Are you feeling challenged with midlife weight gain or a shift in weight to your middle?
I talk with women every day that are beyond frustrated, and are wondering what is the best approach for them now in the midlife years. Some of these women have never had a weight problem before, and it is freaking them out to all of a sudden see the pounds piling on, or see their weight shifting to their middle.
I get the frustration of not knowing why your normal way of eating is leading to gain weight.
Why is it after 40 some of us find we just can’t eat the way we used to?
Read on to discover the 10 reasons it gets harder and what you can do to help.
1. You’re too stressed Cortisol, secreted from the adrenal glands, has a split personality in the body. In other words, it is not all bad or all good. Acute stressors on the body tend to cause a short-term increase of this hormone. Cortisol increases blood sugar so that we have enough energy to either fight or flee from the stress. That extra sugar goes straight to our fat cells for storage. High cortisol is associated with hard-to-lose belly fat, sugar cravings, and lousy sleep. And to top it off, as we reach over 40, our ovaries become less active, so our adrenals kick in to create our body’s estrogen and progesterone. If our stress levels are high, however, our adrenals won’t “waste” any resources on making estrogen or progesterone: they’ll focus on making the stress hormones that we need.
TIP: The first step in managing cortisol is to also manage how you respond to stress. In other words: Hit the pause button. Some effective ways to reduce stress and lower cortisol include yoga, meditation, deep breathing. You can also add fish oil or krill oil as both have been proven to help lower cortisol. Research has shown that adaptogen herbs like Ashwaganda and Rhodiola can help to lower cortisol and bring hormones back in balance. Talk with your doctor about the use of these supplements and also having your hormones tested.
2. Your thyroid is killing your metabolism – Your thyroid hormone, secreted from the thyroid gland, helps to manage the body’s metabolic processes, including your fat-burning potential. It is like the thermostat on your metabolism. This hormone is also keenly sensitive to your daily lifestyle choices, including sleep (how long and how deep), nutrition (types and amounts), stress (acute or chronic), and exercise (longer moderate intensity or shorter high intensity.) Unfortunately, your thyroid gland is primed to think food will be scarce. This is why when someone goes on an eat less and exercise more program your thyroid will cause your body to slow down its metabolism. Low thyroid is very common as we get older, slowing down your metabolism to a crawl, making you exhausted and unable to burn off those carbs you’re eating. Other causes of low thyroid and slow metabolism include endocrine disruptors found in the environment, Vitamin D deficiency, gluten sensitivity or dairy intolerance.
TIP: Too much stress on the body increases cortisol levels which can suppress thyroid hormones. Make sure you are getting regular down time, even if it’s just some deep breathing every day. Get yourself properly tested by your doctor and support your thyroid with the nutrients it needs. These include Vitamin D (from the sun), Vitamin A (liver, grass fed butter, animal products), iron (meat, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, legumes, dried fruits, whole grains), selenium (brazil nuts, sesame and sunflower seeds, brown rice, meat, fish , eggs), zinc (oysters, lamb, nuts, ginger, whole grains, sardines), iodine (fish and shellfish, sea vegetables, eggs, dairy, meat, sea salt), tyrosine (chicken, turkey, fish, avocado, seeds, nuts, dairy, whey protein), omega 3 fats (oily fish, flaxseeds, walnuts) and the B vitamins (whole grains, oats, meat, dairy, green veg, nuts, seeds).
3. You’re eating food that doesn’t agree with you – As women age, it is common to develop food intolerance. This can go undetected. A strong link to the cause is reduced estrogen. When your estrogen levels begin to fall, this impairs your body’s ability to move digested food through your digestive tract. This causes you to retain water and inhibits fat loss.
TIP: Eliminate any foods that may cause issues (e.g., gluten, dairy, sugar, soy, corn) for 3 or 4 weeks. Re-introduce them one at a time and check to see if you have any symptoms.
4. You’re peri menopausal – Your hormones start to decline from the age of 35, so by your mid 40s they can be really out of whack! Fluctuating estrogen, high cortisol and low thyroid are common fat hoarders!
TIP: See a health professional to get your hormones tested, but also make sure you are including phyto-estrogens and omega fats in your diet (flaxseeds, chia and hemp seeds, avocado, lentils, beans, oily fish, walnuts, olive oil and coconut oil).
5. You’re not eating enough FAT – if you’ve been on a low fat diet for a long time or you don’t eat enough healthy fat, you are more likely to be eating too much sugar. Low fat products often contain more sugar or food additives. Here’s something most of my clients are very surprised to learn: the substance in the body from which our sex hormones are made is cholesterol. We need good fats to be able to make our hormones, to feed our brains and to absorb our vitamins. Fat doesn’t make you fat, it actually helps to burn fat!
TIP: Avoid low fat products. Eat more oily fish, nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil.
6. You’re not eating enough PROTEIN –By eating protein foods, you can help maintain most of your muscle mass as you age. Protein also helps to balance the hormones in your body, such as the thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism. When we don’t eat protein at a meal, the carbs release their sugars a lot quicker, stimulating too much insulin (fat storing hormone!).
TIP: Just by eating some protein with your carbs will help regulate the release of sugar. Protein should be included at every meal and snack, evenly distributed throughout your day. Protein sources include lean poultry, wild caught fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, quinoa, spirulina.
7. You’re on a blood sugar rollercoaster – Going too long without eating can cause your blood sugar to drop, then you eat a starchy meal or a sweet snack and it spikes. This roller coaster upsets your blood sugar balance and keeps you producing plenty of insulin (fat storing hormone!) cortisol which then affects your metabolism and the way you store fat.
TIP: Make the core of your meals a combination of protein, fat and fiber. Have a good protein breakfast (a protein smoothie works well) and lots of protein rich snacks to give you sustainable energy throughout the day. Eat regularly and don’t wait until you are starving.
8. You’re drinking too much alcohol – Alcohol raises cortisol which is hard on your adrenal glands. It robs you of deep sleep, and lowers metabolism by more than 70 percent (temporarily). Moderate daily alcohol decreases testosterone levels, according to a recent study. When alcohol arrives at the liver for processing, the liver places all of its attention on the alcohol. Any excess carbs or fats ingested are stored as body fat.
TIP: If you enjoy alcohol, consider cutting back. This can have a huge impact on fat loss.
9. You’re not getting enough sleep – Your body uses sleep time to recover and repair. Sleep also affects the hormone leptin, which regulates feelings of fullness, and the hormone ghrelin, which regulates hunger. Your body detoxifies while you are sleeping. You also produce human growth hormone (HGH) when you sleep, which contributes to weight loss, general vitality, and overall hormonal balance. Since you tend to have less HGH as you grow older, sleep becomes even more important as you age.
TIP: Be proactive. Good sleep is not an accident. Start winding down thirty minutes before bedtime with a cup of tea, listen to some music, journal, Keep a notebook next to your bed and write down everything that’s in your head, take a hot bath, or do some gentle stretches. Turn off your computer and other screens an hour before bedtime. Keep your bedroom dark, cover the windows. Developing a sleep ritual is very beneficial. It’s not just good for babies and kids. We need it too.
10. You’re overtraining – Many women experiencing weight gain think they need to torture themselves at the gym. Your body responds to this by flooding your system with the hormone cortisol, which helps you respond to the stress but as I mentioned before this also increases the storage of fat, especially belly fat. At this stage in our life we really need to revise how we exercise. The exercise regimen you did in your twenties when you had less stress and hormonal balance may not suit you right now.
TIP: You want to exercise in a way that releases enough cortisol, but not too much, and releases hormones like human growth hormone. Incorporate resistance training and high intensity intervals to increase muscle mass, burn fat, and creates an after-burn effect which means you keep burning calories for up to 72 hours AFTER your workout is over. You also want to include cortisol lowering activities like leisure walking, restorative yoga, and Tai Chi.
Which number do you need to work on? The bottom line is this: Hormones influence your behavior, emotions, brain chemicals, immunity, and metabolism. if you’ve been struggling to lose weight but can’t seem to reach your goals, your hormones may be to blame. Unfortunately, as we age our hormonal system is even more vulnerable. You can can ask your doctor to test your hormones, as well as use the above information to try nutrition and lifestyle strategies to help bring suspected problem hormones back into balance.
Check out my Metabolism Boosting Recipe Book. The recipes contains key ingredients to promote healthy hormone production and detoxification, adrenal health, and thyroid function. The meals focus on healthy fats, fiber and plenty of protein for balanced blood sugar.
Is this an area you are struggling with right now? Not sure how to get started? Let me help you with some easy solutions. Schedule a FREE call with me to discuss your options.
DISCLAIMER: This content is not intended to diagnose or treat any diseases. It is intended to be provided for informational, educational, and self-empowerment purposes ONLY. Please consult with your wellness team, and then make your own well informed decisions based upon what is best for your unique genetics, culture, conditions, and stage of life.