Losing Weight after 40 is Easier than Running a Marathon
Today I received a message from a training partner, who said to me: “I think there’s something wrong with my body. It used to be easier to lose weight and that’s seeming to change. 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”. Long answer, No. Longest answer, “Especially, yes, if you’re a woman.”
Let me explain a bit about how our bodies change as we get older. Once we understand some of the changes that happens to our bodies, to our physiology as we age, we can adapt our habits and lifestyle to maintain a healthy weight.
Bodies change as we age
First, let’s understand what happens to a woman’s body as it gets older. And, this isn’t the same way that men’s body age.
Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone, and with peri-menopause 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.
ADDING EXERCISE BACK INTO YOUR LIFESTYLE
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? Is it possible that your women-friends are working out less too.
Aging affects every body differently, but it’s a fact that our bodies will decline. With aging, comes decreased heart function and muscle mass, both of which may lead to an increase in weight, which can lead to chronic disease such as high blood pressure and diabetes with inactivity. Individuals who make good lifestyle choices such as physical exercise, sound nutrition, and low stress, can expect to slow down the inevitable aging process. Individuals who don’t take care of their bodies beginning sometimes from their early twenties through mid-life, can expect to accelerate the aging process.
Now, let’s do something about these changes to make you healthier and stronger. Here’s a short list of what I recommended to my training partner today, and what you can do to increase your metabolism and potentially, shift from weight gain, weight loss, or maintain your current weight.
TOP FIVE LIST OF WAYS TO SHIFT YOUR METABOLISM
- Weight train twice a week. 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. Body weight training or lifting iron for 10-15min/day for beginners; 2-3x/week, 30-40min/day for intermediate/advanced.
- Eat 250 calories less a day. Choose ONE thing that you can reasonably and realistically change and expect to maintain that change. For example, swap the peanut butter on your bread for something less calorically dense, the cream in your coffee or tea, the second slice of bread from your sandwich. Decreasing your caloric consumption by 250 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 step tracker is an excellent way to track your intensity and increase your awareness of the amount of movement you are doing each day and week.
- Decrease your stress. Identify and address the stressors in your life, and resolve to deal with them in a healthy manner.
- Get a heart rate monitor – even a cheap one and use it. Discover the golden zone of aerobic exercise, the Yellow zone and spend gobs of time in it. In the Yellow zone is the “moderate intensity” effort zone and can be sustained for long periods of time and in that zone you burn lots of fat and carbohydrates which is exactly the combination of fuels that helps with weight loss.
Finally, by making these small lifestyle changes, you can lose weight and it is easier than training for a 26.2 mile marathon. It all starts with changing habits and learning as you grow into a lifestyle that I call HAL, Healthy Active Living. Live like HAL. Eat like HAL. Workout like HAL and make HAL your best friend and you’ll achieve your weight goals.