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Where Do Women Lose Weight First?
Updated on September 21, 2023
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Diet / Weight Loss
Where Do Women Lose Weight First?

The answer to where women lose weight first is not straightforward. 

Everybody has unique ways of responding to changes. Weight loss is a personalized experience for each individual. There’s no specific area where you may notice weight loss first—it depends on your body, the kind of exercise you get, and your diet and lifestyle.

Don't be discouraged if you're not losing weight in the area you were hoping for. Weight loss is a gradual process, and the patterns can vary widely from person to person. 

The important aspect of weight loss is that you're making progress towards a healthier you.

Where Do Women Typically Lose Weight First?

While there’s no specific area that will lose weight first, some common patterns have been observed.

The most typical weight loss pattern is the upper body. This includes areas like the face, arms, and bust. This means most women hold fat in their thighs, buttocks, and hips.1

However, it's crucial to understand that this pattern might not hold for everyone. Our bodies have their unique way of storing and releasing fat mass.

Body fat stores and releases energy.2 Generally, during weight loss, the body taps into its fat reserves for energy. This often leads to an initial reduction in body fat from areas that have a higher fat percentage. In women, this might translate to the upper body.

For older women, the dynamics can be a bit different. Age-related factors can influence the distribution of fat, and weight loss might be more evenly distributed across the body. Additionally, hormonal changes during menopause can impact where fat is lost and gained.3

Where Do Women Lose Weight First? 2

Young adults and adults might notice more significant changes in their upper body first.

Kids and adolescents might experience a more uniform distribution of weight loss due to their still-developing bodies. However, extreme weight loss is not recommended for babies and young children.4

Older women may need to consume fewer calories to maintain weight.3 Increasing physical activity is also crucial to stay fit and healthy.

While understanding these patterns can be insightful, everyone's weight loss journey is unique. Factors such as genetics, metabolism, exercise routine, and dietary habits all play a role in how and where an individual can lose weight.

Why Does Weight Loss Occur in This Order?

The sequence in which our bodies shed those extra pounds isn't as straightforward as one might think.  

Understanding why weight loss occurs in a particular order requires a closer look at the intricate interplay of various factors. 

These factors include genetics, hormones, and individual body composition.

What Role Does Genetics Play?

Genetics, the unique blueprint of our bodies, can significantly influence our weight loss patterns.5 They play a role in shaping our body's response to dietary changes and exercise.

Genetics can influence the distribution of fat cells in our bodies, making certain areas more predisposed to storing body fat.6 This can result in some regions being more stubborn when it comes to shedding excess weight.

Genetics are not the sole determinant of where an individual can lose weight. While it can make weight loss in specific areas more challenging, it doesn't dictate your entire journey. 

With consistent effort, a balanced diet, and regular exercise, you can still achieve meaningful progress in those "problem areas."

What Impact Does Estrogen Have on Female Weight Loss?

Estrogen, a key hormone in the female body, shapes body fat distribution and weight loss patterns.7

During puberty, estrogen contributes to the development of feminine curves by promoting fat accumulation in areas like the hips and thighs. As women age, estrogen levels fluctuate, particularly during the menstrual cycle and menopause.

Estrogen influences fat storage and metabolism, impacting where weight loss occurs first.

When estrogen levels decrease, as seen during menopause, fat distribution might shift toward the abdominal area.8 This could explain why some women notice changes in their weight loss patterns as they go through different life stages.

Do Other Hormones Impact Female Weight Loss?


Hormones are like the body's messengers, orchestrating various functions, including metabolism and body fat storage. 

Insulin, for example, plays a crucial role in regulating blood sugar levels and can affect fat metabolism.9 Thyroid hormones also influence metabolism and can impact the rate at which we burn calories.10 

Cortisol, often referred to as the stress hormone, can also come into play. Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels have been associated with weight gain. This is most evident around the abdominal area.

Additionally, hormones like leptin, androgens, and growth hormone contribute to appetite regulation, hunger, and muscle growth.9 All of these can influence weight loss.

Genetics and hormones play significant roles. However, lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management also contribute to weight loss.

Why Do Certain Areas Lose Weight Faster?

When it comes to losing weight, it is normal to notice that certain areas of the body seem to respond more quickly than others.

This phenomenon can be attributed to several factors. These may include the type of body fat being lost and the body's natural tendencies.

Subcutaneous fat is the fat located just beneath the skin.11 For most people, it comprises 90% of the body. It commonly gathers around the hips, butt, thighs, and belly.

On the other hand, visceral fat surrounds internal organs and normally comprises 10% of the body. It surrounds the stomach, liver, intestines, and other organs.

While subcutaneous fat is more visible, it is harder to lose. Visceral fat is easier to lose because it metabolizes quicker.12 The body also gets rid of visceral fat through sweat and urine.

Keep in mind that everyone's body is unique. Factors such as genetics and hormonal fluctuations can also contribute to varying rates of fat loss.

How Does Muscle Mass Influence Weight Loss?

Muscle mass plays a vital role in the weight loss journey.

When embarking on a weight loss regimen, your body may also break down some muscle tissue for energy.13 This is especially true if you're not engaging in strength-training exercises. This can lead to the misconception of "losing muscle before fat."14

Maintaining or even building muscle is essential because muscle tissue burns more calories at rest than fat tissue does.13 By engaging in strength training exercises, you can help preserve and enhance your muscle mass while shedding unwanted fat.

It's important to remember that the number on the scale isn't the sole indicator of progress. 

As you build muscle and lose fat, your body composition improves, which means you might look leaner and more toned even if the scale isn't moving as quickly as you'd like.

What Roles Do Diet and Exercise Play?

Diet and exercise are the dynamic duo that play significant roles in your weight loss journey and overall health.


Your eating habits directly influence your ability to lose weight and the distribution of fat in your body.15 A balanced, nutrient-rich diet fuels your body and supports its functions.

Incorporating whole foods, lean proteins, healthy fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables is essential. This provides your body with the nutrients it needs for optimal performance.

Additionally, creating a calorie deficit—consuming fewer calories than you burn—promotes weight loss.16 Keep in mind that crash diets or extreme restrictions can lead to muscle loss and hinder your progress.


Physical activity is another key component of successful weight loss.17 Cardiovascular exercises like walking, running, and cycling help burn calories and improve cardiovascular health.

However, don't overlook the power of strength training. Building muscle through resistance exercises not only supports fat loss but also boosts metabolism.18 When engaging in regular strength training, you'll notice changes in muscle definition and overall body composition.

Consider incorporating both cardiovascular exercises and strength training into your routine. This helps provide a comprehensive approach to weight loss and helps maintain muscle mass.

Remember that consistency is key. Gradual, sustainable changes are more likely to yield lasting results.

What are Some Common Misconceptions About Female Weight Loss?

Embarking on a weight loss journey often comes with a lot of information, some of which may not be entirely accurate. The following are common myths about female weight loss:

  • Spot reduction is possible – Unfortunately, doing endless crunches won't magically melt away belly fat. The idea of targeting fat loss from specific areas of your body is a myth.19 Fat loss occurs throughout the body as a whole.
  • Weight loss should be rapid – Rapid weight loss is not sustainable or healthy. Crash diets and extreme restrictions often lead to muscle loss and can harm your metabolism.20 A gradual, steady approach to weight loss is more effective and promotes overall well-being.
  • Carbs are the enemy – Carbohydrates are an essential source of energy for your body.21 Cutting them out entirely can lead to nutrient deficiencies and leave you feeling fatigued. Opt for complex carbohydrates instead.
  • Cardio is the only way to lose weight – While cardio exercises are beneficial for burning calories, they're not the only solution. Incorporating strength training helps preserve and build lean muscle mass.22 This enhances your metabolism and supports long-term weight loss.
  • Eating less is always better – Undereating can lead to muscle loss and a slower metabolism, making it harder to sustain weight loss. Focus on eating nutrient-dense foods in appropriate portions to give your body the fuel it needs.

How Do I Know If I'm Losing Fat or Muscle?

Distinguishing between fat loss and muscle loss is crucial for tracking your progress accurately.

The following are signs of fat loss:23

  • A gradual decrease in body measurements and clothing size
  • Reduction in overall body weight
  • Improved body composition and muscle definition

On the other hand, these signs indicate muscle loss:24,25 

  • Decreased strength and endurance during workouts
  • Noticeable decrease in muscle definition and tone
  • Feelings of sluggishness or moodiness due to loss of energy

Remember, minor fluctuations in weight are normal and can be attributed to various factors. These factors include hydration levels and hormone fluctuations.

A comprehensive approach helps minimize muscle loss during weight loss efforts. This entails regular exercise and a balanced diet.

Is It Harder to Lose Fat or Muscle?

It’s difficult to determine if fat or muscle is harder to lose.

Losing fat and preserving muscle each come with their challenges

Fat loss requires a sustained calorie deficit.26 Meanwhile, muscle preservation involves engaging in strength training and consuming adequate protein.

Several factors influence the difficulty of losing fat and muscle. These include genetics, age, hormonal changes, and your approach. 

Older adults might find it slightly more challenging to maintain muscle mass.27 Rapid weight loss can contribute to muscle loss if not done correctly.28

How Can I Lose Body Fat Without Losing Muscle?

Achieving the delicate balance between losing body fat and maintaining muscle requires a mindful approach:

  1. Prioritize protein – Consume enough protein to support muscle growth and repair.29 Aim for lean sources like poultry, fish, beans, and legumes.
  2. Strength training – Engage in regular strength training exercises. Strength training stimulates muscle growth and preserves lean tissue.
  3. Gradual caloric deficit – Create a moderate calorie deficit to promote fat loss. This can also provide your body with enough energy to function optimally.
  4. Stay hydrated – Proper hydration supports muscle function and metabolism.30 Aim to drink water throughout the day.
  5. Adequate sleep – Sleep is crucial for muscle recovery and overall health. Prioritize seven to nine hours of quality sleep per night.
  6. Balanced nutrition – Consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods to meet your body's needs and support overall health.30
  7. Monitor progress – Track changes in body measurements, strength levels, and how your clothes fit rather than relying solely on the scale.
Updated on September 21, 2023
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31 sources cited
Updated on September 21, 2023
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  5.  “Factors That Influence Body Weight”. National Library Of Medicine.
  6. Stubborn Fat Areas: Where Is Most Stubborn”. Artistry Clinic By Dr. Sarah Shah.
  7. What Does Estrogen Have To Do With Belly Fat?”. University of Rochester Medical Center.
  8. Steroid Metabolism and the Metabolic Syndrome”. ScienceDirect.
  9. Obesity and hormones”. BetterHealth Channel.
  10. Thyroid Hormone”. Cleveland Clinic.
  11. Subcutaneous Fat”. Cleveland Clinic.
  12. Visceral Fat”. Cleveland Clinic.
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  16. Calorie Deficit: What To Know”. Cleveland Clinic.
  17. Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  18. Health Body Advertiser Disclosure How To Lose Fat And Gain Muscle At The Same Time”. Forbes Health.
  19. Health Debunked: Can You Target Fat Loss?”. GoodRx Health.
  20. The Risks of the Crash Diet”. Obesity Action Coalition.
  21. Carbohydrates as a source of energy”. National Library of Medicine.
  22. Exercise for weight loss: Calories burned in 1 hour”. Mayo Clinic.
  23. How to reduce visceral body fat (hidden fat)”. Healthdirect.
  24. Don’t let muscle mass go to waste”. Harvard Health Publishing.
  25. Weight Loss: Signs You Are Losing Muscles Instead Of Fat”. Times of India.
  26. International society of sports nutrition position stand: diets and body composition”. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
  27. Aging: What to expect”. Mayo Clinic.
  28. Getting past a weight-loss plateau”. Mayo Clinic.
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  30. Yes, drinking more water may help you lose weight”. Johns Hopkins University.
  31. Weight and muscle gain”. BetterHealth Channel.
Will Hunter
Will Hunter
Content Contributor
Will is a content writer for KnowYourDNA. He received his B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Will has 7 years of experience writing health-related content, with an emphasis on nutrition, alternative medicine, and longevity.
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