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6 Reasons Midlife Women Struggle With Weight Loss

Written by: Sharon Jane Ripley, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

I realize weight loss can be a struggle for women of any age, but it becomes especially challenging once we enter our 40s and 50s due to the hormonal shifts of menopause and perimenopause. In this article, I explain some of the more common reasons women fail to achieve their weight-loss goals, as well as some challenges specific to our midlife years.

1. Exercising willpower is not sustainable.

Willpower is only required when there’s a part of us that doesn’t want to do the thing we’re trying to do. So when we’re dieting or trying to avoid the foods we like, we’re setting ourselves up for a sense of deprivation. We may be able to deprive ourselves for a short while, but eventually, the desire for satisfaction usually wins out. Part of this is driven by our emotions, but there is also a physical component. When we deprive ourselves through calorie restriction, for example, our body’s wisdom kicks in to protect us from starvation. Our hunger ramps up, and our metabolism slows down to conserve energy. Obviously, this is the complete opposite of what we want. So instead of eliminating all of your comfort foods, try exercising portion control. For example, you can switch out some of the refined starchy carbs like bread, pasta, and fries for a larger serving of veggies. Eating more whole, unprocessed foods will satisfy your appetite for longer because your body is fully nourished. 2. Focusing on calorie counting is not the answer.

Although we need to be mindful of how many calories we consume in a day, not all calories are created equal, and the quality of the calories we consume is just as important as the quantity. You may have heard the term “empty calories.” These are typically found in foods that are high in sugar and have little or no nutritional value. I’m talking about things like soft drinks, candy, and table sugar, to name just a few. By the way, alcohol is also a source of empty calories. Any food that spikes your blood sugar causes a surge of insulin which triggers a shift in your metabolism and drives the excess fuel into your fat cells. This, in turn, causes a precipitous drop in blood sugar which makes your body think it is starving and it will crave more sugar. This is commonly referred to as the blood sugar roller coaster. So you may want to start cutting back on the amount of sugar you put in your tea or coffee or cut it out altogether by replacing it with a natural low-calorie sweetener like stevia. You can also gradually begin diluting sweet beverages like fruit juice and soft drinks with soda water or just plain water. You may be surprised how quickly your taste buds get used to this new level of sweetness.

3. Your diet is low in protein, fat, or fiber.

Eating plenty of fiber in addition to good quality proteins and fats at every meal helps prevent blood sugar spikes that encourage fat storage. Eating in this balanced way will also make you feel satisfied for longer, reducing your craving for high-carb snacks in between meals. Of course, moderation is key, especially when it comes to fats, which are calorie dense. And the quality of fat is important as saturated fats have been linked to high cholesterol levels. The prevailing consensus is that a heart-healthy diet is one that favors unsaturated fats over saturated fats, is high in fiber, and limits sugar consumption.


So eat more high-quality protein sources like salmon, tofu, legumes, quinoa, nuts, and seeds, as well as healthy fats like those found in avocados, flax seeds, and olive oil. And don't forget your fruits and veggies for that all-important fiber. 4. You have an undiagnosed or untreated condition that is causing chronic inflammation.

The key word here is chronic. Acute inflammation is a normal and essential part of our body’s healing process. It helps repair damage to our tissues and usually only lasts a few days. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, lasts much longer, sometimes indefinitely, if the underlying cause is not treated. This puts your body into a chronic state of stress which makes it difficult to lose weight. High blood sugar is perhaps the most pervasive cause of inflammation and shows up as insulin resistance, prediabetes, or diabetes. Getting your blood sugar tested regularly is important when it comes to monitoring, managing, and preventing this type of inflammation which impacts many systems in the body. Cutting back on the sugar and simple carbs is a great first step in reducing your blood sugar and the associated inflammation and weight gain. Allergies or sensitivities to foods like gluten and dairy can also cause inflammation, so getting tested is important if you don’t respond well to certain foods. The trillions of bacteria in your gut, otherwise known as the microbiome, play a huge role in gut health. There is a constant battle going on between the good bacteria and bad bacteria in your gut, and what you eat can tip the balance in favor of the good guys or the bad guys. Eliminating the problematic foods from your diet will reduce inflammation, improve your gut health and remove one more barrier to losing weight. Environmental toxins can be inflammatory as well, and we are exposed to them daily in myriad ways. Common exposures are through the ingredients often found in household cleaners, make-up, and skincare products, as well as the pesticides in our foods. Some of these ingredients fall into a class of environmental toxins that are particularly problematic when it comes to weight loss. Aptly named “obesogens,” they disrupt your metabolism by interfering with your endocrine system in ways that promote fat storage. These include chemicals such as BPA, phthalates, and atrazine, just to name a few. Educating yourself on the ingredients in your household and skincare products, as well as your food, is of vital importance. The Environmental Working Group is a very helpful resource for this sort of information. Among other things, they provide a list of fruits and vegetables that are most likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues to help you decide when it makes the most sense to go organic. You may also want to consider visiting a functional medicine practitioner who can assess your exposure to toxins and provide you with a supervised detox program. 5. Your hormones are out of balance.

Although we can experience hormonal imbalances at any time in our lives, they become more likely in our midlife years. And one imbalance often leads to others in a sort of cascade effect. Declining estrogen levels during the midlife transition not only make women more resistant to weight loss but also cause more fat to be deposited around the waist and belly area. On top of that, declining testosterone levels tend to increase the ratio of fat to muscle. This is why women typically gain weight at this time in their lives even if they haven’t changed their diet. Adjusting one’s diet and exercise regimen to accommodate these metabolic changes can certainly mitigate the associated weight gain. It may also be worth having a conversation with your doctor about hormone replacement therapy to help balance out your hormones.


Aside from the typical hormonal changes of perimenopause and menopause, there is another hormonal imbalance that can occur. Your thyroid hormones are secreted by the thyroid gland, the main metabolic regulator in the body, and when the thyroid fails to produce enough hormones, this is called hypothyroidism, a condition that is surprisingly common in midlife women. And one of the many symptoms of an underactive thyroid gland is weight gain. So be sure to have your thyroid hormone levels checked. Hypothyroidism is a condition that is usually easy to treat, and restoring the optimal balance of these hormones will go a long way to resolving your weight loss resistance.


Another common hormonal imbalance results from overstimulation of the adrenal glands due to chronic stress. This results in chronically high levels of cortisol which causes us to store more fat in the abdominal region, commonly referred to as stress-belly. So stress management is a key component of weight management, especially in your midlife years. Regular exercise, meditation, yoga, as well as deep breathing are just some of the many ways you can reduce your stress and cortisol levels.


6. You lack a solid weight-loss plan.


You know the adage, “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.” You need to know what your specific desired outcome is, and it needs to be measurable. You also need a realistic time frame in which to achieve your weight-loss goal. My YouTube video on S.M.A.R.T. goals goes into more detail on how to set yourself up for success right from the start.



In addition to employing a systematic approach to weight loss, it’s also important to set up a structure of support and accountability. I know from personal experience that I can accomplish far more working with someone than I can alone. Being supported and held accountable to someone else, whether it’s a coach, a friend, or a family member, helps you stay on track when the inevitable obstacles show up and threaten to derail you.


As Zig Ziglar once said, “A goal properly set is a goal halfway reached.”


Do you need help shedding that middle age spread or navigating other midlife challenges? Then please feel free to connect with me on Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, or visit my website.


If you’re ready to start creating a plan right away, then I invite you to book a complimentary 1-hour jump-start session in which we’ll discuss your unique challenges and get clear on your desired health goals. If you’re not ready to have a conversation just yet, but you want to take some kind of action towards improving your health, I encourage you to register for my online mini-course, Maximize Your Midlife Mojo.


Cheers to your midlife health!


 

Sharon Jane Ripley, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Sharon Jane Ripley is a certified health and life coach who works with midlife women that feel frustrated and discouraged by the physical and emotional changes they are experiencing due to the menopausal transition.

She takes a holistic and compassionate approach to help women make the dietary and lifestyle changes necessary to improve their quality of life by addressing mind, body, and spirit as an integrated whole. The result is a more balanced, peaceful yet vibrant life, giving women renewed confidence and passion in their midlife years and beyond.

Sharon began her career life as a biochemist, but after many twists and turns, which included two cancer diagnoses and a very challenging midlife transition of her own, she discovered her passion for helping other women navigate their midlife journeys.


She now uses her rich and diverse life experience and training as a mastery-level mindset coach to inspire and empower women to make the changes they desire and to embrace this phase of their lives as a wonderful opportunity for growth, healing, and transformation.

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