Why losing weight after 40 is like pushing a rock uphill.
Today I received a message from a friend, who said to me:
"I think I'm broken. I've been working my ass off, working out for a month, eating and drinking in moderation, trying to be healthy. I just weighed myself and I haven't lost an ounce. Do people lose their ability to drop weight?"Short answer, "Yes".
Longer answer, "Especially, yes, if you're a woman." But, ALL women, of ALL AGES, need to know this, because ALL women are going to get older. And, what we have to understand, is how our bodies change as we get older. Once we understand what happens to our bodies, we can adapt our habits and lifestyle to maintain a healthy weight.
First, let's understand what happens to a woman's body as it gets older.
Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone, and with perimenopause and menopause, women can expect a drop in estrogen production. Estrogen is produced by the ovaries primarily, and by the glands and liver, in much smaller amounts. Estrogen is even produced by fat cells. This may explain why women tend to gain a few pounds through this phase of life.
Think about it...the more fat you have, the more estrogen your body may produce. This could be your body's way of trying to maintain proper estrogen levels, picking up the slack when the ovaries' production of estrogen decreases.
Stress hormones (cortisol) block weight loss and in fact, add fat to your belly as a "layer of protection" to your vital organs.
Think about it...the most important organs in your body are in and around your midsection. By adding a layer of fat around the midsection, your body is protecting itself from harm, in this case, stress. This is your body's way of trying to save your life.
Your metabolism may slow down, but this could be because of both hormones as well as lifestyle choices. As we get older, we have "more on our plate", devoting time to families, careers, and social activities and less time devoted to regular physical activity.
Think about it...are you as active as you once were, say, at age 25? 35? 45? Is it possible that you're just not working out as hard as you used to?
Aging affects everybody differently, but it's a fact that our bodies will decline. With aging, comes decreased heart function and muscle mass, both of which will lead to an increase in weight, typically followed by chronic disease such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Individuals who make good lifestyle choices (physical exercise, sound nutrition, and low stress), can expect to slow down the aging process. Individuals who don't take care of their bodies (from their early twenties through mid-life), can expect to accelerate the aging process.
Read my previous blog entry on Fitness Beyond 50 - what happens to our bodies and what you can do to live longer and healthier! (When you click on the link, you can download the free pdf handout used in my seminars.)
Now, let's do something about it!
Here's a short list of what I recommended to my friend today, and what you can do to increase your metabolism and potentially, shift from weight gain to weight loss (or maintenance).
TOP FIVE LIST OF WAYS TO SHIFT YOUR METABOLISM
- Weight train. Lift weights regularly. One pound of muscle burns 3x more calories than one pound of fat. If you're just starting out, lift enough weight to do 15 repetitions and 2 sets. (Check out the 365fitt 10-Minute Workouts for basic strength training.) Aim for 2-3x/week, 10-15min/day for beginners; 2-3x/week, 30-40min/day for intermediate/advanced.
- Eat 100 calories less a day. Choose ONE thing that you can reasonably and realistically change and expect to maintain that change. (For example, eliminate the butter on your bread, the cream in your coffee, the second slice of bread from your sandwich.) Decreasing your caloric consumption by 100 calories a day can potentially save you 10 pounds in one year!
- Exercise an additional 30-60 minutes each week.
- Increase the number of steps you take to a MINIMUM of 10,000/day. If you're not seeing any change, increase it to 13,000 steps a day. Or, increase the intensity of one of your workouts. A heart rate monitor or activity tracker is an excellent way to track your intensity.
- Decrease your stress. Identify and address the stressors in your life, and resolve to deal with them in a healthy manner.
Living 365fitt beyond age 50!
Kathy Kent is a nationally acclaimed speaker on women's health and fitness issues. Her company, 365fitt, provides consulting and training services to corporations, communities and individuals seeking a healthier lifestyle. Her book, Living 365fitt, A 12-Week Program to Lifestyle Wellness, and accompanying webinars, provide sound information on physical, nutritional and emotional lifestyle changes for better fitness.
Contact Kathy for more information at email@example.com.