Midlife weight gain is the scourge that can pollute what is the time of life when we start to reap what we have sewn.
When midlife hit and menopause started it was a full head-on collision with that particular dump truck and I was left covered with its foul-smelling innards. When the alarms stopped and the dust settled there was I standing in the chaos doing some pretty heavy soul searching, and self-analysis.
That is when my journey towards health, enlightenment, acceptance and love began. It is a long, possibly never-ending road but one that is so full of self-empowerment and gratitude there is no wish or need for it to stop.
I realised I had to do something good for my health that part was easy but bigger than that I also realised that I wanted something more, a connection to that which is greater. I wanted a better understanding of myself, others and the Universe.
How does this relate to stress and weight?
When our bodies are stressed we have elevated cortisol levels.
Cortisol does some great things in our body such as metabolise glucose and reduce inflammation. But when we have continued or chronic stress there is too much cortisol. We can then suffer from sleep problems, anxiety, digestive issues and surprise, surprise weight gain.
Cortisol and adrenaline usually come together to give us the energy to flee predators. Fortunately, man-eating predators are thin on the ground in this day and age. They now come in the form of huge unannounced bills, deadlines, dental appointments, kids untidy bedrooms and anything else that elicits a physical response in your body.
So with our muscles not needing extra glucose for running it is deposited around the body as fat and as we need our legs and arms to flea the imagined predator that wonderful cortisol chucks the fat around our middle. Hence that wonderful term “middle-aged spread”.
On top of that little nugget, cortisol will also stimulate our appetite which in times of stress is usually for those comfort foods which make us feel so good for all of 5 minutes.
Unless you are a Buddhist who lives hermit-like and you meditate 6-8 hours a day stress is going to be part of your life. These are tips on how you might reduce stress and the possibility of developing that layer of visceral fat around your middle and perhaps even reducing any that has already developed.
Back to me. Well, I have to start somewhere.
In the process of becoming more mindful and creating a better connection, I practice yoga, meditation, journaling and various other mindful techniques. In practising these techniques regularly my stress levels have decreased enormously. I am far more able to deal with external sources of stress that arise and also to notice my internal thoughts and pick up any negative ones that are likely to cause stress and turn them around or reframe them.
Practice mindful techniques which will help you to keep on top of your stress levels. These can include but are not limited to
When you are feeling stressed be aware of it and what it can do in your body and to your hormones. Avoid sugary snacks. If you need to snack reach for the healthy stuff, veggies dipped in hummus, nuts, a boiled egg. Have these things on hand for when cravings hit.
Find out how would it feel to have support and finally see the scales move in the right direction?
Unfortunately, stress can mess with our sleep patterns just as poor sleep can make us stressed. It is a messed up circle of lose, lose but we can combat it with strategies.
I find that if I go to bed at pretty much the same time every night I sleep better. I have a nice bedtime routine that signifies my body to start getting ready for sleep and once in bed I do some deep breathing. Find your routine and stick to it as often as you can. Routine is key.
Endorphins are a free feel-good drug which occurs in our bodies with movement and feel-good activities. A free feel-good drug! Who doesn’t want more of that? So get out and get some endorphins happening. Walk, HIIT in a park, sprint/walk, swim, cycle. Get outside, catch a little bit of sunlight and a lot of fresh air and ground your feet on the grass.
Not just limit it, give it up, and not just the white stuff you put in your coffee anything made with refined carbohydrates. Eat clean whole foods. Lots of leafy greens, rainbow-coloured veg, lean protein, fish and nuts and seeds. You might miss the bad stuff for a while but I promise once your body and mind adjust you won’t look back.
Start deleting it from your life today with some of these simple tips. And remember being completely stress-free is not the aim, the aim is not to have stress that sets of the cortisol response in our body that causes that midlife weight gain that we just don’t need.
For more on lowering cortisol levels check out this post at Healthline