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By Louisa Fienberg as told to Angel Woodyard

Ladies, I have a story that I think we can all relate to. My friend, we’ll call her Candice, recently tried a new diet to lose the extra ten pounds she gained over the holidays. The first diet that caught her attention was the Cabbage Soup Diet. This isn’t one of the new fad diets by any means, but it promised her that she could lose ten pounds in seven days, just by cutting calories, sugars, and starches while filling the void in her soul with the cabbage soup. Candice was searching for the magic elixir for weight loss after fifty, and like so many of the rest of us, her frustration, along with the weight gain around her midsection, was growing by the minute.

The thing about the Cabbage Soup Diet is that it only works if there is zero deviation from the format. Candace had made small, not significant modifications. The type of modifications that the lifestyle of a busy, active fifty-seven-year-old woman demands. But seven days in, she had lost – wait for it – a staggering one pound!

She had skipped girls’ night, an event dinner, and entertaining relatives at home, all for one pound! To say that she was, frankly, a bit pissed off would be an understatement.

After fifty it feels like it’s impossible to lose weight, so what’s really going on here ladies?

Facts Are Facts

My friend Candace has tried many diets before and has even had some short-term results with them. But over the past seven years, since she turned fifty, she’s noticed real changes in her body. How her weight was distributed began to change, her energy levels tanked, it began to feel like every inch of her body was the Sahara Desert, and her skin seemed thinner and more fragile than it was before.

They say change is good, but when it comes to how our hormones affect our health during and after menopause, I disagree. These are difficult changes, and they’re not all in our imagination. Our bodies are changing, and we can’t avoid it.

Friends, we have a choice here.

We can either run headlong into self-hatred and wave the white flag, or we can together take a collective deep breath, figure this thing out, and care for this one body we have because, guess what – it’s the only one you’ve got and it needs to last for three, four, possibly even five more decades with all the longevity research we’re seeing today.

So, What Happens to Our Metabolism After 50?

At some point around the age of fifty, it seems like any extra weight we might be carrying hangs onto us around the waistline, like an old, clingy love that just won’t let go. To make matters worse, it invites friends and suddenly we’re receiving invites into the muffin-top club, our clothes don’t fit, and we feel not so great about ourselves.

Here’s what’s going on.

As we age, we lose lean muscle mass, our metabolism gets a little sluggish, our hormones fluctuate like wild until they finally plummet and plateau, and we may be less active, which means we’re burning fewer calories. These are universal symptoms, and yes, they happen even to really fit women. The changes are gradual and sneak up on you, but it’s right around midlife that we tend to notice the creeping weight gain.

Maybe in the past, we would have just cut out a snack or maybe spent an extra twenty minutes on the treadmill, but now none of these tried-and-true strategies will cause the scale to budge.

This sounds dreadful and hopeless, but let’s not throw in the towel just yet. At midlife, we can still be empowered to take back control of our bodies, our weight, our strength, and how we age. We can get the scale moving again, and even though it might move slower, we can absolutely lose weight and be in great shape.

The secret? We just must be smarter about it.

Time to Give Metabolism a Kick in the Pants

As we age, our bodies change. Our metabolism does slow down, but research suggests that the effects aren’t that noticeable until after the age of sixty. We tend to stick all the blame on metabolism because it relieves some of the personal accountability. This is a tough love lesson for all of us, but it’s true.

A sluggish metabolism after fifty doesn’t act alone. Loss of lean muscle mass affects metabolism. Sleep quality affects metabolism. Stress affects metabolism, and so do the foods we eat. When we say, “Oh, but my metabolism has come to a dead stop,” it isn’t metabolism alone, but often the combined effects of the other factors that play into it.

Kicking metabolism in the pants after fifty requires approaching it from all different angles.

First, let’s look at caloric consumption. At age fifty, we need to reduce our daily caloric intake by about 200 calories compared to our daily consumption in our forties. After sixty, we need to boost this even more, eating about 400-500 calories less per day. At midlife and beyond, we don’t want to go past about 1800 calories per day.

This, of course, doesn’t take into consideration unique dietary needs. Our bodies are all different, and you may require slightly fewer or slightly more calories to maintain weight.

But, wait. Will going to the gym every day and spending twice the amount of time working out mitigate this metabolism slump? Yes, and no.

You can’t exercise off a bad diet, and exercise alone will not help you lose a significant amount of weight. Also, when we work out hard, we tend to eat a lot more, which can make the whole thing a wash.

However, the right type of exercise can help. After fifty, it’s critically important that we focus on building lean muscle mass. Weight-bearing exercises and resistance training will help you build muscle mass, which in turn gives metabolism a nice little boost. Cutting calories and aiming for thirty to sixty minutes of moderate physical activity daily, which includes activities to build muscle mass, is what’s recommended for most.

Let’s Talk Metabolism Boosting Strategy

Scientific studies highlight several ways to support our metabolism, but before looking at those, it’s best to take a preventative look at other factors that may be contributing to weight gain.

The list includes many common medications. Antidepressants, steroids, diabetes medication, and anti-seizure medications are just a few examples of pharmaceuticals that can affect weight gain and weight loss. If you have any pre-existing health conditions or take prescription medications, please consult with your doctor, and get their thumbs up before adding anything new.

Six Tips to Boost Metabolism

  • Exercise more. Add interval training into your cardio routine to burn more calories in less time. For example, run for a minute, then walk for two minutes. Set this on repeat for 20 to 30 minutes.

  • Weight train. Adding muscle mass means you burn more calories at rest, and it also helps to prevent bone loss and the risk of injuries. Make sure to get all those muscles engaged with a total body strength routine.

  • Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast. Regular meals keep the furnace burning, help regulate blood sugar, and you actually burn more calories as you digest food.

  • Eat more lean protein, like chicken, eggs, fish, and tofu. Protein keeps us satiated for longer so that we’re not reaching for unhealthy snacks. Bonus – it takes more calories to digest protein than other foods. We use up to 30% of the calories from protein in digestion, while only about 10% of calories from carbs are used in digestion.

  • Eat fat-burning foods. Fat-burning ingredients like protein, spicy peppers, and green tea are proven to bump up metabolism. Eat some of these foods, especially protein at every meal.

  • Get good sleep. Studies have shown that lack of sleep affects activities in the brain’s frontal lobe, which may decrease impulse control and decision-making.

A Happy Ending

I’m happy to report that my friend Candice did lose her ten pounds of holiday weight gain. She threw the fad diets in the trash and embraced a common-sense approach to weight management after fifty. Instead of drastically cutting calories, skipping meals, and dropping a bunch of weight quickly, she created lasting change with a small calorie deficit and metabolism-boosting strategy that she can maintain for the long run.

On her final stop along her midlife tour, Candice, experienced some detours after menopause hormones. Despite all that, she achieved her goal and is living a healthy, happy life in her late fifties. We can do it, too! 





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