It’s not your imagination: staying trim gets harder with every passing year. We take a closer look at the hormones affecting your waistline – and how you can maintain harmony, naturally
THE “L” WORD The word “leptin” comes from the Greek word leptós which means “thin.” It is the hormone that signals your brain to tell your body you are no longer hungry because your energy needs have been met. An efficiently working leptin system will lead to better brain function, memory, and mental sharpness, and can even affect the regulation of mood and emotion. And since it also controls energy expenditure over the long term, a poorly functioning leptin system can also lead to obesity. Your diet plays a huge role in leptin regulation. Many fads diets prescribe fewer calories and less fat, but over time this reduction can grind your metabolism to a halt by lowering leptin levels. If it continues, you can create what is known as leptin resistance. It’s a vicious cycle: eating more than your body needs numbs the receptors in your brain that tell you to stop eating. This creates a negative feedback loop wherein you continue to overeat as your system becomes more leptin resistant. Leptin resistance is also a precursor to insulin resistance, which can mean that leptin plays a role in controlling insulin sensitivity, a warning sign of diabetes that can also trigger weight gain. What you can do: adjust your sugar intake, eat more protein (which has been shown to
improve leptin sensitivity), and stay active. In the long run, it will help your leptin resistance – and therefore your body fat levels too.
PRACTISE STRESS CONTROL
Women over the age of 40 often take on multiple roles in their careers and families, creating additional stress that can affect hormone levels (specifically cortisol) and body weight. And at this age many mothers are not only dealing with changes in their bodies, they are also dealing with their children becoming adults. For some, these facts, combined with other life events, can make the physical transition harder to handle. The good news is that stress-reducing, cortisol controlling habits are allies against these events. Tools like meditation, breathing techniques, and yoga are some ways to reduce cortisol caused by stress. This can help offset damaging affects of aging, especially those that are weight-related.
UPPING THE EXERCISE ANTE
In your pursuit of weight control, lower estrogen levels (which begin dropping around the age of 30) and increased insulin sensitivity need to be counteracted – and the good news is that you can do both pretty effectively in the gym. You just have to choose your approach wisely.
Jogging, running, and other endurance exercises are often the go-to gym option for many people. As you age and your schedule becomes more jampacked, the key is to exercise effectively as opposed to often, or for very long. Replace lengthy, easier cardio sessions with short high-intensity interval training sessions (HIIT). This type of training alternates between brief, strenuous exercise and active rest. HIIT works by intensely stressing your body’s systems and then allowing for recovery.
IT’S A VICIOUS CYCLE:
eating more than your body needs numbs the receptors in your brain that tel l you to s top eating.
Stringing exercises together with active rest keeps your heart and breathing rates high, which means you will still experience some aerobic benefits as well. A solid HIIT workout can be accomplished with only a few simple exer cises such as squat jumps, jumping jacks, sprints, burpees, and vigorous weightlifting.
While you may initially balk at the idea that lifting weights can actually help in your weight-loss quest, there is science behind it. Resistance training is typically brief and intense, driving muscles to generate force from ATP – energy created from creatine phosphate in the muscles – instead of relying on oxygen. This has been shown to increase metabolism and aid fat burning. Plus, the more muscle, a metabolically active tissue, you have on your body the higher your resting metabolic rate will be – you’ll burn more calories even at rest than if that tissue was fat. HIITstyle strength training has been shown to cause a 200- to 700-per cent increase in human growth hormone, which promotes muscle growth and fat loss in women and increases bone density – all legitimate concerns at this stage of life.
Studies have also suggested that this form of fitness boosts memory and cognition, reduces fatigue, increases happiness, and decreases anxiety. These are all issues that can be aggravated by lowered estrogen, which is why HIIT is such a powerful tool for women over 40.