I didn't realize how good I had it in my 40s. Things didn't really change for me until I hit 50. All of a sudden, I was gaining weight like I had during my pregnancies. But this wasn't nearly as fun.
For most women, and many men, turning 50 is tough on the waistline. During perimenopause, fluctuating hormones can wreak havoc on our mood, our energy levels, our appetite, and our stress levels. All of this often adds up to weight gain, especially around the waist.
Although our hormones are going to change--this is inevitable--there are many steps we can take to improve all those factors that lead to weight gain. Getting older does not have to mean getting fatter.
1) Lose the sugar. What you put in your mouth has the greatest effect on your weight, your mood, your energy levels, and your health. Every time you eat, you have an opportunity to improve your health. I have found by cutting out added sugar, I have been able to drop more than ten pounds and keep it off. If you're thinking you simply cannot fight your sweet tooth, I thought the same thing. But every time you choose not to consume sugar, you change your taste buds little by little. After a while, that sugary stuff will no longer taste good to you! (True story!)
2) Up the protein. Instead of turning to empty sugar calories, feed your body more protein. Experts in the field of nutrition all agree that we need more protein as we age. Protein gives your body the building blocks for repairing and increasing muscle mass. More protein means less muscle loss and more strength. More strength means less chance of getting injured. More muscle strength also means better bone density. Choose high quality protein from grass fed meats, pastured poultry and eggs, wild caught fish, and organic dairy.
3) Increase exercise. Sit less and move more. If you have to sit down for your job, take plenty of standing, walking, moving breaks. If you have been sedentary for most of your life, start with daily walks and gentle stretching. If you've been active, this is the time to give your body new challenges. Weight lifting will give you the most bang for your buck--you will get stronger, improve your bone density, lose fat, and even change your hormones by lifting heavy weights. Get a coach and learn proper technique to avoid injury.
4) Cook more meals at home. If you're retired, take up cooking as a new hobby. You will save money by avoiding convenience foods, restaurants, and fast food. And you will be able to control what goes into your meals and into your body. Even the best restaurants are not cooking food to feed your health. They are cooking to feed your taste buds, adding as much salt, sugar, and fat as it takes to make your meals irresistible. Restaurants are great for a splurge, a special occasion, but as a daily habit, making your own puts you in the driver's seat. Cooking is not difficult. Get your partner, spouse, children, friends or neighbors to join you in the kitchen for extra fun. Or use the time as a meditation. Both are great ways to boost your mental health along with your nutrition.
5) Stress less. Now is the time to let go of all the stuff that doesn't matter. Examine your life and find the obligations that no longer feed your soul. Cut ties with the people who bring you down and nurture relationships with those who make you laugh and feel great. Let go of taking responsibility for other people's choices. Let go of trying to change your spouse, grown children, boss, or parents. Let go of people pleasing. Focus on the things that mean the most to you and let go of the rest.
Taking just these five simple steps will make a big difference. If all five feel like too much, start with just one or two. Small changes can lead to giant revelations. Put your health first and reap the benefits.