Midlife weight gain doesn’t happen all at once. Instead, it maddeningly creeps up on you a little at a time. (Insert that teeth-gritting emoji HERE.) The culprits? Hormonal fluctuations, a probable decrease in physical activity, and a slowing metabolism caused by a loss of muscle mass. Add to that the fact that as we age, doctors say it becomes even more important to keep our weight at healthy levels to stave off a multitude of diseases. We all know that we need to eat less and move more as we age, but what else can we do to combat midlife weight gain? Here are five tips.
1. Up your consumption of fruits and veggies.
I recently shared that I have two family members on Weight Watchers right now. They are assigned a specific number of points they can eat per day in order to lose weight. Under this point system, fruits and veggies are free. That’s right. Fruits and veggies are worth zero points. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “The water and fiber in fruits and vegetables will add volume to your dishes, so you can eat the same amount of food with fewer calories. Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories and are filling.” Be sure to wash produce well or purchase organic if you can, as pesticides are considered obesogens, and are also linked to weight gain.
2. Build muscle mass.
Muscle mass loss can begin as early as our 30s, and it declines even more rapidly – about 15 percent per decade – starting around age 50. (Insert sad-faced emoji HERE.) Muscle burns calories (even when you are at rest), so this loss of muscle mass is the true culprit when it comes to your slowing metabolism. The only solution is to strength train, either with weights or using body weight. I lift weights but prefer body weight exercises, because I can do them anywhere with no equipment. (Thus removing all of my excuses!) I use free online workouts by Fitness Blender to guide me. If you need more guidance, a few sessions with a certified personal trainer might help to get you on the right track.
3. Get more sleep.
The well-known Nurses Health Study found a significant link between reduced sleep and weight gain in women. The appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin increases with reduced sleep, and the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin decreases. I also find that when I am tired, I tend to make poor decisions in general, making it more challenging to make good food choices.
4. Figure out why you eat.
Emotional eating can be linked to emotions like depression, anxiety, discouragement, fear, or even excitement and joy. What causes you to make poor food choices? If you haven’t examined the emotional reasons behind your food choices, it’s probably time to do that. If you can’t figure it out on your own, here’s a free online test that might help.
5. Fight stress.
Although it may look like empty nesters are enjoying the good life, we know that life over 50 can be stressful. Many of us are dealing with aging parents, concerns about our adult children, and job-related stress. Stress triggers the hormone cortisol within our bodies, leading to increased appetite and cravings for unhealthy foods. You can fight stress by doing things like taking a walk, calling a friend to vent, practicing yoga, or spending time in prayer. I am currently reading a book called The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal. It’s based on her famous TED talk called “How to Make Stress Your Friend.” In it, she cites new research proving that undergoing stress is not bad for you; it is undergoing stress while believing that stress is bad for you that makes it harmful. In fact, stress has many benefits! It’s changed my thinking on stress completely and made a big difference in my anxiety level.
While it’s true that midlife weight gain is something to be more conscious of after age fifty, there are small changes we can make that can help in the battle. Sometimes the biggest challenge can be coming to grips with the fact that we are not the age of our kids and we just can’t get away with the food choices that they make. (Insert eye-rolling emoji HERE.) How do you fight the midlife weight gain battle? Leave me a comment and give me some inspiration! We’re in it together, friends.
P. S. If you’re like me (um, fairly shallow, that is), cute workout wear can help keep you motivated to move. Right now, I am obsessed with this reversible Zella workout tee from Nordstrom. You can wear it frontward or backward! It’s super flattering either way and I’ve worn it for errands, as well as to work out. Truth be told, I’ve even worn it to bed because it is so comfy! As always, free shipping and returns from Nordstrom.