II had the good fortune to interview fitness model and expert, Belinda Benn. You’d be amazed to learn that Belinda is in her 40’s as well and she really transformed her body in her late 30’s. Stay tuned for her transformation video later in the week. Here’s my interview with her:
- Why do women over 40 need a special program and what are their biggest
It is amazing to me how many different challenges women over 40 face. And instead of feeling like we are part of a homogeneous group – it’s easy to feel estranged and alone. While one friend is going through a divorce, another is having to care for their elderly parents, meanwhile another is a first time Mum! On top of that, we can’t help notice that our body is changing, inside and out.
Women naturally draw support from each other – but first we have to feel like the person understands our individual challenges. I think that is the most important aspect of any program. If you feel like someone understands where you are at, then you can draw guidance, inspiration and support from them.
As for the biggest concerns after 40, in my experience most women are trying to make peace with themselves – to learn how to accept and work with the body they have and make it the best it can be – instead of striving for some kind of artificial perfection. They want to feel good – physically, mentally and emotionally. We have been around long enough to know that there is no “magic pill” and that it requires work; healthy eating, exercise, good lifestyle habits and having positive people around us.
- What is it about menopause that causes weight gain?
First let me say I am far from an expert! But I have noticed that after 40 our aging metabolism, the accumulation of bad lifestyle choices, the increased susceptibility to stress as well of course as hormonal changes – all contribute to weight gain.
- Does metabolism slow down at menopause?
Yes, but it isn’t necessarily all just to do with menopause. It’s a natural outcome of aging that affects men and women. Over time we just don’t burn calories as efficiently as we used to. We just can’t eat and maintain the same lifestyle like we did 10 years ago and expect to stay in shape!
- What’s going on with our hormones that may cause weight gain?
Studies show that women in menopause have higher levels of insulin which leads to a greater tendency to store fat. We also become more susceptible to the effects of stress which leads to high cortisol levels and this also leads to weight gain.
- Why do women gain weight around the mid section?
Genetics are a big factor in how fat is distributed throughout our body but prior to and during menopause our changing hormones come in play. Estrogen is a powerful influence on storing fat in the hips, thighs and butt. So when these levels start to drop, fat tends to be more readily stored in the tummy – even in people who are very active.
- When a women reaches menopause, is it really harder to lose weight?
This is a tough question! The short answer is, it doesn’t have to be. As I mentioned there are 4 factors in weight gain over 40: slowing metabolism, the accumulation of bad lifestyle choices, the increased susceptibility to stress as well of course as hormonal changes. What is hard, is trying to address all these at once! With my clients I try to develop a strategy that deals with the most critical factors first. For some people that is simply improving their lifestyle; cutting back on the alcohol, getting more sleep and taking regular time out for themselves to relax. For others, getting serious about their diet and working out is number 1. We need to take an holistic approach so we are looking after ourselves as a whole person, physically, mentally and emotionally. When those things are in balance – it shouldn’t be hard to lose weight, in fact, it will happen naturally as a consequence of making healthy decisions.
- What else is happening to our bodies as we age? Can we prevent some of this?
Our bodies are just gradually wearing out! There are many theories on why people age – but the accumulation of toxins in our bodies over time certainly causes it not to function as it used to. These toxins come from the natural processes in our body, like breaking down oxygen for energy and stress but also of course from what we eat, drink and are exposed to our environment. If we tried to address every factor that is causing us to age we would probably die from the stress lol – but a good approach is trying to minimize the toxins in our diet (alcohol, sugars, chemicals, refined carbohydrates), trying to manage our stress levels, staying healthy mentally and emotionally and of course maintaining a great exercise program.
- How do I keep pounds off as I approach menopause or during menopause?
It’s simply finding the ideal balance between a healthy diet, exercise and managing your stress levels. Because our physiology is changing we need to become more sensitive to how things affect us. I believe our bodies are capable of giving us the feedback we need to make the right adjustments – we just need to learn how to start listening and tune into our internal intuition that is trying to help us. The bottom line is that we have to be prepared to make some changes – after that, the rest will come.
- Do you need to increase exercise as you get older?
I think that depends on how much a person has been exercising in the past. My clients fall into 3 categories; ones that have tended to over exercise and burn themselves out, ones that enjoy exercising and an active lifestyle and those who have given up. Maybe you fall some where on that continuum. Too much exercise can be just as detrimental as too little. Remember, our body is wearing out, so over training over a long time will speed up the aging process. Our goal is to find a healthy balance – which for most people is 3-4 times a week for at least an hour with a mix of cardio and weight training.
- How does diet factor into this?
I believe diet becomes critical – because it’s not only about weight gain or loss, but fuelling our body with healthy whole foods so that we can function at our optimum. As the years go by, our body is less resilient. When we were younger, a late night, a few glasses of wine and a pizza was taken in our stride. Now, it can leave you feeling flat for days. This is simply because our body isn’t working as efficiently as it was – to process the toxins, digest the food, metabolise the fats and renew our energy. But if we eat healthy whole foods, the body is a magical thing and will natural counter act many of the affects of aging – just through good nutrition.
- Is there anything to do on the fly to help with portion control?
Personally I tend to always take a little soft cooler bag with health snacks on the run. In general prefer to use visual things cup sizes, a spoon, the palm of my hand, a handful, a deck of cards – to help me measure my portions. On top of that, I always try to stop eating when I am satiated, rather than keep going just because the food is there.
- Any other considerations for women?
In general, I find the biggest factor in losing weight and staying fit – is adjusting our thinking. Many women I train and coach come to me at a time when they are struggling with self-image and self esteem issues that have been accumulating over time, sometimes a lifetime. I think in our 40’s things come to a head one way or the other, either through a relationship, work or family crisis. I find many women, decide to get their eating straightened out and get fit – as a way of saying, I am of not feeling good about myself and I am going to do something about it. For that reason, eating healthily and workout becomes very empowering – not just for the health benefits but for how we feel about ourselves and life in general.
- How are you addressing these concerns in your program?
The Get Lean Program is designed to help you develop healthy eating habits that are sustainable in the long term. It’s not a short term fix. It’s about learning to listen to your body, and notice how things like stress, sleep, exercise and certain foods affect it. The program also deals with the mental and emotional aspects of losing weight, especially with my “Think Lean – Get Lean” audio program. I talk a little about my own journey and share how discovering healthy eating and fitness changed my life for the better. Many women find this very inspiring – to see how a regular, conservative, married, sedentary executive – could transform their body and their life in their 40’s.
- Tell us about your program.
I find a lot of women by the time they get into their 40’s have tried many diets. Usually they start out super strict but then as our motivation wanes, we go back to our old habits and the weight comes back on. It takes roughly four weeks before our metabolism jumps to the next fat burning level so Get Lean works with the natural harmony of our body’s physiology. It is divided into three, monthly phases: Momentum, Acceleration and Peak.
The Momentum Phase begins the process of increasing your fat burning metabolism. Your body will adjust to new eating habits and these changes will enable you to maintain your diet while gradually reducing your caloric and carbohydrate intake. The Acceleration Phase will help reduce your body fat % while maintaining the energy levels necessary to work and train hard. Your body will adjust to producing efficient energy from fewer calories and you will see acceleration in your fat loss. The Peak Phase will help you reach your optimum lean body at the end of Month 3.
Everyone on Get Lean gets 12 weeks of follow-up support with weekly emails, bonus recipes and of course, my personal coaching via email. Knowing there is someone there you can talk to and who understands – makes all the difference!