During menopause hormones shift and change sometimes so radically that we often experience significant weight gain (more fat) around the belly.
Most of the weight we gain in middle age is related to how our body is changing and, the lifestyle we have. Genetics play a role as well.
Menopause and weight gain. They go together.
As we get older our muscle mass diminishes and fat stores increase. Since larger muscle mass increases the rate at which your body burns off calories, as we lose muscle mass losing excess weight becomes more difficult...and gaining weight happens more easily.
The truth of the matter is, as we get older we simply cannot eat the same foods and in the same quantities we could when we were younger. You’ve probably noticed this, right?
The stressors that come with middle age contribute to weight gain as well. Raising teenagers, empty nest syndrome, divorce, death of a spouse, and other life changes can all be stress producing.
When stressed, the body produces higher levels of cortisol and science tells us higher levels of cortisol can cause the body to stop burning calories and hold on to stored fat.
Experts in the medical field tell us that gaining weight in the form of fat around the abdomen has been linked to some very serious health risks. Heart disease, Type II diabetes, colorectal cancer and breast cancer have all been found to be higher risk in women who are overweight after menopause.
So what can you do about it?
- Move your body – in particular ways. Strength training by means of light weight lifting (seek a professional trainer to teach you technique so you don’t injure yourself) or other forms of resistance training can help you increase muscle. As you gain muscle, your body burns calories more efficiently. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends regular activity such as brisk walking, for at least 30 minutes each day 5 days per week. Swimming is an excellent form of exercise for women after menopause because it’s easy on the joints and provides resistance for strength. Exercise addresses leptin resistance also – another issue for women over 40. Additionally, creating a very gentle yoga practice can help with flexibility, healthy joints and stronger muscles.
- Mind your food choices. Gone are the days of being able to mindlessly munch on chips and cookies. It’s important to choose foods that are nutritionally dense and eat only healthy fats in small quantities. Opt for 7 cups of brightly colored, high fiber vegetables and fruits (aim for 4 veggie servings and 3 fruits) daily and go for lean sources of protein. Start with my free 7 day Kickstart program!
- Start juicing and blending daily. Juicing and blending are two incredible ways to get high doses of powerful phytonutrients from organic greens and other veggies and fruits. Read more about these benefits here.
- Embrace healthy fats and quit the bad fats now! It is critical when we get over the age of 40 we pay very close attention to the quality AND quantity of our fat intake. It can make or break your health in mid-life. Read more about the wonders of healthy fats.
- Learn to Relax. As simple as it may sound, this is a crucial element of a satisfying and successful weight management lifestyle. While we can’t eliminate sources of stress, we can learn to cope. Learning how to relax in body and mind can lower cortisol levels and contribute to healthy weight maintenance. See my article on how to relax. Gentle yoga and meditation can be a great help here as well.
- Sleep Well. When the brain and body are able to get to a deep level of rest, this is when critical repair, healing, and even burning of unnecessary fat can happen. If you can make a habit of not eating for 3-4 hours before bedtime, create a routine of relaxation an hour before bed and maybe take a natural supplement containing melatonin and magnesium citrate or magnesium lactate, you’ll experience better quality of sleep. Taking an epsom salt bath with 1/2 cup of baking soda and some lavender essential oil an help induce deeper rest.
- Drink Plenty of Water. Drinking enough water each day keeps the body flushed out, allowing the liver, gall bladder, kidneys and intestines to all do their jobs efficiently so you’re body can properly metabolize the food you are eating and let go of toxins. Check out my article on how much water to drink here.
- Get Support. You can’t do this in a vacuum. In the beginning, professional coaching support can not only provide you a customized program but also can give you that encouragement knowing someone’s there to help. Also, it’s important to surround yourself with people who are in your corner and will be supportive of your new lifestyle plan. Avoid those who sabotage your efforts.
Losing excess weight and keeping it off after menopause requires new habits and lasting changes in your lifestyle.
If you want to feel better, look your best and be as healthy as you can be, get started on these suggestions and if you need extra help getting started sign up for my free 7 day kickstart program or jump right into my new 12 week Mind-Body program for weight loss called The Weight is Over!
Lynn Louise Wonders
How to relax?
That may seem like a strange question. But I have learned after years of teaching meditation, yoga and relaxation therapy a lot of people simply are at a loss when told to relax.
We hear the word all the time. We want to relax. Somehow there is a gap between wanting to relax and knowing how to get there for many. People generally do not know how to relax.
Learning how to relax first requires a willingness to slow down and tune in to your physical body and notice the busy-ness of your mind WITHOUT beating yourself up or jumping up to go do something.
It requires a willingness to feel a bit uncomfortable so that you can experience a shift.
Relaxing both the body and the mind is an un-winding process.
Do you remember the long, curly telephone cords attached to the wall phones we all had in our kitchens growing up, you probably how that long cord got all tangled. You would hold the cord, let the receiver hang upside down and allow the tangled cord to unwind.
The process of relaxing is much like that. The accumulated tension in the mind and body must to be given an opportunity to spin out in order to release and settle into stillness.
Here are 3 Techniques:
1. Go natural.
Begin sitting or lying down, closing your eyes and turning all of your attention to observing your natural breath. Just notice how the breath feels coming in through your nose and down into your lungs.
Then, see if you can allow your shoulders, face and belly to grow soft and heavy.
Next, see if you can allow your breath to deepen and notice how your belly and ribs expand as the breath comes in to the lungs.
Notice how those same areas of your body naturally contract as the breath leaves the body.
2. Count your breath.
Breathe in to a slow count of 5.
Hold the breath in for a count of 2.
Slowly exhale to a count of 5.
Hold the breath out to a count of 2.
Repeat 5 to 10 cycles while allowing the body to grow heavier and softer.
3. Tense and Relax.
This third technique is a progressive muscle relaxation process.
Lie down comfortably and bring attention to each part of your body starting with your feet.
Start by pointing your toes on one foot, tensing fully and then releasing tension. In your mind, once you release tension, take a deep breath and on breathe out with the word, "relax..."
Continue this moving your focus up your leg and up the rest of your body, tightening each muscle, holding the tension and then releasing until you have progressed to the top of your head. Do this on both sides of the body.
Once you feel yourself in a relaxed state, silently say "I am now relaxed..... I am relaxed.... this is relaxed...."
With regular practice, your mind will begin to recognize this relaxed state in the body and when you find yourself getting tense with stress during the day you can silently say the word, "relax..." and consciously soften your shoulders down and soften your muscles to return to a more relaxed state in your walk-about life.
Regular consistent practice of these techniques will help your body and mind to work together to achieve a relaxed state whenever you need it.
Grab your free guided meditation to relax over to the right! Sign up to receive your downloadable recording and you'll also get regular tips and tricks for how to relax more in your daily life.
Leptin levels and weight loss go hand in hand for women over 40.
Leptin plays a significant role in many different systems of your body, especially important for the process of releasing excess weight and overall appetite regulation. Leptin’ s job is to communicate to your brain how much fat your body has and needs. Leptin also responds to exercise intensity and duration, as well as the amount of chronic inflammation in your body.
[right][/right]Typically, women have at least twice as much leptin as men and there is theory that suggests this causes women to develop “resistance” to leptin.
In other words, leptin may not be able to communicate accurately with the brain when the body is resisting. To make matters worse, when women embark on a typical diet, their leptin levels drop drastically causing miserable cravings and crashes in energy.
Here are some tips for helping leptin do it it’s job so you can release that excess fat without the miserable cravings and energy-crashes that come with extreme dieting.
1. Get more (and better) sleep. Inadequate or poor quality sleep can really mess up leptin levels according to research. A very simple but effective strategy for increasing leptin sensitivity is to ensure that you're getting enough quality sleep. A proper “sleep hygiene” routine is key. I do recommend, from personal experience, trying a combination of melatonin, magnesium citrate to help you sleep if you have trouble. Of course, consult with your health care practitioner first!
2. Move your body – GENTLY at first! Heavy lifting NOT required. Even low intensity regular exercise supports leptin levels and helps leptin tell your brain to go ahead and start releasing that excess fat. Do NOT do heavy duty cardio workouts in the beginning as this only creates more stress for your body. Think gentle, easy movement like brisk walks or swimming.
3. Step away from the snacks! Contrary to what we have heard on other programs, snacking in between meals is often found to mess with our leptin levels. In the beginning of releasing excess weight, we want to give the body a chance to heal. Eating throughout the day only taxes the body. Eat 3 meals, spaced out with at least 3 hours in between and make sure your meals are high protein and chockfull of nutrient-dense, high fiber, non-starchy veggies.
4.Focus on Omega 3. Eat or supplement with Omega-3s (clean fish, grassfed meats, chia seeds) and avoid sources of Omega-6 (vegetable oils, conventional meats, grains, etc) to get inflammation levels DOWN and help support healthy leptin levels.
5. Rethink the Drink! When we drink alcohol it's like injecting straight sugar right into our blood stream. Straight sugar in the bloodstream wreaks havoc on the balance of all our hormones including insulin and leptin.
If you want to read more please check out the book Mastering Leptin by Byron and Mary Richards.
Want to know why avoid processed foods?
First of all, what IS a processed food?
A processed food is a food item that has been bagged, canned, jarred, boxed or gone through some other process that changes it from its natural state to something else.
A processed food does not occur in nature in that state and typically has preservatives, hydrogenated oils, sugars, salt and often artificial colors and flavors to make it appear more appealing to the grocery store customer.
In fact, the more ingredients listed indicates the food item has been highly processed. Examples of processed foods you will find in the store: cereals, bread, cookies, mac-n-cheese, pizza, crackers, potato chips.
Okay so if it's not a processed food what is it?
The opposite of a processed food is a whole food.
A whole food is a food items that is exactly or very close to how it presents in nature without any added ingredients. Examples of whole foods are fresh produce of all kinds, eggs, 100% whole grain brown rice, fish, poultry and meats with no added ingredients.
Not all processed foods are bad and the convenience of some is often understandable. But, in most cases, however, avoiding processed foods and choosing whole foods is preferable.
Why avoid processed foods?
Here are 5 important reasons to avoid processed foods, especially if you are wanting to lose weight and be healthy:
1. Salty Risks. According to nutritional experts processed foods have a ridiculous amount of sodium. Many processed foods far surpass the recommended limit of 2,300 milligrams per day. Too much sodium puts us at very high risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and kidney disease, according to the American Heart Association.
2. Sugar Coated. Processed foods often contain lots of added sugar. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, too much sugar in your daily diet can lead to decay of teeth, obesity, type 2 diabetes, unhealthy cholesterol levels and heart disease. Additionally, if you eat processed foods full of sugar, you won't have room in your belly for all the healthy whole foods that protect and enhance your health and wellbeing.
3. Bad Fats Abound. Processed foods often contain trans fats which come from partially hydrogenated fat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that if there can be a reduction of trans fats in the food supply we might see a reduction of 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year and up to 20,000 heart attacks each year because trans fats build up plaque in the arteries and this can contribute to heart attack. Whoa. Enough said.
4. Chemicals, Additives, Preservatives! Oh My! MSG, BHT, BHA... it's alphabet soup and there have been many research studies linking these additives to severe health problems. Processed foods most often contain chemicals to increase shelf life and artificially enhance flavor... so you'll keep eating it.... Think about this... Do you want this in your body?
5. Genetically Modified and Pesticide Laden. I don't want to get into the GMO debate, I do want to say, though, if a plant created in a laboratory or factory rather than coming up from the earth naturally it might not be well-received by your body.
Processed foods also most often contain pesticides. Pesticides are poison sprayed on crops to keep insects away.
Do you want to eat poison? I don't.
Buy and eat organic whole foods instead of processed foods for optimum health and wellbeing.
The next time you're strolling through the grocery, opt for the fresh and frozen produce, eggs, wild caught fish over all the colorful boxed and canned items.
How to help your body and manage healthy weight over 40
By the time we hit our 40's, we women really start to realize that the body seems to have a mind of it's own.
We can no longer bake in the sun working for that golden tan without paying the steep price of leathered skin.
Gone are the days of noshing on an entire bag of chips and bouncing to the gym the next day to work it off easy-peasy.
The upside of this slippery slope is that we can begin to realize and REVERE the fact that this body has not only a mind of its own but a wisdom. An intelligence.
With hormones gone awry, metabolism halting with a seeming screech and a growing desire to be deeply connected and respectful of what our bodies are trying to tell us, many middle aged women are seeking holistic weight loss solution.
We don't want the stimulant diet pills or the plans where we eat only pickles for weeks, lose a lot of weight only to gain it all back later. We don't want to spend hours daily pumping iron and racing on the treadmill (okay, some of us love that! but many of us don't, right?).
We are seeking a softer path. One that's easier on the joints and meanders flexibly within our very full lives. We have teenagers, careers, community projects, meaningful hobbies, relationships to nurture. We want to FEEL good in our bodies.
We want our eyes to shine and our skin to be clear with a glow from the inside that comes from leading a healthy, well-balanced life.
There are so many lifestyle changes that can be made in order to observe a holistic plan for wellness and weight loss. It all begins, though, with learning to "mind the body."
Mindfulness is the practice of paying close attention without judging. Try it right now. Sit where you are. Look up from your computer or device and gaze around you. Try to just notice. Pay close attention to the objects and sounds in and around the room you're in without labeling anything. Without analyzing. Without judging anything as good, bad, pretty, ugly. Just notice it.
Now, if we can apply this same process to our bodies.... with a healthy dose of deep reverence for the wisdom our bodies are just waiting to share with us...
If you eat something... say... a big hunk of bread... and you notice 10 minutes later your belly is really bloated... there might be some information to notice there.
If you notice your lips are cracked and dry no matter how much moisturizer you put on them... there is likely a message there to uncover.
Many times we need a health practitioner to help us figure out what messages our body is sending us. Sometimes we need supplementation of particular vitamins or minerals. And sometimes if we listen, pay close enough attention without giving way to frustration with the messages (a.k.a. symptoms) we might just feel our way to a new direction.. maybe an answer.
If our bodies feel stiff and tight from sitting all day, some stretching and moving is in order. But how often do we continue to sit and sit and sit because we have a work deadline or we just ignore the body's signals?
Same thing with weight loss for women. Weight loss for women over 40, especially. If we are carrying excess weight the body has some information for us. In order to release that excess weight we have to tune in to what the body needs first and foremost.
Holistic weight loss for women over 40 begins with a profound choice to slow down, tune in, breathe deeply and mind your body. Listen.... really listen. Look for the softer path...
Weight Loss for Women Over 40: Mind your MIND
A holistic approach to releasing excess weight from the body requires examination and addressing yourself as a WHOLE person.
Holistic weight loss for women over 40 requires taking a close look at the thoughts we are thinking, the beliefs we are operating from, the actions we are taking often without awareness in relationship to the physical body and the spirit of who you really are.
Let's take a peek at the power of your MIND...
Your thoughts are directing and attracting your life experiences so you might as well learn to harness the power of your thoughts consciously and healthfully, right?
Here are just 3 simple tools to train your brain...
Mind Your Mind...
1. Catch and Release. Begin observing the thoughts that pop into your head. Notice thoughts occurring just as you over-hear a conversation at the next table in a restaurant. Tune in. Pay attention and remember this: You do not need to BELIEVE everything you think.... Catch your thoughts and make a choice as to whether to keep the thought or throw it away, let it go, release it.
2. Flip the script. Ever heard of "stinkin' thinkin'?" This is when negative, discouraging strings of thoughts run through your mind. When you are able to catch "stinkin' thinkin'" and consciously STOP and turn it around to a statement of thanks. For example, if you notice yourself thinking, "Ugh, I hate my body! None of my clothes fit anymore and I look so fat!" you would catch that negative train of thought, and consciously and decidedly flip it to, "I am so grateful for this body. I am grateful my legs carry me around, my arms are able to hold my child, my eyes are able to see this beautiful sky..." A regular practice of flipping the script will begin to yield less stress in your mind and body and more peace.
3. Be gentle. Once you start really noticing the thoughts that happen unconsciously you might notice a pattern of thinking that is very harsh, critical - even cruel. Choose to be gentle. Here, not only do you flip the actual script of thoughts, you soften the tone of your thoughts. Being gentle with yourself means to allow yourself to feel compassion for the pain you have experienced in your life and for the trials you may currently be experiencing. You may notice you have a lot of harsh judgments of others as well. Choose to be gentle in your mind instead.
Mindfulness practice begins with deciding to really pay close attention to what you are thinking without beating yourself up for what you notice.
Holistic weight loss for women over 40 begins in the mind. We work on observing what thoughts are driving our experiences and we consciously shift and change what we are thinking and the way we are thinking.
Losing weight (and keeping it off!) happens when the mind shifts into a groove of observing, accepting what is in order to allow for change in actions to take place with ease and alignment.