Why it's hard to be healthy
Perhaps more than any other time in our lives, Midlife is when we need to look after our bodies to prepare for the years ahead. But it’s often easier said than done.
Most of the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause conspire against us in our quest towards a healthy lifestyle:
- Our joints ache
- We feel too tired to exercise
- We feel depressed so we comfort eat
- We turn to caffeine to fight the fatigue
- We reach for alcohol to help us relax
After the age of 40, we start losing our muscle mass
Muscle is a busy, metabolically active substance, which means it burns energy even when you are not using it.
Less muscle = less calories burned = more weight gained.
From around the age of 40, we start to lose our muscle mass – a condition called sarcopenia.
So at the same time as our menopausal symptoms are making it harder to get motivated and energised; our bodies are physically changing in ways that make it harder to lose weight.
This is why you can do all the same exercises and eat all the same foods you did in your 20s and 30s – but the weight still seems to pile on. And perhaps worst of all, is where our body prefers to put this extra weight...
Many women notice that their body shape starts to change during their 40s and 50s as they see an increase in their waistlines.
It may not seem like it, but our midlife body is actually trying to help us. The fat cells around our middle are able to produce a form of estrogen. So when the body realises this hormone is falling because the ovaries are starting to shut shop, it looks for somewhere else to supply this much needed fuel.
The problem is that fat cells make a weak version of estrogen called estrone and it’s nowhere near as potent as the good quality estradiol that our ovaries make.
Midlife is hard work.
Kids, marriages, work stress and a body that can feel like it’s falling apart.
Subjecting ourselves to obsessive calorie counting, strict diets or extreme exercise regimes will just add more stress into the mix and won’t be sustainable and therefore won’t work.
Healthy lifestyle changes can be challenging and we should not be pressured to be perfect. So although these next few pages are about healthy living, I will say what I say to all my patients:
You are only human.
And you are allowed a day-off (so yes, enjoy a slice of cake, chocolate bar or a glass of wine every now and then)
The Best of Both Worlds
There are no hard and fast rules – what works for one woman, may not work for another. And we are allowed to pick and choose from different approaches to find what feels right for us.
There’s too much “Medicine versus Lifestyle” and “Natural versus Drugs” – as if you have to pick a side and stick to it.
Why can’t women have the best of both worlds?
Natural supplements, HRT, antidepressants, healthy diets etc – each woman can find their own midlife recipe and should not feel any shame or pressure to choose something else.
There is no quick-fix or magic pill that will make health happen overnight – but there are some simple steps you can take towards feeling, looking and living better.
There is a growing movement towards what’s known as Lifestyle Medicine – This focuses on 6 key areas of your life, which have solid evidence behind them to show that they work.
Click on each one below to find out more.