Did you know the average woman gains between 12 and 15 pounds between the ages of forty and fifty five? Here nutritionist and weight management specialist, Rachael Anne Hill explains why and reveals how to side-step age-related weight gain.
40+ fat loss fact: You store fat more easily
As your ovaries produce less estrogen, your body attempts to find the hormone elsewhere. One place it can find it is within fat cells, so the body becomes better equipped at converting excess calories into body fat.
Your body will only store calories as fat if they are surplus to your requirements so the secret is to make sure you don't eat more than you actually need. The best way to do this is to get 'serving size savvy'. Below is an indication of how much an individual serving should be according to the Department of Health. (Note that a cooked serving of pasta, rice and cereals is equal to just one cupped handful — not the piled high bowlful that many of us have become accustomed to tucking into!)
- A serving of milk, yogurt, lettuce or green leafy veg = 2 cupped handfuls
- A serving of cooked pasta, rice, breakfast cereal, couscous, bulgur wheat, beans, pulses, fruit or vegetables = 1 cupped handful
- A serving of bread = the size of your hand
- A serving of meat, chicken, fish, poultry or cottage cheese = the size of your palm
- A serving of potatoes, bread = the size of a clenched fist
- Nuts and seeds, hard cheese = the size of 2 fingers
- Margarine, butter and spreads = the size of the tip of your thumb
40+ fat loss fact: your metabolic rate decreases
Your metabolism slows by 5% each decade. This means that, compared to age 25, you'll burn about 100 fewer calories a day at 35 and 200 fewer at 45. It might not sounds like much but be warned, do nothing and you could wind up weighing up to 20 pounds more a year!
Fat loss fix: find your inner strength
As we age, we naturally lose muscle mass which is why our metabolic rate decreases, but it doesn't have too. Doing some simple strength training (working your muscles against a resistance such as free weights, your own body weight or resistance machines) to a level where you can't do more than eight to ten repetitions of each exercise, two or three times a week will prevent this loss and keep your metabolic rate in tip top condition.
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40+ fat loss fact: your appetite increases
According to a recent study conducted at Oregon Health and Science University, the natural drop in oestrogen and progesterone production that occurs around this age can increase your appetite by up to 67%.
Fat loss fix: fill up on high 'SI' foods
Researchers at Sydney University created a 'satiety index' by testing over 200 different types of foods to see which ones were more filling. The results showed that fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, pulses, fish, chicken and meat were far better at curbing appetite than others. This is either due to their fibre, water or protein content. Fibre curbs appetite by slowing the rate at which we digest food. Water adds bulk and volume helping is to feel fuller for longer and protein triggers the brain to feel full far sooner than fat or carbohydrate.
40+ fat loss fact: you gain more weight around your middle
Oestrogen generally directs fat stores in women to the hip and thigh area. However, 'middle aged spread' occurs as the decrease in the production of this hormone results in excess weight depositing around your tummy area instead. This can be bad news for your health too because abdominal fat increases the risk of diabetes, hypertension, certain cancers and heart disease.
Fat loss fix: focus on fats
Gram for gram, fat has twice as many calories as protein or carbohydrate so even a small reduction in the amount you eat can have a big impact on your overall calorie intake.
Saturated fats found in foods such as cakes, crisps, biscuits, full fat cheeses, red meats, chocolate, chips, processed foods, ready meals and take outs will increase your cholesterol too. This, coupled with a decrease in oestrogen can treble your risk of heart disease so cut back wherever possible. Instead, switch to reduced fat or low fat dairy products, snack on fresh or dried fruit, nuts and seeds instead of crisps and biscuits, switch to using balsamic vinegar instead of salad dressings, chutneys and relishes instead of mayonnaise and get into the habit of checking food labels.
Fat is usually shown on packaging as fat 'per 100g' of the product. It may also be shown per serving and/or per pack. Food with 20g of fat per 100g of the product is high in fat, whilst anything below 3g of fat per 100g is considered to be low.
40+ fat loss fact: you burn off fewer calories
Research shows hormonal changes leading to breast soreness, bloating, hot flushes, insomnia and chronic tiredness can all result in women becoming far less inclined to exercise around this time of life.
Fat loss fix: phone a friend
According to the Women's Health Study which looked at the diet and exercise habits of over 34,000 women, those who choose not to cut back on calories needed to do at least 60 minutes of exercise a day to prevent weight gain. If, however, you do eat a little less, 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as brisk walking, cycling, swimming or running should do the trick. Oh, and if you struggle to find the motivation to get moving rope in a friend. According to a recent survey, those that exercised regularly with friends shed up to ten times more weight than those who exercised alone and found the whole experience of exercising much more enjoyable.