One of the biggest frustrations I hear most often from my over-50 peeps is how weight gain seems to come out of left field. They “do everything right” yet the weight keeps piling on.
So… what the heck?
When you exercise regularly and eat right it should not be so hard, right?
Well, yes and no.
No, in a perfect world it should not be hard.
But yes, it’s hard if you don’t know what it is you don’t know. It’s easy to say you have no idea why you’re gaining weight, but something changed—weight gain does not happen out of thin air. Problem is it’s likely a combination of things you can and can’t control.
This week I unveil the 3 (plus a bonus tip) most common weight loss saboteurs you don’t know you don’t know that you can control…
I thought of this topic this past week when my parents came to visit. My mother, who’s nearly 80, gained quite a bit of weight after menopause (so did my dad, but he can hardly blame menopause). She’d always been very thin, and now she struggles to keep off the weight.
She tells me she uses “very little” fat when she cooks, eats “healthy” most of the time (see last week’s post for the problems with that statement) and stays away from gluten (she was diagnosed with celiac disease in the 60s, before it became all the rage). For nine days I had a chance to see if my mom was trying to pull the wool over my eyes.
I found out she doesn’t eat much, actually. But she also doesn’t stay completely away from gluten which, if you have celiac disease you know is a major no-no. Gluten doesn’t cause severe gastrointestinal reactions in everyone with celiac but can wreck havoc in other, less obvious, ways.
In my mom’s case, she has ulcerative colitis on top of Crohn’s disease and scleroderma—all very serious chronic diseases that certainly are not helped by eating gluten and may even be caused by it. The chronic inflammation from celiac may also be behind some of her weight gain, although no one knows for sure.
I also noticed her cooking with a “just a touch” of olive oil was often a tablespoon or two. It may be a healthy fat, but two tablespoons of olive oil packs a whopping 200 calories into each recipe!
Taking in 200 extra calories a day of anything adds up to a pound of fat every 17 days.
That brings me to the 3 Most Likely Things You Don’t Know You Don’t Know. Little things that don’t consciously register in your brain may be at the root of your weight gain.
(Note: be sure to have your doctor rule out any underlying medical issues that may be causing weight gain, such as an underactive thyroid. Plus, ask if any medications you’re taking could cause weight gain as a side effect):
Your “workout” is more of a walk in the park
It’s great to get fresh air and chitchat with a walking buddy, but if your goal is weight loss you’re going to have to crank it up a notch. Walking at a leisurely stroll burns a little more than 100 calories per 30 minutes, where walking briskly (approximately 4 mph) burns nearly twice that.
Same goes for weight lifting and resistance training. Light weights won’t do anything to change your muscles. You must lift heavy enough to feel a challenge at 12 to 15 reps. If you’re breezing through your program while posting on Facebook or reading on the treadmill you won’t see results anytime soon.
A great way to tell if you’re working hard enough: Buy a heart rate monitor. They usually come packaged with a handy dandy pamphlet that tells you how to track your heart rate and where you should be for your age at various levels of fitness. Check them out here. (Many fitness apps may also get you going, including Hot5, GymPact and RunKeeper, although I’ve personally never used them.)
Hidden fats lurk everywhere
This one fits my mom’s scenario, where she adds fat to dishes without “counting” it. You need a little healthy fat for normal bodily functioning and to help you feel full, but go easy and, most importantly, be aware of where it lurks. The worst offender: restaurant meals. Unless you cook it yourself you have no idea how much the chef uses. Here’s a hint: the sauté chef uses a ladle for “buttering” his pans. Trust me, I’ve worked in restaurants. You don’t want to know how many calories that ladle contains.
A way to capture every calorie: Keep a food journal. I can hear the eye rolls already, but it’s not something you have to do for the rest of your life. I do it whenever I feel it’s time to reign in calories a bit. It can help pinpoint trouble spots.
The key: you must write down every little bite, lick or taste (a nutritionist friend of mine calls these BLTs). No exceptions!
You can’t fix the problem if you don’t know the problem. Tweet this!
The practice alone with make you eat less.
You’ve done the same workout since Flashdance
Put away the leg warmers! An exercise routine you can do in your sleep is likely not doing much for you anymore. Muscles become very efficient and end up burning fewer calories over time. When did you last try something new? A new program or a twist on the same old same old can jumpstart results as your body adjusts. It’s a good idea to shake things up every couple of months.
Quick tips: Even if you walk for your main exercise, try reversing the route, or jogging and walking part of it or (for you daredevils), try an entirely different route, preferably one with hills. Your glutes will thank you for it. For resistance training, swap your crunches for planks or vise versa. Try a new class or a new sport.
BONUS TIP: You live in stretch pants
This may seem like an odd one, but hear me out: You know how goldfish grow to match the size of their container? That’s what your fat does in stretch pants. When I first started working at home it was so tempting to slip on a pair of sweats and flop down in front of the computer. But I knew I’d get lazy. So I wear fitted jeans with a little stretch instead. They’re still comfortable but without making me feel like I could gain 10 pounds and not notice it. At the end of the day I change into sweats once I’m finished with work and am ready to chill out.
Did you find any of these tips eye-opening? If you find they helped you discover a trick that jump-started your weight loss I’d love to hear it! And if you feel this info may be helpful, please forward it to your friends and post it on Twitter and your other social networks.
I’d be extremely grateful!
Please drop me a note below with any questions or comments and I’ll reply as soon as I can.
Thanks for reading!
Fit & feisty & ageless,