Following on from the success of one of my previous posts, How to Lose the Baby Weight, I want to share with you some tips to lose weight and improve your health in your late 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond.
Once your children have all started school, those relaxed days of buggy walks, colouring, building sandcastles and sensory play will have been reduced to a distant memory and your days will instead be full of driving to and from activities, school runs in heavy traffic, making lunchboxes and cooking different meals at different times to fit in with everyone’s schedules.
Mum’s needs generally come at the bottom of the list, leaving mum more and more exhausted.
The differences between losing weight in your twenties compared to your forties are numerous. While having a new-born and a toddler is exhausting at any age, mums will generally have more energy in their teens and twenties and will recover faster from sleepless nights and any new exercise program. As you lose weight through diet and exercise, your skin will ping back into shape much faster when you’re under 30. (I remember hearing results of a study some years back that named 29 as the most effective age to lose weight and get into shape.) However, that’s no excuse not to try!
Other reasons why losing weight is harder as you age are: changes in hormones as a woman approaches pre-menopause/menopause; separation and divorce and the financial and emotional struggles that result; grief following death of a parent; returning to full time work and having less free time to exercise; spending time caring for sick parent(s); drinking alcohol every evening or binge drinking at the weekends and many other events that cause physical, chemical and emotional stress.
The key to losing weight successfully at any age is a committed, dedicated approach; however, one thing is true – you MUST learn to love yourself. For most women this is the hardest part. We’re bombarded with airbrushed perfection in magazines, miniscule celebrities in movies, and all around us men are leaving their wives for younger models. It’s no wonder we’re insecure about our lumps, bumps and wobbly bits!
Loving yourself comes in many forms and is a skill learned over time rather than acquired overnight or in one counselling session.
Here are my top tips to improve your well-being in preparation for the weight loss programme (Scroll down if you want to jump straight to the diet and exercise section):
De-clutter your home: The space we live in says a lot about what’s going on in our minds and our hearts. Start small, empty your kitchen drawer, give it a good clean and reorganise your cutlery. Make a list of all the jobs, large and small, around the house that you (or your husband) need to tackle and tick them off as they’re completed. E.g. power washing gutters, cleaning or repainting ceilings, buying a new ironing board cover or simple things like matching up all your plastic containers and their lids (I generally give my kids £1 to do this!) Try also to de-clutter your car (or at least the front section where you sit every day!)
Take care of your body: Get a regular professional haircut (if salons are too expensive try a mobile hairdresser or offer a swap; I recently gave a sports massage to someone who helped me with my food photography techniques.)
If you can’t afford a manicure or gel nails then take time to look after your own by massaging cuticle oil every evening before bed, keeping nails short, neat and filed (jagged edges generally encourage us to nibble or pick!) and painted with clear or pale pink/peach polish.
Learn something: Take up an evening class, a dance class, start to study with the Open University or an online study course or start a professional course to help you advance at work. Learning increases our self-esteem and gives us something to focus on away from home life.
Get a correctly fitting bra: Millions of women around the world are wearing the wrong sized bra, causing unnecessary lumps and bumps showing under clothes and potentially damaging breast tissue (when the underwiring presses against the wrong area). Most women are wearing a bra size that’s too big around the rib cage and too small on the breast. For example, when measured professionally lots of women jump from a 36B to a 34C/D or from a 34C to a 32D/DD (UK sizes).
Learn the colours and clothing shapes that suit you: Many women are simply not interested in fashion, while others seem to have lost their way as trendy twenties turned into mumsy thirties practical wear – women who believe there’s no point dressing up because they’re only doing housework and they never go out anywhere nice with their husband anymore! There are so many professional services out there who can teach you, but often it’s nicer to go shopping with a female friend whose dress sense you admire. If you have teenage daughters you could even suggest they help you to smarten up/liven up your wardrobe.
A Nutrition Plan for losing weight in your 30s, 40s and beyond.
Fact: As body fat increases beyond healthy levels, the fat cells start releasing hormones that encourage further weight gain and worsen pre-menstrual symptoms.
Fact: Eating sugar (in many forms) will encourage fat storage due to its connection with the insulin response and the adrenal glands that govern the body’s response to stress.
With this in mind, the most effective weight loss will come from balancing female hormones to healthy levels and will support the body rather than stress it further. A low calorie, high frequency exercise plan will probably just tip you over the edge and leave you exhausted, frustrated and probably even gaining weight.
Step 1: Cut out sugar. This is probably one of the hardest things to do properly but once you’ve mastered this, the rest will be much easier. The most common response to ‘cut out sugar’ that I hear is, ‘Well, I don’t really eat much sugar!’ Well, I’m sorry, but you do!! Sugar is not just the white stuff you used to sprinkle on cereal or in coffee, it now comes in many different disguises – sucrose, lactose, maltose, fructose (basically all things ending in –ose on labels), plus there are artificial sweeteners, aspartame, sorbitol, stevia etc., all of which are enabling you to keep that sweet taste to your food. Other ways you’re eating sugar are in simple carbohydrates: white bread, white pasta, white flour and all things made from it – biscuits, cakes, crackers, breadsticks, pancakes, waffles, pastry…you get the idea!
Sugar is also hidden in most ready-meals and ready to eat snacks. You know those delicious sweet chilli chicken slices you buy for your healthy salads? Yes, sugar in there!! Flavoured crisps? Yes, more often than not you’ll find sugar in those too. Sachets of Chinese sauce? Yes….you can see where I’m going with this!
Cutting out sugar involves going back to basics and using fresh produce (vegetables and fruit), fresh meat and fish (lean, organic where possible), plain, unsweetened dairy produce and whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, barley etc.) For recipe ideas, have a look back over my older posts, click here for recipes or visit my facebook page for regular healthy meals and snacks.
If you suffer with heavy periods or frequent periods (every 3 weeks instead of 4), and there’s no medical reason why, then hormones will most often be the cause. If you can follow a sugar-free plan then you should notice within the first cycle that your pre-menstrual symptoms will reduce (less breast soreness, less irritability, less cramping, less bloating, less headaches) and within around three cycles your hormones should be balancing themselves to healthy levels. At this point I will mention that I’m not a doctor, nor a hormone specialist, and if your health issues are serious or you’re severely overweight, it’s worth seeing a specialist and using a sugar-free eating plan alongside the medication or complimentary therapies they offer.
In addition to a sugar-free diet (scroll down for a daily meal plan, or read on for more tips to accompany this diet) you should:
Ensure you eat every 3-4 hours to keep blood sugar levels stable. For most people this is breakfast, lunch and dinner with mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks.
Ensure you drink 2 litres of mineral or filtered tap water every day.
Reduce black tea and regular coffee to TWO cups a day, maximum. When you use caffeine to get you through the day it places a lot of stress on the adrenal glands and eventually encourages weight gain around your belly.
Reduce alcohol to two units a week (preferably good quality red wine) or cut out completely. Alcohol is a sugar, but also it will play around with your hormones causing you to crave fattier foods the next day and thus increasing overall calorie intake.
Keep red meat intake to two times a week and emphasize fish, skinless poultry and vegetarian meals based around lentils, beans and root vegetables.
Take a good quality multi-vitamin/mineral supplement to fill in any gaps in your diet. (There is much debate about vitamin supplements with many older people suggesting that we can get everything we need from our food. The fact is, our soil is not what it was 100 years ago; it’s massively deficient in minerals and therefore our produce can’t absorb as much as it used to. Fifty years ago the average Western adult ate fewer calories, 100% home cooked meals, didn’t sit all day at a desk and would have walked more and driven less. He wouldn’t have had 24/7 access to ice cream, sweets, crisps, processed foods, microwaves etc….)
Daily Plan on a sugar-free diet
Breakfast: Omelette with cooked onion, mushroom, pepper, courgette and tomato OR smoothie made with soya milk, banana, frozen berries, flaxseed or hemp seed oil. Herbal tea.
Snack: 3 sticks of celery with sugar-free peanut butter (In the UK, I prefer the Whole Earth, crunchy version which contains just peanuts, oil and salt, available in Waitrose) OR a punnet of raspberries or blueberries with approx. 10-12 almonds or 6-8 brazil nuts.
Lunch: Can of tuna (in spring water or oil), with a handful each of lettuce and baby spinach, grated carrot, shredded white cabbage, sliced cucumber plus any other vegetables of your choice. Top with olive oil and/or fresh lemon juice, black pepper or chilli flakes. If you prefer tuna mayonnaise, simply mix your tuna with a spoonful of Greek yogurt, olive or sunflower oil and seasoning.
OR warm salad of mixed roasted vegetables (your choice of: sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, butternut squash, courgette, aubergine, red pepper or fennel.) topped with olive oil and seasoning where desired. Top with your choice of protein: chicken breast, fish, beans or lentils, seeds and nuts, non-cow’s milk cheese – sheep/goat milk feta, goat’s cheese or buffalo mozzarella (check labels carefully).
Snack: Second half of breakfast smoothie and a handful of nuts if hungry, (Plain nuts, not salted and roasted) OR small plain yogurt with cinnamon and half a small banana or berries, OR carrot with hummus.
Dinner: (Interchangeable with lunch if desired) 4-6oz fresh fish (not in breadcrumbs) or 4oz fresh meat with steamed or stir fried vegetables. Try broccoli, asparagus, green beans, kale, courgette, peas. Use roasted root vegetables, brown rice or mashed sweet potato instead of white potato, pasta, bread or pastry as your source of carbohydrate.
Exercise plan for weight loss in your 30s, 40s and beyond.
Your personal plan is dependent on your current level of fitness and your exercise background, access to facilities and finances available. However, here are a few tips to get you started:
Frequency is more important than duration. Walking for 20-60 minutes a day will give you more time to recover, less chance of injury and more improvement in blood lipid levels and heart health than visiting the gym once a week.
Increase Intensity. Walking every day for half an hour is great, but your body will soon adapt and results will plateau. If walking is your only option then try increasing the speed in intervals (i.e. walk super-fast between lampposts or trees) or add in some hills/inclines. Off road hiking is ideal to give big improvements in cardio vascular fitness and muscle tone in the legs.
Try new activities. Always wanted to learn to play tennis, ice skate or horse ride? Adding new sports or activities will increase the challenge on your muscles and lead to better results. Naturally, the more time you spend learning new activities, overcoming fears and taking time just for yourself will naturally bring about improvements in mental well-being and self esteem.
Stretch, relax and sleep. In your teens and twenties you may well have got away with not stretching after activities. As you age your body needs more time to recover and will naturally stiffen up if you spend all day sitting at a desk (or on the sofa!) or in the car. ALWAYS stretch after exercise. Try to get regular sleep, at least eight hours if possible, going to bed and rising at similar times each day. Try a gentle yoga class, Pilates or a relaxing meditation/mindfulness class. The simplest way to relax is in peace and quiet in a warm bath.
If you would like further nutrition or exercise information, please follow the Facebook link below to visit my business page.
As always, I look forward to hearing your feedback, comments and successes.
Until next week,Lorraine