Whats Really The Best Way To Maintain A Healthy Weight Over 50? – British Vogue

Posted: September 1, 2020 at 2:53 am

My working title for this story was Fat at 50, Forever, and you can hardly blame me. While it was definitely tongue-in-cheek, for those of us whove gained a few pounds in midlife, maintaining a healthy size becomes and theres no way to sugar-coat it increasingly difficult. As you age, you put on weight, says the founder of the diagnostic clinic Viavi:be Dr Sabine Donnai, who specialises in health and exercise programmes for the over fifties. And thats if youre just standing still, not eating, not doing anything, just purely because your metabolism goes down each year.

Tempting as it is to accept this as an unavoidable part of getting older, there is (vanity aside) good reason for resisting this seemingly inexorable increase. As well as the surface weight were amassing, were also accumulating visceral fat, which surrounds our organs and stops them functioning as well as they should, which leads to a shorter lifespan.

Women have it twice as bad: along with the ageing process, during which the body swaps muscle for fat, we have the menopause to deal with. The loss of oestrogen has a particular effect on the way your fat is distributed, says Dr Donnai. Firstly, when oestrogen drops, you get mood swings, and frequently you overeat to compensate. You sleep badly as your progesterone drops, and your stress levels rise, often because its easy at this age to lose a sense of purpose especially if youve had children and theyre growing up and relying on you less.

Additionally, your body stores fat differently, as its lipoprotein lipase (which sits on the surface of the fat cells, pulling in fat from the blood) goes into overproduction, no longer kept in check by the now declining oestrogen. If the fat gets pulled into a muscle cell, it gets burnt off as fuel; but if it gets pulled into a fat cell, it just makes the fat cell bigger. You get the idea.

At this point, youre probably expecting a paragraph starting with the word fortunately, followed by a quick-fix diet with, quite possibly, some new gadget or machine promising that the whole sorry situation will be resolved in no time. Im sorry to disappoint. You need to get into the gym and lift weights, says Dr Donnai matter-of-factly. I know this is often alien to mature women, who are more used to yoga and some Pilates, both of which play a part, but its weights that will slow down the ageing process.

The physiological explanation behind this is that when you start training and lifting weights that feel like theyre too much for you, your body responds by making more muscle, in order to prevent what it perceives as damage. It stimulates a growth hormone, which in turn stimulates testosterone, and lifting that weight each time causes your metabolism to speed up. The lipoprotein lipase now pulls the fat into muscle cells, and because you have more muscle now anyway, thanks to lifting weights, your basic metabolic rate goes up, so you can eat without gaining weight, or lose weight if you eat slightly less.

Are weights the only option? Women really need to create high muscular overload on two fronts: to burn more calories, and raise the metabolism; but also to maintain bone density, says Matt Roberts, founder of the Matt Roberts Evolution personal training gym. When you stress the muscles, the tendons which are attached to the bone pull on it; the bone thinks it needs assistance and stores more calcium, and your bone density increases. High-impact exercise, going for a run, jumping, landing and moving, all also increase bone density. The impact of boxing is really good for bone density in the upper body, whereas running is good for the lower body. But you need a strategy in place for injury prevention this is where the yoga and Pilates come in as they create elasticity in the muscle tissue around the joints.

Sooner rather than later, we also have to address diet. To kick-start weight loss before a surf trip on which I didnt want to be carrying excess pounds, I embarked on a metabolic balancing diet under the guidance of Amanda Griggs at the Khera-Griggs clinic. I lost 8lbs in two weeks, and Id do it again, but perhaps only once a year it was tough.

You have to look at taking out starches and carbohydrates, rethink your portions, says Griggs. You have to realise, This is my meal. If that sounds a little grim, it has the advantage of reintroducing discipline. With a ban on snacking between meals, the diet which is restrictive for a fortnight but moves on to a maintenance plan thats all about mindful eating is healthy and delivers results. My BMI dropped to bang-on healthy. Of course, how you keep up those results is another matter. Youre quite disobedient, says Griggs, who guided me through the two weeks with plenty of stern, kind and highly motivating WhatsApp messages. Sometimes you only ate two meals a day, and Im not sure you always stuck to the quantities of protein you needed.

Roberts also homes in on protein. If you focus on eating enough protein, you just wont have the appetite for carbs. A womans protein intake is woefully low, he says. Government guidelines suggest 45g of protein for a 60kg woman, but Roberts explains, One egg is about 5g. So shifting away from carbs and loading up on beans and quinoa or eating sardines, as theyre high in calcium, will help control your blood sugar, raise your metabolism, and activate fat burn.

As well as advising abstaining from alcohol It gives you nothing other than a hangover and strips away Vitamin B13, which is vital for brain function hes also a fan of intermittent fasting. As women get older, they tend to think they need to eat less, and go on extreme low-calorie diets, but they dont work. You just add on more weight than you did before. Women have greater levels of visceral fat if you fast for 16 hours (from around 8pm until midday) for two to four days a week, for up to four weeks, and for the rest of the week take out the obvious foods that build up blood sugar, and increase protein, your body gets into a state of ketosis (where your metabolism is more energised due to lower blood sugar levels) and youll be burning away your visceral fat.

It all sounds easy enough, but as an inveterate carb-loading snacker who has eaten two and a half croissants while writing this I apparently still have a way to go.

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Whats Really The Best Way To Maintain A Healthy Weight Over 50? - British Vogue

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