Forty and Holding - Feeling Flat and Fat?

By: Di Roberts

"What happened to my energy? I feel so flat all the time. Why can't I lose any weight? I'm practically starving myself but pounds just won't go away like they did a few years ago." Any of this ring a bell? Is it true that "slowing metabolism" means that we just can't lose weight once we pass our fourth decade? Or that the only way to lose weight is to subsist on salad greens and water?

There's always the other side of the Great Law of Weight Loss. One side is to decrease calorie consumption, but the other one is to increase calorie expenditure. For best results, it would seem reasonable to adopt a healthful diet, not too much quantity but balanced in terms of all the nutrients. It's essential to eat at least three servings of fruit, four servings of vegetables, five servings of high fiber whole grains or legumes, two to three servings of quality protein, and two or three servings of dairy or other sources of calcium and vitamin D every day. Interestingly, calcium itself seems to help reduce middle-aged weight gain. To keep your metabolism stoked, vary your calorie consumption so that you have a couple of "low" (1200 or so calories a day) days followed by a "regular" day when you eat approximately the same number of calories you are expending. This gives you body and your psyche relief from the idea that you're depriving yourself. Starving yourself is a good way to get very sick, not a good way to be vibrant and slim. Another good thing to keep the fat burning fires going is to divide up your calories into five or six small meals and snacks a day, rather than just three or fewer.

One thing seems to be clear during the aging process. Activity levels decrease, in general, as does muscle mass. Those two are the prime determinants of calorie expenditure so, clearly, if we increase both of those, we can invigorate our sluggish metabolism. That doesn't mean one has to go out and pound the pavement to train for a marathon starting today. First thing is to check with your doctor and see what level of activity you can start right now. If you haven't been doing anything more taxing than carrying the groceries in from the car and clicking the TV remote for several years, you will need to start gently.

Pick some things you enjoy or at least don't mind doing too much. A body needs a combination of aerobic, strength, balance, and flexibility activities. All of them. Start with small goals but work toward a regular schedule that includes 30 or more minutes of aerobic activity most days plus another 10 or 15 minutes of balance and flexibility movements. Work up to three sessions of strength training a week. It's important to do all of these things and to do them all regularly. If you slack off for a while, the body goes right back to where it was before.

Most people know pretty well what aerobic exercise is, so I won't go into any detail in this short article. One thing to keep in mind is that you need to keep pushing towards greater goals and even change what you're doing from time to time or your body adapts and you won't see any improvement. Faster, higher, longer, as they say in the Olympics. Once you've gotten up to a reasonable level of aerobic fitness, try inserting some high intensity exercise for a minute or so, providing your doctor agrees. Does wonders for your energy levels. Brisk walking, particularly if there are hills or stairs involved, is a great choice, as is swimming. Bicycling is very good if you go fast, don't coast at all, there's a stiff wind in your face, it's all uphill, and there's no threat from the vehicular traffic. Cross country skiing is great when you can do it. There are all sorts of variable resistance aerobic machines available if you want to join a health club.

But aerobics is only part of the story. Sure these exercises increase calorie expenditure, but they don't do much for your resting metabolic rate. For this, as well as for all around strength and appearance, you also need some weight training to build fat-burning muscle. This doesn't mean you have to go to the gym and lift free weights or use the machines if you don't want to. Your own body weight can provide excellent training. You can do push ups, starting with pushing off from the wall, then a counter, then from the knees, from the toes, to having the feet elevated. You can do squats, taking care to keep the back straight, the rear end back so the knees stay in back of the toes, and not going lower than having the thighs parallel with the floor. You can do pull ups, and then reverse the hands. And so on. Build the number of repetitions slowly but steadily. And ladies need not worry about the "muscle bound" look. Takes certain hormones to get that. Both genders will note more admiring looks after they have been at this for a while. And it's a well-established fact that you can reverse muscle loss at any age by consistent resistance training.

You can practice flexibility and balance moves as part of yoga training, which is also very good for the mental outlook. You can join a class or buy books and videos at minimal cost. These exercises help prevent injury, keep the body nice and limber, and help relieve stress.

So there is a basic blueprint for removing that flat and fat feeling. Let's get moving! See you later.

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Di Roberts runs a weight loss website that covers the many facets of weight management. You can enjoy reading articles, tips, news, and often irreverent commentary about weight loss on her site at:

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