I began working as a personal trainer in my mid 30s, in 1995 to be exact. If you’re as bad at math as me, you may be thinking that was like, what — 15 years ago?
In reality, it’s 23 years ago. The 19-year old who works the front desk at my gym wasn’t even BORN when I walked into my first client’s home.
Excuse me while I sob quietly in the corner.
At age 36, I felt “old enough” to know about working out with women over 50.
I was certified, read up on all the books, took classes on working out with “seniors” (ack) and all the rest.
I could not have been more delusional.
Many of my over-50 women clients were finally taking care of themselves after raising a family, some were still working, and others simply realized it was due time to get on a healthy eating and exercise plan if they wanted to live to see their grandchildren get married.
Some were a healthy weight all their lives until they reached the age of 50. Then BOOM! Belly fat that came seemingly out of nowhere, like some magic trick gone horribly awry.
And they wanted answers NOW. Why is this happening? How can I stop it? You’ve been here 30 minutes and I STILL have this belly!
I had three thoughts:
- They’re not telling me the whole truth
- Their significant other is spiking their food with mayo
- They’re mistaking ice cream for cottage cheese
In short, I was clueless.
Over time, however, I discovered a few legit reasons for this mysterious weight gain. The first one came as a total shock to me. And it took some digging to uncover the truth (I even asked my personal doctor, who confirmed it).
I’ll give you a hint: It’s at the end of this sentence.
Yup, your period. A lot changes when that process stops.
1. NO MORE VISITS FROM AUNT FLOW
Looking back at all the times you worried about whether or not to wear white pants on what may be one of those five dreaded days a month, those days were actually more of a “friend” than you thought.
Here’s why: You burn more calories the week or so leading up to your period during your actively reproductive years, up to between 5 and 10% more.
This accounts for those premenstrual cravings: chocolate, sugar, salty snacks, etc. Whether or not you caved in to those cravings is one thing, but the fact remains that you cranked out between 100 and 200 calories more per day during that time.
Clearly, once you enter the merry land of menopause, the cravings stop (a good thing) but along with them also go the additional calorie burn.
The bottom line: If you change nothing after you begin going through menopause, you can gain anywhere from six to eight pounds as easily as falling off a log.
So what can you do?
The answer is so simple I’m almost (but not really) embarrassed to take you through this whole journey only to offer this one solution…
Eat 200 fewer calories a day to make up for it.
Thank you, and good night!
Seriously, it’s simple logic. You need to eliminate a couple hundred calories for about half a month each day to MAINTAIN your weight during menopause, let alone lose weight.
But if you do that, you’ll be ahead of the game.
2. YOUR MUSCLE HAS GONE THE WAY OF THE DODO BIRD
Muscle? Who needs muscle except for bodybuilders, right? If you’re an avid reader of this blog, you’ll know better than that.
Muscle is not likely to make you a contender in an an Olympic strongman contest, but it’s your friend for many reasons.
→ I go into detail in my free webinar, “How To Firm Up After 50.” If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you check that out for the inside scoop.
Muscle burns many more calories at rest than fat and is a big part of your “resting metabolism.” This term refers to the calories you need to keep you alive, otherwise known as your Netflix Burning Calories or NBC (my term) — outside of any additional exercise or activity.
The kicker (caution! science-y terms ahead): 60 to 75% of the calories your burn each day are due to your resting metabolism, a.k.a. BMR, basal metabolic rate.
So let’s connect the dots.
Muscle is part of your BMR, which accounts for a huge chunk of the calories you burn each day.
You lose muscle starting in your 20s and 30s at the rate of 1 to 2% each decade.
That equals… YES! The winner is FAT by a long shot! Fat and weight gain, to be specific… as much as 30+ lbs by the time you reach 50.
Can we reverse this process? Totally. With strength training. Yep, that again.
Because, my dear friend, you can’t escape it. Lift weights, build muscle and fat will go screaming into the darkness like teenagers running into a chainsaw wielding villain. Two to three days a week of a total body workout is the ticket.
Check out my free webinar for all the other massive reasons to hoist a few pounds.
3. YOU ACCEPT INSOMNIA AS PART OF THE AGING PROCESS
Lack of sleep links to weight gain, high blood pressure and a host of other health issues. And as we get older, we often accept the stereotype of getting up at 3 a.m. as a normal waking hour.
Not so. We still need seven to nine hours a night, the same as we did in our mid 20s, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Aches and pain, certain medications, getting up to use the restroom and issues such as restless leg syndrome can make it hard to get and stay asleep. But accepting this as “the way it is” can sabotage weight loss along with a whole host of other health benefits gleaned from a solid night’s sleep.
The sleep people (talk about a dream job — “I’m not napping at my desk, I’m doing research!”) offer tons of ways to up your snooze game. Check them out HERE.
Still tossing and turning? See a doctor of your Zs aren’t up to par.
What about YOU? What do you think is the cause of your weight gain? Let me know in the comments section below….
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Looking for additional info on fitness and health for women over 50? Go to my Facebook page, where I post regularly.
Your Ageless Body Coach,