Trigger warning – the following post has weight talk as it explores weight gain in midlife. If you or someone you know is struggling with their eating or relationship with food, please contact a regulated health professional or visit http://nedic.ca/
Our bodies change as we go through life. Related to changes in our metabolism, muscles mass, hormones and mid-life lifestyle, most middle-aged people will gain weight and change where we store our extra weight.
In our culture, we automatically assume that because we gain weight, we should aim to lose it. The diet culture in which we all marinate encourages us to fight with our bodies, even if our changes are normal and age-related observed across the population. Rather than respect and care for the bodies we have, we fixate on the scale.
Your weight is simply your relation to gravity. It is an outcome that is, in part, influenced by your eating patterns and your physical activity. It is also influenced by genetics, sleep, stress, hormones, mental health, income, your physical health, physical conditioning, social surroundings and life circumstances in which you may not have had a say.
The default response to age-related weight gain is the desire for weight loss. This option requires you to examine how you live and for you to decide what, if anything, could be adjusted. Keep in mind that most people (95-98%) who lose weight will regain the weight lost and more. And there are other consequences to intentional weight loss achieved through dieting including a slower metabolism, reduced lean body mass and the potential for disordered eating. We have less control over our bodies than we believe.
We do not have awesome role models for real-life, graceful aging.
In her post Help When You’re Over 40 and Can’t Lose Weight, author Paige Waehner writes about midlife weight gain and notes that we have a choice in how we deal with this age-related weight gain. She poses the question – is it time to change your goal? She proposes a few options in response to midlife weight gain that go beyond fixation on the scale.
Your goal does not have to be to lose weight.
You can focus on being healthy and feeling good from where ever you are right now.
This shift in goal focus is worth considering as it allows you to explore a lifestyle that you can live with long-term, without the external pressure from the scale to abandon health-promoting choices that may or may not show up on the scale.
This shift in focus does not mean that there aren’t goals around eating, activity, sleep and stress management for you. It means that their value and worth are not evaluated by the outcome of your weight.
If you focused your energy on creating a life that you could embrace, regardless of what happened to the number on the scale, what would open up for you? If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you be willing to try? What would you be willing to practice more consistently? What would you stop doing?
Our bodies are the most sacred space in which we live. We can nourish our body, mind and soul each day with the foods we eat, the ways we move our bodies, the ways we manage stress, the people with whom we spend time, the friendships we nurture (and the friendships we let go), the content we consume in our social media feeds, the environments in which we live, the boundaries we set, the ways we speak to ourselves. There are many ways we can nurture our physical, social, emotional and spiritual selves and become a healthier version of yourself at this age and stage of your life.
Everyone will age.
Our skin will change, the lines on our face will change, our body shape will change. If we accept and embrace that with age, our bodies will change as part of the normal life process, we can explore the question – how can you become a healthier version of yourself? without the strings of weight loss attached.
In part 2 of this post, I share examples of goals and non-scale victories to consider aiming for this fall.