Many women find their waistlines expanding in their 40s and 50s, with most of the weight going on their bellies – a phenomenon often called “middle age spread.” The good news is that it’s not inevitable. You can beat middle age spread!
Maybe you’re experiencing middle age spread right now…
- Clothes feeling tighter, especially round the belly and bust
- Avoiding public speaking or getting up in front of groups because you don’t want to be the centre of attention
- Having to pick clothes based on what hides the problem areas best, rather than what makes you feel confident
- Saying “no” to social events because you can’t find anything that fits and you feel confident in anymore
- Worrying about the impact of all the extra fat around your organs and how it may be affecting your long-term health
And it doesn’t help how much successful women have on their plates these days…
- Up between 6am and 7am
- Full-on at breakfast time with the kids
- Back-to-back meetings all day long some days
- The constant stress of reporting to directors
- Always being in the firing line
- Drinking & snacking in the evenings to deal with stress
- Not getting to sit down until gone 9pm some days
- Working on the laptop in front of the TV at night
But despite all that pressure, for many their struggle to lose weight is not for a lack of trying…
They’ve tried slimming groups, gym classes, personal training, keto, low carb and maybe even shake diets .
Many have even asked their doctor for help with shifting the middle age spread, but they get nothing useful in return.
But here’s the thing…
Despite feeling like it, middle age spread is not inevitable.
Of course, it does get a little harder to lose weight as you get older as your body becomes less efficient, but our 100s of success stories for women in their 40s, 50s and 60s show it is still totally possible – you just need a more specific approach to get results as you get older and your body changes.
We’ve coached over 5400 women over 40 to beat the middle age spread, flatten their stomach and keep it off so they can live longer, happier and healthier lives for themselves and their families (you’ll see some of their success stories later in this article).
In this article we’ll get into the strategies you can use to beat middle age spread.
But first we must understand the causes of middle age spread so you can understand how to beat it…
What Causes “Middle Age Spread”
Whilst your doctor may put it down to “ageing” and say it’s normal, many of the causes of middle age spread are lifestyle-related and therefore are in your control.
Cause #1: Hormonal changes
As you get older your hormones do change, especially during peri-menopause, menopause and post-menopause.
(In fact, we have a whole article dedicated to menopause weight loss).
Your hormones affect lots of different things:
- Emotional stability
- Energy levels
- Brain function
- Response to stress
- Muscle function
- Body composition (fat & muscle)
However, our lifestyle also has a huge impact on our hormones, and by changing your lifestyle you can counteract, or at the very least, minimise the changes in your hormones.
Here’s what else affects your hormones:
- Stress levels
- Hormonal replacement
By improving your nutrition, managing stress, increasing your sleep and exercising in the right way, as well as considering short-term hormonal replacement during menopause, you can optimise your hormones.
This will make it much easier to lose weight, shift that stomach fat, keep it off and beat the middle age spread.
Cause #2: Reduced muscle mass (not helped by crash diets and cardio)
As we age, the amount of muscle we have will decrease if we don’t do the right kind of exercise to maintain it.
What’s more, crash dieting on low calories (including shake diets) also leads to significant muscle loss as your body starts burning it’s muscle to survive.
If we have less muscle, our metabolism slows down.
This means you have to consume less and less calories from food and drink just to maintain your weight…
Or, if you continue to consume the same amount of food and drink as your muscle decreases, you’ll start gaining more and more weight (which can lead to the middle age spread phenomenon).
Combine that with a sedentary job and the stresses that come with a high-pressure career, and it’s easy to see why many people gain weight in their 40s and 50s – it’s not an accident!
The good news is you can actually maintain or even increase your metabolism as you age by increasing your muscle mass…
Resistance training – training with relatively heavy weights and your body weight – is by far the most effective way to build muscle and rebuild your metabolism.
It’s one of the reasons why women on our Fit Over 40 programme are able to lose 1-2 stone and 1-2 dress sizes in 84 days, and keep it off, even though other diets and cardio exercise such as running and gym classes weren’t working any more.
Cause #3: Unmanaged stress
Unmanaged stress has been linked to increased abdominal body fat – that’s fat around the middle.
This is because when stress goes unmanaged, cortisol, a stress hormone, is elevated. Higher cortisol levels have been found to lead to more fat being stored around the middle.
Of course, if you’re a high-achieving woman with a stressful job and a busy family life, this can seem inevitable.
The good news is you don’t have to remove stress from your life to beat middle age spread.
All you need to do is manage the stress more effectively.
Some things you can do to manage stress are:
- Practice daily mindset or meditation techniques to release the stress
- Use mindset tools to tackle stressful situations and turn them into positive actions
- Talk to someone, such as a coach, mentor, friend or therapist, about the causes of your stress on a regular basis
- Exercise regularly to destress and focus on something other than family and work
- Get more sleep and better quality sleep to increase your capacity and energy to deal with stress
These are all things we do inside our Fit Over 40 programme to help our members flatten their stomachs and beat the middle age spread.
Stress can often be a vicious cycle – the less it is managed, the more difficult it can seem to fit in and do the things necessary to deal with it.
Drawing a line in the sand and committing to daily mindset and exercise habits, as well as building a support network, is often the only way to break the cycle.
Cause #4: Lack of sleep
It’s fairly common knowledge that adults should be sleeping at least 7-8 hours a night to be healthy and perform at our best.
However, despite this many adults still skimp on sleep thinking they are functioning fine on 6 hours or less.
In fact, research has found only a tiny proportion of people (less than 3%) can actually function effectively on 6 hours sleep or less a night.
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, discovered that some people have a gene that enables them to function well on six hours of sleep a night. This gene, however, is very rare, appearing in less than 3% of the population. For the other 97% of us, six hours doesn’t come close to cutting it.Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, and Robert Segal, M.A.
Poor sleep is now being recognised as one of the leading contributors to obesity
This is for a number of reasons, but primarily poor sleep leads to two things that cause middle age spread.
- Out of balance hormones
- Low energy levels
If we don’t sleep well, we significantly disrupt our hormones.
The hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin, which tell our body if we’re full or not, end up out of balance, meaning we feel hungry even when we don’t need to eat. Cravings are much stronger and harder to resist.
This leads to over-eating throughout the day, which causes increased body fat. Fat which will be more likely to be stored around the middle for women over 40.
Lack of sleep also leads to increased cortisol levels, which we discussed above when talking about unmanaged stress. Higher cortisol leads to more fat being stored around the middle.
Unsurprisingly, poor sleep also leads to low energy levels throughout the day. With lower energy comes a reluctance to exercise, and even if you can muster up the energy to exercise your performance will be reduced and you’ll build less muscle and burn fewer calories.
Just like stress, lack of sleep can easily become a vicious cycle for people where they’re constantly playing catch up.
The less sleep they get, the less productive they are, which means they have to stay up later to finish off work and chores, which means they get less sleep the next night.
Again, drawing a line in the sand and committing to prioritising sleep is the only way out of the cycle.
It’s worth doing as it will hugely increase energy levels, significantly decrease cravings and hunger and that means a more successful career, family life and it makes weight loss much easier too!
Cause #5: Poor nutrition
It’s easy to forget that we are what we eat.
Much of the food we eat gets broken down and enters our cells and literally becomes part of us. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s no surprise that if we fill our body with rubbish, eventually we feel and look rubbish too.
When we’re younger, many people can get away with this to a certain extent, but as women enter their 40s and 50s their bodies change dramatically:
- Slowing metabolism
- Shifting hormones
- Increased stress
This means that many women over 40 simply can’t get away with eating like they used to or doing diets that used to work in their 20s and 30s.
If you don’t shift your nutrition to become more specific and to match the changes happening to your body, you can put in a lot of hard work and still see no results.
Inside our Fit Over 40 programme we tailor each client’s nutrition factoring in their age, height, weight, body fat, hormonal changes and dieting history to ensure they still see results even in their 40s and 50s.
Cause #6: Excessive alcohol consumption
Alcohol is not only high in calories, but your body also becomes less efficient at processing it as you get older.
Drinking like you did in your 20s and early 30s (or more), even after a hard week at work when it can feel deserved, will sadly lead to more weight gain, especially around the middle (as well as a higher risk of breast cancer and other diseases).
What’s more, alcohol lowers our inhibitions so we’re more likely to make poor food choices around drinking, leading to excessive calorie consumption and more weight around the middle.
So in short, alcohol is a double-whammy for the middle age spread.
The good news is you don’t have to give up drinking completely to start seeing improvements.
However, turning drinking into a calm, conscious choice, which can be done in moderation by working on your mindset and stress levels is a must if you want to beat the middle age spread.
Cause #7: Poor exercise choices
Not all exercise is created equal.
When we’re younger and our bodies are more efficient, we can get away with almost any form of exercise and see results.
However, as we get older our bodies change. Our muscles can start to waste away, and with this our metabolism slows down.
What’s more, certain types of dieting and exercise make this worse.
For example, long-duration cardio exercise (over 40 minutes, such as many gym classes) can actually cause your body to burn muscle. This slows down your metabolism, making it harder and harder to keep weight off over the years.
Crash diets, with severe calorie restriction such as the 5:2 diet, Cambridge Diet, and almost all shake diets, also lead to severe muscle wastage as your body burns it’s muscle for energy to survive during these periods of severe restriction.
Again, this means your metabolism slows down even more and it makes it harder and harder to keep the weight off, let alone lose any for any prolonged period of time!
The good news is these changes are reversible and avoidable...
Resistance training – training with weights (from home or the gym) – has the opposite effect. It helps build muscle and with it, your metabolism, so you can actually start to lose weight more easily again and keeping it off eventually becomes a piece of cake!
It’s just one of the reasons members of our Fit Over 40 programme can lose 1-2 stone in 84 days or less and actually sustain it long-term.
So it is possible to beat middle aged spread…
Middle age spread isn’t something that happens by accident – it’s the result of a shift in people’s bodies and lifestyles as they get older.
The good news is many of the changes that lead to middle age spread can be counteracted with the right approach.
We’re here to help…
Our area of expertise is helping high-achieving woman to overcome everything that’s stopping them being able to lose weight as they’ve got older and as their bodies and lifestyles have changed.
We typically work with women who have tried lots of different diets, slimming clubs, shakes and exercises classes in the past but they’ve not been able to see or maintain their results as they’ve got older.
Inside our Fit Over 40 programme we help women over 40 to get back into healthy eating and exercise habits that fit around their lives and support the changes happening to their bodies, so they can get to their ideal weight and size in 12 weeks but be in a position where they feel quite confident they could maintain that long term.
It’s kind of like having a personal trainer, nutrition coach and mindset coach on board to take all of the stress and uncertainty out of the process.
If you want to find out more about how you can lose 1-2 stone and 1-2 dress sizes in 84 days or less, without having to give up wine or chocolate, click the button below: