“On average, people lose about 30 percent of their muscle power between ages 50 and 70. But this doesn’t have to be; inactivity and too little protein hasten the process. Keep muscles healthy with regular strength training — a smart step that 79 percent of people in their 50s skip.” source
That muscle loss leads to decreased metabolism, and often times we take in more calories than we realize. While it’s not good to be a slave to My Fitness Pal, it can be eye-opening to track every bite & sip you take in for a few days to get a true picture of your calories & macros.
It’s also important to vary your exercise, making sure to include strength/resistance training with weights to build muscle!!
*as always, ask your doc before starting or changing your exercise routine or diet*
I work with women all the time who are struggling with weight gain during perimenopause and menopause. Here are 4 common reasons may start to struggle with losing unwanted pounds during this stage of life:
1. Chronic Stress: When you’re under constant stress, it can wreak havoc on the stress hormone cortisol. It’s sooo important to manage stress. If you don’t get your hormones into balance – otherwise, belly fat can creep up! Make sure you’re resting, taking breaks, listening to your body, and using meditation/mindfulness/breath work to help get back into a parasympathetic state.
2. You’re consuming way too much oil & saturated fat: Yes, we need some healthy fats; BUT there is so much evidence that staying “low-carb” all the time with excessive protein and fat is not conducive to long term fat loss. Often, those low-carb/high-protein diets encourage the eating of excessive saturated fat which increases risk of heart disease as well.
3. Your gut is imbalanced: Mind your microbiome! Avoid those foods that are highly processed and high in fat/low in fiber, increasing diversity of plants to feed the microbiome, improving digestion and nourishment. (Check out Fiber Fueled for more on this topic)
4. Excessive calorie restriction: When you restrict calories too much for too long, it is really hard to maintain weight loss over the long haul. As you approach your goal weight, you’ll have to do some experimenting to find the sweet spot of how much you can eat without gaining weight.
Bonus: You’re too self-critical: Mindset matters! If you’re obsessed with your “diet” vs enjoying a healthy lifestyle, your cortisol level goes up & this can lead to a binge or imbalance. Life, food & movement are to be enjoyed! Follow a 80×20 or 90×10 mindset to allow occasional indulgences, without going off the rails! When in a state of chronic stress, you’re more likely to hold onto every calorie and ounce of fat because your body feels like you’re constantly in a state of threat. (See #1 again)
It is so important to stay healthy and active as we age. In addition to consuming healthy whole food plant based nutrition, there’s no doubt or shortage of research on the benefits of movement and exercise to encourage strong bones & muscles, improve cardiovascular health and even cognitive function. Exercise can also reduce the risk of falls and injuries as we get older. But even if you’re not in perfect shape, you need to just START (after consulting your healthcare provider, of course and under the supervision of a certified trainer to be sure you have great form and are doing appropriate exercises). You’ll be surprised how quickly you can adapt to a new healthier lifestyle once you figure out what type of activities work best for you!
It’s never too late to start; however, there is an advantage to starting early to encourage healthy aging. What you do now determines how you’ll live a decade from now.
Group activities that incorporate the social aspect may increase your likelihood to participate & not skip. A few possibilities: pickle ball, tennis, golf, walking group – just make sure you don’t allow yourself to feel pressured to push harder than you should.
Resistance training: It’s so important to stay STRONG and avoid sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss)
Look for opportunities to increase general activity: studies have shown that staying more active throughout the day, providing our bodies the opportunity to increase the heart rate which improves cardiovascular health. Consider taking the stairs or the longer route to the bathroom at work, parking far away at the grocery, walking to chat with someone instead of sending an email.
Brain/body training: Activities that require some level of balance, agility, hand-eye coordination are great as well – again ask your healthcare provider for suggestions that are appropriate to your current ability & progress from there.
When looking at risk for cardiovascular disease as well as all-cause mortality, inactivity is a greater risk for both than any other single habit or practice.
The evidence is clear: “when inactive individuals are compared with active individuals, the inactive individuals increase their risk of cardiovascular disease by between 150% and 240%, and individuals who choose to be inactive accept the same increased risk of heart disease as individuals who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day! Unfortunately, 15% of the adult population in the United States still smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, and 60% to 80% are either not adequately active or completely inactive. Thus, inactivity carries the same risk as cigarette smoking a pack of cigarettes per day and is between 4 and 5 times more prevalent! source
So how much exercise do you need? 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, plus 2 days/week of strength training exercise is the general recommendation released by the CDC recently. Always check with your healthcare provider for specific recommendations tailored to your individual needs, and check out the CDC’s general guidelines here.