What Prevents Women Over 50 Losing Weight?

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As I have said many times in my posts “losing weight over 50 is very different to when you wer younger”. It’s no longer about eating lettuce and cottage cheese after sweating your body weight at the local gym like you did in your 20’s and 30’s. So what are the reasons why you losing weight over 50 can be difficult for women?

Why Can’t I Lose My Belly Fat Over 50? I’ve Tried Everything

You’re over 50 now and are nearing the end of menopause. You tell anyone who’ll listen that you’re still eating all the same healthy food as you always have. You exercise, you’re active and don’t drink much but try as you might you just can’t shift those kilos that piled on during perimenopause and cling on around your belly.

older woman on couch with book

After reading this blog post you’ll know 5 lesser known reasons why weight can be difficult to shift for women over 50 and more importantly what you can do to counteract them.

An Estrogen Imbalance

Whether it be too much estrogen or too little, both conditions can lead to weight gain for differing reasons.

Estrogen dominance and estrogen deficiency are two issues that many women deal with. If you struggle with weight around your middle either one of these conditions could be at fault.

Estrogen dominance happens when there is excess estrogen in the body in relation to progesterone. Some of the symptoms include:

  • PMS
  • bloating,
  • breast tenderness
  • breast cancer,
  • thyroid dysfunction
  • fatigue
  • weight gain

Reasons for estrogen dominance can be high-stress, poor diet and constipation. Studies show that 50% of women over 35 are estrogen dominant.

Estrogen deficiency on the other hand, is more likely to occur in menopause and perimenopause. Symptoms include:

  • hot flashes
  • night sweats
  • anxiety
  • mood swings
  • depression
  • weight gain

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Most women will suffer from one or more of these symptoms in their life time.

To bring about the best conditions for weight loss it is important to bring your hormones back into balance.

What to do:

  • Include flax meal in your diet – I add flax meal to my muesli and often use it to thicken stews.
  • Eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables – these include cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale and brussel sprouts. These are such versatile vegetables. Cauliflower steak parmigiana is delicious as are roasted brussel sprouts.
  • Eat a nutritious whole foods diet full of fresh vegetables with plenty of fibre a moderate amount of good protein and good fats.
  • Exercise regularly especially resistance training.
  • Be kind to your liver which is the body’s filter of harmful toxins. Too much caffeine, alcohol and environmental toxins can overload it and detract from its efficiency.
  • Keep stress to a minimum. Practice forms of mindfulness to help with this.

Poor Gut Health

Estrogen is a potent anti-inflammatory hormone and its decline through perimenopause and menopause starts the process of inflammation within your body.

That inflammation can upset your metabolism and digestion and so increase the likelihood of weight gain especially around your belly.

To help counteract this undesirable outcome it is important to make sure your gut has exactly what it needs to keep its biome healthy, so your digestion and metabolism can work at optimum level.

What to do:

  • Eat gut loving foods like fresh veg, healthy oils, nuts and seeds
  • Avoid inflammatory foods such as processed foods and vegetable oils and trans fats
  • Avoid added sugar in all forms
  • Limit alcohol
  • Avoid wheat and wheat products
  • Avoid high carbohydrate foods including white rice and potatoes
  • Take a Turmeric(Curcumin) supplement. A powerful nutritional supplement that can help with joint pain. This one is particularly good.
  • Drink plenty of water

Poor Sleep Can Cause Weight Gain

Getting enough sleep – high quality sleep is important to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

When estrogen levels are normal you can enjoy good moods, good skin, a clear mind and good sleep.

When they are low you can suffer from anxiety, depression, fatigue, fogginess, headaches and poor sleep. In menopause hot flushes and night sweats can make it even harder for you to sleep.

Anxiety can contribute to having difficulty falling asleep and depression can lead to a restless night.

The sleep deprivation you may experience in menopause can cause lowered insulin sensitivity which highly increases the risk of weight gain. It can also affect the balance of your hunger and satiety hormones.

When Ghrelin (hunger hormone) goes up and Leptin (satiety hormone) goes down you’re on a one way train to cravingsville and the only things that will satisfy your needs are so, so bad for you. Fatty, stodgy or sugary foods which only serve to make your issues worse. I’m looking at you, ‘hot chips covered in gravy’ and ‘Snickers bar’!

What to do:

older woman looking tired and stressed

High stress restricts the ability to lose weight over 50

Stress is the number one cause of our bodies holding onto excess fat.

It may seem that from the outside looking in what on earth do people, especially women have to worry about once they hit 50. Generally they may have: the kids off their hands, a good job, a decent roof over their heads and their financial standing is sorted.

In reality, that is not the case for many. Women over 50 are more likely to:

  • have ageing parents to worry about
  • have teenagers still at home and all the worry that can go with that
  • struggle with being heard or seen
  • lack confidence due to aging and weight gain
  • and they may have money issues

Continual high stress raises the levels of the stress hormone cortisol which quickens your heart rate and breathing. This also sends glucose and protein stores from your liver into the blood to make energy immediately available to your muscles in case you need to make a run for it.  This comes from the days when we might have had a real need to escape a preditor such as a lion. Thankfully that’s very unlikely now but our bodies still react in the same way.

Cortisol also causes fat to move from various deposits around the body to your belly, also known as visceral fat cells. The more stress you’re under the more cortisol you have running around your body and the more abdominal fat your likely to accumulate.

Cortisol also makes the production of insulin by the pancreas more difficult. The pancreas responds to high blood sugar levels by stepping up the production of insulin eventually struggling to keep up.

When this happens the insulin response becomes weaker and blood sugar rises unchecked with the very real likelyhood of issues like insulin resistance leading to illnesses such as diabetes occuring.

older woman meditating

What to do:

  • Learn to say “no” a little more. You don’t have to do ALL the things.
  • Practice mindfulness in all its forms: meditation, journaling, breathing techniques, more you time, stepping away from social media, yoga and massages. Even just a pedicure can lower your stress levels.

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A slower metabolism

As mentioned already, lower estrogen levels due to menopause can lower your metabolic rate which means that your body is a little slower at converting stored energy into usable energy for your muscles.

Loss of muscle mass which is a factor of age can also slow down your metabolism making you more susceptible to weight gain.

During exercise the rate at which your body uses energy declines with age.

What to do:

  • Strength training builds muscle mass and improves metabolism. There is also the added benefit of maintaining bone mass. Try for two or three times a week. Strength training includes using weights, dumbbells, resistance bands, and body weight as in yoga,
  • Low-impact aerobics such as walking, especially uphill, is such an easy way to work your muscles and increase your heart rate.  Other examples of aerobic exercise include swimming, cycling, and dance. Try for at least 30 minutes a day for at least 5 days a week.
  • Whenever you can move. Walk, run on the spot while the jug is boiling, do a couple of downward dogs whatever you can fit in whenever you can fit it in.

If you’re having trouble losing weight over 50 consider that it is not necessarily dieting that will help you lose it. It is a holistic approach to losing the weight that will work.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Can’t Women Over 50 Lose Weight?

As we age, we lose lean muscle mass, which slows our metabolism. We also tend to do less exercise and so burn fewer calories which leads to weight gain. There can generally be more stress at this time, so our levels of the hormone cortisol increase while estrogen, the hormone that manages cortisol decreases. This leads to increased hunger of the kind that triggers bad food choices.

Why is it so hard to lose weight after 50?

As we often use less energy at this age yet still eat the same, there is more left over energy which is stored as fat cells in the muscles. Our metabolism is slower which adds to the likelyhood of putting on more weight.

What foods should women eat to lose weight over 50?

  1. A moderate amount of good quality lean proteins such as grass fe meats, poultry, fish and seafood, nuts, chia, linseed.
  2. A little dairy, especially Greek yoghurt
  3. Beans, lentils, chickpeas
  4. Fill up on fiber rich foods such as kale and spinach
  5. Drink plenty of water
  6. Add healthy fats like olive oil, avocado oil, avocado to your diet.

Why Am I Eating Less And Not Losing Weight Over 50?

Our metabolism has been slowly decreasing since age 20 so we need to eat less. On top of that we are losing muscle mass which means there is less muscle to burn fat stores. Add that to the fact that women over 50 tend to be less active and we have a triple whammy!

For further reading try:

How To Get Into The Right Mindset To Lose Menopausal Weight

11 Tips To Lose Menopause Belly Fat And Keep It Off

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