Tagged: Weight gain

Aging & Our Bodies

Many years ago I posted Maturity, Menopause & Metabolism and it seems a good time to remind us all that aging and our bodies changing is inevitable and we must keep a positive and healthy perspective.  I’ve updated it and re-post it as a helpful reminder that we’re all in this together and we’re all doing just fine!

* * * * * *

When I was a very slim 20-something it seemed like every woman who was overweight would say to me “wait until you hit 40, then you won’t be skinny anymore.” Well 40 came and went and I was still underweight. Then it became “ha ha when you hit menopause, then you’ll see!” Menopause abruptly came to call when I was 48 and I’m still not overweight at 56.

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But all these forecasts of my physical doom haunted me for years and as I became a fitness professional I looked hard at why age 40, or menopause would automatically trigger weight gain for so many women. What I discovered was that it’s not so much about the age, as it is about what lifestyle you lead, any medical conditions, and your perspective.

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Let’s tackle the 40’s first. People say your metabolism slows down by age 40. While there is truth to the fact that metabolism (“the chemical process that results in production of energy and elimination of waste”) does slow down with age, it is not automatic or inevitable. The typical adult slows down their energy output voluntarily, i.e., they work longer hours, drive longer distances, and are more sedentary when home. Also, as we get older we eat more, having more money as well as a wider taste pallet, therefore causing our calories to increase.  In the case of an individual who stays consistently physically active and maintains a constant moderate calorie consumption, they will likely not gain any significant weight as they hit a milestone of 40 or 50.

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Menopause is a different hurdle. There is no question that with the absence of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone (all present in a pre-menopause woman), the body will gain wait and the metabolism will slow down. Women’s bodies gain belly fat as they go through menopause because the mechanical brain knows what our emotions do not – that fat contains estrogen and our bodies need at least a little estrogen. But again, if an individual stays consistently active and maintains a balance between calories in vs. calories out, the weight gain can be slight and manageable (as it’s been in my case).

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Medically speaking, often with the onset of menopause, the thyroid will also give out, tending towards the hypo-activity (under active) which definitely causes weight gain and a loss of energy. But with proper medication, the missing thyroid output is restored and that portion of the weight gain can be reduced. Also, if menopause is a result of a full hysterectomy, or induced as a result of cancer treatments, a woman can experience rapid weight gain. This weight is very stubborn to remove. That’s when our last criteria comes into play.

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Perspective. We are a society focused upon the hollow ideals that women have to have perfect bodies and look young and fit all the time. My mother used to say it was too bad that the Zoftig bodies of her generation weren’t in vogue any more because that was a more realistic perspective of women’s bodies and the beauty that they possess. I have a client who would be considered over weight by most standards. Despite her roundness, she is super fit and flexible, and loves to salsa dance and take yoga. She eats well, laughs a lot, and feels sexy anyway. Her husband agrees whole heartedly!

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As I’ve detailed in numerous other posts in my blog stress and lack of sleep also contributes to weight gain. Often the lives of those in their 40’s to 50’s are at their most stressful – the kids heading towards college, careers being full steam, their parents becoming oilder and often less healthy, as well as the aforementioned menopause, cancer treatemetns, etc. During these 10-20 years stresses are higher, and undoubtedly sound long sleep is lower, both of which contribute to your body holding on to fat.

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So if you exercise regularly, eat lean and healthy, and can achieve whatever reasonable physical challenge or goals you desire, then you are perfect the way you are. Your body as it ages is going to change. In some ways I look better than I did when I was 20, and in other ways I don’t. But my perspective is that I can keep up with my 11 year old, I can climb rocks, trees, and lift weights for hours at the gym, and I can sit on my butt and drink wine and eat chocolate and not stress over it. So I’m okay, and life is good. Now if only these hot flashes would go away! Wink wink.

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Fitness on Vacation

As we hit the midway mark of the summer I, like many of you, am readying to take a long vacation with my family. I am likewise concerned, as you may be, about how to get my workouts done while on vacation. While I am always full of well-intentioned commitments to exercise while on holiday, it may surprise you to know that I too experience a significant drop in my motivation to exercise while enjoying my time off.

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So what can we do to maintain our fitness goals while on vacation? My first suggestion is to be okay with not working out. That’s right, I said it’s okay to skip a week. In fact I frame my workouts (my own and for my clients) in 6-week intervals with a mandatory week off before a new routine starts. This allows for complete recovery and rest and readies the muscles for new abuses. I thus, try to time my vacations with that week off, or shift things around to allow for it.

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However, it is worth noting that a large percentage of people find they do not gain more body fat while on vacation as they are moving more than they do during a usual work week. Between swimming, walking, hiking, or even dodging through crowds at theme parks, you will likely burn more calories than you do during your average sedentary job. Now of course there’s the extra high-caloric intake that also comes along with vacations – more cocktails, sweets, and fried or exotic foods are common – but again if you’re moving more than usual, you might at least break even.

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Depending upon your destination, try to schedule at least one thing per week that is physically different than your norm: i.e., a snorkel trip, a day-long hike or river raft trip, a walking exploration of pyramids or volcanos, or just a family game of beach volleyball.  One “excursion” like this can utilize muscles in a way your body isn’t accustomed too, and the caloric burn of that will benefit you greatly.

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Another suggestion is for you to reserve 30-minutes every day for focused movement or exercise. If you’re walking/hiking more than usual, take a half hour before bed to stretch your muscles (improvise some yoga or pull up something on YouTube). If your vacation days are more sedentary (just sitting by the pool), then commit to a 30-minute visit to a gym or a class (offered at many resorts or on cruise ships), follow along with a YouTube exercise video on your phone, tablet or laptop, or bring your own resistance bands and attack your muscles in the comfort of your hotel room.

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My last piece of advice I can share with my fellow vacationers is this: RELAX. Life for most of us is hectic and stressful and relaxation is a huge component in your body’s ability to stop holding onto excess body fat as well as maintaining a good immune system. So let your brain unwind, don’t eat complete crap, and if possible throw in a few workouts and your vacation will be successful and your fitness goals don’t have to suffer any setbacks.

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Now go enjoy that holiday/vacation!

Maturity, Menopause & Metabolism

steps-involved-in-lipid-metabolism1When I was a very slim 20-something it seemed like every woman who was overweight would say to me “wait until you hit 40, then you won’t be skinny anymore.”  Well 40 came and went and I was still underweight. Then it became “ha ha when you hit menopause, then you’ll see!”  Menopause abruptly came to call when I was 48 and I’m still not overweight at 52.

But all these forecasts of my physical doom haunted me for years and as I became a fitness professional I looked hard at why age 40, or menopause would automatically trigger weight gain for so many women.  What I discovered was that it’s not so much about the age, as it is about what lifestyle you lead, any medical conditions, and your perspective.

Let’s tackle the 40’s first. People say your metabolism slows down by age 40.  While there is truth to the fact that metabolism (“the chemical process that results in production of energy and elimination of waste“) does slow down with age, it is not automatic or inevitable. The typical adult slows down their energy output voluntarily, i.e., they work longer hours, drive longer distances, and are more sedentary when home. Also, as we get older we eat more, having more money as well as a wider taste pallet, therefore causing our calories to increase.

In the case of an individual who stays consistently physically active and maintains a constant moderate calorie consumption, they will not gain weight as they hit a milestone of 40 or 50.untitled

Menopause is a different hurdle. There is no question that with the absence of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone (all present in a pre-menopause woman), the body will gain weight and the metabolism will slow down.  But again, if an individual stays consistently active and maintains a balance between calories in vs. calories out, the weight gain can be slight and manageable (as it’s been in my case).

Medically speaking, often with the onset of menopause, the thyroid will also give out, tending towards the hypo-activity (under active) which definitely causes weight gain and a loss of energy.  But with proper medication, the missing thyroid output is restored and that portion of the weight gain can be reduced. Also, if menopause is a result of a full hysterectomy, or induced as a result of cancer treatments, a woman can experience rapid weight gain.  This weight is very stubborn to remove.  That’s when our last criteria comes into play.

zoftig

Perspective.  We are a society focused upon the hollow ideals that women have to have perfect bodies and look young and fit all the time.  My mother used to say it was too bad that the Zoftig bodies of her generation weren’t in vogue any more because that was a more realistic perspective of women’s bodies and the beauty that they possess. I have a client who would be considered over weight by most standards. Despite her roundness, she is super fit and flexible, and loves to salsa dance and take yoga.  She eats well, laughs a lot, and feels sexy anyway. Her husband agrees whole heartedly!

meno

So if you exercise regularly, eat well and clean, and can achieve whatever reasonable physical challenge or goals you desire, then you are perfect the way you are. Your body as it ages is going to change. In some ways I look better than I did when I was 20, and in other ways I don’t.  But my perspective is that I can keep up with my 7 year old, I can climb rocks, trees, and lift weights for hours at the gym, and I can sit on my butt and drink wine and eat chocolate and not stress over it.  So I’m okay, and life is good.  Now if only these hot flashes would go away! Wink wink.

Obsession vs. Acceptance

How many times a day do you worry about your weight?  Do you spend hours wishing you looked differently, obsessing about what you’re eating (or not eating), and/or trying every single “get six pack abs” video, exercise pins on Pinterest, and/or radical weight loss diets?obsession1

We are a Nation of obsessed bodies! I have clients, friends, and family who spend massive amounts of time fretting over what they can eat, when they can eat, and how they can change their diets to accommodate quick weight loss, while still enjoying all the things they love to eat and drink.  First everyone followed The Zone, now it’s Paleo; P90X was replaced with Insanity (literally).

dietOn DLF’s Pinterest page (http://pinterest.com/DaneLifeFit/), I see at least 25 new and different “these are the best exercises for toning the abs” pins every day! Of course, many of the people (mostly women) who pin these to their boards might not remember (or know) that the models in the pictures are usually women in their early 20’s, who work out 2-3 hours a day, and eat a very strict and regimented diet.

I am routinely questioned by clients obsessed with reinventing the workout to affect a change faster and better: is alternating sprints with incline walking better use of a treadmill than 40 minutes of straight running?  Are core workouts on a ball or TRX cable better than old-fashioned weight lifting (now re-named the less intimidating “resistance training”)?

Dear friends and followers, the answers to these questions that plague you day and night, and all that you obsess about when it comes to nutrition and exercise, is this:

ACCEPTANCE is the first step.

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Accept your body type.

Are you an ectomorph, mesomorph, or endomorph? (Look ‘em up!)  Take two people of equal age, height, and frame. They may look the same, but they can have a weight differential of as much as 15 pounds.  There’s more to a healthy body than an average height-weight scale that our doctors impose upon us. There’s more to you than what size shirt you wear.

Accept the effect your current lifestyle plays.stress1

Stress is the number one culprit in keeping weight ON.  The demands of your job, school, kids, your worries about finances, etc., all play a huge role in weight gain and/or lack of weight loss.

Accept that permanent change happens slowly.

There are no quick fixes to re-shaping the body, especially if you want these changes to stick.  Remember too, that a”diet” implies temporary.  Therefore, as soon as you resume your “normal” (old habits) of eating, you will gain weight again.  As for exercise, if you have or make little time for it, or just plain dislike it – no video, class, trendy running of 100 steps in Brentwood will work in the long run because you will get bored, or see so few results that you’ll give up.

So rather than obsessing, let’s accept.  With that hurdle jumped, we can address those issues that we can actually do something about.

Set a realistic goal for what your body can look like.

Once you figure out what your body type really is, and how much time you can give to exercise and proper nutrition (see the points below), you can set a realistic goal – one that you can actually achieve and then feel satisfaction and accomplishment about.

zenFix your environment.

Where there’s a will there’s a way.  If your job or home responsibilities are too stressful,  I guarantee with a little “un-panicked” soul-searching you can find a way to make even a small change that will allow you enough time to schedule regular and consistent exercise.  Between the positive stress-reducing effects exercise offers, and the changes in your body that will please your head, even that small change will result in something huge.

As for financial concerns, there are very inexpensive options to exercise and nutrition that you can adopt.  You don’t have to join a gym or shop at Whole Foods to make these changes.

Baby Steps.

Again – change happens slowly.  So make a plan, and step by step execute it.  Think of all the time you sat around wishing and obsessing instead of doing.  If you start taking baby steps towards your goals – and stay focused – within a matter of months, you will be closer (or even there) to achieving what you wish for.