Men and women were created equal, but they are different. Especially when it comes to weight loss. Women face some unique challenges in getting the bathroom scale to budge. And these challenges are both medical and emotional in nature. So whether you’re trying to lose 5 pounds or 50, it’s important to understand your weight loss challenges. That way, you’ll be armed with weight loss tips (specifically for women) and strategies that can help you break through those obstacles and make slimming down easier.

Obstacle #1: Do you feel stressed?
Almost everyone feels stress at some point in the day. But research shows that women are more prone to feeling stress as they juggle the demands of their work commitments, their family lives and their social ties. And not only that, but women are also more likely than men to feel guilt when work interrupts their home lives. All of that pressure adds up, sending stress-hormone levels soaring.

The kicker in all of this? Research shows that high levels of a stress hormone called cortisol increases appetite. Uh-oh. And cortisol makes people crave foods high in fat and sugar. Double uh-oh.

The solution: To help keep stress from sabotaging your waistline, one of the best weight loss tips for women is to spend at least a few minutes every day practicing a simple stress reduction strategy. Like one of these:

  • Walk for 10 minutes. And walk outside if you can.
  • Breathe deeply 10 times.
  • Tense and then relax each muscle group. Start at your toes and move up.
  • Find a quiet place to meditate for 10 minutes.

Obstacle #2: Are you getting enough sleep?
Most people don’t get enough sleep. But women have more sleep struggles than men do. In fact, about 70 percent of women get fewer than 8 hours of sleep per night. Women have more trouble falling and staying asleep, and they also suffer from more daytime sleepiness compared with men. Some of the top factors in women’s sleep troubles include work and family stress, health problems and uncomfortable beds.

All of which can add up to stubborn pounds, because a lack of sleep throws appetite hormones off and stimulates overeating.

The solution: Sleep in. Go to bed early. Makeover your bedroom until it resembles a veritable sleep-fantasy suite. Do whatever you need to do to get the recommended 7 to 8 hours a night. Especially if you’re trying to lose weight.

Obstacle #3: Feeling sluggish?
A sluggish thyroid—also know as an underactive thyroid gland or hypothyroidism—is much more likely to develop in women than in men, especially after menopause. And that spells trouble for waistlines. Here’s why: In addition to fatigue and sluggishness, an underactive thyroid can also cause weight gain.

The solution: If you have unexplained fatigue and weight gain, have your thyroid levels checked. An autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s disease is a frequent cause of hypothyroidism, and it’s more common in women than in men. Another underlying cause of hypothyroidism in women: pregnancy.

Obstacle #4: How much muscle do you have?
Blame this one on Mother Nature. Women’s bodies are built differently than men’s—women have more fat and less muscle. And less lean body mass means they have lower resting metabolic rates compared with men. Women burn fewer calories on a baseline level. And that smaller body size means women burn fewer calories with the same amount of exercise. And their bodies have evolved to hold on to fat stores better, in order to produce and nourish healthy babies.

The solution: Avoid super-low-calorie diets that’ll put you into starvation mode and make it harder for your body to burn calories and lose weight. Eat small meals throughout the day so your metabolism stays fired up. Also, focus more of your workout on strength training—to help you keep the muscle you have.

Obstacle #5: Feeling hormonal?
As women age, estrogen levels drop and metabolism slows down. And, as a result, women lose muscle and gain fat, especially around the abdomen.

The solution: Amp up your activity. Research shows that as women reach the age of menopause, they tend to exercise less. Make it a priority to walk at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week, rain or shine, year in and year out. 

Obstacle #6: Got a craving for cookies?
Studies suggest that women cave into food cravings more easily than men do. Women are also more likely to eat when they are sad or depressed and, in those moments, tend to reach for comfort foods that are high in fat and sugar. It’s a recipe for disaster when it comes to trying to lose weight.

The solution: Relying on sheer willpower to curb cravings may not be the way to go. Instead, research suggests you might be better off using a practice called mindfulness meditation—where you actually spend time acknowledging the craving. By recognizing, experiencing and feeling the craving, you may be more likely to resist it than if you’d tried to suppress or ignore it.

Obstacle #7: Feeling bad about yourself?
Those pretty magazines with the skinny models? Get them out of your house. Those TV shows with the preternaturally preserved faces? Turn them off. Those success stories about women who lost 20 pounds in 1 month? Ignore them. Media images of stick-thin women and unrealistic weight loss goals cause many women to become frustrated and give up their own diet and exercise plans when their results don’t match up.

The solution: Be kind to yourself, and don’t beat yourself up if you have an occasional treat. Give yourself time to see results. If it took 3 years to put those extra pounds on, it’s not unreasonable to give yourself 3 years to get them all off. And if you fall off the wagon, don’t throw in the towel. Slips are bound to happen occasionally. Feeling guilty about it is only going to make losing weight harder.