You pull your favorite pair of jeans out of the closet and discover thatÂ extra vigorous shimmying is requiredÂ to pull them to your waist.Â What the ??? They fit fine last week.Â With a deep inhale you manage to snap the top, but the zipper teeth arenâ€™t speaking to each other. Â Self-loathing takes over and you begin planning your next diet. Again.Â Whatâ€™s going on?
Before we get into the tips for weight management,Â let me say I personally believe women are too hard on themselves.Â We scrutinize our bodies for any and all perceived flaws (whoÂ decided they are flaws? Huh? Huh? ), resolve that we are â€œless thanâ€ some mythical ideal, and work on hiding our ________. Â (Insert body part of choice. Â Flabby arms? Â Thick waist? Â Generous thighs?)Â We cheer when other women proclaim they are fierce, beautiful, and healthyÂ just the way they are, but somehow that cheering ends when it is our image in the mirror. And that brings me toÂ my first suggestion for midlife weight control…
How to Manage Midlife Weight Gain
- Stop beating yourself up for gaining some weight in midlife. Your body is just doing what it was designed to do. Â Â According to Debra Waterhouse inOutsmarting the Midlife Fat Cell:
“As soon as your fat cells detect a slightly lower estrogen level, they come to your aid to produce estrogen for you. Â They increase their size, number, and ability to store fat. Interestingly enough, the fat cells in your waist grow the largest because they are better equipped to produce estrogen than the fat cells in your buttocks, hips, and thighs. The larger and more active your abdominal fat cells become, the more estrogen will be produced, and the more benefits you will receive: fewer hot flashes, milder mood swings, less intense PMS, improved sleep, a reduced risk of osteoporosis, and an overall easier transition. This is why larger women have always reported less menopausal stress while leaner women have the most difficulty with the transition.” (p.3)
- ToÂ loseÂ weight it is helpful toÂ gainÂ muscle. Â Muscle burns more calories, pulls glucose from your bloodstream, which helps maintain normal blood sugar levels, support and take pressure off of joints, improves cardiovascular function, and improve stability and balance. (Source Dr. David Williams) Â According to the book,Â Women’s Health In Complementary and Integrative MedicineÂ by Dr.Â Tieraona Low Dog with Â Marc S. Micozzi, cutting 250 calories from the daily diet can help you lose half a pound a week. Â But! Â If you add a 30-minute brisk walk 4 days a week, you double your rate of weight loss.
- Susun S. Weed’s bookÂ New Menopausal Years The Wise Woman’s Way,Â suggests the following: â€œAvoid all drugs and herbs and supplements of any kind that claim to suppress your appetite. Appetite-suppressant drugs upset your metabolic rate and make it harder and harder for you to maintain a normal weight with a normal diet.” Â As in tip #1, Ms. Weed encourages women in midlife to accept an extra 10 pounds to ease the menopausal transition. Â If weight loss remains the goal, she recommends something as simple as eating a bowl of hot soup at the beginning of a meal to feel more full and satisfied.
- Eat more often. Menopausal women are more sensitive to changes in blood sugar levels: eating every few hours keeps blood sugar stable and energy high throughout the day. (Source Debra Waterhouse, p.138) Both Ms. Waterhouse and Ms. Weed suggest eating your largest meal at lunch when metabolism and caloric needs are the highest, and then eat a light meal for dinner when the caloric needs decline.
- Size matters. (But women already know that!) Ms. Waterhouse shares this: “What you eat is not as important as how much you eat. The second most effective way to outsmart your midlife fat cells (Exercise is the first!) is to fill your stomach without overfilling it.”Â She goes on to say your brain doesn’t know that a presumably harmless food– like a huge salad with fat-free dressing– is stretching your stomach to three times its natural size. Â By the time your brain realizes it was only plant leaves, the fat cells have already been activated and some of the lettuce leaves and dressing have been corralled into your waist. Because your menopausal body is actively storing fat 24-hours a day to produce estrogen, this also means you are a superefficient fat-free cookie storer, rice cake storer, carrot storer, and nonfat frozen yogurt storer too. (p. 143-44.) Â Your stomach is about the size of your fist, so eat a quantity that equates to about a good fistful at each meal, but eat at least five times a day.
So there you go. Â Some fist-sized food for thought as you evaluateÂ your midlife weight. Â I’d like to leave you with this passage from Susan S. Weed’s book–
“Pack your bags for the journey,” Grandmother Growth advises softly. “Your Change may be rough in places, so cushion yourself. Your Change may have some hard edges, so let your contours round. Your wise blood is stirring and you are learning to let it move without attaching fear to its meanderings. In the same way, you can gracefully allow your natural weight gain. Â Struggling with your weight or dieting is bad medicine for you now, resulting only in thin bones that break easily, extremeÂ hormone shifts that will keep you from sleeping and thinking, andÂ an inner fire reduced to ashes or burning out of control. Â Pack your bags, slowly, dear one. There is no rush,” sighs Grandmother Growth, closing her eyes and sinking into a nap.Â