Are you going on holiday soon? Here’s how women over forty can diet for a holiday, without messing up their hormones.

A lot of women we speak to try some pretty extreme approaches to get fast results before they go on holiday. Approaches include 5:2, fasting, shake diets, low carbs, keto, cabbage soup diet, celery juice diet, the fast 800, etc.

Yet, time and time again, we see women over forty dieting all week then seeing zero results in the mirror – despite putting in loads of time and effort.

Even though this can be really disappointing, what’s even worse is that extreme dieting can have a lasting effect on the body – which can make it easier to gain weight in the future and more difficult to lose it again (especially for women over forty).

We’re going to reveal the best way to diet for a holiday, just like we did on our recent podcast episode. This way, you can feel amazing in all your clothes without regaining the weight or having a negative impact on your hormones!

The negatives of extreme dieting for a holiday

Extreme diets can get quick results for women in their 20s and 30s, because their bodies and hormonal state means they can tolerate more stress. This means it’s possible to drop a load of weight quickly before a holiday for women in that age bracket.

However, for women in their 40s, 50s and 60s, changes in hormones mean extreme weight loss approaches no longer work for three key reasons.

Changes in hormones in the run up to menopause

Menopause is officially defined as when a woman goes 12 consecutive months without a period. The average age is 51, but this is an average, and hormonal changes start to happen up to 10 years prior to this, so often in their early 40s.

These changes don’t just lead to menopause symptoms like hot flushes, low mood, achey joints or brain fog. They also have an affect on the way the body reacts to stress.

When you are subjected to a source of stress, the stress hormone cortisol is released. This is called the stress response. It increases with age, but most significantly, it increases 3x more for women than for men with age.

Sources of stress not only include things like work and family life, but extreme dieting and exercise approaches also significantly stress the body. If cortisol levels are too high for too long – what’s called chronically elevated – it can trigger the Weight Gain Triangle:

  • Leptin resistance – increased cravings, especially for comfort foods
  • Insulin resistance – increased fat storage, especially around the middle
  • Thyroid deregulation – slower metabolism

This makes it harder to lose weight and easier to gain it. This is exactly what you don’t want when you want to lose a load of weight to feel great on your holidays!

So, for women over 40, extreme diets and workout routines trigger the Weight Gain Triangle. However, that’s not the only reason crash holiday diets don’t work for women over 40…

The body doesn’t retain muscle mass as easily as you get older

Muscle is what makes people firm, toned and youthful. It also takes quite a lot of calories to maintain, so having more muscle mass can also give you faster metabolism and mean you can eat more without gaining weight!

Extreme dieting approaches which involve cutting down your food intake lead to you losing muscle mass as well as losing body fat. And a lot of these diets actually do this on purpose.

If you’re losing muscle as well as body fat, there will be an even bigger change on the scales – which can make it seem like you’re seeing more results. The reality is that with less muscle mass you’ll feel less firm, less toned and it will be easier to regain the weight once the diet ends.

That’s why it’s important to prioritise muscle maintenance before your holiday. You can find out more about how we do this here.

Crash diets make you overeat or 12+ months afterwards

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at the long-term hormonal adaptations to weight loss. It investigated what happens to appetite hormones after 10 weeks of extreme dieting up to a year later.

The appetite hormones are leptin and ghrelin:

  • Leptin decreases hunger: if you want to lose weight you’d want to have more leptin
  • Ghrelin stimulates hunger: if you want to lose weight, you want less ghrelin

One year after dieting, the volunteers had less leptin and more ghrelin, making them hungrier and much more likely to overeat.

So for a full year after dieting, volunteers still felt way more hungry. Which means it’s no surprise that most crash dieters regain the weight they lost – and more.

So, doing a crash diet for you holiday now could make you hungrier until this time next year, and it won’t work that well anyway if you’re a woman in your 40s and 50s as it will have triggered the Weight Gain Triangle.

What to do instead

Here’s what we recommend to do instead, so you can see the results you deserve when dieting for a holiday.

Nutritionally

Avoid hormone disrupting foods. We do this using a process called the Diet Makeover where we cut out the WADS foods – wheat, alcohol, dairy, and sugar – for 1-2 weeks.

It’s not unusual for someone to lose a lot of weight totally sustainable doing this. If you eat the right amount of the key three, calories, protein and fibre, then you’re bound to lose weight on the scales!

Make small adjustments

Firstly, we recommend to increase low-stress activities. For example, increase your steps. An additional 1000 steps burns about 40 calories on average, but in a low-stress way that won’t trigger the weight gain triangle (unlike running, HIIT, spinning and gym classes).

Add in some more LIST training – low-impact strength training – workouts, which you can do at home for just 30-40 mins. These keep cortisol levels low whilst delivering the best possible physical results.

And lastly, reduce calorie intake slightly (within safe range). This is usually around 100-200kcal a day, but never like 800-1200kcal a day or less.

It’s like adding a little bit more salt to a dish that tastes a bit bland and it works great, but if you add the entire salt shaker the dish is ruined – more is not always better – there’s the right amount.

Get expert help

What happens when life gets stressful, or something comes up like a work event or a weekend away? A lot of people we speak to don’t know what to do in this situation and either think “sod it, I deserve a treat”, or they don’t know how to manage.

It’s very easy to fail in private. However, if you work with someone who’s an expert in what you want to achieve, they’ll be able to keep you accountable to that goal. This means you’ll be able to get much faster results for a lot less effort! This way, you can diet for a holiday successfully.

To find out more about how Trinity can help you see the results you deserve, simply click here.