About a year ago I asked a holistic nutritional consultant about how I could lose the 7 pounds I have gained since menopause. I felt it was only going to get worse and I should probably be making some changes right away before it got away from me. But her answer surprised me. She told me “you shouldn’t try”.
That was not the answer I wanted to hear. She explained to me this was the new normal and those pounds were there for a reason. I have to say I brushed off this advice. Surely this was the ultimate in ‘giving up’. I half heartedly listened to her tell me something about it being protective but already I was thinking -‘no way’.
In her essay “Things I Wish I Knew” the wry, funny and observant Nora Ephron says
“At the age of 55 you will get a saggy roll just above your waist even if you are painfully thin.”
Not all of us are painfully thin but gaining weight around your middle in midlife is pretty common.
Since I started writing this blog, I have not written much about weight gain or loss. Not because I don’t think its important. I know many people struggle with weight and many of us think about it, even obsess about it. I don’t write a lot about it because I think it is complex and I don’t consider myself an expert.
I do believe that you need less calories as you age. You need less food than you think most of the time. More than 20 pounds over your ideal weight creates extra stress on your joints and impairs your mobility. Visceral fat in the abdomen around the organs is associated with heart disease, metabolic syndrome and all kinds of inflammation.
But I recently read this article which is directed to people like me who want to lose those last ten pounds. It says, “When your ovaries no longer produce estrogen, the body’s adipose tissue (fat tissue) takes over to produce and regulate estrogen in the body. An increase in body fat is our bodies’ way of adapting in order to regulate estrogen production as we age.” And estrogen loss is kind of a big deal.
A little more weight can also mean a better bone density score as well as extra reserve in case of sudden illness. In this study about weight distribution and mortality it says (buried deep in the results)
“Two studies provided optimal percentage body fat. Kuk et al. found that the lowest mortality occurred at [24.1, 29.4] % for men and [42.5, 46.4] % for women. Dolan also found that percentage body fat in the range of (40.91, 44.25] % is the most beneficial.”
The advice to accept and love your body is a good one for everyone no matter what you weigh. Your one and only precious body will carry you through life if you love and respect it.
If you have 10 pounds to lose, maybe you should re-think it as you get older, it may be protective against loss of estrogen symptoms. If you have more than that, try different things and don’t be in a hurry. I have a friend who loves weight watchers (accountability and clarity) and another who swears by intermittent fasting. I personally like to do what is called intuitive eating or mindful eating. What is it? Paying close attention to your true hunger signals, varying your diet according to season and eating as locally possible.
As the beautiful Catherine Deneuve said – “At a certain age, you have to choose between your face and your ass.”