Recently, I participated in the first TransformAging online webinar; a two-day educational series for midlife women interested in improving their health and fitness. I shared many specific tips and tricks for keeping ‘menopot’ at bay.
Below, I briefly outline what I consider to be the four most important lifestyle strategies for staying slim through midlife and beyond. Want more details? Action items you can implement today? Workouts and skincare tips relevant to your age and stage of life?
The entire 6-part webinar series is available for purchase; watch, listen, pause and take note of what leading professionals in the field of midlife health and wellness think you should do to make the next half of your life the best half of your life.
Most people gain weight as they age.
On average, we gain about a pound a year during our 40’s and 50’s. (Although this trend tends to reverse after age 65, it’s due not to fat loss, but to loss of muscle mass and bone density; never a good reason to celebrate losing a few pounds 🙁 ).
Midlife weight gain occurs primarily because we (1) become more sedentary with age and (2) have a tendency to eat more calories than we expend, but also, in part, because (3) our bodies produce less of the fat-burning, muscle-building hormones of youth.
Fluctuating estrogen and progesterone levels contribute to middle-of-the-body weight gain by (1) increasing the rate at which women store both subcutaneous (below the skin) and visceral fat (the fat that surrounds vital organs deep within the belly) and (2) triggering changes in insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism.
Translation: we’re less able to burn fat and more likely to store it, in particular, around our mid-sections.
Strategies for staying slim through midlife (and beyond)
- Strength training reigns: midlife loss of metabolism is largely attributed to a loss in muscle mass. Muscle is metabolically active which means it burns more calories at rest than fat.
Prioritizing strength training over other forms of physical activity will not only elevate your metabolic rate, it will also improve bone density, enhance blood sugar regulation, lower stress (see below), make the activities of your daily life easier and give you a leaner, more youthful appearance. Pretty awesome for just 30 minutes of weight lifting, three times a week.
- Sugar reduction: with loss of estrogen comes an increased sensitivity to carbohydrates. Your body may not process them as easily as it once did, resulting in those excess sugars being stored as fat.
In addition to lowering your daily calorie count, reducing your intake of added sugars (pretty much any ingredient ending with the letters ‘ose’) and simple carbohydrates (breads, cereals, pasta, white rice) will improve your body’s ability to regulate blood sugars and lower your risk of Type II diabetes. Aim for no more than 30 g of added sugar per day (that’s about 6 tsp).
- Sleep more: the fluctuating hormones of perimenopause often trigger sleep disturbance. Difficulties falling and staying asleep. Middle-of-the-night insomnia. Early wake-ups. (I know, I’m experiencing them all myself).
Sleep plays an important role in the regulation of several hormone systems. It helps to re-set the hormones responsible for food cravings and feeling of satiety (leptin and ghrelin). It lowers cortisol levels (see Stress less below). It improves blood sugar regulation and hastens muscle repair and recovery. And don’t forget about it’s role in learning and memory. Aim for 7 hours a night, go to bed earlier, if, like me, you’re not able to sleep in.
- Stress less: Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in the body. It raises blood pressure, suppresses the immune system, increases the risk of obesity, heart attack and stroke. Not to mention speeding up the aging process. Find ways to incorporate more stress-reducing activities in your day; walking, time spent in nature, reading, meditation, yoga and knitting have all been shown to reduce circulating cortisol levels.
Combine elevated stress hormone (cortisol) with elevated blood sugars, low estrogen and non-existent progesterone, and you’ve got the perfect ‘menopot’ storm. Not just an annoyance when it comes to buying jeans, but a serious health risk as well!
Ready to push those storm clouds away?
I’d love to help you individualize and implement the strategies suggested above. Come Septembert 1st I’ll have 3 openings in my One-on-One Fitness Coaching schedule. One of which could be YOURS!
I’m passionate about helping midlife women become the fittest, healthiest and happiest version of themselves possible and I’d love to chat with YOU.