I wrote this post about middle-aged-spread nearly 4 years ago and while most of it is still true today I have dropped off from eating extremly low carb in favour of intermittent fasting and eating a little less meat and more vegetables. My diet is still largely grain free and sugar free but I allow the odd treat. It is fair to say I did put a tiny little amount of weight back on but no where near all of it.
I find I still have plenty of energy, am maintaining my weight and sleep well most of the time.
What is middle aged spread?
It is that layer of fat that seems to come from nowhere and settle itself around our middle when we start perimenopause. This type of fat is viseral fat is more difficult to combat.
And what causes it?
Women in menopause experience a drop in estrogen levels.
Estrogen affects how our bodies respond to insulin. So the drop in estrogen often results in less insulin sensitivity which means almost all the carbs we eat turning to fat. And that fat attaches itself to the exact places where you don't want it.
Generally the fat pools around your middle and is what's known as viseral fat. Viseral fat is fat forms around your abdominal cavity and generally around some of your vital organs. It is extremely harmful.
You will have heard it referred to as the middle-aged- spread. I prefer to call it my one-way-ticket-to-a-life-of-misery before-hitting-the-six-foot-under-bed-of-wood-and-brass.
The older we get the harder it is for us to be seen. We can feel sidelined with the who’s who of people who didn’t make it into the ‘cool’ group and there we lurch and stumble about nursing our massive mood swings, hot flushes, interminable hunger and ever-growing waistlines while forgetting the name of our firstborn and remembering the days that being ‘choice’ was a thing.
What can we do about it? Starve ourselves to death? Exercise like manic versions of Jillian Michaels? Fortunately, it is much easier than either of these outrageous choices.
I managed it and so can you. I now feel healthier than I can ever remember despite having gone through menopause. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit that at 58 I feel better than I did at 35. I sleep like the dead, have plenty of sustained energy throughout the day and have lost 8 kgs since my 40's, most of which was around my middle area.
First things first.
There are many reasons why you might put on weight around your middle in midlife but the best four things to do to combat it are:
- Do resistance exercise to increase muscle mass which burns more fat.
- Eat wholefoods with plenty of good protein and fats.
- Get at least 7 hours sleep per night.
- Decrease stress.
Levels of hormones that maintain muscle mass in midlife decrease while we tend to become less active, causing our muscles to atrophy or shrink through decreased use. So decreased energy combined with increased energy intake means extra weight and usually around our middle.
Core muscle exercises combined eating mostly whole foods with good protein and healthy fats, regular cardio and strength training can help you attain a flatter stomach.
I recommend you visit your doctor and get a blood test
Make sure you’re not experiencing symptoms of hyperthyroidism or some other condition not connected with menopause. Hyperthyroid symptoms can be similar to those of menopause.
My unpretentious, magic-trickless formula for reducing my menopause symptoms and middle-aged-spread is:
- Decrease the empty carbohydrates in you diet. Oh yeah! Who would have thought? Duh!
- Increase the number of healthy fats that you eat. Yay! At last some good news.
- Keep protein to a moderate level.
- Get your sleep.
- Decrease stress.
Use a program like My Fitness Pal to monitor what you eat. Input your goals and get a feel for what you can and can't eat then ditch it. It takes time to constantly enter that info and who has lots of that laying around? If you go off course you can restart.
I stress that everyone is different and what works for one may not for another, but this is as good a starting point as any.
Stick to mainly good fats such as olive oil, avocado etc. These won't raise your cholesterol but will still make you feel fuller for longer. I swear by olive oil which i use like butter on my toast. It keeps all the wheels greased.
I allow myself minimal full-fat dairy items such greek yoghurt. A girl has to have some wickedness in her life.
For protein mix it up between good quality meat and fish and legumes, beans, nuts and seeds.
Add nuts to your cereal, make a lentil bolognese instead of using beef mince. It's just the same only lentils replace the mince and it's super delicious. Try it on zuchinni noodles with plenty of parmeasan and fresh basil
ARE YOU MAKING THESE MENOPAUSE WEIGHT LOSS MISTAKES?
And what you should be doing instead!
The other little gem of information to get rid of that belly fat is exercise
Yup! No mystic enchanted fairy tale here. There is a little hard work to be done.
Walking, running, swimming, dancing anything that uses many of your muscles and increases your heart rate. Start at maybe, 10 minutes a day but build it up to 30 minutes.
A 30 minute brisk walk up a hill and back is easy and is your exercise done for the day.
None of the puffing and sweating while you work your way around a gym circuit training course that was seat by someone 20 years your junior. That will only stress you and your body and bring cortisol out to play which will then tell your insulin to grab onto your fat because it thinks it's going to need it for energy later on.
Weight machines, resistance bands or hand held weights. As you get stronger increase the weight or resistance or the reps.
The trick is that once it starts to feel easy increase the reps or resistance until you feel like you almost can't do it.
This helps strengthen your bones and muscles. The more muscle you have the more fat you burn.
Don’t forget to mix it up a little.
Stretching – as we age we lose flexibility. Stretch after workouts.
Some other forms of exercise such as tai chi or yoga will help with physical as well as mental balance and flexibility. Three for one, that’s a bargain you won’t get at the end of year sales!
Get your sleep to improve fat burning ability
7 hours of sleep per night minimum
If you are a stay up late kinda person or are not sleeping well through the night your cortisol doesn't have the chance to lower itself and will cause your body to hold onto fat at a time it should be burning fat.
This is when all that movement you did thoughout the day pays off, because your body burns it's fat to repair and maintain it's processes while you are asleep.
Constant lack of sleep can lead to health issues that can be difficult to navigate such as heart conditions and diabetes.
Do you notice when you're tired you want to eat. I do. And it's not healthy stuff you crave. For me it's usually hot chips or pies. You might be more of the snickers bar or chocolate cake kind of over indulger.
These cravings are thanks to cortisol causing the hormones that control our hunger to be out of whack. If you recognise why you feel ravenous that's a good start but get your sleep and it will definitely help.
Lower your stress levels to keep your hormones happy
Much like sleep if you are constantly stressed your cortisol levels will constantly be high.
Find some mindfulness practices that you like and do what you can to keep your stress levels down.
I meditate, have positive morning mantras, visualise, practice gratitude and do things like walking, yoga, and laughing with my family. Anything you can do to drag you out of your head and into the present moment will help keep your stress down.
Even watching the latest movie on netflix switches of the brain for a bit although I don't recommend this as your only form of stess release.
Middle Aged Spread...
is not something that we just have to get used to and put up with. It can be overcome just not in the same way that you might have overcome extra weight in the past.
There you have it. Give these suggestions a go and see if you can improve your symptoms. If you have any questions shoot away and I will do my best to help. Share your story with us; it is nice to feel that you are not the only one out there going through this. If you would like more ideas on reducing your middle-aged-spread in menopause check out this post - 11 Tips To Lose Weight In Menopause For Good