Weight Gain in Women: WHY it happens & HOW to Lose It
I’m going to start with the bad news: the average woman gains about 20-30 pounds between the ages of 30 to 60.* Yikes.It gets worse.
Where are these extra pounds materializing? Abs, backside, and thighs. Not that there’s really a great place for extra weight to appear, but I haven’t found a woman yet who gets super excited about extra weight around her middle. And here’s a fun tidbit. After puberty, we cannot alter the number of fat cells we have in our bodies. We’re stuck with them. When we lose weight, we are not losing fat cells, but rather reducing the size of our fat cells. So there’s that.
FAT CELLS, IN ALL THEIR ORANGE GLORY
Wait. There’s more, and it’s not great news either. (But I promise there IS good news coming your way. Just not yet.)It seems that most of this weight gain is not even directly related to food intake;food eaten makes up a small percentage of the reason behind said weigh gain.
So what’s the major cause?
A naturally slowing metabolism that gets slower as we age. For females,changes in metabolism are also influenced by our fluctuating hormones. These changes in hormones can start as early as our 30s. So don’t think you’re exempt if you’re on the younger scale here!
Other factors, such as:body type, stress levels, naturally fluctuating hormones, and genetics DO play a role in female weight gain, which also means that everybody is on an individual journey.
Most women, however, should see their doctor after the age of 35 to get their hormone and vitamin levels checked: this is the age when thyroid hormones often go wonky, and hormones may be influencing vitamin absorption. And you guessed it: vitamin deficiencies can also lead to weight gain!
But back to that slowing metabolism.
Despite our different journeys, one thing we ALL have in common is the inability to stop time (unless you do have that ability, in which case, please let me know your secret!).
So, metabolism. What is it?
Simply put, it is the body’s mechanism for turning food into energy by way of chemical reactions. A faster metabolism is generally a good thing - it means your body is efficiently using the calories you eat to make energy for bodily functions, and the faster calories are burned, the less likely they are to be stored as fat. Because, my friend, unused calories are generally stored as fat. So a slower metabolism isn’t a great thing. It means the calories from the foods we eat are not getting used immediately, and since there is a no loitering policy in our bloodstream, they will get stored as fat.
And remember where the fat is going? Right where no one wants it - your midsection, thighs, and glutes. Fat stored in the abdomen is also linked to a slew of health problems, such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, and inflammatory auto-immune diseases. Fat surrounding our vital organs is never a good thing, as it can suffocate said organs.
OK, enough doom and gloom. I said I was going to get to the good news, and that time has come.
What can we do about this???
1. We can try to get more SLEEP. A well-rested body is in a better position to lose weight. Getting less than optimal amounts of sleep can mess with your hormones, and can increase cravings, stress levels, and can cause the body to go into deprivation mode and not burn much fat . Makes me want to crawl into my Pjs just thinking about it!
2. REDUCE STRESS. Stress can lead to an increase in cortisol; cortisol can lead to inflammation; weight gain, in a way, is total body inflammation. An inflamed and stressed body is not in a place to reduce the size of its fat cells.
3. Change our EATING HABITS. If you’re not eating a healthy diet, you’ll gain more weight! BUT! If you alter your diet, adding more veggies, lean, high quality protein, who grains and healthy fats, you’ll make huge strides towards losing weight.
4. Add WEIGHT TRAINING to our workout routine. Weights training builds lean muscle tissue. Lean muscle tissue burns calories at rest. Calories burned at rest combat a slowing metabolism. Win!
5. Take PILATES. Weight gain around the middle can put extra stress on your back muscles. Pilates exercises strengthen and stretch the deep muscles of the abdominals and back, creating a strong core. This is not only helpful in reducing pain but also in improving balance and psssst, tightening your pelvic floor muscles (which also lose strength as we age… incontinence isreal). Pilates specifically isolates pelvic floor muscles to prevent loss of control!
6. Increase the INTENSITY of our workouts. As with strength training, higher intensity workouts, where you’re sweating and have an elevated heart rate,will put your body in s state of EPOC after you workout: Excess Post exercise Oxygen Consumption. Sometimes referred to as “afterburn,” EPOC your body will need to work harder after an intense workout to bring you back to steady state. So, you’re still using extra oxygen, burning extra calories, all just to bring your body back to homeostasis (optimal functioning at rest).
So, let’s recap:
Sleep, Stress Reduction, Dietary Changes, Weight Training, Pilates, and higher-Intensity workouts: SSDWPI - say it with me!
OK, so it doesn’t make a cute little acronym, but all these things DO work. We may not be able to stop time, but we can make the most of what we have!
* Stats based on the Framingham Study, which has been ongoing since 1948.
Shaina Falcone is a mom, a writer, a certified Stott Pilates instructor, a CanFitPro certified Personal Trainer and Healthy Eating & Weight Loss coach. She has been happily working in the fitness industry since 2002. You can find more articles like this one on her blog, www.shainafalconefitness.com