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. Why the usual solutions don’t work.
3. 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.
So what do you do now?
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.
Option 1 is definitely not a good option. If anything, as you get older, the problem will only get worse. You can’t ignore this. It won’t get better on its own.
So if you’ve decided to do something, what are the options?
Here’s what most people do…
1. The Diet
The first step for anyone wanting to lose weight is go on a diet.
But which diet?
There are literally thousands of diets to choose from. How do you know which one will be right for you?
Well before we decide, let’s take a step back and think about how dieting works.
How Diets Work
When you decide to go on a diet, you have some rules you have to follow.
– No carbs
– Reduced fat
– Only eat a certain number of points per day
But whatever the rules, it comes down to one thing:
Stop eating what you normally eat, and start eating what the diet tells you to do.
What this means is that:
– You usually can’t eat foods that you love
– You have to eat totally different foods to what you normally have
– The family ends up eating different things to what you have to eat
– It’s difficult to go out for dinner or go on holiday / vacation
– It’s usually unpleasant.
Most people can’t stick to diets for very long, because it’s generally difficult to live a normal life on one. And they’re usually depriving, so you wouldn’t want to spend the rest of your life on one anyway.
So, even if you do manage to lose weight after a few weeks, that’s about as long as you’d want to stick to one.
But this becomes a problem for women over 40.
Because of slower metabolisms, it’s hard for a woman over 40 to lose much weight in a few weeks. Which means they can suffer for three weeks on a really difficult diet, and have very little to show for it.
So you can try your luck with diets, but:
– They’re unpleasant
– They make you miss out on a social life
– You won’t get much of a result, before it becomes unbearable
So what else is there? What other alternative do you have?
Exercise while being very good for your health, is not enough on its own for weight loss for women over 40.
I very often hear of women who have committed to regular workouts at the gym and stuck to them for many weeks, then felt very disappointed when it had no effect on their weight.
Exercise alone will not do it. You need to eat fewer calories.
But as we’ve seen, dieting doesn’t work either.
So what can you do?
Don’t Give Up
It’s at this point that many women give up.
Their weight is going up. And yet, the two things everyone tells you to lose weight (“go on a diet” and “join the gym”) don’t work.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a solution.
Let me show you what really works for women over 40.
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.
Remember this isn’t about dieting and exercise. It’s about taking a totally different approach.
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.
Some clients have faulty impressions of how much they are eating. This is a sign that they are not conscious of their intake.
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.
– Women who gain weight only after 40, generally have a good foundation of habits, but changes in metabolism, menopause and creeping in of bad habits, can cause weight gain.
– Going on a diet, or relying on exercise is not the way to solve this problem.
– Instead, you need to make tweaks to what you’re eating, including reducing portion sizes, cleaning up your food environment, reducing emotional eating, reducing snacking and figuring out ways to enjoy social occasions without over-eating.
1. Acknowledge that you have had good habits most of your life, so it’s not like you need to throw that all away.
2. Diets are an extreme, unpleasant way to try and lose weight, and for women over 40, do not deliver results in a way that is sustainable.
3. Exercise is crucial for your health, but is not enough on its own to help you lose weight.
4. Keep a food diary. It is the best way to really understand how much you’re eating and which factors influence your eating. This is the basis on which you can make changes.
5. Take a long term perspective. You won’t have gained weight over a week, so don’t expect to lose it that quickly either. You are going to be maintaining your weight for the rest of your life, so treat it like a long term activity.
6. The changes you can make to lose weight without dieting, are covered in my “How to Lose Weight without Dieting” e-course. You can sign up for it here (it’s FREE):