It’s not age and it’s not menopause, ladies. A study(1) done on women across the globe in 2012 showed there was zero correlation with menopause and weight gain. Yes, hormones change the game, but the evidence shows lifestyle habits more than your time of life determine winning or losing the game.
The good news is you can change habits. Check any of these five fat loss obstacles and see if you’re unintentionally sabotaging yourself. Choose one to focus on this week. Clean that one up and move on to the next. This way you can avoid overwhelm and layer your success habits such that in a matter of weeks you’ll have boosted your fat burning easily.
You’re eating too often.
The myth about eating five or six small meals a day is just that. There is no evidence that eating this way boosts metabolism. In fact, there is some evidence(2) to the contrary, that eating this way can lead to more fat.
Women who try eating six small meals a day often report that they are eating when they aren’t even hungry but they’ve been told this is the way to lose weight. This kind of force-feeding messes with your hormones. Your hunger and satiety signals can’t possibly work in your favor if you’re always overriding them.
On the other end of the spectrum is intermittent fasting. It is science-backed. The question is on what level should you do it. Before you go on some extreme 2-day or 24 hour fast, shoot for overnight for at least 12 hours. Too few people do even that. Close the kitchen after dinner and make sure breakfast is a minimum of 12 hours away. Then try not snacking between meals. These mini-fasts alone may help you discover your hunger signals again. Fasting more may be right for you, but you want you want to avoid causing more stress(2) at midlife when women are already more susceptible to the negative affects of cortisol, the stress hormone.
You’re eating too little.
Intermittent fasting aside, the diet industry has done a darn good job of sending the message that if you want to lose weight you need to eat less. Unfortunately, the result of eating less is that your body will burn less. Sure, some of us need a little more restraint when it comes to eating the right foods in the right proportions.
Slashing calories and then perhaps attempting to burn them off with exercise causes stress. Your body under stress (3) will hold on to every calorie and store more as fat. It’s a self-preservation response that isn’t going to go away. Your body doesn’t know there’s a refrigerator in the next room and you’re going to be fine.
Even more important, if you reduce calories, consuming high protein(4,5) meals may help offset muscles losses.
Exercise makes you tired but you never reach fatigue.
Reaching fatigue during exercise several times a week is mandatory (6,7) in order to see more lean muscle tissue and improved cardiorespiratory fitness, which both boost metabolism. That means during your intervals you must get breathless. During your weight training, whether you lift heavy or you need to choose light weights, you get to a last repetition that you can do well.
Your body is stressed if it has too little water. Every single cell in your body requires it to function. Your muscles hold the majority of your water. You can’t work them properly – or feel motivated to do it – without water.
See number two above and you’re back to that stressed body storing calories as fat easier under stress. Your body will naturally shed water when you exercise, you’re in hot environments, or you’re at altitude. During these times you want more water.
If you’re bloated, your body is holding onto water. As counter-intuitive as it seems, the more pure water you drink, the faster your body will flush that extra water out. It may be a higher sodium food that caused it. As odd as it sounds, if you’re a highly sensitive person (HSP: yes, it’s a “thing”) you may find weather fluctuations cause you to retain water, or your cycle.
You can offset your cycle of bloating if you have the tendency to retain water by drinking more water, increasing your fiber and your protein and staying away from sugar.
You’re not getting enough sleep.
You need certain hormones released during deep cycles of sleep (8). The less you sleep and the more disrupted it is, the less chance you have to release Human Growth Hormone (HGH), that necessary hormone for lean muscle. Holding onto lean muscle, and certainly gaining more, is harder with age. You want to give yourself every advantage.
If you’re doing resistance training to fatigue twice a week, eating enough overall and plenty of protein but not seeing results, be sure your sleep quality and quantity are right for you. A sleep needs assessment (I wrote about it in You Still Got It, Girl!) is a good start.
It takes an integrated set of the right habits. Assess your strengths and then tweak those weaknesses so you can get the results you want. Of all of the above, which is the most likely to be your obstacle?
- R. Davis, C. Castelo-Branco, P. Chedraui, M. A. Lumsden, R. E. Nappi, D. Shah, P. Villaseca, and as the Writing Group of the International Menopause Society for World Menopause Day 2012 Climacteric Vol. 15 , Iss. 5,2012
- Ohkawara, K., Cornier, M.-A., Kohrt, W. M., & Melanson, E. L. (2013). Effects of Increased Meal Frequency on Fat Oxidation and Perceived Hunger. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 21(2), 336–343. http://doi.org/10.1002/oby.20032
- Tomiyama, A. Janet et al. 2010 Low Calorie Dieting Increases Cortisol. Psychosomatic Medicine. May 72(4): 357-364.
- Soenen, S. et al. 2013. Normal protein intake is required for body weight loss and weight maintenance, and elevated protein intake for additional preservation of resting energy expenditure and fat free mass. The Journal of Nutrition, 143 (5): 591-96.
- Churchward-Venne, T.A., Holwerda, A.M., Phillips, S.M. et al. Sports Med (2016) 46: 1205. doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0504-2
- Nóbrega, S. R., & Libardi, C. A. (2016). Is Resistance Training to Muscular Failure Necessary? Frontiers in Physiology, 7, 10. http://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2016.00010
- Joan A Cebrick Grossman, Ellen K Payne A randomized comparison study regarding the impact of short-duration, high-intensity exercise and traditional exercise on anthropometric and body composition measurement changes in post-menopausalwomen–A pilot study. Post Reproductive Health. (2016) Mar;22(1):14-9. doi: 10.1177/2053369115623899.
- Thomson, CA, et al. 2012. Relationship between sleep quality and quantity and weight loss in women participating in a weight-loss intervention trial. Obesity, 20(7):1419-25