How to Stop Middle Age Spread
I always thought I was luckier than most, in that putting weight on didn’t pose such an issue. That was until I had my babies and then it all started to unravel. Then menopause hit and even though I’m quite slim, if I’m not careful I start to see that awful roll of flesh OKA ‘the muffin top’!!
What Causes Weight Gain When Menopause Comes?
I’m not an expert on metabolism so have pulled information from various places for this post. The main thing to note though from what I’ve read is that the main culprit is metabolic decline. Our hormone systems are complex and drive many of our bodily functions and we only tend to ‘treat’ any issues when we start to get a real problem such as diabetes.
Suffice to say, as we age our metabolism slows down. Our reproductive hormones and other hormones such as DHEA that drive our ‘mojo’ decline rapidly as do our growth hormone. The wrong hormones will increase with stress (cortisol) and sometimes a bad diet will triggers too much activity at the wrong times (insulin). One of the more contentious areas (in mainstream medicine) that is used to help with the crazy hormone changes and that will often address problems with weight is hormone modulation and I’m a bit of a fan of this. I am a bit of a risk taker though, so if you are risk adverse then please move onto a more traditional approach!
A big issue that I see is that menopausal women often exercise less than other women do, and of course, this will lead to weight gain. This can be due to our busy lives and the fact that we have many people to look after and tend to put ourselves last. In addition, our energy declines, probably I think with our metabolism, so this leads to a vicious cycle. To compound things, our muscle mass diminishes with age so there is less fat burning activity as well. Then there are the genetic influences, stress, lack of sleep, and so the list goes on.
What Can We Do to Put a Stop to the Middle Age Spread?
There is no short cut and no surprises. We kid ourselves that we can lose weight with a quiet walk around the block! “I walk daily” is what I hear from many women that I meet. Walking is not an efficient way to lose weight unfortunately and will not stave off disease for most if that’s all that’s done for exercise. You have to huff and puff and do the work.
Recent research by Harvard researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) shows that if a middle-aged or older woman with a normal body mass index wants to maintain her weight over an
extended period, she must engage in the equivalent of 60 minutes per day of physical activity at a moderate intensity. It shows that the 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity, which can be achieved by 30 minutes a day, five days a week, and which is typically recommended (while clearly ‘sufficient’ based on data from many studies to lower the risk of developing chronic diseases), is insufficient for weight-gain prevention, without restricting caloric intake.
So let’s get down to business to combat middle age spread and to optimize metabolism! I hope these tips might help get you going:
- Increase your physical activity – increasing your physical activity has a range of positive effects on the body, by reducing stress on arteries, preventing clogging, improving glucose and blood pressure control, and helping us maintain a healthy weight. A combination of cardio and weight-bearing exercise is best. At the start, aim for 30 minutes daily achieving a minimum heart rate of 65% of your maximum and then build up from there
- Find an exercise buddy to work out or walk with
- Buy a pedometer and join the 10,000 steps program (www.10000steps.org.au)
- Find out about classes run at your local community centre. Aerobics, yoga or dancing are great options
- Try karate or another martial art
- Reduce calorie intake – eat smaller portions in general and if you want more food, then eat more veges
- See a dietician or nutritionist for a dietary program that suits your specific needs
- Clear out your pantry – bin all the lollies, chips, snacks, biscuits and ‘empty calorie’ foods
- Figure out your caloric intake needs and then reduce by 20%. If you are unsure what your caloric needs are see a nutritionist or dietician to guide you
Managing weight is never easy, but the 7 principles of SLOW AGING (AGELESS) can help guide you in meeting the challenge to minimize the muffin top:
- AWARENESS and engagement in the ageing process
- GOAL setting is essential as part of a strategic planning process
- ELIMINATE the negative; accent the positive. Find a way to LOVE what you are doing
- LIFE-LONG focus; you need to make choices that are sustainable in the long term
- EXCLUSIVENESS should be avoided as there is rarely one solution and complex problems require complex solutions
- SUPPORT is out there, so get help
- Be SELECTIVE; find a solution that is right for you
Harvard Gazette 11 April 2013