Got a belly bulge that won't budge? A pooch that won't vamoose? Are all the drop-5-pounds-fast tricks that used to work for you increasingly useless? Blame the shifting hormones and slowing metabolism that come with extra birthday candles. They have a way of rewriting the rules of weight loss after 40. Here's how to fix that:
- The belly bulger: rising blood sugar. At age 30, 10% to 20% of women are insulin resistant—which means their bodies ignore signals to absorb blood sugar. By age 60, slightly more than half are insulin resistant, thanks to drops in estrogen levels. Other hormone shifts, including rising levels of the stress hormone cortisol, send fat to your belly for storage. And belly fat doesn't just sit there. It makes trouble, releasing chemicals that interfere even more with insulin. The real kicker is that insulin resistance also seems to interfere with your ability to burn fat, making it even harder to lose the belly.
- The fix: Cut the carbs and stop the madness. Women who are insulin resistant lose 50% more weight when they cut their carbs from 60% of their food intake to 40%—24 pounds in 16 weeks versus 16 pounds—according to a University of Colorado study.
- The belly-bulger: sleep problems. Tossing and turning all night undermines your ability to burn fat and lose weight, even if you're cutting calories to the bone! And poor sleep is a common complaint from early menopause on, often lasting for years and running neck and neck with hot flashes. The culprit? Again, hormone swings: dips in estrogen plus jumps in luteinizing hormone (LH).
- The fix: yoga. A gentle and soothing yoga routine (deep breathing, relaxation poses) boosted sleep quality significantly in a University of Washington study. All it took was a weekly class and 15 minutes of yoga a day to cool off hot flashes and night sweats and relieve stress -- you know, the kind that wakes you at 4 a.m.!
- The belly-bulger: disappearing muscle. Sleek, toned, sexy muscle burns about twice as many calories as fat. It's a cruel fact that, starting in our mid-40s, we all -- men, too -- lose about 1% of our muscle mass every year. And that accelerates when estrogen dwindles. Because every pound of muscle torches about 7 to 10 calories a day, losing several ounces here and there gradually leads to inches of fat appearing around your middle.
- The fix: strength training. Challenging your muscles with dumbbells, resistance bands, weight machines, or your own body weight (push-ups, chin-ups) helps you build and keep precious muscle mass while you diet. Researchers have found that older adults burn up to 12% more calories per day -- and that's not counting what you burn working out! -- after 26 weeks of strength training.
Some body changes over time are for the better. What do you like best about your body today?