It’s been years since I’ve stepped foot in a Target. I had to stop, because as soon as I made it past the freshly made popcorn, something in my brain clicked. Rationality checked out, and bargain-hunting retail zombie took over.  

I became a shopper possessed.

It was as if I’d won a supermarket shopping spree. My eyes would glaze over.  “Look at these prices!” I’d say out loud to people slowly backing away from me, as I’d throw things in my cart I didn’t even need.

After all, who can pass up half-price hand towels, discounted picture frames and 16-roll packages of paper towels “priced to sell!”

It was all fun and games until I reached the checkout counter. Then it was Game Over.

“That will be $375.16,” says the cashier.

Wait, what? How could that be? Nothing cost more than $1.99! I’d think, handing over my credit card, gazing over the mountain-size pile of stuff in my cart, trying to act as if I truly was not insane.

I could easily do the same thing in Sephora’s (I’ve confessed many times about my makeup addiction), but one or two products could quickly break that record and all I’d have to show for it would be a tiny shopping bag the size of a hamster. .

Since my natural inclination is to run through the store tossing every eyeshadow palette and anti-aging eye cream into my tote, I take a deep breath and, like a gambler in Vegas, I set my limit before I enter the store.

Similarly, if you continue ignoring reality and run through the ice cream store as if you were a 20-something year old (“… two scoops, extra sprinkles, please!”), those calories will also catch up with you.

And, like discount dish towels, it adds up faster than you can imagine.

It’s easy to cut calories when you’re spooning Chunky Monkey out of the container every night or waking up on the couch with a slice of half-eaten pizza hanging out of your mouth.

Clearly, you know what you need to do.

But it’s rarely that obvious. In reality, it’s the little things you “don’t count,” such as finishing your grandson’s ravioli or spooning cake batter out of the mixing bowl. (I know, it’s like I’m there with you.)

Weight gain after 50 is much more stealthy. You go about your business as usual, living life as you’ve done the prior 50 years, but then comes That Day:

  • You go to put on your favorite pants and pop a button
  • You see a photo of yourself from behind and it’s less than pretty
  • You step on the scale for the first time in five years and weigh more than when you were full-term with your now 30-year old

The statement I hear most often, “I don’t know what happened! I never had a weight problem and then BAM!, I gained 25 pounds the day after I reached menopause.”

I hear ya.

If I told you it’s because you were abducted by aliens in your sleep and injected with syringes filled with Boston Cream Pie, you’d probably nod your head in relief.   

“You will soon be shaped like us!

“Is that all? At least now I know,” you’d say.

Unfortunately, it’s creepier than that.

In fact, I call the actual situation The Creep, not to be confused with the guy at the gym who stares at you while you’re on the inner thigh machine.

No, it’s the creep of tiny calories that make their way into your diet without you realizing it. A spoonful of this here, a sip of that there, and before you know it you’re shopping in the tent aisle at Home Depot for a dress.

Then there’s activity level. If your energy level tanks faster than your IQ drops while watching a ghost hunting reality show, you’re in good company.

Research backs up this seemingly mysterious event, too. A 2016 study showed a link between lack of ovarian hormones and changes in the brain that made        exercise less pleasurable (yes, there is such a thing) after menopause.

Scientists theorized this lower motivation and less moving around coupled with increased calorie intake leads to weight gain after menopause.

Bottom line: we eat more and move less, creating a perfect breeding ground for – you guessed it – belly fat!

Speaking of…

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Just as all those little “bargains” added up to a ridiculous amount of money (and no, that was not the actual total of my last Target shopping spree, but it wasn’t far off…) without me knowing it, tiny things you do — and don’t do — throughout the days, months, and years, add up to pounds the same way.

The good news? You can also reverse engineer those pounds by taking small steps in the opposite direction.

Except instead of ending up with a cart full of crap you don’t need, you end up with a smaller waistline.

Sound like a good trade-off? Then let’s hop to it…

  1. If you are a complete newbie, commit to 10 minutes of cardio/walking/activity five days this week. That’s it. If you get started and decide you want to go for longer, that’s great. But start off slowly to get yourself in the habit. If you already exercise, add 10 minutes to your routine.
  2. Cut out one condiment – or cut it in half. For example, if you usually use 2 tablespoons of salad dressing go with 1 tablespoon or substitute balsamic vinegar or a plain, dry salt-free seasoning sprinkle.
  3. Do one new strength training exercise this week, such as push-ups, planks, squats or crunches.
  4. Try a new vegetable this week — the one you pick up and say, “What the heck is this?” – and substitute it for a grainy carb (bread, rice or pasta).
  5. Meditate or simply sit quietly for 5 minutes each morning before you start your day. Focus on your breathing without allowing other thoughts to intrude (this takes practice). If you’re an overachiever start keeping a gratitude journal. You’ll feel amazing about your accomplishments within a short time.
  6. Up your fiber. A study showed that when women increased their daily fiber intake from 12 to 24 grams they absorbed 90 fewer calories a day – which translates to 10 pounds a year! High-fiber foods include raspberries, Brussels sprouts, high-fiber cereals, and many others.
  7. Pump up protein. Be sure to include some protein at every meal, including breakfast and snacks. Protein cuts your appetite, boosts metabolism and keeps you full longer.

Say it with me now: “Protein is my pal!”

Easy ways to add protein to meals: stir whey protein into oatmeal and smoothies, cut up chicken/tuna or add cottage cheese to salads, top meals with a tablespoon or two of chopped nuts.

YOUR TURN! What small steps will YOU take this week to reverse engineer belly fat? Let me know in the comments section below… and please forward this so your Ageless friends! I will be forever grateful :).

Other posts you may enjoy:

A common habit that stops results in its tracks (and you won’t know about it until it’s too late)

5 Ways to Firm Up Faster

5 Times you get in your own way… and how to stop it

Your Ageless Body Coach,