence in our strength
Lack of confidence and underestimation of strength and moving out of their comfort zone in terms of exercising keeps ladies turning to excessive aerobic exercise. This comes in all forms (spin classes, dance classes, yoga classes or running) and not just limited to hours spent on the treadmill or bike. If you go to the gym for a workout and emerge two hours later after a spin class and 45 mintues on the bike then this is excessive cardio. If you plan on giving the weight machines a go but end up on the treadmill all night this is excessive cardio. Working on 17 different gym machines over 2 hours with minimum weights is also excessive cardio.
[Related article: Worst exercise for women over 35 and what to do instead]
Fear of not being strong enough, fit enough, slim enough or confident enough to swap cardio exericse for lifting weights is one of the biggest issues keeping ladies overweight, out of shape, with lower back pain or knee pain and just plain ole frustrated with their bodies.
Women often lack confidence when it comes to strength training and often underestimate their strength by more than 10% and lose out on making their workouts more effective.
Ironically, men often overestimate their strength but even up to 10% lifting and throwing down heavy weights as they puff out their chests, basically Bravado.
Even more ironic to me is that women have higher pain thresholds to men. We just see pain often as unnecessary and try to avoid it!
The Female Monthly Cycle
I am not saying that men are unsympathetic to this. In fact, my trainers have been very understanding and offer suggestions and motivation during this time.
But that is not the same as understanding how it feels or experiencing it first hand.
Getting to know and accept your body, in all its functions and feelings is the first step to any healing, change or improvement you are going for.
And in this way we need to get to know more about our cycles, our hormones, our energy, our feelings and emotions and what goes on inside and not just brush it to the side.
‘The menstrual cycle is the most basic, earthy cycle we have. Our moon cycles and our blood are our connection to the archetypal feminine’,
says Dr Christine Northrup in his book Women’s Wisdom, Women’s Bodies.
She goes on to say, “We need not be afraid or think we are sick if our energies and moods naturally ebb for a few days each month. In many parts of India, it’s perfectly acceptable for women to slow down during their periods and rest more. I have come to see that all kinds of stress-related disease, ranging from PMS to osteoporosis, could be lessened a great deal if we simply followed our body’s wisdom once per month.
Once we begin to appreciate our menstrual cycle as part of our inner guidance system, we begin to heal both hormonally and emotionally. There is no doubt that premenstrually, many women feel more inward-directed and more connected to their personal pain and the pain of the world.”
Our hormone cycle can have a profound effect on our energy, our cravings and our ability to stick to a diet or exercise plan and affect how we view our progress.
Knowing how to use our hormones to supercharge our results is our feminine power. Understanding and accepting the power is our cycle can be truly transformational on so many levels.
Watch my recent video on this:
How a Woman Feels
A woman’s body changes every seven days with the phases of the moon.
So do her emotions.
Did you know our bodies can feel different every day when we awake? Depending on where we are at in our cycles, a woman’s body can feel completely different to the previous day or week before? Men do not experience this.
Our bodies are in constant, rhythmic change, but because so much of this is happening beneath our waking consciousness, we can feel out of control, or ‘all at sea’.
When we begin to notice the pattern of these cycles, their repetitive nature, their connection to nature beyond us, we can begin to feel not like victims unprepared for the weather, but like adventurers of days gone by, who navigate by nature— the pull of the tides, the placing of the stars and the gathering storm clouds.
Often we can feel overwhelmed and confused by the seeming turbulence of our bodies and unpredictability of our moods.
The patriarchal society and programming that Dr Christine Northrup describes in Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom has a lot to do with how you think about your body and care for yourself.
When I say patriarchal society and programming, I’m referring to the belief that the masculine ways of being (and doing) are superior to the feminine ways of being (and doing).
This has been a part of the world’s culture for thousands of years. And after 5,000 years of patriarchal programming, it’s no surprise that women get sick in the uniquely female areas of their bodies.
Anne Wilson Schaef calls it, “The original sin of being born female.” This refers back to the Bible story about Adam and Eve… God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and declared that Eve would bring forth children in pain and suffering, because she tempted Adam. This kind of programming teaches women—at the deepest, deepest level—that the processes of her female body, including the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, labor, and menopause, are burdens to be endured.
This belief system has left women with the idea that a woman’s body is not “good enough”.
And nothing could be farther from the truth. These processes are embodied with wisdom—clues that tell us that something in our lives is out of balance.
Whenever we trivialize our bodies or are ashamed of their normal processes, we are not only missing these clues, we are contributing to our own ill health. To truly thrive as women, we need to reverse or abandon this programming entirely.
Instead, we must be kind and gentle to our bodies, and not think in terms of controlling them. That is a patriarchal way of viewing them. Our bodies work best when we love them the way we would a two-year-old child. When a child is learning to walk, we don’t yell at them when they fall and say, “Get up you little dummy!” We are calm and patient.
Women handle stress in different ways and often a major obstacle to weightloss is emotional eating.
In all my years as a health and fitness professional for women, I think I can count on one hand the number of women for whom emotions played absolutely no part in their relationship with food. Our emotions and how we eat (and when and what) are so intertwined that I think it is virtually impossible for a woman to get healthy — and, eventually, to lose weight — without first addressing her emotional attachment to food.
Each day I hear all kinds of stories about women’s emotional relationship to food. For many of my clients, these memories, particularly the early ones, are fond ones: the ice cream truck on a hot summer day, traditional holiday meals celebrated with family. These stories underscore how food can be used to make us feel comforted, connected and loved.
How many times do you say things like “I’ve worked hard today, I deserve this glass of wine/bar of chocolate” or “I’ve so stressed I need this wine/chocolate to unwind”… And then there are the times when our body and its hormones ‘demand’ carbs and chocolate and the cravings feel somewhat overwhelming.
These lingering emotional patterns make long term weightloss difficult unless you are familiar and skilled at dealing with these as apart of your lifestyle change program.
The Female Body
If you compare the physical structure of a man with a woman, you can tell why both sexes should not share the same training program. This isn’t to say that women should train with different exercises or with less intensity or that they should lift less weight relative to their body structure and size.
All of those factors remain constant when putting together training programs for either a man or woman. Due to differences in anthropometry and goals, a woman’s training program design will differ from a man’s simply because her body shape is different.
In addition, her image of an ideal body differs from that of a man.
For this reason, optimal training for a woman will require a considerably different program design from the way a routine is split up to exercise selection, order, frequency, volume and intensity.
Bret Contreras, known as the Glute guy in his book Strong Curves says: “Men and women respond to resistance training much in the same manner. However, men and women show significant measurable difference with regard to muscle mass, strength and hormone levels. The strength differences are largely attributable to body size and composition. Compared to women, men are larger, they carry more muscle mass and they’re leaner. The sex hormone testosterone drives the difference in size and body composition, but sex hormone-related strength differences are mostly found in the upper body- meaning women tend to possess lower body strength levels similar to men relative to their body weight, but men have greater upper body strength relative to their body weights compared to women. However, when comparing strength per pound of fat-free mass (mostly muscles and bones) strength differences aren’t do apparent. Furthermore, when assessing muscle architecture, sex becomes unimportant and women possess the same force production capabilities as men. “
He goes on to say: “I’ve found that women can become as strong or even stronger than men pound-for-pound during hip thrusts.”
Peer Pressure V Group Encouragement
Have you ever watched a group or a couple of men workout in the weights area of a gym when they are both working on Personal Bests?
It is like a Bravado competition. If they were peacocks, there would be grand displays of plummage and mating calls and kinda half expect there to be territory marking (!!)
Now don’t get me wrong, I am super competitive, motivated and LOVE to excel and push myself. But it is just not the same. I don’t feel the need to ‘crush my opponent’ to be successful. Because in my mind, the person I am competing against is me. Me V Me and the older version of me is pretty cool and up until now did a great job. She just can’t lift 100kg in a squat, (only 90kg) and now this new me can.
When I am in the zone and my muscles are burning I want to hear words like “You can do this, I believe in you, I’m not leaving you behind. You are strong, You are amazing. Come on your girl ye.” I actually say these things to myself out loud and now my trainer says them to me as he knows they work!
“I don’t want to hear: Sweat is just your body crying, no pain, no gain…. Crush it. Just destroy it…. Stop being such a girl/princess.”
And don’t get me started on the ‘like a girl’ comments…
We are always harder on ourselves than you will ever be.
In secret, most women feel utterly worthless as a person; a selfish, lazy, stupid woman who’s never doing enough for her family, friends or society. As a professional coach, I’ve talked to dozens of such women over the years and I am always astounding my this inner ‘mean’ talk we say to ourselves.
Women are too self-critical in an unrealistic quest to be perfect.
Research shows that women are generally kinder, more nurturing and empathetic to others than men. At the same time, they’re meaner, more dismissive, and critical of themselves.
The message women receive from the larger culture is loud and clear: other people are more important than yourself.
You should be generous and forgiving towards others, but punish yourself mercilessly when you get it wrong.
So we give, and we give, then we turn around and criticize ourselves for still not giving enough. And eventually we crash and burn.
Women are twice as likely to be depressed as men, and about 11 per cent of us are taking anti-depressants just to get through daily life.
But why are we so awful to ourselves?
It’s the need to see ourselves as ‘good’ in the first place, and the incredible pressure we put on ourselves to reach this impossible notion of perfection, that’s the real problem. In our highly competitive culture, we’re told we need to be special to feel good about ourselves.
If we have to excel at everything, we’ll constantly fall below the mark. And even when we do manage to get it right, it’s only temporary.
Our sense of self-worth goes up and down like a yo-yo in lockstep with our latest success or failure. We get an incredible high when we receive a nice compliment, but feel like jumping off a bridge when someone ignores us or — worse — criticises us.
Dealing with this emotional dance requires a sensitive and experienced guide who understands and has walked the path.
The Power of Sisterhood
“Girl Friend Power, not Will power is the key to success with your health goals.”
For many women, social support and accountability are essential to successful weight loss and management.
Let me give you the science according to a new study by the University of Illinois.
For the study, 23 women participated in a weight loss program that reduced their food consumption by 500 calories per day.
Eating more vegetables, planning ahead, and portion control were emphasized. About a year and a half after they’d finished, they participated in focus groups to determine which factors helped or hindered their weight loss.
“All of the women lost a significant amount of weight on the program, but many were unsuccessful at maintaining it after the program ended,” said researcher Catherine J. Metzgar, R.D., L.D.N. Those who did keep the weight off reported that a high level of social support from many sectors was critical in their success.
This is true of the women in our programmes, they didn’t find that accountability to themselves was so important, but having support from others was — just having that social support from someone who was going through the same experience.
What this study shows is that if you can find friends or a coach or a community who has the same goals or can just hold you accountable, it is really essential.
Having regular educational group meetings provide accountability, support, and motivation they needed to continue their progress. But once it ended, and no one was monitoring their progress, this is when some dieters lose their motivation and fall back into old habits.
What is more is that in this study many participants received no support from family and friends. Rather than encouraging their weight loss efforts, some friends and family members responded negatively, intentionally or unintentionally sabotaging their progress by making unhelpful comments or tempting with high-calorie foods.
Just as we have seen here in my studio and online communities, for many women, significant life transitions — such as starting a sedentary job, getting married, pregnancy and childbirth — had become traps, triggering cycles of “continual bouts of weight gain, weight loss, maintenance, and prevention of weight regain.
We all know that these ‘life transitions’ impact on our food behaviors. This is why we call it a ‘weight-loss journey,’ showing the need for a total lifestyle change, rather than a temporary diet to achieve and maintain weight loss.
How can you set up your life, environment and circle for success in your new lifestyle change?
[Related article: The Tribe of Sisterhood and The Power of Circle of Women]
Women Through Circles
Circles have the power to transform the world—woman by woman, circle by circle! A circle is a gathering in the form of actually sitting in a circle and following general guidelines that facilitate authentic conversation. The circle form is nonhierarchical—everyone’s input holds equal importance. It fosters listening to and learning from every participant.
It is with all this research and theory that apply to helping my tribe of goddesses around the world.
I have spent more than 10 years researching, creating and focusing on making health, fitness and weightloss easy, fun, effective and durable for women. Transformation strong of body, mind and character.
What is the answer?
We are living in unprecedented times of stress, we have an excess of information and expectations, demands, responsibilities, multiple jobs, family demands, you name it. And more often than not, to shelter ourselves away from the monotony we turn to unhealthy habits — (name your vice!)
But it should be the other way around: the more cornered we get by elements that can throw us off balance, the more committed to our health and wellbeing we must be.
Health is synonymous with success, in any shape or form or version. Healthy people thrive in every aspect of their lives — it is the foundation of our greatest achievements, of confidence, of limitless creativity and of longstanding relationships. When you feel good, you not only create a force field of positivity but you become a magnet for the things you wish to manifest in your life.
Making healthy choices and caring for yourself de-clutters your mind and makes space for the projects, people and places you’ve always wished you’d have time for and makes you a happy, healthy woman with a happy and healthy family and life.
A WOMAN’S BODY AS BOTH WARRIOR & GODDESS
The concept of the Warrior Goddess has been around for a very long time, maybe not coined in exactly this way until the writing of one of my favorite authors, HeatherAsh Amara on Goddess and Toltec learning in her highly acclaimed book Warrior Goddess Training.
But when we talk of a Warrior Goddess several images come to mind from Xena Warrior Princess in popular culture to ancient Celtic goddesses of The Gamorra, Freya and of course Athena.
Each ancient civilization has their strong woman figure from Cleopatra to Froudo the wife of Odin to
And if you Google Warrior Goddess now a days you are often faced with semi clad voluptuous women wielding shields and spears.
So why would we want to be a Warrior Goddess and have a Warrior Goddess’ Body?
There is a new revolution for women, from being focused on others needs to focusing on our own. Serving from an empty vessel takes its toll. When we bring our attention back to rediscovering who we are, from the inside out and understanding our body and our soul, then we can truly step into our own genuine and authentic power and be able to follow our passions and desires.
We discover true strength. Strength of mind, body and character and our inner warrior goddess.
Since we are all a mix of masculine and feminine energy, we can benefit from a clear understanding of the highest vision of masculine energy, whilst in the section we will explore the feminine.
The displays of masculine energy are most raw in ancient, more primal societies, where the man was the keeper of boundaries, the hunter and provider of food, the physical strength behind manufacture and the imagination of the innovator and creator.
The masculine energy is like fire. When it is used properly it is creative, practical, benevolent and visionary. When misused it can burn and destroy in egoic anger and/or resentment.
Men and women need this masculine energy as much as they need the feminine energy. Without one or the other we are incomplete.
Harnessing this energy gives us the confidence, focus and determine to see things through and gives us our power.
Goddess energy is a creative flow of unconditional love, self-love, self-acceptance, inner wisdom coupled with passion and pleasure.
These energies are within us and when out of balance can affect us by simply having us feel out of whack to the extreme of illness and disease, often in our female body parts.
What is the answer?
A Female centric cyclic programme that takes into account the cycles, hormones and struggles faced only by women to focus on getting lean, strong and curvy and a body that is the vessel for life in all its challenges and adventures.
Find out more about The Warrior Goddess Body & our Body Shape Change Programmes here.