They say that age matters and that when you hit 40 it’s easier to gain weight and harder to lose it. Changes in activity levels, eating habits and hormones, and how our body stores fat all can play a role. But does it have to be that way?
At 40 I was 10st. 0.2lb (63.7kg), had a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 22.7 and my body type was described as ‘athletic’. Nine years later, I jumped on the scales and ‘suddenly’ I was 10st. 10lb.
For sure it wasn’t the biggest increase in weight (an increase of just over 1lb a year … easily done and to be honest easily goes unnoticed! But I was slowly and surely heading in the wrong direction. And for someone who had never really had to watch their weight – I have exercised regularly all my life, eaten a relatively healthy diet, which had got better over time as my understanding of nutrition grew and I didn’t drink alcohol – it was a bit of a shock.
Was it the impacts of perimenopause or was it me? Was it the hormonal changes or had I exercised less and eaten more? Was I mindful of what I had been eating or had I not been present to the changes in my body, what it was going through and what it now needed as a 40-something?
Whatever the cause I knew I wanted to be back to my weight as a forty year old by the time I was fifty. But having never actively had to lose weight before, and as someone who didn’t believe in dieting, how was I going to do this?
This was my plan:
- I got naked. I took a good long, loving and appreciative look at my body in the mirror. I acknowledged what this amazing piece of kit had done for me, the activities it had enabled me to do, the happiness it had given me … and with a smile made a pact with my body that, together we would become lighter and happier. That we were in this together … it wasn’t me against my body but me and my body off on a new adventure to a lighter, happier us.
- I took measurements. For sure I was keen to lose weight, but for me the tape measure tells a more important story.
- I set a vision for how I wanted to look, feel and be. I found images of 50-somethings who were fit and lean … not 20-somethings, but real women in their 50’s who through exercising and eating healthily showed it was possible to look great … and added them to my vision board.
- I set my goal … to be one stone lighter in three months … that was just over one pound for each of the twelve weeks … and then maintain that weight on-going.
- I did the numbers. I used online calculators to help me workout the calories I needed for my age, target weight and activity levels. And I then, for the first time in my life, tracked calories. This educated me in a way that helped me make better food choices. I was often amazed as to how many calories a certain food did or didn’t contain.
- I set my intention and wrote a food diary. But rather than writing down what I HAD eaten, I opted to write down what I WAS GOING to eat – I set my intention – and then added/subtracted to the diary as I went through the day. For sure there were days when my eating went astray – friends invited me out for dinner, a bad day at work … but overall, being planned and mindful about what I was eating really helped. It also gave me the clues to how my weight gain had come about over the last few years:
- My portion sizes had increased and were greater than my body needed
- My sugar intake was more than I had thought and in foods that I hadn’t expected
- I hadn’t been very mindful. I eaten things that I ‘forgot about’ … a quick snack here, a cake in the office etc.
- I had eaten much more on the run, eating foods that were higher in calories that home-prepared food, than I had realised
- I planned my food shops. I bought the foods that I needed to prepare the meals and snacks I had chosen for the week.
I enjoyed trying out new recipes – combining healthy foods with creativity
- I got creative, experimented and chose foods that I enjoyed. For a diet to be sustainable my belief is that you have to enjoy what you eat. So I checked out the healthy eating cookbooks on my shelf and picked recipes that I wanted to eat. I experimented and got creative; not only did I enjoy eating the meals, but I felt a renewed sense of satisfaction and achievement in preparing them. I also discovered foods and spices that I hadn’t tried before, opening up my repertoire!
- I entertained. Sharing my newly discovered, tried and tested healthy dishes with friends made it fun and I loved it when they asked for the recipe! Not only had I introduced them to something new, but they too wanted to make it for themselves.
- I checked first if I was hungry or thirsty. Often if I just had a glass of water I found that my ‘hunger’ went away. I wasn’t hungry at all. My body just needed hydrating more. And on that note, I also upped my water intake to 8-10 glasses a day.
- I ate five times a day. Three meals and two snacks; always starting my day with breakfast and tapering the amount in each meal during the day.
A healthy dose of fruit and vegetables freshly prepared for home and on the run
- I cooked at home and when I went away for work, I took pre-prepared meals with me whenever it was feasible. When it wasn’t, or it was just too much hassle, I looked for healthy foods on-the-go.
- I changed my training routine. Although I already knew that HIIT (high intensity interval training) and strength training were more beneficial to women over 40 than running and other aerobic exercise (although these still have a place in the mix) I hadn’t adapted my own training. With my new focus and goal in mind, I started to do HIIT 2x a week and added in a weights session. I still ran once a week but I also started swimming and went back to doing yoga once a week.
- I slept for 8 hours a night. Giving my body time to relax, repair and re-energise helped me to rise early, train with enthusiasm and stay focused all day.
- I reduced my sugar intake. Everyone knows that sugar is the ‘evil white stuff’ and that it is full of empty calories … for sure it can taste nice, especially when you are used to eating it, but by cutting it largely out of my diet I found that when I did eat it, these foods started to taste too sweet. It made me realise I didn’t actually like many of the foods I had been eating and so I became less inclined to want them; although I still enjoyed the cheeky ice-cream!
Fit for 50 and beyond – one stone lighter at 50 years old
- I incentivised myself. A photo-shoot on my 50th A shoot just for me, to capture how I was at 50.
My approach worked. And I did it. I achieved my target weight and maintained it. And on my 50th birthday I celebrated with a photo-shoot.
Whatever your weight loss goals or the approach you decide to take, I think it boils down to one thing: Your body is a reflection of your lifestyle. Your lifestyle is down to the choices you make … every day, choice by choice. You can choose your choices.
You have the power of choice