Wonder how to lose menopause weight when eating less and exercising more hasn’t made a difference? Then you are in good company. Or at least Alexandra and I are in good company, as we get this request regularly from our group fitness class members, blog readers, and midlife friends. (Or would that be Bad Company, as we Run with the [NOT Six] Pack? I am cracking myself up here). Heck, I have this same frustration and know all the tricks of the trade. Or at least I thought I did. But it turns out even I, with over 30 years as a certified fitness professional had more to learn about dealing with menopause and the dreaded belly fat that puts the mid in midlife middles.
Yup, that’s how good the experts were for the recent TransformAging Summit we hosted. (Click that link to see what the summit offered). When fitness specialists, Tamara Grand and Debra Atkinson presented their webinars, they shared Fun Fit Facts about hormones, strength training, and weight gain. Their strategies will help those of us wanting to get back our waistlines. But first we need to know what we are dealing with.
Test your knowledge on the role hormones play as we age when you take our quick quiz. The questions are culled from Debra and Tamara’s sessions. Once you put into action their suggestions, you will be able to:
That’s their promise, and I believe them. Perhaps more important than whether I believe (insert here some hallelujahs sistuhs and sistuhs) is that they base their comments on science and evidence. So it’s really a question of ACTION.
From “Resistance Training: Your Easy After 50 Weight Management Program,” presented by Debra Atkinson of voiceforfitness.com (We definitely encourage you to visit Debra and Tamara’s respective websites once you are done getting all the answers right to our quiz).
A. 25 B. 35 C. 45
T or F?
A. calories in (food) B. calories out (exercise and movement) C. hormones
A. Inside the gym lifting weights B. Outside the gym not lifting
T or F?
How are you doing so far? Are you getting the hint of what will help you regain your younger figure?
From “Midlife Weight Gain, Hormones, and Menopot: Strategies for Staying Slim Without Losing Your Sanity,” presented by Tamara Grand, PhD of fitknitchick.com (Yup, we still urge you to hop over to Tamara and Debra’s websites to access more great ways to reach your fitness goals).
A. Experiencing more stress in midlife
B. Less movement with each passing year
C. Lower calorie requirement as we age
D. All of the above
E. None of the above. Quit looking for excuses.
A. 25 % B. 35% C. 50%
A. 25% B. 50% C. 75%
A. Middle aged men B. Middle aged women C. Both genders after 65 years of age
A. reduce menopause symptoms
B. boost metabolic rate long term
C. reduce stress levels
D. burn calories
No wonder we gain weight as we hit our fifties! Tell us how you did in the comments below. Brag for sure. Or let us know what surprised you the most. Are you ready to start strength training, eat fewer simple carbs, and take a walk? EmPHAsis on the strength training part, by the way.
Want more guidance, direction, and motivation? Debra’s session offers two ten minute resistance routines that are easy and effective. Tamara has simple “To Do” lists tailored to midlife women. Click to see how you can get their whole presentations and the four other webinars from the TransformAging Summit for less than the cost of a new pair of bigger pants …with an elastic waistband. Not that I’ve done that or anything….
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
PS. Did you want the answers?
1. A 2. T 3. C 4. B 5. T 6. D (Aren’t you glad it wasn’t E?) 7. B 8. C 9. B 10. B
PPS. Rancho la Puerta kindly sponsored our TransformAging Summit. If you are fortunate enough to book a trip there, you’ll find the perfect place to get stronger, leaner, and balanced!
Whether it’s the feeling of being at one with nature, the smells, the sounds, the feeling of being a small part of a big world, or just escaping from the “grind” for a few minutes, a walk outside is a mood improver. Go dopamines, go. Swim with the endorphins.
Think how calm and peaceful you feel walking in a misty fog, or how centering it is to be out alone at dawn or dusk. Have you ever walked in the rain and inhaled the smell of the earth and water? Have you stormed out of the house in a bad mood, only to return refreshed and recovered after a walk around the block to “cool off?”
When we were kids (5 kids, to be specific), my mom would make us go outside whenever we’d start to fight with each other. She’d also tell us to take a walk around the block (which only had 3 houses on it) when we were upset or sad. Somehow she intuitively knew the power of a walk outside. Or she just wanted us out of her hair. Or both.
In any case, I’m fortunate because I live in Santa Barbara, where almost every walk has a gorgeous view. So even though I know an indoor treadmill will give me lots of fitness and health benefits, I will never give up my outdoor walks. Because they give me mental health benefits. And a chance to set aside my responsibilities for a while.
Read my sister’s post about 3 Ways to Work Out Naturally. You’ll understand why “nature” is the root of “naturally.” You’ll also find out why I asked about the blue sea and sky.
Alexandra Williams, MA
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Certainly walking isn’t as intense as running. However, both activities target similar muscle groups, which may be why results in improving heart health are so similar. Research suggests that the type of exercise may not be as important as how much you go, go go. So move forward; locomote; get your gait on!
Walking for at least 30 minutes a day can help you:
Want some easy, practical walking tips to get you started or rev you up more? Watch our short video on Walking for Weight Loss (and More). Then bust a move to our post Great Gait: 7 Steps to Better Walking to really get the most out of your walks.
Walk For Weight Loss (video)
Another Fun Fit Fact about walking is that for every hour you perambulate (just had to use that jaunty word), your life expectancy may increase by two hours. Not only that, but a faster stride may also be a predictor of a longer life. (Convinced yet? Read our post Can Walking Really Get You to Your Fit Destination?)
Of all the cardio exercise options out there, walking has the lowest dropout rate! It’s the easiest, most accessible, positive change you can make to improve your heart health. And the benefits are exponential. The more you walk, the greater your odds of lowering heart disease risk. What are you walking for?
Would you like fab posts like this one to magically arrive in your inbox twice a week? Subscribe in that nice little box on the right side of this post, and you’ll even receive a free copy of “Look 5 Pounds Thinner in 5 Minutes.”
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
In fact, we just got asked that again in this radio interview with nationally known fitness pro, Debra Atkinson. Better Sex, Arms, and Knees as You Age. For sure go listen to the podcast. Not only will you find out how to put the best shoes on your feet, but also you will get some laughs.
Kymberly: When it comes to picking appropriate shoewear, I advocate wearing a pair specific to each activity. For instance, when I walk on paved or smooth paths, I choose Therafit walking shoes. When tackling hikes or trails with uneven terrain, I prefer my trail shoes. And for teaching my indoor fitness classes, I select shoes from yet a different company that makes indoor studio shoes solely for women.
Are You Ready to Get Picky?
I rarely wear my indoor fitness shoes outdoors as I want them to offer top performance as long as possible. I switch to a sandal, clog, or slip on shoe once I leave the gym. Your feet are your first line of defense so put your focus and funds into giving them activity-specific shoes.
Since Therafit sent us several pair of shoes to test out, we thought we’d share a few comments on their newest style, the Austin. (Consider this the official disclosure that we received free shoes). Given my knee injury and upcoming surgery, I am wearing comfort shoes more these days than usual. Ever since I was in my twenties, my family has teased me for always choosing “sensible shoes” over heels. This slip on clog definitely keeps my reputation intact for preferring cute, comfortable shoes over fancy, dress-up footwear. Because I can get the clog on and off without bending my knees much, they are coming with me to the surgical center. A girl has to mosey with style and a decent gait when walking off anesthesia you know! Or more to the point – I’ll be glad not to have to lace up anything at that point.
Want to Win Your Own Pair of Comfy Shoes?
One big tip if you decide to get your own pair of the Austin clogs or if you win the giveaway Therafit is offering one of our readers — order a half size up. You’ll want to be sure your heel sits inside, and not on the slight lip at the back of the shoe.
Alexandra: For picking exercise, we always say the best is the one you’ll do. For shoes, I say the best is the one that feels comfortable right away (needs no breaking in), and supports you in a way that helps protect your joints, muscles and ligaments.
Why Not Go Barefoot?
I know that the barefoot slippers had a lot of positive research a few years ago, but then it turned out that the major brands selling those shoes got sued (and lost) for false claims and research. So I continue to be in favor of actual shoes, especially for the university students I teach, as they have not had a strong history of movement, and their body awareness isn’t the same as it was for their parents’ generation. (I’ll save my opinion about the lack of budget support in elementary and secondary schools for P.E. for another post).
I wrote a long article about choosing fitness shoes for IDEA Fitness Journal a few years ago, and am hoping this link will get you to the article. Sometimes I’m able to get access without logging in (it’s a fitness professional membership site), so am hoping you can too.
As you can see by my picture, my blue Therafit Austin clogs are so comfy, even the dog feels happy. I’ve found they are perfect to wear to the gym, as I can switch to my cardio shoes quickly and easily.
Kymberly: We admit — it’s all about our dogs! And our doggies, aka toes! Other factors to take into account when choosing shoes for action and movement have to do with your foot patterns:
In Which Directions Will You Be Traveling?
Will you be going forward and backward, such as in an aerobic class (Step, Zumba, Low Impact, Dance, Cardio Kickboxing, for example). Or forward only such as when on a treadmill, elliptical machine or other cardio equipment.
If you are walking or running, then you will have more of a heel strike with a toe roll off. Contrast that to jogging in place, which has a toe, ball, heel landing. Choose a shoe that cushions and supports where your feel will be absorbing the most impact.
Do you count on your shoes to shift you side to side? Then find shoes that offer lateral support — the opposite of a running or walking shoe, for instance.
Will you be pivoting, twisting, and turning as you exercise? Then make sure the tread is designed to release grip so your shoe doesn’t grab ahold in one place, while your body rotates in a different direction. We call that “making your orthopedist rich.”
The giveaway is only open to U.S. mailing addresses. When the giveaway ends, one winner will be picked and notified. That person has 48 hours to respond or another winner will be randomly drawn.
Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
A 56 year old reader asks how to quickly get back into shape:
Usually I’m in fairly good shape (for my age). I had a really hectic last year with a big work project and it threw me off my game (white flour and sugar became my boyfriend). I probably have about 30 pounds to lose. A normal fun day for me used to be a 25 mile ride followed by a couple of hours of kayaking. I did do a 12 mile hike at sea level a few weeks ago and did fine. I just started walking 4-6 miles, 3-4 times a week. I have access to a fabulous gym and am willing to do whatever there. I enjoy weight training and am familiar with most of the moves.
My eating is not too messy. I’m a vegetable and fruit junkie and am fine without meat. The bread I buy is 100% whole grain and I look for high fiber. Oatmeal or eggs with toast is my usual breakfast. I don’t drink alcohol, sodas of any kind, fruit juices or sports beverages. It’s only coffee in the morning and water the rest of the day. My one vice is coconut milk French Vanilla creamer. It’s almost non-negotiable!!
Kimberly, Lake Tahoe, CA of fiftyjewels.com
Alexandra: Wow, that is pretty detailed. You sound quite healthy, so perhaps it’s a matter of some tweaks to your exercise regimen and diet, not major changes.
Write down everything you are eating, and I mean everything, including 2 sips of wine, 1 bite of Ben & Jerry’s, and 3 almonds. Just the awareness of what you’re eating will create change. You need to find out where you are sabotaging yourself, as oatmeal and eggs aren’t the issue, and you already seem knowledgeable about the hidden sugars/ calories in fruit juice.
Once you’ve tracked your food choices for 3 days, look through your list to see what you can eliminate without obsessing or getting into a battle with yourself. Be aware that a 350 kcal Ding Dong won’t give you the energy, satiety or nutrients that two 390 kcal stalks of celery with peanut butter will. As your creamer is important to you, keep it. I suspect you will need to look at portion sizes more than food choices.
People who are successful at keeping weight off after weight loss aim for 1.5 – 2 pounds loss per week. Thirty divided by 7 weeks is 4 pounds per week. Probably not sustainable in the long run, but if you get a deficit of 14,000 calories per week, you can do it. I do not recommend or endorse this solution. As the possessor of an advanced counseling degree, I’m all about the positive, not the negative, and I’d rather see you feel successful about losing a realistic 15 pounds than unsuccessful if you aim for 30 and reach 15. Can you get a 7,000 per week deficit?
Kymberly: Well, Kimberly, not only do we share a name, but also a similar dilemma. Like you, I have always been active, am 56, and gained 30 pounds in the last few years even though I eat more healthfully than ever before. So I hear you … except that part about wearing a bikini! One-pieces are my friend.
My sister’s key tips are intake focused. My suggestions are output oriented. You need to sub in high intensity interval training at least twice a week and get busy with that strength training that you are fortunate to already value.
Walks are great, (and what I can manage while I await surgery for some knee issues). In your case, you need to change things up as you walk. Get specific cardio plans for weight loss here and here. Basically you need to alternate your long, steady state walks with shorter, heart pounding interval hikes that push your heart rate as high as you can safely tolerate for about 2-3 minutes, then level out. Repeat several times. Push yourself by climbing a steep hill, either outdoors or on cardio equipment such as a treadmill or elliptical. Pick up the pace for a power walk. Strap on a backpack that is loaded and walk hard and fast. If you are kayaking, paddle as if sprinting for a finish line.
Find routes, exercise modes, and paces that vary so you constantly force your body to adapt upwards to the new demands. Alternate the long, semi-comfy routes with shorter, harder ones.
As we age, strength training gets more, not less important. While overloading all major muscles at least two times a week is fantastic, you need to aim for at least three times per week given your time frame and goals. Instead of performing single joint, isolated moves (such as hamstring curls) do multi-joint, or compound exercises, such as squats or lunges.
Since you like resistance training, try this Tabata workout from our friend Tamara Grand. It’s a high intensity, low impact routine that will give your metabolism a calorie-burning jolt.
Alexandra and Kymberly:
Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Not only will you be sleeping instead of eating late-night snacks, you will also be giving the hormones leptin and ghrelin time to do their work. You already know about Sugar. Now you know about Sleep. The other “S” is Stress, which you discovered was an issue during that big work project. Consider listening to meditation music or words while you’re on those walks.
In fact, meditation has just been shown to help with losing weight– pretty exciting stuff, right??!! — so consider adding even 5 minutes of meditation or guided visualization to your day. Our meditation post was written before the recent research on meditation aiding weight loss. Click though, as you will find some good ways to begin a practice.
Alexandra: Choose from above the activities and methods that work for you and that you will actually do. Maybe you’ll enjoy a dance class. Maybe you’ll prefer to do high intensity interval training by yourself in the weight room. Maybe you’ll change the timing of when you eat that fruit.
And of course, take a look at a few of our previous posts that help answer your question:
Lose 10 Pounds in 4 Weeks
Best Workouts to Burn Fat
Do You Have a Stuck Metabolism?
Keep us posted on your progress, as we’d love to help you celebrate your successes. Besides, research has proven that making your goals public increases your chances of success. Okay, I just snuck Accountability in as bonus Tip #7.
Now we’re off to locate our swimsuits for all those hikes we’ll do in Hawaii when we sneak ourselves along on your vacation.
Take your own vacay twice a week when you subscribe to our blog. Enter your email in the right column and start reaching your active aging goals starting …. whenever you take our advice!
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Have you subscribed yet? Do so now if you want to Age Actively.
Get Out of Here, Ya Hear?
A related Fun Fit Fact: People who live near or on coasts tend to be more physically active compared to inland dwellers. Those fortunate to have ocean views (actually any blue water works), also report being happier than people without access to blue spaces. One theory is that gazing at the ocean triggers the brain to release dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin. We post-menopausal women know all about hormones, especially the mood elevating ones, right?
Remember to Laugh; Laugh to Remember
2. Add humor to your workout. Another great natural life source is laughter. Not only does laughter act as self-produced medicine, but also it is proving to help memory. The stress hormone, cortisol can cause brain damage. Cortisol negatively affects both memory and learning ability, especially in older adults. This raises the question, “can laughter, which reduces stress, therefore improve memory?”
Turns out that, yup — lower stress leads to better memory. You saw that coming.
Breathe Right with the Left
3. Take half breaths for a whole life. Really looking to keep your memory in high drive, and not idle as you age? Then try a special breathing technique just after your humor boost. When you forgot which aisle you parked your car in, or why you entered a room, kick into left nostril breathing. That’s right, just the left! Block or press shut your right nostril and inhale through the left. Exhale. Repeat. 27 times. Let’s hope this works as you have to remember to count as you breathe!
For you smarties and thinkers who are always a step ahead (and that would be all of you who subscribe to our blog), you probably already thought of something. What if you combine all three activities? Run, walk, jog, mosey outdoors with a person who makes you laugh as you count up 27 left nostril breaths. Then get back to us in the comments to report what happened. Join the nature movement; free membership!
And take a look at this very short animation.
You got this far, so why not add a comment?
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
According to two doctors, I need three separate joint surgeries in 2015. My plan is to have zero. And there you have one of my primary New Year’s goals: to try all non-invasive options to rehab both knees and my foot. (Yes, for those of you who have been reading our blog for awhile, that identical twis sis of mine had left toe surgery for the same issue I now have on the right).
Any other baby boomers out there with knee, toe, or other joint-related issues? Is osteoarthritis interfering with your life plan for active aging? This was not supposed to happen to me!! I want my life to expand with age, time, income, and experience, not contract. After depositing in the exercise bank for more than 35 years, I was looking forward to withdrawing more movement, action, and adventure!
After a physically challenging year with chronic pain and the ability to move less and less, it’s time to face reality: ignoring my knee and foot problems and powering through painful workouts just isn’t working any more. Maybe it never was, but I did keep teaching group exercise classes and walking my dog every day! Until a few weeks ago when I tore two menisci in my right knee — the “good” knee. The one that did not have two replacement surgeries already.
Do You Kneed This? I Do, Dang It!
Sooo, I am now starting several new approaches to get my athletic, energetic, comfortable giddy up gait back. These programs and methods include:
Doctor, Doctor, I Declare
Whew! That’s a lot to take on. But I am determined and frankly, scared enough to try whatever it takes to get my walking and exercising juju back. My doctors have been great about listening to me and working with me to develop protocols to push off surgeries. Yet, my goal is to do MORE once I can walk again pain- and swelling-free. They keep trying to talk me into doing LESS, both now and post any surgery.
Other methods I have tried over the last two years have helped to a degree. I think those efforts gained me extra workouts and managed the pain. But not enough to prevent the recent downturns and tears. Read what I already implemented as you might want in on some o’ dat! Pain Free Movement in 2013
So strap in if you are interested to find out what works and what does not in my 2015 knee and foot joint reclamation project.
Affiliate disclosure: If you buy the Skinnylicious recipe book or Knee Rehab program through our links, we earn a few dollars at no added cost to you. Of course our main motive is to find, test, and curate the products and services best for active women over 50.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Let’s get the negatives out of the way first: the itinerary the Sierra Club set up was sucky wucky big time. Too much sitting in buses, planes, waiting rooms, and restaurants. Not enough time actually doing stuff. Yeah, surprised us too, given that our group was comprised of people who like to get out and about.
On the upside, the hikes, climbs, animal encounters, and land were breathtaking (literally in some cases when you consider the altitude and steep grades of this mountainous country). Other positives included the new travel clothes Lorna Jane Activewear provided us and the shoes from Ahnu Footwear. Our group may have arrived to places late and left early, but we were perfectly attired for the activities we squeezed in between!
Speaking of yakking, Nepal is not the land of yaks, but of goats. And honest, nice, hard working people who take pride in their country and sharing it with travelers.
Last, but not least, we got to meet in person a young Nepali man whom I knew via social media. He spotted my #Nepal hashtag postings on instagram and offered to meet up and escort us about. Not only did he teach us more about Nepal’s culture, history traditions, and modern aspirations than our official guide, but also we now have a lifelong friend we hope visits us in California. Who couldn’t help but like a guy who cracks jokes in two languages, holds my mom’s hand to steer her through fast scooters and careening cars, and finds us the hidden gardens and restaurants in the busy, bustling, crazy city of Kathmandu?
Here’s to Sujan (forever Mr Nepal in our hearts and memories), my knees that held out on ever changing terrain, my mom for taking us to exotic lands across the globe, and to an unusual, interesting, country that dares you to define it.
What inspires you to improve or retain your fitness level? If it’s to travel, where do you want to go?
Now sit back or stand up and enjoy some travel pics.
Need event speakers? We travel to you. Book us to present at your events: (805) 403-4338 or email email@example.com.
Want to see more of my Nepal photos? Check out my instgram feed at Kymberly’s instagram.
Kymberly just gave a fabulous workshop at Rancho la Puerta about gait, and I thought I’d share some of her tips so that you can figure out if your gait is aging you or supporting your continued youthfulness.
Walk across the room, turning at the wall and repeating the walk for several rounds. How quickly do you go? How comfortable are you, especially at the knees, lower back and neck? How small or big is your stride? Notice whether or not you have to touch the wall to turn, make a wide circle, or pivot quickly. Pay attention to your balance. Be aware of your stride length, especially if it’s small, which means you don’t trust your balance, though you are actually at MORE risk of falling with a shortened stride.
Go watch SpongeBob Squarepants and take a look at how he propels himself forward. See those flapping arms? Nothing going on from shoulder to elbow, but lots of movement from elbow to hands. If this is you, we bet your elbows hurt after a long walk. Same thing if you’re a wrist flapper. Ideally, you want a long arm that reaches out in front of you. And… you want the arm in back to be reaching behind just as far. At the top of your arm swing, you should have a triangle formed from both hands and the shoulder. In other words, what goes on behind you is as important as what’s happening in front.
What do you see when you focus? What do you hear? What is powering your forward movement? It’s possible you favor one side, especially if you’ve had any kind of leg injury. If you can get someone to listen as you walk (without looking at you), a limp or compensation just might reveal itself. So often we are asked why the left leg (for example) hurts when it was the right leg that had the injury. The answer is that the left leg is overtired from being overused due to overcompensation. So get over it!
Use power muscles to power your stride. Are you using your front or back leg to propel? If you want a shapely booty, push from the glutes. As we mention in our post “Why is My Body in Pain After Running and Walking,” running and walking require different muscle emphasis. Pulling from the hamstrings on the front leg will just make them hurt, and might also cause pain behind the knee. Besides, who doesn’t want a shapelier tush?
Slow your walk way down and observe what happens throughout your body. Does your head bob forward or side to side? Maybe your walk improves. Maybe it falls to pieces. Notice if your arms keep moving or freeze in place. Especially note whether you start to move homolaterally (same arm and leg go forward rather than opposing arm and leg). Do you feel less or more stable?
If your head is forward and down, that’s where you are headed (hahaha. so punny). Your head needs to be above your body, not in front of it. Not only does “text neck” increase your risk of migraines and back strain, it also increases your risk of falling. Ever notice those people who are hunched over with their faces actually looking at the ground? See how their elbows are back behind them for balance? They didn’t get that way overnight. To check if that hunchback will be you, do the chin check. Stand in neutral position (read “Finding Neutral Spine” for a full explanation). Put a finger to your chin. Hold your finger in place. Retract head 2-3 times. Mark any gap. A big gap means you are a forward head thruster. A small gap means you win free neutral spine for life!
Remember how we mentioned 5 tips ago that what goes on behind you is as important as what’s in front? Almost everyone knows the posture zip trick for the front, but do you finish that zzzzzzip by going down the back? Once again, you’re in luck, as we wrote a post (with video !!!) about the zip trick as part of our posture series.
Time to zip up this post. We hope you feel giddy about your gait as you trot around the block on Turkey Day.
If you want your very own professional gait assessment, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For $59 U.S. we’ll give you a complete, detailed assessment based on a video you’ll send us. And for free we’ll tell you that good posture makes you look 5 pounds slimmer, more confident, and sexier.
To make it easy to share (and because I want to increase my Pinterest skills), I made a nice easy pin of our 10 tips to avoid holiday weight gain that you can access at the next big get-together.