Midlife and weight gain seem to go hand in hand. It is THE top complaint I get from clients and women I speak with. And the problem is more complex than “calories in, calories out.” It usually starts because of hormone imbalances that show up in your early 40’s (or even earlier for some) but gets compounded by habits that seem like the right thing to do, but ultimately backfire.

Fortunately, weight gain doesn’t have to be a rite of passage in midlife. Staying at a healthy weight is totally doable… once you recognize the potential landmines in your approach to managing it. Unfortunately, many of us start doing exactly the WRONG things when we want to lose weight. Here are my top 4 mistakes: 

1. You cut calories too much.

When women gain weight, their first instinct is to cut calories. Often dramatically! This approach can quickly backfire.

A significant calorie deficit will result in weight loss initially, but if you skimp on protein, you lose muscle mass. If you skimp on good carbs, you can lose both body fat and muscle. If you skimp on calories overall, cortisol levels rise and this encourages your body to hang onto all the calories it can get (and deposit them around your middle).

2. You’re eating on autopilot.

Mindful eating is a powerful strategy when it comes to weight loss. But if you’re eating your food in the company of anything that has an on/off switch, there is almost no chance you’re being mindful. Same with standing at the kitchen counter wolfing down your food. When you are not in your body and present with your food, you can’t pay attention to your hunger signals. Especially the one that says “I’m full.”

There’s a simple fix for this. Put your food on a pretty plate. Sit down at a table. Eat slowly, really taste your food and stop before you are full. “Satisfied” is what you’re after! You should feel energized after a meal… not like you need to take a nap.

3. You and exercise need a better relationship

Most of us have a transactional relationship with exercise. As in, “I’ll run 5 miles if I lose 5 pounds by Friday.” Sound familiar?

Here’s the deal. Our bodies were meant to move. The cavemen did not sit around all day at a desk. You moved if you wanted to eat! 

What if you moved just because if felt good or just because you could? What kind of movement would feel like LOVE to your body? You don’t have to grind it out in a gym. You can go for a hike. Or row a boat. Or do qi-gong. Whatever feels good to you.

And as an FYI… exercise only contributes about 15% to weight loss results. And if you ramp it up and over exercise you will gain more weight. Too much exercise raises cortisol levels. If your workouts are leaving you feeling drained vs. energized, that may be a sign that your adrenals are unable to keep up with the amount of stress (exercise) you are asking them to handle.

4. Your hormones are out of balance

As we age, chances are high that some sort of hormone imbalance will occur. This happens because of stress (cortisol), low progesterone or exposure to toxins in the environment (estrogen dominance) and the aging process itself (thyroid). Until you uncover and correct these imbalances, achieving a healthy weight can feel like swimming upstream. Fortunately, these imbalances are fixable! A knowledgeable provider can help you identify what they are and create a plan to turn things around.

If you’re tired of dancing with the same extra 20 lbs, join Dr. Evins and Anna Garrett for their new Scrap the Scale program. It begins on September 23. Registration is full but we are opening up a select few spots this week! Email info@drannagarrett.com for details.