Women who have spent their whole lives slim often get a rude surprise in their 50s. Why am I getting so fat? Why is my belly bulging? What caused these rolls of fat on my back and belly?
Waistbands start to dig into fat that was never there before. Rolls of back fat suddenly appear. Hormone imbalance due to menopause? That’s what Leslie, 53, thought.
“When I started gaining weight,’ Leslie explains, “I thought it was a hormone imbalance. That’s what everybody told me, so I tried some OTC pills that were supposed to fix it. When that didn’t work, I tried a few different diets that experts claimed would balance my hormones. No luck!”
Nothing helped so Leslie made an appointment with her gynecologist hoping to balance her out-of-whack hormones that were making her fat. She had a thorough examination. “It’s not your hormones,” was the verdict delivered by her doctor after a complete physical examination and blood work.
Her doctor told her to change her diet. “Cut the carbs and go gluten-free,” was the nutritional advice from her doctor. It was also suggested to that she avoid all dairy and sugar. Her doctor also sold her some expensive multi-vitamin pills. “They’ll help me burn fat and build muscle,” I was told. It’s pretty standard nutritional advice today, but not especially good advice.
“I left the doctor’s office and went straight to the grocery store. I bought gluten-free everything. I bought almond milk and some pretty awful, but costly, sugar-free stuff,” exclaimed Leslie. “I was determined to beat this bulge before it got worse.”
Leslie details a particularly unhappy couple of months trying to stick to the advice given to her by her doctor. “I felt hungry all the time, not because I wasn’t eating enough, but because I wasn’t enjoying anything I was eating.
I did manage to lose 10 pounds, but it seemed like most of the weight came off my face and my butt!” “When I looked in the mirror I saw thin lips, no hips! When I turned sideways I saw flat butt, big gut!”
After a few months and unsatisfactory results Leslie had had enough. “I just quit,” she said. “I wasn’t getting anywhere. Why bother eating this way for nothing? I was just going to deal with being older and fatter.”
Like a lot of women over 50, Leslie couldn’t accept how she looked and felt with the extra weight. “Shopping for clothes was a nightmare. Nothing fit or if it fit, it looked awful.” She was still searching for a solution when in desperation she joined Weight Watchers. That’s when I met Leslie.
She walked into the meeting expecting to have to give up sugar, gluten, and dairy again. She was happy to learn that expectation was wrong. It wasn’t hormones and it wasn’t gluten,or dairy. It was too many calories going in and too few getting used by her body for fuel.
She learned that her weight woes were caused by the normal changes of an aging body. It happens to women and men. The only thing female hormones have to do with it is changing the location where the body stores fat, but her hormones weren’t making her fat. Turns out that popular theory is a myth.
Leslie was able to get her body back to looking and feeling good by making these simple changes to her eating and moving habits.
1. Monitoring food
Leslie recognized she had a habit of nibbling. As a younger women, the frequent bites, licks, and tastes she didn’t notice she was taking didn’t matter. In her 50s they did matter. Cutting them out altogether wasn’t necessary, but tracking them when she did indulge in the behavior was necessary. In addition to tracking her nibbles, she paid more attention to what and how much she put on her plate at mealtime.
2. Sitting less
Leslie made a plan to never sit when she could stand, never stand when she could walk, and never walk when she could run. She also traded some sedentary forms of entertainment for active ways to have fun. She enjoyed more dancing and fewer movies. When she did enjoy movies she streamed them with Netflix and watched them while she walked on her inclined treadmill.
3. Performing more household chores
As Leslie became more successful professionally she began to pay for services she could do just as well herself. Weekly housekeeping, snow shoveling, lawn care, car washing and waxing to name just a few. Household chores are not just good for burning calories. The provide resistance to muscles or in other words, they preserve and can even build muscle mass.
If you’re over 50, take it from Leslie (and me!), you can avoid gaining – or if you have gained it already remove – belly fat without spending a lot of money on pills and drinks said to “balance hormones” or eating foods you don’t like while shunning most of the ones you like the best!