Whether you attribute it to changing hormones, a lagging metabolism, genetics, or just normal aging, the struggle against midlife weight gain is real and you're not alone. For young readers, is weight gain an inevitable part of your future? For older readers battling the bulge, what are the best steps you can take to lose?
WHY THE EXTRA POUNDS?
Weight gain in your 30s, 40s, and 50s is the result of a combination of factors. For women, it's easy to blame those pesky pounds on fluctuating hormones during menopause, but this is a common misconception. Hormones do play a role, but not as big as you may think. Two to five pounds may be the result of hormonal changes, but the rest are due to overeating, a lack of exercise, stress, and genetics.
In particular, as women age they lose muscle mass (hormones play a role in this decline). Less muscle means fewer calories burned. Aging also leads many people to sit around more. These two ingredients make a recipe for weight gain, especially around the waist.
There's good news for young readers. By making the right lifestyle choices today, midlife weight gain doesn't have to be a part of your future. It starts with a nutritious, calorie-conscious diet that's based on whole foods, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. No more processed junk foods or super-size portions.
A second important component in the fight against future gain is exercise. Making physical activity a regular part of your lifestyle now will set you up for success later in life. Including weight training in your routine will build and strengthen muscle that's needed to keep your metabolism humming through the years.
The third defense against midlife weight gain is stress management. Learning to deal with stress in healthy ways when you're young sets the pattern for when you're older and tempted to make poor lifestyle choices.
IT'S NEVER TOO LATE
Less muscle mass and less activity as you age may lead to weight gain, but it's never too late to lose. Now is the time to make up for lost years and lost muscle. Your go-to workout from the past may not do the job today. Fat cells get smarter and don't want to die. So if you're exercising and not seeing the results you used to, it's time to change things up. Aim to get anywhere from a half hour to full hour of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Try new workouts and increase the intensity for greater calorie burn. Be sure to include two to three days of weight training and core strengthening exercises to compensate for lost muscle and fend off abdominal weight gain.
It's not just laziness at the gym but laziness in the kitchen that contributes to midlife weight gain. As you age, your body requires fewer daily calories. Crash diets only mess with your metabolism, so it's smarter to make small changes you can stick with. Add more fruits and vegetables to your plate, eat fewer desserts, cut out sugary drinks, skip the fried foods, eat more fish, and make eating out a rare treat. Slow down, eat mindfully, and keep a food journal. You may not get those washboard abs you had in your 20s, but you can still turn heads in your 50s.
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