January 8

3 Unavoidable aging changes even Madonna can’t escape (and how to stop them from causing weight gain)


Next week I celebrate another trip around the sun. At 61, Madonna and I will be the same age. 

That’s where our parallel lives begin and end.


Because here’s the thing with fame: No amount of “fixer upper-ing” yourself via whatever means you choose can change your internal workings. 

In other words, even Madonna can’t avoid menopause and all the changes that go along with it. A recent news article on one of her recent performances included the comment, “she dances like an old woman.”

I can’t do lunges anymore, so performing a death spiral is still admirable in my eyes.

It’s got to be tough. Hot flashes in front of thousands of people is far worse than sweating it out in private. If I break a hip it won’t be front-page news (hopefully), where her fans will be wanting a refund on their tickets.

When it comes to factors that contribute to weight gain, we’re all the same, material girls included.

Here are three changes that occur after 50 and post-menopause… and how to avoid allowing them to undermine your fitness goals.

1. Muscle tone has left the building

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 Olympic strongman contest, but it’s your friend for many reasons.

Here’s why:

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 you 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.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You can’t firm fat. If you do nothing, flab will reign supreme. It’s called being “skinny fat,” and is why you can be at a “healthy” weight and still be loose and jiggly.

You need to restore that muscle if you want tone and firmness. Period.

Speaking of…

2. Aunt Flo no longer visits

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 of 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.

3. You accept sleepless nights as a normal part of aging

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….

Other posts you may like:

10 Ways to burn 350 more calories every day — without exercise (and lose 30 lbs!)

5 Ways to de-stress anywhere (so you can lose belly fat)

3 ways to burn more fat walking (and survey results!)

Looking for additional info on fitness and health for women over 50? Go to my Facebook page, where I post and broadcast regularly.

Your Ageless Body Coach,


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  1. Happy 61st Birthday, Linda, and thank you for writing about Madonna. I admire her so much because she is such a warrior. I’ve seen her in concert and she’s more of an athlete than a singer/dancer and her muscle tone is incredible. I’m especially inspired to see her having a comeback at 61 still dancing and looking amazing…no other women in the music industry is doing that so, in this way, she is a great model for all women, especially those of us over 50. I think the cause of my weight gain is eating too late at night and snacking through the night, not eating enough protein (I don’t eat meat), and POSSIBLY medications that I need to take daily (I’m working with my dr. on this). I also have trouble sleeping through the night so, after reading your article, I realize this might be a reason as well. I am working out every day but still can’t lose weight in my mid-section/stomach area. It is very discouraging because I see improvements everywhere else in my body but I just can’t lose the belly fat!

    1. It takes a LOT of work for Madonna to keep in performance shape. I imagine she’s not much different from an athlete who structures their on a schedule based on when she’s going on stage. So many factors are involved in why we gain weight after menopause. It’s not easy. All any of us can do is the best we can — and try not to put so much pressure on yourself. We’re so much more than our bodies!

  2. Hi Linda,
    I’ll have a bday next week like you. I’ll be 58. I liked your article. I would add the following as causes 1) medications, 2) coping with change of roles and aging( emotional, solace eating3) boredom sometimes. I realize the later two are in my control.
    Also, I don’t know how you feel about hormone replacement, but I think for women like me who have had breast cancer and can’t take hormone replacement, weight gain can come from age related emotional and physical issues. I struggle with this a bit.

    1. I agree, Cindy. In this post, however, I focused on the things we CANNOT control, like hormones. Emotional eating, medications, and boredom absolutely can contribute to weight gain. But we can do something about those by changing our reactions to emotions, switching meds, and doing something other than eating when bored. Great points, though!

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