While I haven’t hit middle-age yet, I can speak from experience about how weight management has changed over my lifespan thus far. Weight management was certainly a different story in my early 20s, along with my teenage years. During these days, it was easy to neglect the quality of my diet and avoid the consequences. This unfortunately, doesn’t last forever.
As time goes on, there are a number of factors that influence the way our body stores fat, along with our metabolic rate. These factors occur independent of our lifestyle habits, however they do require alterations in our diet, exercise, stress-management and supplement routines.
Culprit # 1: Hormone Shifts & Insulin Resistance
As hormones start to shift in our 40’s, the body begins to deposit excess energy as visceral fat. This type of fat surrounds our major organs, as opposed to the fat just under the skin, which women commonly have under the hips and thighs. This type of fat deposition is more strongly associated with chronic disease than subcutaneous fat. These shifts also do alter the body’s inflammatory status and sensitivity to insulin, which governs how well we cope with blood sugar fluctuations. Together, this is when a woman’s risk of diabetes and cardiovascular issues starts to really hit home.
Solution: As our body changes in the way it responds to insulin, we should be watching our carbohydrate consumption. It is time to swap your favorite carb-dense breakfast options (cereal or toast) for a protein-heavy option (breakfast egg cups). You’ll want to get your carbohydrates from foods that your body has to work to break down: fruits, vegetables, intact whole grains and legumes. The type that have plenty of fibre and water to fill you up…and produce a slow, steady rise in blood sugar.
Culprit # 2: Stress
As time goes on, we often find ourselves more bogged down with various responsibilities and concerns. This can lead to chronic stress. The hormone cortisol is released when our body is under stress, and causes triglycerides to be relocated to visceral fat cells, increasing storage of belly fat. Elevated cortisol levels also cause an increase in blood glucose, while suppressing the effects of insulin, leading to constant feelings of hunger and can lead to overeating. To make matters worse, all of that unused blood glucose is eventually stored as body fat.
Solution: Please please please don’t neglect self-care. Self-care is non-negotiable. Take a look at this article about How I Keep My Mood Up And Stress Down.
Culprit # 3: Lean Body Mass Decrease
With each passing birthday after the big 3-0, we start to lose muscle mass. This is because our muscle cells just aren’t as efficient at repairing themselves up the way they used to. Natural dips in hormone production (estrogen, testosterone and growth hormone levels all decline with age) can also contribute to some loss of muscle mass.
Since muscle tissue does a lot of metabolic ‘work’ that uses up a lot of calories, the loss of muscle tissue as you age means that you will burn fewer calories per day than you used to. In other words, your metabolic rate slows down. That has got to be the worst birthday present of all time! When our metabolism slows down, we will gain weight, especially if we continue to eat the same amount of food as we did when we were younger.
Solution: It’s not necessarily the total amount of protein we have in a day, rather the amount of protein at each meal, that is most important. Always aim for 20-30 grams at each meal – including breakfast! Lift weights for stronger bones and muscles. Make strength training part of a well-rounded exercise program that includes activities to get your heart pumping.
Culprit #4: Trouble Sleeping
Not racking up enough zzs can mess with your hunger hormones, which can lead to weight gain — even if you eat clean and work out regularly. Your stomach produces ghrelin, a hormone that tells the brain we’re hungry, and production of ghrelin can ramp up when we’re continually not getting enough sleep. In addition, your body may ramp up cortisol production if you don’t get enough sleep.
A good night’s sleep will not boost your metabolism, but going without sleep can add pounds. Sleep-deprived people tend to eat more calories than they need.
Solution: Establish an effective and calming bedtime routine. Don’t just fall asleep in front of the TV! Also take a look at what you’re eating before bed. Certain foods can promote a better sleep! Check out my article Simple Food Swaps For A Better Sleep.