Here are 3 mistakes every woman over 40 needs to avoid.
Technically, these are 3 mistakes everyone who wants to improve their body composition and get leaner needs to avoid.
But women are more sensitive to stress so they can't get away with as much.
It's not fair but it does make sense from an evolutionary standpoint. Women are more important to the survival of our species than men. Ya know, the whole baby carrying thing.
Anyway, in no particular order...
Mistake #1. Fasting or "skipping breakfast" - let's first put to bed the myth that fasting is superior for fat loss. It's not. Fasting isn't even a nutrition protocol. You can fast and do keto, you can fast and track macros, you can fast and eat 10,000 calories per day.
The fasting cult followers say that if you condense the feeding window, you're more likely to eat less because there's less time to eat. Certain things sound good in theory but don't hold up to real life application.
Fasting is one of them. Studies show that people who fast tend to eat a lot more later in the day and it's easier for them to over indulge. They also report higher hunger and cravings. And there are certain metabolic disadvantages that can occur due to fasting.
This is especially true in women over 40 who are more sensitive to stress. Cortisol is highest in the morning and fasting is a stress on the body (lack of energy coming in). During the season of life when hormonal changes are happening, it's not the time to disrupt things even further.
My recommendation: wake up and eat within an hour of getting out of bed. Make it a high protein breakfast and a well balanced meal (with some carbs and fats) to reduce cortisol and keep blood sugar stable.
Mistake #2. HIIT / Group Classes / Cardio - this is a dose dependent thing but based on experience in working with hundreds of women over the past decade, a lot of individuals overdo it when it comes to this style of exercise.
I'm talking about OrangeTheory, F45, bootcamps, HIIT, cardio, etc. Anything where the main goal of the workout is basically a manual "calorie burn" and you often feel rewarded with a pool of sweat on the floor.
Now, before you stop doing all forms of cardio, there's absolutely a time and place. Improving your cardio capacity is great for overall health. Sweating is a wonderful thing.
However, it's easy to get hooked on the feeling. Or high on believing. Wait, where was I? Oh right.. too much cardio.
This style of exercise is not exactly great for your metabolism or hormone health. It's a stressor like any form of exercise (increases cortisol) but it doesn't come with a metabolic advantage like lifting weights does. Because you're getting more efficient with calories each time you do that same workout or form of cardio.
That means the calorie burn gets less and less. Not only that, but studies show that HIIT and cardio can drive hunger and cravings up and our bodies also subconsciously move less throughout the day to compensate for the calorie burn that occurred during the workout.
My recommendation: this style of training is not great for body composition improvements. If you want to get leaner, do some form of resistance training as the foundation of your workouts. Use cardio in smaller doses and be sure to pay attention to recovery, hunger, and cravings. Notice how you're impacted when you work out like that.
If you're training to get better at cardio (like running a marathon or ironman etc) then you'll obviously need a much higher level of frequency. In that case, you better be prepared to fuel appropriately to counter balance the amount of stress you're putting on your body.
Mistake #3. Dieting too frequently / too extremely / unsustainably - once again, this is a problem across the board but when you're more sensitive to stress, it becomes an even bigger issue.
Dieting is a major stressor on the body. Consider that your results, your metabolic health, and your hormone health are all dependent on having the appropriate resources to meet the demands you place on your body.
Food / energy is an important resource. Recovery is a resource. Sleep is a resource. Self-care is a resource.
Dieting impacts all of the above. You're removing energy, impairing recovery, making it more difficult to get adequate sleep, and potentially sacrificing self-care.
A lot of women get frustrated when they're told to basically starve themselves and then don't see progress. Why don't they see progress? Because the diet is too extreme and your body fights to preserve energy.
Think about it like this.. do you really want a fast and effective metabolism when very little energy is coming in? Of course you don't. You'd starve to death quicker.
So your body adapts by down regulating metabolic function, suppressing certain systems in the body like immune function, sexual function, etc.
The more frequently you diet, the more stress you place on your body. The more extreme your diet is, the more of a stressor it is. The more you try to be perfect, the more unsustainable the results are.
My recommendation: diet smarter, not harder. Have a dedicated fat loss phase that lasts about 12-16 weeks (the timeline will be highly dependent on the individual). Keep it very moderate and if you're going to be more aggressive, you better damn well have recovery and stress management on lock.
Eat mostly high quality foods and incorporate things you love in moderation each day (or at least each week). Avoid the half in, half out approach where you kinda sorta diet but then indulge and want to keep dieting forever.
Unfortunately, these 3 mistakes are insanely common.
In fact, they're often all done at once.
Almost daily I speak to women who are trying to fast, eat 1200 calories, and are doing a whole bunch of cardio or HIIT.
When you reach that season of life when hormones are changing and sensitivity to stress is higher, it's important to focus on some foundational habits that go a long way in your overall health and body composition.
Food quality should really be a primary focus. It's incredibly important for hormone health.
Walking is like the gift that keeps on giving. Do it frequently.
Protein is your best friend. Eat lots of it.
Muscle is your metabolic gold. Preserve it. Build it.
Sleep and stress management are non negotiables. If anyone gets in the way of your sleep and self-care, you have permission to Will Smith them (is that still a reference? Probably not. But I'm using it anyway).
Above all else, prioritize yourself. I just spoke to someone this morning who said that she's spent 45 years of her life putting everyone else first. She said that she's always made financial decisions based on everyone else. Rarely ever herself.
Finally, it clicked. She said, enough is enough. I'm worth it and I deserve to be happy and healthy. The most impactful thing she said in our conversation was...
"It doesn't do anyone much good if I lack confidence in myself and feel miserable in my own body. I deserve to feel good and look good."
Without a doubt. You don't have to put your own goals on hold for the sake of everyone else. Not only do you deserve to look and feel how you want but the people you care about the most deserve the best version of you.
And that requires prioritizing yourself. Investing in yourself. And spending your time accordingly.
If you don't know where to start, simply ask. I can always point you in the right direction.
Much love, Kayli
Have you ever been told the reason you’re not losing weight is because “you’re eating too little”.
If so, I am also sure you have been told your body has gone into “starvation mode”. Where people tend to explain it, as your body is holding onto all your body fat because you haven’t been eating enough calories.
Spoiler Alert: I’m here to explain to you why this is in fact a myth.
As everything you hear in the fitness and health industry there is a sliver of truth behind this statement. In fact, I myself am guilty of using this phrase in the past. Thankfully I have continued to learn and research the science of our metabolism.
Next let's break down the common definition of “starvation mode”.
What is Starvation Mode?
Starvation mode is not a scientific term. It is a popular phrase used to imply that when you cut calories too low, your body goes into a protection mode, slowing your metabolism and calorie output so that you stop losing weight.
This concept is rooted in your body's survival mechanisms. If you ever found yourself without food for long periods of time, it would not be beneficial for your body to continue to burn calories at a normal rate; instead, your metabolism would shift to preserve as much energy as possible to prolong your life. But starving to death is not quite the same thing as dieting and you will still lose weight in the process of wasting away without food.
How Long Can You Survive Without Food?
With access to water and electrolytes, your body can survive for quite some time without food, depending on the person and how much body fat you have. Some research suggests that you can go more than a month without food. And in some religions, long fasts are commonly practiced with potential health benefits.
Starvation mode is not a real term, but metabolic adaption is, and it’s a known phenomenon. How drastically it affects your weight loss progress is another story.
Your body can compensate for decreased calories by slowing your metabolism down as much as 30% through adaptive thermogenesis. But the effects of adaptive thermogenesis are typically short-lived, and for most the difference could be as little as a 5% decrease in basal metabolic rate (BMR), and it does not indicate a damaged metabolism.
So what is the verdict?
In all of the studies referenced to support starvation mode, weight loss was a factor. And it is crucial to note that any weight loss can cause you to have a lower BMR - since it just takes less energy to move around a smaller object.
Why You're Not Losing Weight and How to Fix it
If you find that you’ve hit a weight loss plateau, it does not mean you are in starvation mode. Some more common factors are likely at play, including the following:
You're Not Tracking Your Food Intake
It's pretty impossible to know if you are in a calorie deficit if you aren't tracking your food intake. Before assuming something else is at play, keeping an accurate food diary is the best place to start.
Even if you've been tracking, take a look at how diligent you are being with this habit.
You can also use your tracking app to get weekly calorie and macro averages - this is the best way to see how well you’ve stuck to your diet consistently, as well as where you could use some work.
You're Not Eating the Right Amount of Calories
Typically, if you aren't losing weight, you are eating more calories than you think. Or if you've recently lost weight, you likely have a new maintenance calorie amount and may need to eat fewer calories to continue losing. This is why many popular weight loss plans will use a phased approach to cutting, helping you to stay in a calorie deficit and continue losing weight with incremental calorie cuts.
Start by figuring out how many calories you need to eat a day to maintain your current weight and then calculate your new weight loss calorie needs from that starting point.
You're Always on a Diet
It might also just be that your body needs a break. If you've been dieting for more than a few months, it might be time to give your body time to adjust to your maintenance calorie level. Jumping from one diet to the next and constantly trying to cut calories can do more harm than good. It is much easier to stick to a diet and continue to get results if you understand how to maintain results in the first place.
Been on a really low-calorie diet for a while and scared to add calories back in? Try upping your intake a few hundred calories a week to start, until you reach your maintenance level. And then stick to your maintenance for at least a month to give your time to adjust and reset your metabolism.
You're Too Focused on the Scale
Oftentimes dieters are focused solely on fat loss, but their total body composition is crucial to getting better results and making them stick. Not to mention, if you are cutting calories too low for too long, you’re at risk of losing precious calorie burning tissue - your muscle.
Gaining muscle is essentially the opposite of “starvation mode”. Your muscle mass is the biggest determinant of your metabolic rate, and the more you have, the more you can eat and maintain your weight. Plus, muscle is the tissue behind that lean, toned look most of us are striving to achieve in the first place.
While muscle growth is typically achieved through weight gain, which would ultimately increase your metabolism even further, it is possible for some people to build muscle in a calorie deficit. But at the very least, you should be focused on protecting your muscle while dieting.
To keep your lean mass intact while dieting, be sure to incorporate the following:
What are the Minimum Calories for Weight Loss?
While starvation mode may not technically exist, starving yourself to lose weight is still not recommended. A very low-calorie diet may work at first, but it’s likely not going to do you favors in the long run. It can be dangerous for some people, lead to disordered eating habits, and does not typically lead to sustainable results, since most people do not change bad habits once they resume eating again. In addition, extreme dieting is impossible to maintain, causing painful hunger cues, irritability, mood swings, decreased energy, poor concentration, and sucks your willpower dry, all of which makes sticking to a diet that much harder.
Instead, stick to a more attainable approach to dieting with no more than a 15-20% decrease from your estimated daily energy needs. Slow and steady weight loss of 0.5 to 1% body weight per week is much easier to keep off and you will be much happier and more successful with a more measured and sustainable diet plan approach.
Need help figuring out how many calories you need each day?
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Kayli is a certified personal trainer and online coach that specializes in fitness, wellness, nutrition, mindset, mobility and everything in between.