The Female Gain Game
One of the questions I get asked by so many of my female clients is “I have a girlfriend who can eat anything she wants and never gains weight. Why is that? I hate her!”
And my answer is always the same: “Don’t worry, be happy; it’ll catch up with her!” . . . and believe me, folks, it always does.
If you are nodding your head right now because you have a particular girlfriend or maybe a sister in mind who eats what they want, when they want, as much as they want, has lousy eating habits but doesn’t gain weight . . . whose dietary lifestyle is a constant reminder of how unhappy you are with your own weight, take heart: If it appears too good to be true, it is—and it won’t last forever. Here’s why.
IN OUR 20’s a woman’s metabolic rate remains relatively high, which means we’re still burning calories easily. However, while we might not SEE any fat building up on our hips, it is starting to accumulate around our internal organs and under our skin. So, while eating poorly at this stage of life might seem like no big deal (even if a woman hasn’t started to put on some weight), she could be setting herself up for heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes down the line. And, even in our 20’s our bones aren’t fully formed; they continue to strengthen through our late 20’s. So if we shortchange our diet of calcium in our 20’s, we may be compromising the future health and well being of our bones.
IN OUR 30’s a woman’s hormone levels (estrogen and progesterone) gradually begin falling. This is important because estrogen affects appetite: When estrogen levels are high, appetite drops; when estrogen is low (right before your menstrual cycle), appetite increases.
Metabolism also starts to slow down when we hit our 30’s. Metabolism declines by 2% each decade after the age of 30—so, if you eat what you always ate and your metabolism is slower, guess what? You’re going to gain weight. Additionally, at the same time the metabolism declines, there’s a shift away from lean body mass and a shift toward fat mass. This shift in body composition means that most of the weight we gain now is fat, not muscle.
IN OUR 40’s we’re continuing to lose muscle mass, and our metabolism is slowing down further still. Fat is more easily stored, particularly in our mid-section. Our hormone levels drop further, meaning we’re losing the heart-protective effects of estrogen, and we face an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Since diet is the single biggest predictor of all three diseases, the choices we make in our 40’s will have a major impact on our future health.
Also in the 40’s, some women will have symptoms of perimenopause. Of course, menopause is a major hormonal event in women, and it alone will significantly affect our metabolic rate … regardless of whether we’re overweight or slim. Obviously, though, if we’re slim and fit with a metabolism working at its peak for our age, we’ll be much more in control of our weight even in menopause.
We can’t turn back the hands of time, and we can’t stop the biological process of the metabolic slow-down. The antidote to that, however, is what we put into our mouths: what kind of food, how much, and when we eat. Learning how to eat correctly to provide enough of the right kind of fuel for our bodies will ensure that our metabolism will work at its peak for our age, regardless of what age that is. And when that happens, you can fit an occasional planned indulgence of chocolate, ice cream and pizza into your life AND stay slim while doing so!
Getting your eating lifestyle into shape as early on in your life as possible is a lot easier than doing it after bad habits have had years to set in. Plus, the sooner you do it, the more years you have to enjoy the benefits from having made those positive changes.
So . . . ladies, get started right away on making the appropriate dietary changes in your life. You’ll lose weight, you’ll feel great, and that will give you the best chance to stay slim throughout the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and beyond because the more years of good eating habits, the easier it is to maintain those habits. On the other hand, that girlfriend you so envy now who may be slim but with really lousy eating habits … I can assure you that before too long she’ll be thinking about you and asking herself, “Why can she eat what she wants and look so great?”