Muffin Top Got You Down?

5 tips on how to avoid hormonal weight gain in your 40s

by Bonnie Wisener
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Seems inevitable, doesn’t it Muffin top? Suddenly, you step on the scale and every month, the number creeps up a bit. Each year, another dozen pounds. Each year you say to yourself, not this year. You are not alone.
Look, there is no way around the fact that we feel better when our body isn’t quite as…cushion-y. Before we get into the why and what to do about it, let’s first remember to celebrate that body. It’s remarkable in every way, and in any shape. It’s the same one that gives babies life, absorbs important nutrients, and nourishes those same babies. It’s the same one that gets up in the middle of the night to offer those babies comfort. Let’s appreciate and love the incredible way that it works hard each and every day to keep us balanced and well.
Washboard abs are attainable, but they do take some more work after “a certain age”. Why? Well, to start with, we are genetically predisposed to lose muscle density in our 40s. the less muscle you have, the slower your body burns energy, thus, the ‘slow metabolism’ middle aged legend. Your body also starts to distribute fat storage differently after our child-bearing years. Rather than store fat in our hips and bottom, your body starts storing fat in your tummy, leading to where we started…’muffin top’. We move from subcutaneous fat (under the skin) to visceral (deeper, around the organs). Visceral fat is implicated in disease and increases your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Hormones play a significant role here. During our perimenopausal and menopausal years, our bodies production of estrogen decreases. When estrogen levels decline, production of hormones cortisol and insulin increase. Both are implicated in weight gain. Cortisol is actually sometimes referred to as “the belly fat hormone”.
The good news is that even though sometimes it feels we are out of control during this time, there are some simple things that we can do to lessen the blow. While it feels like no matter what we do, the weight gain and feelings of ‘pudginess’ (is that even a word?) continue to prevail, there are 5 simple things that you can do to turn your fate around. You can get started as quickly as right now!


Adjust your fitness plan

What’s the deal? You are up for a ‘cardio junkie’ award, and yet, you still can’t seem to see results in your midsection? Getting your heart rate up is always a good idea. Are “ab” exercises the right answer? They can’t hurt.Truth is, a healthy balance of ‘get sweaty’ cardio and weight training designed to build muscle mass are a good combo. Ask someone at your local gym to help you design a plan that you can follow on your own, even at home. Join my private facebook group where you can download your own copy of “5 At Home Bodyweight Exercises” to get you started.

Click here to join: Yes, i want to get started with ‘5 AT HOME BODY WEIGHT EXERCISES’
Bottom line is – make sure you have a balance of weight training and muscle building exercises in your regime, and make it regular. Try and get it done at least 3 times each week. Lean muscle mass drives your metabolic rate.


Nourish yourself.

Sure, we all feed ourselves. Easy. However, nourishing yourself takes a bit more time and planning. Its very important to provide our bodies with balance. Most clients I see do not consume enough protein or healthy fats. You want to make sure to include both of these essential nutrients in your diet. All 3 macronutrients, Protein (eggs, poultry, fish, red meat and plant proteins), Fat (nuts, seeds, fish) and Carbs (Fruits, Vegetables, Whole Grains) play a role in a healthy and balanced diet.
Protein and Fat play an especially significant role in weight loss. Protein is a building nutrient. It helps our bodies build muscle, which, as highlighted, helps to encourage our body’s metabolic rate. Fat is essential to many of our body’s functions. Specifically, it is a higher density nutrient. While this characteristic is what gives it a bad rap, the truth is this is exactly what makes it ideal for weight loss. It keeps us fuller longer, and helps keep our blood sugar in balance. Both will help eliminate temptation in the form of cravings.

Regarding those hormones, staying away from foods that cause a spike in insulin levels will be helpful to your weight management/weight loss efforts. Refined carbs like added sugar, white bread, crackers, rice and bagels, will cause a spike in blood sugar because they digest so quickly. In turn, this causes a spike in your body’s insulin production. Insulin is one of the hormones that prompts your body to store fat in your abdomen. Choose carbs that are higher in fibre. Most whole food carb choices – fruit, veggies, whole grains will have a lesser impact on blood sugar spikes. However, if you are someone who reaches for a donut/muffin/bagel for a 4 pm pick-me-up, you may want to reevaluate your snack choices. It’s ok to eat when you are hungry, but choose something different, carrots and hummos, or hummos with brown rice crackers, if it’s the crunch you crave. Join my FREE and private facebook group to download your copy of ‘Snack Attack’ with over 40 clean eating snack options.Click here to join: Get my ‘Snack Attack’ List


Love your gut!

Keep things moving. Fibre. You want to make sure that you are consuming enough fibre, in order to allow your body to naturally eliminate excess hormones. Try and aim for anywhere between 25-35 grams of fibre per day. Choose from many healthy sources such as chickpeas, black beans, vegetables, fruit, steel cut oats, chia seeds, hemp hearts and whole grain breads.
Beat the bloat by making sure to include probiotic foods. As we age, our body’s ability to digest our food diminishes. We are left with uncomfortable symptoms like heartburn and bloating. Not only are they uncomfortable, this can sometimes lead to an imbalance in gut bacteria. We are what we eat, but we are really much more what we absorb. If our digestive system is functioning optimally, then we are getting optimum value from the foods that we eat. Try to incorporate gut-loving foods like foods with live bacterial cultures, like yogurt and kefir, and fermented foods like tempeh and sauerkraut. You may want to speak to your healthcare professional about taking a probiotic supplement as well.


Get enough sleep!
Tricky one. Many women experience sleep disruptions once they hit the age of 40. Hormones again. Trouble is studies find that women who sleep less than 5 hours a night gained more visceral fat over 4 years than those that got 7-8 hours of sleep per night. In addition, sleep restricted people eat on average about 300 calories more per day. Eep. When you are tired, you are more likely to reach for foods that give you a quick burst of energy. Trouble is, those foods are usually the ones that contain a lot of added sugar, or other processed carbs. As anyone who is having sleep difficulties can attest, it is not easy to resolve, but it can hamper your weight management plans. Do what you can to try and make sure you get enough rest.


Keep your stress levels in check.

Uh oh. You knew this was coming, right? I have to say, this is the one area that my clients find the most difficult to manage. Be the first one to give yourself a break here. The way we perceive the stress in our lives has as much impact as the actual stress itself. Again, we return to those hormone culprits. When our body perceives stress, it calls upon adrenaline and cortisol to help us out. Uh oh. Those hormones deliver more energy (ach, glucose, aka sugar) into our bloodstream to give us energy to deal with the perceived threat. Back when this handy system was developed, the perceived threat may have been a lion. It was acute, it was quick. Our bodies used this much needed burst of energy to get the heck out of the way of that lion. Nowadays, the threat is chronic, like battling traffic, or balancing work and family life. This is why we crave sugary treats when we are stressed. Like, when your computer crashes while you are working on a presentation you need to deliver at work the next day, you do not crave a salad, right? You are marching down to your pantry, scouring for whatever leftover halloween candy is left in your house, even though it’s already April. Your body is craving a quick hit of energy. Chronic stress is the enemy of weight loss.
Make sure to find your best way of reducing it on a regular basis. Exercise kills 2 birds with one stone. Meditation is another great place to start. Find time each day to just ‘be’. You don’t have to jump into full fledged meditation routines if that doesn’t feel like you. However, you will be surprised how calming just spending 5-10 minutes each day just sitting quietly with yourself can be. Or better yet, try and carve out a little time each day to do something that you really enjoy. The goal is to get your head out of whatever it is that is stressing you out on a regular basis. Find the calm.

Finally, don’t give in to the overwhelm. Be kind to yourself. Focus on one thing at a time. Consistency is more important than perfection.

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