You wake up in the morning and look in the mirror as you prepare to shower. The upper arms aren't what they used to be. The belly that used to be flat has betrayed you. Somehow cottage cheese that should be in the refrigerator found it's way to your thighs. Seemingly overnight you went from being hot to having hot flashes. You exercise and eat right but suddenly it's not working. The rules have changed. Possibly, you've never really had to exercise or watch what you eat and now you find yourself wondering what to do about unexplained weight gain.
The abundance of conflicting diet and exercise information available is baffling. It's enough to either send you straight to a short course in burpees and bootcamp eating bacon and pumpkin seeds or leave you too confused to make a choice.
Here are the essential considerations when you're wondering where to start.
If you're looking to lose weight remember that you want to lose fat not just weight. Diets you've tried off and on in past decades didn't work, at least not long term or you wouldn't be here. Repeating what got you here in the first place is a sure formula for failure.
Most diets fail. Only 5% of people have that work out for them. The other 95% fail to lose or do lose and 66% regain the weight, in fat weight. So if you've had a history of diets over the years and had losses and gains? You have potentially gotten fatter. After the age of 50, the time most women are affected by hormonal changes losing weight and changing shape gets harder. Here's why: your hormones more than your calories are to blame.
Weight loss is really not an intuitive game any longer. You would naturally think eat less and exercise more. Create a calorie deficit and lose weight over time. The problem is that this only works if your hormones are playing well together. If they're in balance it can work. If they're not the very actions you take to reduce intake and burn more calories can also make you store more fat.
You read that right. Your diet and exercise could make you more fat.
Whether you exercise by jumping into a bootcamp six days a week or start walking a modest three days a week for 20 minutes, the question is, how in balance is your body when you start? An imbalance in your body's hormone levels are caused by a domino of factors.
It starts with stress. Then you can add estrogen, progesterone and testosterone in. A woman whose having a decrease in estrogen and progesterone is probably finding it harder to snap her skinny jeans. If she's also got cortisol in abundance due to chronic stress she is buying new pants. Cortisol tends to deposit belly fat, especially if you're driven by stress cravings to eating more sugar or starches.
Let's distinguish between two types of belly fat. First, there's the firm deep belly fat that can't be pinched. Second is the pinch-an-inch kind of fat around the middle or the upper arms. You could store both, not a double bonus, but usually one or the other is more prominent in clients I work with.
That's important to you for a good reason. The hormones mentioned above, as well as a few others, affect how your fat is both stored and burned. Remember the comparison of bootcamp to walking. You can help yourself lose weight more effectively if you choose the right steps based on your fat storage.
Deep belly fat is easier to burn and more responsive to exercise than the pinchable or subcutaneous fat just under the skin. That's good news given the link to heart disease is higher with visceral belly fat.
That nasty set of bat wings is more resistant to exercise. It takes a stricter adherence to high quality nutrient-dense diet.
For both types of fat, however, to burn optimally you have to balance the system first. If you're under emotional stress and not only your sex hormones from peri-menopause or menopause are gone crazy, but you've got cortisol causing problems, your weight loss won't happen. These hormones need to be calmed down and balanced first.
Exercise lighter and less often. Try yoga or meditation. Eat the healthiest foods you can find: those rich in color, leafy green vegetables, grass-fed beef, free range chicken and eggs. Organics are worth it. You want to decrease exposure to toxins and begin healing your body and hormones from the inside out. Rest and pamper yourself. Breath deeper several times a day.
The idea is that if you're stressed already emotionally your body has plenty of cortisol already. If you add to that strenuous exercise and the strain of decreasing calories it could all backfire. You end up with more stress and with inflammation that will push your goal further away.
Assess yourself physically about where you deposit fat. Assess your stress level. Assess your current nutrition habits. Using the combination of these determine the first steps in your plan. Add exercise to the mix that starts slowly and progresses sensibly.