Updated: Nov 2
I debated writing this post because I didn't want to focus too much on weight as the only accurate health measure. As anyone who reads my articles knows, my primary focus is on people's health issues in the 40 and over stage of life. Many factors contribute to whether or not someone enjoys good health, and weight is only a tiny part of that picture. As our society becomes increasingly visually-oriented through the internet and social media, where we see inaccurate pictures doctored to look flawless, unfortunately, one's weight becomes a central focus. That isn't my desire in writing this post.
I speak with so many clients who struggle in their health journey, especially in midlife. It isn't abnormal for people to gain weight as they sit more and move less on average. I'm a mom of five children, and I'm in my fifties. I get how busy life can be and how easily you can forget about taking care of yourself while ensuring everyone has what they need. It wouldn't be unusual for me to "forget to eat" and then overeat later because I was too occupied to pay attention to my portion sizes. The struggle is real for so many. Add to all this the recent covid craziness where we were locked in our houses and disrupted our routines.
Apparently, according to current data, this only made a bad problem worse with increased weight gain, less movement, and eating more highly processed foods. Foods that are designed to be that way so you indulge more than you probably should. Subsequently, a large portion of us packed on pounds—some up to 60 pounds or more due to the pandemic.
That's only a tiny part of the picture in my case, so I'll start from the beginning. I have exercised in some capacity for as long as I can remember. I was active in sports in my youth and continued to be a runner throughout college and continued to strength train and run on and off since my twenties. Movement is not my problem and never has been. I can't stand sitting still, and I like to stay busy. My life could be proof that you can't out-exercise a bad diet. Although I was doing these things, which were vital to my overall health, I continued to gain weight. I would fluctuate over the years, gaining and losing as the years went by. I was surprised at how much more difficult it became once I reached the age of 46. No longer could I shed weight as quickly as I used to, and it seemingly took more effort than it had ever before in my life.
Life happened; I became the epitome of the soccer mom going from one game or practice to the next, shuttling kids in several different directions. Don't get me wrong, I loved every minute and was happy to spend those moments with my children. However, what ended up happening was that I quit paying attention to portion sizes and what was appropriate for someone in my age range. I was still cooking healthy meals for my family, but it was still necessary to pay attention to portions, and sneaking in a small snack in the evening after a long day was working against me.
Before I knew it, I hadn't stepped on a scale in over a year. Mostly because I was afraid to look. I had no idea what the numbers would indicate. So I ignored it and just told myself I would "be more mindful" of portion sizes. That didn't work for me. Some people can do this, and I always tell clients that they need to find what works for their situation. I had to have more structure and plan if I was going to lose weight, eat healthfully and sustain it successfully.
After knowing I needed to pay more attention and develop a plan, I began to see a personal trainer to help challenge me and expand my workouts. I had fallen into a routine and needed something different. While I was doing this, I simultaneously started tracking my food and making healthier choices. I drank water as a general rule anyway because I like water and don't enjoy sugary drinks, so that wasn't a problem. I also never ate if I wasn't hungry. I love vegetables and stay pretty healthy with my diet but needed to track portions because, for me, that's how the weight creeps up. I finally got on the scale, and unsurprisingly I weighed more than I thought and knew I needed to stick to my plan now that I was approaching 50 years old.
I have been doing this for several months now and have lost 25 pounds while decreasing my body fat percentage. I try to eat a high protein diet at a minimum of 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight due to my age and because we all start to lose muscle mass past age 40. I do eat sweets on occasion, but my portion sizes are petite, and I track it. I use an app called "Lose It," which works well for me. I know that tracking food can sometimes be a chore, and it doesn't work for everyone. Some can utilize a more liberal method and still lose weight. However, as I stated earlier, the structure is more sustainable for me. I also have known several people who have kept off significant amounts of weight by tracking their food. If you prefer a more "intuitive eating" approach, that is just fine, and that approach works well for many people. It depends on your lifestyle and preferences. The thing that works best for everyone is a sustainable eating style. That's why deprivation and "willpower" rarely work out how people think it should.
I eat some fruit and vegetables every day for vitamins and fiber. When I eat carbs, I try to make sure they are high in fiber. I like carbs and think they're necessary. I have no desire to eliminate them from my diet due to the false assumption that they cause weight gain. I have read the research, and they don't. With that said, it depends on the amount and type of carbohydrate you're eating. You can't eat carbs from refined flour or sugar in excess and expect to lose significant amounts of weight or maintain health.
I still have a goal in mind and will continue to work towards that goal. I enjoy food, cooking, and sharing meals with the people I love. I eat birthday cake and enjoy special foods for special occasions, but I feel I have a much better handle on how much I'm eating. I'm more in control of my health, my joints feel great and I feel strong. Realizing that life has ups and downs, and so does my health journey, has helped me go with the flow of daily life and not get discouraged when I'm not as close to my goal as I would like. My experience has given me the proper perspective to help my clients better, and I'm thankful for that.