Yep, I spelled that right! MEANopause. Sometimes my body just acts so mean. What’s up with gaining 25 pounds in four years? Is it nice to wake me up all hours of the night with sweaty tidal waves that wash over me with a vengeance, then leave me cold and shivering with damp clothes and soggy pillow? How about the daytime hot flashes that cook me from the inside out, turn my ears red, and cause my face to bead with sweat in nanoseconds? Do I also need to mention insomnia and emotions so close to the surface that just a wrong look from a husband or child (heck, even a total stranger) can turn a one-time sane individual into a hissing cat-like creature? Mean, mean, mean.
I am in that “change of life” season. I think I’ve handled things pretty well (don’t you DARE ask my husband his opinion!), all things considered. However, I am not handling the weight gain very well. Twenty-Five-Pounds! In four years! SO NOT FAIR!!! I know that stress has been a contributing factor. The past four years have been some of the most challenging of my life. Death. Births. Moves. Jobs. Change, change, and more change. It seems very mean, indeed, when hormonal imbalances occur at the same time as other major life changes, i.e., issues with aging parents, children who move away, then back home, then away, grandkids are born, changes in the economy affect financial security, and all that. The perfect storm. I tend to self medicate with food. Sweets mostly. My 20, 30, or even 40-year-old self could handle the extra calories. I’d just eat a little less, walk a little more, and POOF!, the pounds would go away and I would once again be back to my fighting weight. Not so much in my 50’s. Hormones, or lack thereof, have become the enemy. Stress + Carbs + Unbalanced Hormones = Puffy Grandma. I am very unhappy with this trend. It is time I do something about it once and for all.
So, here is the plan. I am going to write this post today as if I had already achieved my health and weight goals. I know what I need to do to lose the extra bulk, so that is what I will write down. How I achieved my weight loss goal, got fit after 50, and rediscovered the super cute clothes shoved into the back of my closet. I’m not looking to be the same weight I was when I got married 34 years ago. That was another life, another body. I’ve got wrinkles now, people, which will really look bad if I lose too much weight in my face. Nope, I don’t want skinny. I want fit and healthy and I know the number that will be right for me. Everyone’s fit and healthy number is different.
Leslie’s Journey to Fit and Healthy after 50:
Since my goal was to lose about 25 pounds, I decided to skip the rapid weight loss idea and go for slow and steady. After all, it took me four years to gain 25 pounds, I could take four to six months to lose 25 pounds and retain my humor and my sanity. The goal was 2 pounds a week, but I would be happy with just 1 pound. Since I don’t do well with points, measuring, weighing, and generally obsessing over what I eat, I would simply clean up my diet. Increase non-starchy vegetables. Increase water and non-caffeinated beverages. Fresh fruit, mostly berries, in the morning. Healthy fats. Moderate protein, including grass-fed beef and bison, free-range chicken and eggs, and wild caught fish. Small amounts of sugar. I would not completely deny myself sweet treats. That is a recipe for disaster for me, since I tend to obsess over what I cannot have. Three bites of any kind of dessert or treat would be my limit. I’ve found that three bites is enough to satisfy any craving, which is usually mental anyway. I would savor those three bites and draw every bit of pleasure from them. I would also go cold turkey initially from all grain products. I’d been having some gastric upset, bloating, and pain at times after eating grains so going cold turkey was my best course of action. I would then experiment with a few bites here and there at some unknown future time to see if I truly did have a sensitivity to wheat and/or gluten. Also, dairy had become a bit of an issue. Eating a bowl of Greek yogurt would cause my belly to go from zero to 5 months pregnant in 20 minutes! Burps at bedtime are not conducive to good sleep or romance!
Exercise was another part of the plan. I really, truly hate the gym. I like working out, but not in a gym! I have free weights, a 20-lb kettle bell, exercise videos, and yoga videos. I also have a rebounder. I love walking and live only a few miles from the ocean. I would take walks down at the harbor 4-5 times a week, 2-4 miles depending if I had time to do one loop or two. I would also commit to yoga and stretching 2-3 times a week, beginning with an easy yoga video working up to a cardio yoga video. Eventually I would add some 20 minute cardio videos when I needed to challenge myself more. The rebounder would move back into the living room so I could walk and bounce rather than sit while watching television.
I began the above plan just a few days after Thanksgiving. Each week I weighed myself on Monday morning and wrote down the number. Once a month I took new measurements of my waist and hips. I also wrote down what I ate and drank every day. No calorie counting, just making notations to have some accountability.
Week One: Two pound weight loss! Getting into a regular exercise routine wasn’t difficult since Ken was out of town and I had no distractions.
Week Two: Same as week one. Again, Ken was traveling so I had lots of time to put in extra work to learn yoga routines. Muscles are feeling looser. I can now touch my toes without any bend in my knees!
Week Three: Only one pound. Still 5 pounds is great! I’m 1/5 of the way to my goal! Sleeping better, too.
Week Four: One pound. It was Christmas week and I allowed myself a few more treats than I should have, but at least I didn’t gain any weight!
Week Five: No loss. No gain. We stayed with friends for three days over New Year’s Eve/Day. Great food. Great fun! I did lots of walking, which helped me not to gain anything. Also, I probably ate too much salt.
Week Six: Two pounds again! I’ve been getting up earlier to walk down at the harbor. Trying to put in extra time walking and praying. Good for body and soul!
Week Seven: I am close to 10 pounds down. Time to treat myself to a mani/pedi. My clothes are fitting better, with less “fluff” hanging over the waistband!
Week Eight. 10 pounds down. No gain. Struggling with feeling bored with same food. Time to work on more flavorful dishes using fun spices. Adding cardio video this week. Twenty minute sessions.
Week Nine: Two pounds more! 12 pounds total. It is taking a while, but I am acquiring some good habits. The weather has been cold and rainy so harbor walks are hit and miss, but I am doing yoga every day and using my rebounder every night. My phone has a pedometer and I am averaging 10,000 steps a day. I’ve made soup a few times this week and have been eating it for lunch every day. Filling and satisfying.
Week Ten: 1 pound only. Down 2 inches in waist and 2.5 inches in hips. I will treat myself to a new pair of boots when I hit 15 pounds!
Week Eleven: 1 more pound. Slow and steady wins the race! I can see a big difference in my face. The yoga and stretching really makes a difference. I don’t feel so tight after sitting at my computer for 6 hours. More concentration. Better sleep.
Week Twelve through Twenty: Averaging 1-2 pounds a week, though a few times the scale didn’t budge. By week 20 I am down 20 pounds! My old jeans are loose, but I can finally wear some that have been in my closet for a while! At goal weight I will buy a couple of pairs of cute, new jeans.
Weeks 21 thru 30: At goal weight!!! I am now concentrating on exercises to tone my body. My belly will never look sculpted like a fitness model, but I don’t have a meno-muffin anymore! I will concentrate now on building up my arms and getting rid of my wing flaps!
Obviously none of the above has happened yet. I’m projecting, remember? Reads well, though, doesn’t it? Seems reasonable, sane, and doable. In fact, Ken is out of town and I have started yoga and all of the food changes. I had half of a 3-layer chocolate cake left over from a Sunday dinner party. I carried that calorie-laden sucker to the office upstairs for others (meaning anyone but me!) to enjoy. I did cut a large slice for my tiny 110 pound mother, though. She is not trying to lose 25 pounds!
I’ll keep posting during the next 30 weeks, more or less. I do hope that by July 1st I will be at goal weight and can actually enjoy a warm summer day in shorts and, if I feel really good, maybe wear a bathing suit in public again!
To some, this might sound like a ridiculous thing to write about. I’m sorry if you feel that way. Trying to get back into shape, have good health into my 60’s and 70’s, even 80’s and beyond has to start somewhere. Gaining weight in a short period of time is a slippery slope that I don’t want to travel too far down. I need to take my health seriously so that I don’t encounter degenerative illnesses in the future that could have been avoided if I’d taken greater steps to keep a healthy weight and fitness level.
Wish me success!