So you got rid of processed foods and sodas. You exercise 5 days per week until you can’t take it anymore. You count your calories, approaching food as an enemy: Will it make me fat? Chocolate cake offered by your mother becomes an insult and while you’re buttoning up your jeans, you swear you’ll never eat a bowl of pasta. EVER.
“What happened to my body?”, you ask. While in your twenties, you could eat anything that doesn’t eat you, when you hit forty, losing weight becomes a struggle. Weight loss after 40 - illusion?
Now, let’s make this clear. Weight loss business is a billion dollar business. The newest weight loss hack, the newest diet, creams, drinks, pills, weight loss products are bombarding us night and day. The culture of dieting creeps into our lives and it’s difficult to resist. Weight loss is actually the main reason why women contact me as a Mind Body Eating Coach. Can you help me, coach?
Weight Loss After 40 - The Mind Body Approach
We know, that in our forties our activity levels change, we might be not as active as in our twenties, or we might cater to those around us, neglecting our own needs. Our metabolism slows down, our belly fat increases, and our muscle mass changes. As a result, losing weight may become more difficult than before. As you enter your forties, you are also entering perimenopause, when levels of your sex hormones progesterone and estrogen decline. Besides regulating your menstrual cycle and reproductive functions, these hormones also impact restful sleep and relaxation. Sleeping less can wreak havoc on your body and your weight.
Now, you might probably ask why a Mind Body Eating coach would advise for a weight loss. We can all be healthy no matter the size (HAES - Health at Every Size approach), isn’t it so? Yes, that’s true! There are no studies that indicate how much you should weigh. Let me repeat that - there are no studies that indicate how much you should weigh. If the BMI comes to your mind, guess what. BMI was introduced in the early 19th century by a Belgian named Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet. He was a mathematician, not a physician (not that the majority of physicians know something about sustainable weight loss). He produced the formula to give a quick and easy way to measure the degree of obesity of the general population to assist the government in allocating resources. In other words, it is a 200-year-old hack. BMI ignores waist size, which is a clear indicator of obesity level.
Waist Size is the Problem
If you are carrying around the so called “muffin top”,” tire” or you’re “spreading”, read this section very carefully. As a Mind Body Eating Coach I don’t really care how much you weigh and we, in fact, help people lose the need to lose weight. However, abdominal, or visceral fat is of particular concern because it’s a key player in a variety of health problems. There are two types of fat on your body - subcutaneous fat, the kind you can grasp with your hand and visceral fat, that, on the other hand, lies out of reach, deep within the abdominal cavity, where it pads the spaces between your abdominal organs. And now the bad news: Visceral fat has been linked to metabolic disturbances and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In women, it is also associated with breast cancer and the need for gallbladder surgery. Visceral fat is directly linked with higher total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower HDL (good) cholesterol, and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance means that your body’s muscle and liver cells don’t respond adequately to normal levels of insulin, the pancreatic hormone that carries glucose into the body’s cells. Glucose levels in the blood rise, heightening the risk for diabetes. [source]
Not Weight but Waist Loss!
As you can see, losing some of the harmful visceral fat is good for your health and longevity. And now the good news - here’s how to do it.
Sleep and Rest
I often hear from women with kids that they need that extra time in the evening to do things they enjoy. They put kids to bed and stay up until 2 am, sleeping only 6 or less hours per night. This is a big issue as a good night’s sleep is more important than diet and exercise. Your main goal should be to get at least 7, better 8 hours of sleep. Put your kids to bed earlier, switch off your electronic devices at least half an hour before going to bed, create an evening ritual. Use essential oils, have a bath, have sex, everything that makes you sleep better is perfect.
You heard that correctly. When you hit 40, you won’t get away with hours of exercise per day. This can increase your cortisol levels, plus the risk of injuries is much higher. Less is more and most importantly, it should be fun! 30 minutes exercise with 10 minutes stretching before and after is sufficient. Remember, you should not be exhausted after an exercise routine but rather energized.
The Right Diet
Surprise, surprise…you won’t get away with bowls of pasta and slices of pizza. Or you will but please don’t ask me how to lose weight then. In your forties, your body may have an increasingly difficult time digesting carbohydrates, which may lead to weight gain. Women after 40 just do better on less carbs. Don’t worry, you don’t have to count them or freak out like Emily Blunt in the movie The Devil Wears Prada: You eat carbs, for Christ’s sake!
Just fill your plate with 80 percent of veggies, add some protein, healthy fats, it’s really that simple! For more information what to eat for better health and waistline, check out the book Keto Green 16 or my course on Udemy Pegan cooking and lifestyle.
It also goes without saying that you should ditch smoking, added sugar and drink less alcohol, and drink more water. You might experiment with intermittent fasting as well.
A big one! Stressing out is a habit. Especially after you hit 40 you really SHOULD stress less. You’ve done it, you know it, there are few things that surprise you. I actually feel better in my forties than in my twenties - everything was just more complicated back then. Now I respect when my body says no, I rest when I need to, I make time for meditation, journaling and yoga. Life just became more simple.
Check Your Thyroid
Last but not least. Unexplained weight gain may be a sign of thyroid problems, including Hashimoto’s disease and hypothyroidism. I personally check my thyroid levels (full panel) every year.
And now to you: What strategies will you use?