Living Life in my Early 40s
I was in my early 40s, cruising along, working a job I loved, eating very healthy, and pretty restrictively actually, but I will save that for another day, running 3-4 miles three times a week, and strength training twice a week too.
A Big Life Change in the Making
Long story short, I decided to put my career on hold for a second time, and stay home full time until my kids graduated from high school. About the same time, I cut back drastically on my running, due to injury, and honestly, a little boredom too.
Oh, and perimenopause began to rear her ugly head in a major way.
It wasn’t long before I began slowly gaining weight. (I also began baking homemade bread several times a week and slathering it with Kerrygold butter, but I didn’t see any connection here.) Over the next three years, I managed to gain almost fifteen pounds. With the exception of the few years following two pregnancies and two kids 15 months apart, this was the heaviest I’d ever been.
A Shift is Happening
I began looking for an explanation as to why I kept gaining weight. I bought books, and spent umpteem hours researching the topic. I knew it must be my hormones, and I spent a lot of time and money trying to prove it. Granted, there were other things going on that were related to my hormones that eventually required a hysterectomy, but in the end, it wasn’t my hormones causing me to gain weight.
I was eating too much. I was exercising less, and eating more. A lot more.
I went from a very structured three meals a day and one snack eating plan to constantly grazing every time I got bored, anxious, tired, or needed to procrastinate. I had no structure in my eating anymore.
Unfortunately, it took almost 3 years and 15 pounds to figure it all out.
I Wasn’t Alone in My Experiences
I have seen this same thing with friends and clients in their 40s and 50s. We immediately assume it must be hormones that have caused us to gain weight. We search endlessly for programs and professionals who can help us get to the root of our hormone imbalances. After all, it HAS to be something complicated, and we need a village to help uncover the mystery.
Now to be clear, I am not saying that hormones during this life stage don’t have the ability to wreak havoc on us. They can. My sleep quality over the last 5 or 6 years has been lousy. The hot flashes aren’t fun either. I am also not saying that there aren’t conditions where hormones CAN affect weight. There are. I am saying for me, and for many other women in this season of life, the culprit of weight gain hasn’t been caused by a hormone imbalance.
It’s been the result of taking too many calories in for the amount of calories we burn.
And there it was. The root of my problem.
Why Was This Happening?
There’s a myriad of reasons as to why this happens. We think we are still super active in our 40s and 50s, and we are. We workout, take walks… But are you chasing your preschoolers around the park? Are you spending an hour every night getting up and down off of the floor to play with your baby as he/she crawls around on the floor? Are you running around ball fields three or four nights a week? Spending an hour every night giving baths, getting kiddos in and out of their pajamas, etc.?
My answer was no.
So, while it SEEMED like I was as active as I had been in my 30s and early 40s, I wasn’t. The kids were transitioning into their teen years, which meant a lot more time with their friends, and less running around for me.
I just wasn’t burning as many N.E.A.T., or Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis calories, which is basically the calories you burn when you aren’t eating, sleeping or working out. It’s what your body burns in your normal everyday life, and even if you are still working out 5 or 6 times a week, you probably aren’t burning as many calories in your day to day activities, as you did when the kids were young.
A New Realization
So I realized, first, that I’d run out of all of the elusive reasons for my weight gain. It’s kind of like the saying goes, “When you hear hooves, think horses, not zebras”. I had to admit that the reason for my weight gain had a more likely explanation. I was eating more calories than I was burning.
But, this was also GREAT news!
It meant that I had control of how much I ate and how much I moved. Control isn’t always completely possible with hormones.
So I made a change. I started with awareness and started writing down EVERYTHING I was eating. I paid attention to portion sizes. I stopped baking bread multiple times per week because it wasn’t something I could have around and eat in moderation.
And slowly, (just like it had come on), the fifteen pounds came off. It wasn’t easy, but it WAS simple.
Could This Be Your Story Too?
Does this story sound familiar? If so, do a little experiment.
First, write down everything you eat for 5-7 days. Every Bite, Lick, and Taste. It doesn’t matter if you put it in a fancy spreadsheet or a series of sticky notes. Just get some awareness around how much you are really eating.
Second, try upping your calories burned from N.E.A.T. Park further away from the work and the store. Stand at your kitchen island or counter to answer texts and emails. Find ways to make things “less” efficient so you have to take more trips from room to room to get and put away household items. Take stairs instead of elevators.
Try these two things for one week, and let me know how it goes. You may have solved the mystery as to why you can’t shed the midlife weight gain.
The good news is, it’s probably not as complicated as you think it is, and YOU have the power to do something about it! Save those hundreds or thousands of dollars for some new running shoes or a stationary bike! 🙂