I eat really healthily but I feel like I’m getting bigger…
It doesn’t matter what I do, nothing is working!
This is something I hear constantly from 40+ women and it’s incredibly frustrating. Often it's a case of eating healthily, or eating less, or having changed nothing , but the number on the scale is still increasing. And the waist is slowly disappearing…
Is this possible?
Short answer, yes.
It has nothing to do with the fact that you’re not trying or that you’re going crazy.
Simple logic says that the concept of ‘calories in v. calories out’ is a far too simplistic view of weight. If it was true, then you wouldn’t be in this situation, right?
The truth is that there is much more to the story than what you’re eating.
"A struggling gut really messes with your hormones and this can have an impact on weight control."
Let's we set aside certain basic realities such as your metabolic rate that is affected by things like your history of dieting, activity level, and body composition.
We need to dig deeper because there are many aspects that are less obvious, but VERY relevant when we hit midlife and may be the underlying reasons why you’re gaining weight even though you’re eating the same.
Thing such as:
Your sex hormones start to fluctuate in your 40s and this has an impact on many other hormones, eg blood sugar balance hormones and thyroid hormones.
Your body will be a lot more sensitive to blood sugar fluctuations. If you don't have good blood sugar control, these frequent ‘ups & downs’ mean that you're more likely to put on weight. AND it will all go around the middle…
Your thyroid is the master controller of your metabolism - the rate at which you create and use energy. As you age, your thyroid becomes a bit less efficient and this can be a massive contributor to weight gain.
Basically, your thyroid may produce fewer hormones and this means that your metabolism slows down. And when your metabolism slows down you may gain weight, even though you’re eating the same way you always have.
Tip: Talk to your doctor about having your thyroid hormones tested. This is particularly important if you have a family history of thyroid conditions.
The digestive system tends to become a bit more sensitive as we age.
You may have noticed that there are some foods that really bloat you up, or give you indigestion in a way that never used to be the case. IBS? Constipation?
A struggling gut really messes with your hormones and this can have an impact on weight control.
And, a struggling gut means that even if you’re eating really healthily, you might not absorb all of those wonderful nutrients…
Tip: Eat more slowly, make sure you chew properly. Aim for a great variety of foods, especially vegetables.
"If you are serious about gaining control of your weight, then stress management cannot be ignored."
This is a really exciting area of research and it’s becoming increasingly clear - there is an incredibly strong link between sleep and weight.
To put it simply, if you struggle with sleep (not enough hours or intermittent sleep) then you are more likely to gain weight.
Poor sleep affects your hunger hormone as well as your ‘feeling full’ hormone. This means that you will eat more and you will feel hungry more quickly (!).
The issue is, obviously, that as we age it’s very common to struggle with sleep.
The general consensus is to aim for 7-8 hours of sleep every night. And we will also feel better when we keep to the same timings, even on the weekends…
Tip: Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Often it’s a case of going to bed slightly earlier, even 15 minutes earlier is a good start.
If you have a hard time winding down in the evening then implement a calming bedtime routine, perhaps with some gentle stretches, guided meditation or breathing exercises.
I know. This is a boring one… but it’s a fact that can’t be disputed. Stress is a major factor when it comes to weight control. The stress hormone cortisol is heavily involved.
The truth is that we will always have stress around us. It is impossible to avoid. So, when you’re looking to stress, it’s more a case of HOW you manage stress.
The stress will be there - you can’t control that, but you can control how you react to the stress (maybe…). How you manage it. How you deal with it. So, we’re talking about stress management techniques.
If you are serious about gaining control of your weight, then stress management cannot be ignored.
Tip: Try some breathing techniques (deep breathing / breathing through your nose), slow down your eating, do something that totally absorbs you, guided meditation, stretching.
There are so many things to try, you just have to do them consistently for them to have any effect.
When we age our bodies are getting older. Our organs and processes are working less effectively… It seems obvious, right?
We also continuously lose some lean muscle mass.
Loss of muscle mass means that your metabolism slows down, and you’re not burning through energy as quickly. The result is that you’re likely to put on weight.
The good thing is that this is just a natural process and it’s not your fault at all. BUT, diet and lifestyle do matter here.
Tip: Include some weight bearing exercises so that you keep your existing muscle mass.
Even better - try to increase your muscle mass through a focused weight bearing exercise routine.
As you can see, food is important for weight control but it is not the whole picture. There are many hidden underlying factors that are heavily involved.
Hormones, digestive system, sleep, stress, ageing are all interconnected to each other and can all contribute to weight gain, even if you’re eating the same way you always have.
Would you like to find out more about how nutrition can help you and your health?
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Consult your doctor or health care practitioner for any health problems, before embarking on any new health regimes, using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications or food programmes.