After 40, our bodies change and one of the biggest shockers for many is the sudden unexplained weight gain, around the belly. It comes from nowhere!
I can vouch for that one.
There are many reasons for this, which I will explain more in another post. (note to self)
So, you decide to go on a diet.
Maybe you’ve been on and off diets most of your life? Starting on Monday and then again the following Monday after ‘falling off the wagon by Thursday’
What may have worked in your 20’s and 30’s just doesn’t anymore. So you’re stuck in a constant struggle with your weight and your body?
The whole thing just leaves you frustrated, depressed, upset and like a failure.
But, then there’s that feeling at the end of a ‘good’ week when you’ve been eating so ‘well’, you’ve been exercising and really being conscientious about what you’re doing to lose weight.
You feel really proud and virtuous. Excited to step on the scale and hopeful that this time, your hard work is paying off and you’ve lost some pesky pounds.
Only to see that the scale is painting a very different picture.
You’ve even gained a few.
WTF?! You’ve done everything ‘right!’ How can this be true?
Here’s a summary of events play by play (I’ve seen this over the last 15 years in clinical practice time and time again) (and this is why I don’t weigh my clients)
- The scale says you’ve gained weight (or lost nothing)
- Immediately your mood changes
- You feel a failure
- Despondent, sad, angry or upset
- How is it possible, you hardly ate and spent so much time exercising
- ‘Screw this, it doesn’t work, we’re ordering take away this evening’
- ‘I’ll start again on Monday’
- The weekend is free for all, your ‘diet’ didn’t work, you deserve a treat
- Monday starts with great motivation, enthusiasm and another round of deprivation and starvation only to start the cycle over again next week
How does this affect your mental health?
- A low mood associated with this feeling a failure sets in because you can’t stick to a diet, you can’t lose weight and you just hate your body even more.
- A low mood leads to unhelpful thoughts of ‘not good enough’, ‘ I suck’, ‘I’ll never get that job/partner/pay rise’, ‘I’m fat, ugly and not worth it’
- No wonder I’m invisible
- You may be comparing your body to others and that feeling of inadequacy can restart a cycle of self-loathing and self-deprecation
- Not losing weight on a diet is ‘proof’ that you’re weak, lazy and have no self-discipline
- Dieting is a major cause of stress and that is not good!
Then there’s also the comparisons with unrealistic body shapes and sizes of women your age and older blasted all over social and conventional media which doesn’t help.
How does that make you feel?
- Now you sit with these big, uncomfortable and overwhelming emotions, thoughts and feelings. You’re human, you don’t like these feelings, and you want to get rid of them, so what do you do? Well, it may be by eating too much, drinking, shopping or binge watching TV?
- This may help for a very short time, but soon, you feel guilty for overeating, watching too much TV or it’s a trip back to that boutique to return the £200 sequined disco pants that you don’t need.
What to do instead:
- Stop dieting
- It doesn’t work
- Adopt a mindful and intuitive approach to eating
- So that you can tune into your body’s signals and messages and be guided by that
- Don’t put food in good or bad camps
- Food is food
- Some days you have salad and sparkling water and some days are more mac and cheese kinda days; it’s ok!
- Forbidden food is like candy to a baby
- Eating fresh whole foods that give you energy and make you feel good is an act of self-care
- When you treat your body with kindness and respect you will also nourish it better
- This one is hard: practice acceptance and gratitude.
- Acceptance of how your body is today (because that’s all you have right now) how you want to feed or move today is up to you. You can start each day fresh
- When your mind starts beating you up about how fat, ugly and big you are, name five things you are also grateful for, for this body
- This is deep inner work stuff and no low calorie, quick fix, microwave pouch is going to heal your relationship with food or your body.
Notice when your mind starts beating you up.
Stop, count 5 deep breaths, connect to your anchor and remember your big WHY(Do this three times a day at set times, or like me, sometimes 20 times a day)
Knowing you can draw on that every time you need to ground or rebalance yourself.
Since starting a regular mindful practice my life has changed, since helping my clients through mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, their lives have changed. (This is mindfulness combined with CBT) and here’s what we discover:
- It’s not your fault, you’re not broken, you don’t need fixing and you don’t need another diet.
- You are more than your weight, your dress size, your last meal, your last workout.
- Make memories beyond what you eat, what you look like and how you ‘failed’ at diets.
- Your body is changing, that’s what bodies do, but that doesn’t mean you stop looking after her.
- There are ways to deal differently with those big emotions, those difficult thoughts and feelings. (which are such overlooked symptoms in menopause)
There is a different way to approach the menopause and midlife.
A compassionate, kind and loving way.
This is not linear work, it’s deep, it’s challenging, but it’s so worth it, because frankly what is the other alternative?
Imagine what it would feel like if you were just neutral about your body during this change?
Here’s your body, here’s feeding, moving and clothing it and that’s it. No rules, no managing, measuring, controlling, shrinking. Just living.
Imagine if your mind wasn’t beating you up every time you had a cookie, an extra helping at the buffet or seeing your body’s reflection in the mirror. (yes it’s hard sometimes to see that reflection that you don’t recognise)
Now breathe and take action!
Breath by breath you can stay grounded when the sh*t hits the fan, to make healthier choices about your health and well-being based on your values without compromising the pleasure of eating and still feel good about yourself at the end of the day.
For the sake of your (and your children’s) mental health, stop dieting and adopt a mindful and intuitive approach to food, eating and your body during peri-menopause, menopause and your magnificent midlife!
What do you think? Ready to ditch the diet mentality and step into your wiser wilder more independent wisdom? It’s at your fingertips, you know how to take care of you, you just need to trust it!
I’d love to hear your thoughts, please hit reply!
PS. Is it time that you have a coach/teacher/mentor helping, guiding, supporting and even challenging you to be the best version of you through this transition?
No more fads, gimmicks or quick fixes.
No more half baked, luke warm, stop-start approaches to make some momentous change to your health and wellbeing.
If you’re ready to turn up the dial on your self-care and wellbeing so you can FLOURISH and thrive in a body you love, respect and care for as you embrace this change and look forward to meeting this woman you are becoming, then I would love to help you.
I can’t wait to see you FLOURISH!