My age is no secret. I’m not ashamed to say I’m in my 50’s, although I have a bit of trouble believing it myself. I always figured that I’d have a few things figured out by now: like how to cook a turkey (or anything edible for that matter).
But I do have a few important things figured, like how to stay lean and sane when many women my age are pulling their hair out. Being lean is great, but sanity is better. I think one of the things that drives women crazy is their inability to get rid of the expanding waist line, so by solving that issue, the sanity one is also (partially) solved.
Now, I don’t want to offend anyone regarding menopause by saying ‘what’s the big deal?’, but for me, menopausal issues have been minimal. Chronologically speaking, I should be experiencing menopausal horrors but I attribute less severity of ‘symptoms’ to lifestyle choices. It’s not to say that I’ve had none, they’ve just be ‘less’ so to speak.
Maybe I’m lucky? I can tell you that it’s not a genetic thing. My sister was ‘suffering’ big time with symptoms even though she’s not overweight at all and appears to look fit. With a few ‘suggestions’ she’s recently become a ‘burpee convert’ so she’s really upped her fitness level; it’s too soon to tell if this has helped turn down the heat on the flashes, but my guess is it will help. As well, my Mom had a heck of a time, although she was thin, she didn’t have a healthy lifestyle.
It’s all about lifestyle.
I get lots of questions about the big “M” so I thought I’d address a few of the questions here:
Why do women over 40 need a special program and what are their biggest concerns?
Statistics show that two thirds of women will gain between 10-15.lbs during menopause.
It’s centers around the abdomen and is highly correlated to cardiovascular disease, like heart disease and stroke. Women tend to develop “insulin resistance” which means their bodies tend to store fat instead of burning calories. There are other factors involved in creating the middle age spread such as hormonal imbalances, lack of sleep, dietary concerns, nutritional imbalances and high cortisol levels caused by stress, just to name a few.
Women need a program that will address each of these concerns.
What is it about menopause that causes weight gain?
There’s an assumption that weight gain is cased by menopause, however, it has more to do with lifestyle than hormonal changes. In fact, those who are vigorously active have less likelihood to gain weight. There are really a few true symptoms of menopause which are hot flashes, night sweats, sleep deprivation, mood swings and vaginal dryness.
Weight gain isn’t a medically documented symptom, but is rather a result of lifestyle for 10-15 years PRIOR to the start of menopause. Typically women become increasingly sedentary during those years and they trade lean muscle tone for fat. Even if women weigh the same amount (which often isn’t the case), body composition changes which makes it difficult to stay lean.
Women will even gain weight eating the same amount or less due to having less metabolically active lean muscle.
So, it’s actually true that metabolism slows, but it’s mainly due to less lean muscle than hormonal changes.
Does metabolism slow down at menopause?
As I said, it’s actually the loss of lean muscle that leads to a tanking metabolism, not hormone changes per se. And it starts earlier than menopause with a loss of 1-2% of lean muscle per decade. This equates to about 10-15 lbs which is replaced by fat. Fat is basically dead weight and is less metabolically active. For more sedentary women, they start trading muscle for fat, over time but often start to notice changes at menopause.
What’s going on with our hormones that may cause weight gain?
The ovaries produce less estrogen and the body starts searching for other places to compensate or fill up for the deficit. Fat cells in the body can generate estrogen, so the body works harder to convert calories into fat to increase estrogen levels. Unlike the muscle cells in the body, the fat cells don’t burn calories. This causes the accumulation of those unwanted pounds and the body ends up storing more fat than it used to.
Why do women gain weight around the mid section?
There are a few factors at work here.
Many women follow a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet and after time, processed and refined foods may make your body resistant to insulin. As well, insulin resistance, causes they body to mistakenly turn calories ingested into fat.
At menopause, estrogen levels drop and low estrogen levels are associated with loss of subcutaneous fat (which is fat under the skin) and the gain of visceral fat (which is fat located inside the abdomen).
How do I keep pounds off as I approach menopause or during menopause?
All of this can be curbed when you begin intense exercise several days a week. It’s not about quantity, but about quality or INTENSITY of exercise. Resistance training is a MUST to increase lean muscle tone. Lean muscle is calorie burning, metabolically active tissue, it takes calories to maintain it so you’ll burn more calories even while sleeping if you have more meat on your bones.
With age, the body is re-compositioning: losing lean muscle and replacing it with fat. The end result of this is a ‘fatter’ body that is weaker, has less energy and is prone to weight gain. Resistance training can turn this cycle around. You’ll look and function better and you won’t be prone to weight gain as readily as your ‘fatter’ counterpart who basically ‘weighs’ the same, but has a fatter composition.
How does diet factor into this?
Of course, it goes without saying that nutrition is an important factor. But it doesn’t mean a starvation diet by any means.
A diet full of lean protein, low glycemic carbs, veggies, fruits, healthy fats and an elimination of processed foods is a great place to start.
The solution to better eating is NOT to go on a ‘diet’. In fact, it’s best to never go on a ‘diet’ again. Instead, make permanent healthy changes to your eating habits.
Here are ten things to start today:
- Eat 5-6 times a day
- Eat fresh produce with every meal
- Include more fish in your diet
- Drink more water
- Make every meal and snack count nutritionally
- Limit desserts to one or two per week
- Say ‘no’ to fast food.
- Say ‘no’ to other liquid calories (alcohol)
- Cut out anything ‘white’ (rice, bread, etc)
- Cut out mindless snacking
So, is there any hope for women experiencing all this?
I’m here to say a resounding YES. I’ve had great success with hundreds of clients in my fitness boot camp who’ve embraced the principles in my Female Fat Loss Over 40 program, as well, I have just as many online clients that are living happier and healthier lives.
Take a look at the plan for yourself (or for someone you love). Here are a few things that you’ll find:
- 12 workouts with full length follow along videos
- Nutrition guide
- Meal plans
- Sleep guide
- Audio program
- Exercise library (printed and video)
While I’m not thrilled to say that I’m over a half century old, I like the knowledge that I’ve acquired in that time. Learning to feel good in my own skin helps me to feel, look and function years younger. If the workouts in my Challenge Workout series are a little too ‘challenging’ for you, consider Female Fat Loss Over 40 as a great start.