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Healthy Weight for Women

NetWellness experts receive many questions about weight gain. It is important for all people to maintain a healthy weight, but it is particularly important for women for several reasons.

1. Women have the greatest burden of overweight and obesity in the US.

2. It is more difficult for women to lose and maintain their weight compared to men because of their hormones and body make up (tend to have less muscle mass and more fat tissue).

3. Living at an unhealthy weight increases a woman’s chances of getting heart disease, which is the number one killer of women in the United States.

Causes of Weight Gain

Gaining weight is a natural part of the life cycle for all women. Women tend to experience major weight gain : 

Weight gain in women is complex and caused by a variety of reasons including:

  • Hormone levels
  • Excess calorie intake due to poor eating habits, emotional problems or stress
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Fluid retention (water or weight gain)
  • Building of lean muscle

Weight Gain is Sometimes Healthy

It is important to note that not all weight gain is unhealthy, such as building lean muscle. Some weight gain is healthy and expected, such as for growth and development (in children and pregnancy). There is a recommended amount of weight that should be gained during pregnancy to ensure a healthy birth and healthy mother ([Include link to the IOM 2009 Pregnancy weight gain guidelines]). Weight gain becomes abnormal or unhealthy when there is excess fat being stored, thus being “over fat” is the problem, not necessarily “over weight.”

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Knowing your ideal healthy weight is the first step in setting your weight loss goal. The Healthy Body Calculator and BMI Calculator from the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute are tools that use formulas and tables which can help you figure out:

  • Your healthy weight range
  • The amount of calories you should eat on average per day
  • Your BMI or body mass index. BMI is an indication of how much excess fat you are carrying around and helps determine if you are at an increased risk for diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Your percent body fat

Each of these measurements can be used to guide you towards a healthy lifestyle.

Exercise and Diet – A Proven Weight Loss Formula

The old mantra, “exercise and eat a healthy diet” is often the advice given for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. In fact, it is the only time tested and scientifically proven safe way to lose weight.

Portion Sizes

The site has tools that help you determine appropriate portion sizes based on your gender, age, and activity level. For example, a 19-30 year old woman compared with a 31-50 year old man has different requirements:[ED1]


Food Groups

Women 19-35

Men 31-50


2.5 cups

3 cups


2 cups

2 cups

Dairy (low or fat free)

3 oz

3 oz

Protein (meat & beans)

5.5 oz

6 oz

Grains (50% whole)

6 oz

7 oz


6 tsp

6 tsp


8 – 8oz glasses

8 – 8oz glasses

Physical Activity

Physical activity can be any movement that uses energy. It can range from sports or housework to dancing or climbing the stairs at home. To gain any health benefit, activity should be moderate and add up to at least 30 minutes a day. This should be done most days and preferably every day in addition to your regular daily activities. Increasing the intensity of or time spent with physical activity can help control body weight.

For more information about exercise and weight gain, check out the NetWellness Exercise and Fitness topic where our experts are available to answer your questions. In addition, the Physical Activity topic found on the site is an excellent resource for more information.

Tools For Maintaining a Healthy Weight

As mentioned before, it may be helpful to visit The United States Department of Agriculture’s site, which contains information about diet and exercise, as well as a calculator to help you design an eating plant that is tailored to your individual needs.

To help you keep track of your dietary intake and exercise, use the Choose My Plate Super Tracker. It will keep track of your energy balance (calorie intake and usage) history, which you can view for up to one year.

Registered Dietitians (R.D.) are nutrition professionals who can provide you with more individualized help with your weight loss goals. The Association can help you find a nutrition professional in your area.

 [ED1]I would probably use a example that is alittle more dramatic to drive home the point. The requirement here are essentially the same. Also would use a more similar comparision such as either a younger vs older women. Or if comparing gender then at least make them about the same age.


For more information:

Go to the Women’s Health health topic.