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Stress is one of the biggest factors in causing women in midlife to gain weight. We need to look deeper into ways to reduce stress in midlife for easier weight loss.
Midlife can be a challenging time for women. With our bodies going through hormonal changes that for some can be far more dramatic than the next woman. We also have to deal with the changes going on in our lives such as work, kids, elderly parents, money worries and more.
Midlife weight gain is the scourge that can pollute what is the time of life when we finally start to reap what we have sewn. Stress can play a significant role in any midlife weight change.
For me 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 contents. When the alarms stopped and the dust settled there I was standing in the chaos doing some pretty heavy soul searching, and self-analysis.
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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?
Continual High-Level Stress Is Often Behind Midlife Weight Gain
When our bodies are stressed we have elevated cortisol levels.
Cortisol does some great things in your body such as metabolising glucose and reducing inflammation. But when you have continued or chronic stress there is too much cortisol. You can then suffer from sleep problems, anxiety, digestive issues and surprise, surprise gain weight.
When we gain weight in midlife it usually goes around our middle. A stressor all of its own accord.
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. So if we’re not running away that wonderful cortisol chucks the fat around our middle. Hence that wonderful term “middle-age 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.
Stop forgetting appointments and your first born’s name!
This makes losing weight very difficult.
Unless you are a Buddhist who lives hermit-like and meditate 6-8 hours a day stress is going to be part of your life. These are tips on how you might reduce stress. It will reduce the possibility of developing that layer of visceral fat around your middle and perhaps reduce any that has already developed.
1. The First Step Is…
Practice mindful techniques which will help you to keep on top of your stress levels. These can include but are not limited to
- Yoga – See these 5 free videos for beginners
- Go for a walk
- Deep breathing such as in the 4-7-8 method.
- Practising gratitude
2. Watch Your Food Intake
When you are feeling stressed be aware of it and what it can do to your body and to your hormones. Avoid sugary snacks. If you need to snack reach for the healthy stuff, veggies dipped in hummus, nuts, and a boiled egg. Have these things on hand for when cravings hit.
Protein will give your body what it needs without giving you that sugar spike which can attribute to stress and anxiety.
Your meals should look like this.
3. Get To Bed Earlier
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.
Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each day. Your body loves routine and will respond well.
Have a nice bedtime routine that sends signals to your brain to start getting ready for sleep.
When you get into bed do some controlled breathing to relax.
Find a routine that works for you and stick to it as often as you can.
4. Do Regular Exercise
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? And guess what, as a direct result of exercise you could lose weight.
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.
Why not mix it up a little and improve your lean muscle mass by doing body weight exercises.
Regular yoga practice is perfect for improving muscle mass using your body weight. Plus it helps with flexibility which enhances your health in other areas as you age.
Do not overexercise. Exercising too hard causes stress in the body which will slow down your metabolism in order to hold on to body fat.
5. Stop Eating Added Sugar In Your Diet
Not just limit it, give it up, and not just the white stuff you put in your coffee anything made with refined carbohydrates.
How sugar affects your stress levels:
- A hit of sugar in a snack or meal will make you feel good for a short time but just as quickly as you feel good your blood sugar drops and you feel bad.
- If you have chips, chocolate, ice cream or any other high sugar snack just before bed you’ll get to sleep maybe but when your blood sugar crashes you will wake up.
- Lack of sleep impacts your stress levels. You may struggle to get through a day or work or take care of your family in the evenings and you end up feeling stressed.
- Sugar gives you a fast rush of feeling good but it doesn’t last and when the feeling goes away, you’re stressed again.
- Sugar is inflammatory in your body and causes all sorts of health issues
Eat clean whole foods. Lots of leafy greens, rainbow-coloured veg, lean protein, fish and nuts and seeds and healthy fats.
You might miss the sugar ladened foods for a while but I promise once your body and mind adjust you won’t look back. And it is a high probability that you will lose weight.
Constant Chronic Stress is responsible for many health issues…
Not least of which is weight gain.
A little stress in our lives can be beneficial and motivating but once it becomes chronic then it’s an issue.
Start reducing stress in your life today with some of these simple tips.
Remember being completely stress-free is not the aim. The aim is not to have stress levels that set off the cortisol response in your body.
Cortisol is one of the most common reasons for midlife weight gain.