Weight Loss for Young Women

Follow these dos and don'ts if you're in your 20s or 30s

Healthy woman in her 20s
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Weight loss can be challenging at any age. But weight loss for young women can be especially difficult. Women face unique challenges when they try to lose weight in their 20s and 30s. During that time, many women graduate from college, move, get married, have children, and establish careers.  Those major life changes can make weight gain easy and weight loss more difficult. 

Weight Loss for Young Women: Dos and Don'ts

  • Do pay attention to small changes in your diet.  A weight gain study published in JAMA evaluated how much a young woman would have to increase her daily caloric intake to move from a normal BMI of 23 to a nearly obese BMI of 29 over the course of 28 years.  Researchers estimated that a small gradual increase of only 370 calories per day would do the trick.  Specifically, by adding a single ounce of sugar-sweetened beverage and walking one minute less per day would create a big enough change that, if repeated consistently, could cause the increase in BMI.
  • Don’t lose muscle.  Muscle keeps your metabolism revved up and it helps to shape a healthy body.  Of course, muscle building strength programs will help you build and maintain strength.  But you also need to avoid fad diets and quick weight loss schemes and even some exercise regimes that promote muscle loss.  According to Ariane Hundt, M.S., “juice cleanses, low-calorie diets and long-duration cardio workouts will make you lose muscle mass, which slows your metabolism and makes you put on fat faster when you resume normal eating.” Hundt is the founder of the Brooklyn Bridge Bootcamp where she coaches young women to be fit and healthy.
  • Do get enough sleep.  It's easier to function on less sleep when you’re young. If you have small children in your house, you may not even have a choice. But if you are trying to lose weight in your 20s and 30s, sleep matters. Researchers have found that we make better food choices when we are well rested. So if you are finding it hard to stay away from the junk food, try to add sleep to lose weight more effectively
  • Don’t eat processed junk foods with added sugar.  It’s easy to grab junk food on the fly when you're busy.  But if you choose junk foods with added sugar it will be harder to lose fat.  “To ensure fat loss, you want to learn about fat loss eating, which means you combine protein and vegetables 5 times a day and skip sugar and processed foods,” says Ariane.  Her advice is backed by research.  One study that evaluated nearly 9000 women found that women who ate less fast food were more likely to maintain body weight in their 20s. 
  • Do believe in yourself.  It doesn’t sound like a hard-core strategy, but whether or not you believe that you can lose weight can play a significant role in whether or not you actually do.  Ariane points out that it plays a role in weight maintenance as well.  “Whether people keep the weight off once they lose it depends in large part on their attitude and thinking,” she says.  “If someone thinks that arriving at your goal weight is the end of your effort then the changes won't last. Also, someone who continues to view themselves as fat or unworthy will act accordingly and undo the progress that was created.”
  • Do commit to a long-term lifestyle changes.  The days of the quickie diet are done.  If you want to lose weight as a young woman and keep it off for good, the only thing that will work is long-term changes to your eating and activity habits. “Unless you decide to change your lifestyle and stop dieting, you’re not going to see lasting changes. Deciding that certain nutrition changes are necessary to keep you healthy, fit and lean will make maintenance much easier. Know that weight loss isn’t over when you reach your goal but then you have to keep at maintaining your health, sanity and well-being.”

    Your schedule and your lifestyle may change significantly when you're a young woman, but your body doesn't have to. Use common sense and healthy guidelines for weight loss to slim down and maintain a healthy weight into your 40s and beyond.


    K Ball, D. Crawford. "An investigation of psychological, social and environmental correlates of obesity and weight gain in young women." International Journal of Obesity February 2006.

    Kylie Ball, W. Brown, David Crawford. "Who does not gain weight? Prevalence and predictors of weight maintenance in young women." International Journal of ObesityDecember 2002.

    Martijn B. Katan, PhD; David S. Ludwig, MD, PhD. "Extra Calories Cause Weight Gain—But How Much?." Journal of the American Medical AssociationJanuary 6, 2010.

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