Middle age spread

One of the first things women become aware of is the gentle, unassuming, silent spread that suddenly shows up around the middle of your body somewhere around the middle of menopause.

This may throw you into a frenzy of working out more and dieting like crazy in an effort to get rid of it. How many of us have assumed that if we get back into class and just cut down on food for a couple of weeks, we should be able to do our jeans up again. How many of us have got this wrong?

Why could this be the wrong way?

Because what worked before will not work now. This is because we are going through a change, a transformation of both our physical bodies as well as our physiological bodies. This means that what is happening is more to do with our shifting hormones and the stress it causes, than us not being disciplined with our diet and exercise.

Did I hear a sigh of relief? And there should be one. Because the more you stress about it, the worse that spread is going to get.


(Did you notice the questions are getting shorter) It’s not a long, complicated lecture. Here’s why you may not be able to get rid of the spread and ways in which you MAY be able to get rid of the spread. It’s a choice for you- to try something new, or to stay the same. Seeing as you don’t have much control over the changes taking place in your body, you may as well go with the flow and try something else.

First of all, with aging, we will have a slower metabolism presumably through loss of muscle mass. But for those of you who have kept exercising, this information is just plain frustrating to hear. However, if you are still eating like your 18 year-old self and not doing any growing and physical activity, chances are you may be gaining some weight. This is alright if you don’t mind gaining weight but if you do mind, then unfortunately, you may have to look at eating less. Or exercising more. Or both.

But let’s say you have done that already and still nothing is moving.   Then it’s time to look into some of the other reasons for the weight gain.

Number one- stress

When you are stressed, your body will release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. One of the roles of these hormones is to lay down a layer of protective fat around your middle. This will protect your organs as well as give you energy to live off in case you can’t get to food. Constant low-level stress (which is what most women live with) may lead to adrenal gland fatigue. Which can make you feel listless and lifeless. It is important to know that if you feel depleted after exercise rather than energized, your adrenals may be overworked. But instead of giving up your workout entirely, some small changes may help.

Rather than exercising hard for that traditional one hour, research is now showing that as little as ten minutes a day is beneficial. If you are feeling poorly, then why not just do some gentle stretching? It may take the guilt away from not working out and may even make you feel great!

Interval training has also shown promise in keeping stress level lower than an intense 30-minute cardio followed by 30 minutes of heavy resistance training. Interval training is just that- a type of training that involves a series of low- to high-intensity workouts interspersed with rest or relief periods. Resting during your exercise routine has also been proven to be more beneficial to the health of your body systems than going all out.

Number Two- Diet
Another reason for the spread may be an intolerance to certain foods that can cause bloating and swelling. This is very common during menopause as the fluctuating hormones may change how your digestive system works. Wheat, dairy, alcohol may now be triggers. Keep a food dairy to see what you may have become intolerant to. Eliminating these foods may increase your energy levels and optimism towards exercising. Once again though, exercise should be a joy, not a chore. You should be allowed to eat without having to work it off. Once you notice the bloating receding, your panic to try and work it off will recede too. And so will your stress level that may be causing the spread. See the vicious circle?

Number Three- loss of elastin and collagen

The loss of elastin and collagen will cause your skin to sag a little (or a lot- it depends on your genetics). This could be mistaken for middle aged spread when it looks like a roll around your middle. It could be a loss of tone in both the abdominal muscles coupled with a loss of skin elasticity. Can exercise help with this? Yes absolutely. Collagen fibres regenerate to a certain point with impact activities. That means walking, running, jogging, dancing. Not so much swimming as the buoyancy of the water takes the impact out. Correct core work is essential to tone the muscles underneath the skin but most programmes tend to over activate and over recruit these muscles which makes them bulkier rather than lengthened.

Number four- being honest
Sometimes we can convince ourselves that we ARE eating well and exercising properly but the reality is that we aren’t It may be a good idea to start a food and exercise diary so that you can see your patterns quite clearly. The bottom line here is that you are not doing anything wrong. But you aren’t changing your routine to suit your new body. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. But with a little effort, this change may be the best thing you’ve ever done.

You have to be patient and listen to your own body and try and figure out what is working for you. It may be that a brisk walk through a park is much better for you than an hour spent at a gym. At the end of the day, it’s your choice. No one can tell you how your body should feel and what programme will work for you. Start designing your own workout.



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