How to Stop Midlife Weight Gain
Created and maintained by Kim Crawford, M.D., F.A.C.P.M., A.B.A.A.R.M.
Your metabolism becomes sluggish during hormonal changes. Learn about the many reasons which are impairing your ability to lose weight and keep it off. This guide will cover how to prevent and reverse weight gain for life.
Don’t want to gain weight? Who does?
You might be eating out of a need for energy, stress, anxiety, boredom, or insatiable hunger. There are solutions for any of these reasons and more – learn about the ways we can prevent and reverse weight gain.
Common solutions to prevent midlife weight gain
1) Deep, restful sleep
Sleep deprivation affects someone both physically and mentally. The negative consequences of sleep deprivation include the following:
• Decreased body temperature and a depressed Immune system, respiratory system, cardiovascular system as well as decreased growth hormone levels.
• Lower stress threshold.
• Poor concentration and performance. Probably long-term negative cognition effects.
• Possibly an increased risk for heart disease and cancer.
• Increased appetite for food. Why? Countless surveys with countless responses and no real answers. It’s not just about eating due to the effects of fatigue or decreased energy; it’s a real perceived increase in appetite!
For optimal weight loss, detoxification, and many bodily functions including enzymatic pathway functions, you need to be well hydrated. If you just drink enough such that your urine is clear, that’s the easiest way to keep track of hydration. Keeping a water bottle (non-plastic) with you at all times will keep the water flowing in.
3) Treat mood / energy cravings
This topic isn’t as complicated as one would think. We have cravings of different sorts due mainly to the brain chemicals (neurotransmitters); serotonin and dopamine. A well trained Functional Medicine doctor is aware of what causes sugar cravings, what causes compulsive eating and what causes any non-hunger eating.
We fix these issues with neurotransmitter precursors which are basically better alternatives to anti-depressants. Energy is improved by the many methods discussed in the second health module we covered; Regaining the Energy of Your Youth!
4) No soft drinks
Artificial sweeteners inhibit weight loss and nuke diets
There are currently 18 different toxic artificial sweeteners on the market. Note – pure stevia is not on my banned list. It is a long political story but pure stevia, without additives (other than inulin), doesn’t appear to cause problems. If you are trying to shed pounds, the last thing you want to do is use foods or beverages with any other artificial sweeteners.
The one you’re most likely to encounter in soft drinks is aspartame, which also tends to be the worst of them all. However, the others have this same profile, but I’ll focus on aspartame for the sake of brevity.
Contrary to the food industry’s claims that all of these products are totally safe, there is research over the last 30 years including several large-scale studies which have shown otherwise. Artificial sweeteners stimulate appetite, increase cravings for carbohydrates, and produce a variety of metabolic dysfunctions that promote weight gain and increase body fat while decreasing lean body mass. New evidence shows that they also upset the gut microbiome; causing bacterial metabolites which actually slow down metabolism.
All of this has surprised many researchers, and so the food industry (no surprise here), as well as the Weight Loss Industry, suppresses this information. Artificial sweeteners are added to about 6,000 different beverages, snacks, and food products, making label-reading an ever pressing necessity. Disturbingly, food industry groups are now trying to hide the presence of artificial sweeteners in certain foods and soft drinks.
5) Chew gum
Why? Serotonin is a happy brain chemical produced mainly in your GI tract, not in your brain. To raise it enough to suppress your appetite and dull sugar cravings a bit, just do four 40 minute xylitol-sweetened gum chews daily. This isn’t enough xylitol to be a problem but don’t go past this limit and keep it tucked away from your pets as it is toxic to them.
6) Hormone replacement
When men hit their late forties they often slide into andropause, causing low levels of Testosterone which then causes weight gain. Testosterone replacement usually fixes this issue. Women have it much harder.
As a woman’s ovaries produce less estrogen, her body attempts to find the hormone in places other than the ovaries. Fat cells can produce estrogen, so her body works harder to convert calories into fat to increase estrogen levels. Unfortunately, fat cells don’t burn too many calories.
Water retention is often linked to peri-menopause because water weight and bloating are caused by decreased progesterone levels. Though this doesn’t actually result in weight gain, clothes can feel tighter, and you might feel heavier. Low progesterone also adds to the increase in leptin, as does the decrease in estrogen. A higher leptin level results in weight gain.
In addition, the drop in these hormone levels can increase a woman’s appetite and influence her to eat a lot more, up to 67% more, according to one study. And these hormonal shifts can cause cravings, too!
This stress hormone is secreted during times of physical and/or psychological stress. Women who are peri-menopausal and then menopausal tend to be caring for kids, husbands, parents and juggling a job/career too. There is a lot of stress reported by this demographic, and rightly so. Cortisol will put on body fat and more so in the belly area when the protective effects of progesterone and estrogen are decreased.
Testosterone helps a woman’s body create lean muscle mass out of the calories consumed. Muscle cells burn more calories than fat cells do, increasing metabolic rate. As testosterone levels drop, fewer calories are transformed into lean muscle mass. This slows down a woman’s metabolism.
There is on average a 40 to 50% reduction in a woman’s lean body mass between ages 30 and 70, with a simultaneous increase in body fat. This transition sets the groundwork for slower metabolism, reduced physical activities, and difficulty burning calories, thus leading to more weight gain.
7) Diet – you don’t have to count calories
The benefits to eating an anti-inflammatory diet
• You will decrease inflammation and oxidative stress: two things that are the biggest contributors to diseases like heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.
• You will improve things you don’t necessarily think of such as an inability to lose weight and even depression, sleep issues, and energy loss.
• If you want to look younger, guess what? Eating an anti-inflammatory diet will make a HUGE difference!
• If you want to lose weight, there is no way to do it eating processed foods. In fact, most people find that weight melts off easily if you just change what you eat! It’s all about eating real food and only real food.
8) Optimize your GI tract
You need to optimize your GI tract to reverse ghrelin and leptin issues. The first way to begin optimizing your G.I. tract bacteria (your microbiome) is through your diet.
The vast majority of people need to reduce sugar and non-sprouted grains rather drastically. In addition, you’ll want to avoid processed foods, genetically engineered ingredients, pasteurized foods, and chlorinated tap water. A little-known fact is pasteurized foods can harm your good GI tract bacteria. Sugar promotes the growth of pathogenic yeast and other fungi everywhere, including your GI tract. Grains containing gluten are damaging to your GI tract flora as well. Once again, we’re really back to talking about a good anti-inflammatory diet plan.
Aside from a set of dietary changes, you need to do a good GI tract clean-up which includes good prebiotic fiber and good probiotic foods and supplements. Sometimes the gut needs more work and this is covered on a much deeper level in module 9 – Optimize Your Digestive Health.
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Webinar with Dr. Kim
This webinar covers the basics of midlife weight gain. You will find additional answers in the next portion of this self help guide: Solutions.
Download and/or print these PDFs below for in-depth solutions.
The following articles are from Dr. Kim’s Aging Well blog and address some of the concerns in this guide.
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