Your weight is creeping up.
But the frustrating thing is, you’ve been thin all your life.
You’ve never needed to diet. You’ve never needed to worry about what you ate. You’ve never had to obsess over the scales.
But now, after turning 40, something has changed.
Two Groups of Women
At my weight loss clinic, I only see women over 40. And my clients fit into two groups:
1. Women who have been overweight and struggled with their weight most of their adult life. They’ve been dieting for years.
2. Women who have been slim all their life and then suddenly in their forties, fifties or even sixties, their weight started increasing.
You generally don’t hear much about this second group, but they make up about a 1/3 of my clients.
What We’re Going to Cover In This Article
If your weight has only started increasing after 40, then this article is going to give you some answers:
1. Why it’s happening
2. What to do about it.
Why Is It Happening?
Why would someone who has been slim all their life suddenly notice their weight increasing?
First of all, we should always exclude any medical problems. This involves a visit to your GP/ family doctor to get some tests, especially thyroid function tests. An underachieve thyroid may be the cause of weight gain in a small minority of women.
(Bear in mind, even if you have treatment for an underactive thyroid, it will stop the weight increasing, but you’ll still need to find a way to lose the weight you’ve gained.)
Another possible cause is medication.
Even if you don’t find a medical cause for your weight gain (and even if you do), the following factors also affect your weight:
1. Slowing metabolism.
As everyone ages, their metabolisms slow. This means that we require less food as we get older. In fact, a woman in her fifties may require 400 fewer calories than a woman in her twenties.
This means over time, even if your diet remain unchanged, you may still gain weight.
This slowing of metabolism is the main contributor to weight gain after 40.
Contrary to popular opinion, menopause doesn’t cause weight gain. But what it does do is cause a change in body shape.
Most women, before menopause, carry most of their fat in their hips and thighs.
After menopause the distribution of fat changes so that more is stored in the belly area.
Practically speaking many women notice their belt size changes or that the waist of their trousers or jeans gets tighter.
3. Creeping bad habits
Over time, it’s easy for bad habits to creep in. Even small changes in daily calorie intake (that chocolate muffin you decide to have at morning tea) can have a large effect over time.
So let’s just review what we’ve covered so far.
You may have been slim all your life, but after 40, a few things can happen:
– Your metabolism slows, so that even if you’re eating the same amount, it leads to slow weight gain
– You go through menopause, which means that your body shape changes
– New habits creep in, that slowly add on the pounds
– In a small minority of women a medical condition (or medication) might cause weight gain.
But let me just say something that often comes up. Please do not listen to people who say that gaining weight is just part of getting older.
Weight gain as you get older is NOT inevitable, and you can do something about it.
It can be really unsettling to not have worried about your weight at all, and suddenly lose control of your weight. It almost feels like your body is betraying you.
And you’re faced with a choice:
1. Ignore it and hope it will resolve itself.
2. Do something about it.
I often see women who have gained weight, but compared to their friends are still relatively slim. So when they even bring up their concern, their friends say “Why are you worrying about this? You’re tiny!”
But that’s completely terrible advice. If your weight has gone up and you had no control over it, what’s to stop it going up even more?
No, you have to do something about it.
What You Need to Do
The first step is: Don’t panic and do things that are the opposite to your natural way of doing things.
You were slim all your life for a reason.
You knew how to manage your eating. You didn’t need to deprive yourself or go on diets.
And yet, it can be tempting to think that to get your weight under control, you have to try what other people have been trying. Dieting, restricting and obsessing over food.
This is the absolute worst thing to do.
Your weight has been going up, but that doesn’t mean you need to overhaul everything you do.
You actually have a strong foundation of good eating habits.
Instead of discarding your old ways, you need to make some small tweaks.
In fact, at my clinic, when a new client comes to see me, and she tells me that until recently, she has been slim all her life, that is usually a very good sign.
It is a great predictor of success.
Because we don’t need to start from the ground-up, like we might have to with a client who has struggled with their weight all their life.
Instead we can build on what’s already there, which is much easier.
Three General Principles
So first, let’s talk about the general approach you need to take.
There are three principles we need to follow:
1. Don’t try and lose weight overnight. Quick fixes will push you down the deprivation diet path, which is the wrong way to go about this.
2. Instead of overhauling your diet (which kept you slim until a few years ago) just work on making some small changes to your existing diet.
If someone tells you to clear out your fridge, only eat carbs, go gluten free, or start fasting (and you have never fasted before), they are sending you in the wrong direction.
Instead, we need to keep the foundation of your eating habits and just make some minor tweaks.
3. Whatever you do, you need to make it sustainable. Only do things that you know you will be able to maintain for the rest of your life.
Let’s Get Specific
The process of undoing your recent weight gain is highly individual. It really varies from person to person.
But let’s look at some of the steps we need to take. I’ll talk about this as if you’ve come to visit me at my clinic.
1. We need a baseline.
I need to know what’s going on. I need to know what you eat and when you eat it, who you eat it with, and why you eat it.
These are all the factors that contribute to your weight going up. And I need all this information before I can start making changes.
So I get every single client who comes to see me, to start keeping a food diary.
I honestly believe that if you can only do one thing to lose weight, keeping a food diary is the most important thing you can do.
Most people who are overweight eat mindlessly. They don’t really think about what they’re eating and how much they’re eating. They just fall into old habits and mindless eating.
The food diary on the other hand, gives you awareness. It takes eating out of the realm of mindlessness and into consciousness.
When you realise what you’re eating, you can start making changes.
When I look over a client’s food diary, I can see what are the factors that are causing her to gain weight, and this is the first step toward fixing the problem.
2. We need to identify the areas that need to be changed.
There are a huge number of possible factors that might be making you overweight, but here are a few examples:
a. Portion size
– Portion sizes can easily creep upwards over time, so that they are no longer connected to how much you actually need
– Snacking can become automatic, mindless and habitual. Re-thinking your snacking and making changes can cut a lot of unnecessary calories out.
A lot of my clients go out for dinner or on holiday a lot. So finding ways to enjoy these occasions without over-eating is crucial.
d. Emotional Eating
If you eat every time you get stressed, and you get stressed all the time, you have a problem! This needs to be addressed, or no weight loss method on earth can help you.
Perhaps you have got careless with your environment, and now inadvertently surround yourself with lots of temptation.
Taking control of your food environment can cut down a lot of unnecessary calories.
Again, this is just an example, but it shows that the key to losing weight and keeping it off, is not about following a diet.
Instead, you need to address these other triggers that are affecting your eating and causing you to gain weight.
if you want to know more about the steps you need to take to get control over your weight, I’ve created a free 7 day e-course that explains it in a step-by-step way.
If there’s one message I want to leave you with, it’s that you can do something about your weight gain, and the sooner you act the better.
Sign up for the course here. Remember it’s free: