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Goodbye Fat, Goodbye! Part 1

May 12th, 2010 · No Comments

After the age of 40 a woman’s accrued stress of a lifetime, declining metabolism and the onset of perimenopause takes a physical toll. Deposits of fat begin to settle in a disappearing waistline. Energy levels may decline. Women over 40 are spending their time juggling a career, caring for aging parents, spouses and teens.

Middle-age hormones begin to flood the body unpredictably resulting in mood swings, muscle fatigue and intense food cravings. The physical and emotional changes that result in long-term stress can cause self-destructive eating behaviors. This stress can make us frazzled and overweight. How we respond to stress determines appetite, body composition and overall fitness level.

Stress releases ravenous brain chemicals to help the body handle its responsibilities and also triggers the appetite. Food has easily become our anesthesia to numb the pain of chronic stress. Fat that accumulates around the waist is the result of stress. This stress makes us more vulnerable to colds, flu, infections and fatigue. Women with a thick middle section (35 inches or larger) are at higher risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

Perimenopausal weight gains in women over 40 result from not burning calories as effectively as we did a decade ago. Hormones change as we lose muscle mass and become more sedentary. Steps can be taken to turn the process around. Develop a stress-resilient lifestyle to take off fat and stop overeating at the kitchen counter. Make a few simple changes that will result in a healthy lifestyle. First realize we cannot eat the way we did when we were 20. Learn how your over-40 body operates and why your metabolism hormones are different now than at any other time in your life. Make yourself more important than food. Learn how to eat again. Savor and taste the food rather than over-consuming to overcome the day’s stress. Curb the guilt and anxiety about paying attention to yourself. A beautiful body emanates from a healthy mind. Rebalance your mind and body. No longer allow eating to be a stressful torment but a nurturing pleasure. Use your body to neutralize the stress of the day. Trade unsatisfying rewards of stress eating for rewards that are more fulfilling. Make positive, lasting changes in your relationships, careers, etc., and finally come to peace with your body. Achieve a balanced state of mind and body through regular physical movement and appropriate eating. Allow yourself to enjoy the rich and rewarding experiences of the second half of your life.

Balance physical and mental fitness. Develop a stress resilient personality. Take the time to care for yourself. Create peaceful times to relax. Learn to keep stress hormones in check. Navigate food choices around the most dangerous time of the day, which is mid-afternoon to evening. Some women anesthetizing pain confess to eating until they are physically sick. Stress overeaters never feel completely full. When reward systems are not operating correctly, the response is inappropriate eating. Bingeing quenches the need for reward and fulfillment, yet never brings a feeling of total satisfaction. Food numbs the pain. A stress-driven appetite is imbalanced and can lead to addictions to cigarettes, alcohol and other self-destructive behaviors.

Sometimes just getting on the scale can ruin a perfectly good day. Nothing can boost a women’s confidence or send her self-esteem plummeting like the numbers on the scale or a glance in the mirror. Concern about body image is a real anxiety among women. Many equate having the perfect body with having the perfect life. By age 40 most women’s closets resemble department-store retail racks with sizes ranging from small to large. We go through perimenopause with elastic waistbands that have replaced belts. It is not really about losing 20 pounds for a special event or squeezing into a size six. It is about negotiating through the maze of everyday challenges. Sadness, worry and anxiety suffocate the feelings of self-care. Learning to control stress hormones will reduce the tendency toward self-destruction and ultimately improve the quality of life. This means doing the best we can working through the daily hassles without mindless eating. No more standing in front of the fridge in a trance ready to stuff all the problems down with food. Calories are not the answer.

to be continued…

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