It’s that moment we all dread, when we put on a pair of our favourite trousers and ‘uh, oh!’ the waist band feels a bit tighter. If your weight is creeping up with every birthday, it’s hard not to feel that you’re in a battle with your body and the spare tyre is winning.
But midlife doesn’t have to mean middle aged spread. Certainly, it’s true that it can become more difficult to control your weight as you get older. Partly, this is behavioural (we tend to get less active as we get older) and partly it’s biological. For men and women, hormonal changes such as falling oestrogen levels in women and a drop in testosterone in both sexes can programme the body to store fat.
Oestrogen is a fat-storage hormone (among its other functions). So, as women approach and then come out the other side of menopause and oestrogen production drops, we should lose weight, right? Wrong. The body has a cunning plan. To replace some of the lost oestrogen, it lays down visceral fat, that is fat around your tummy, and this manufactures oestrogen. More oestrogen, means more weight gain around your middle and so on and so on.
Men don’t get away scot free from the oestrogen effect either. Men also produce oestrogen and as they get older and testosterone naturally drops, so the ratio between the two can tip in oestrogen’s direction. Those middle aged man boobs aren’t just fat deposits, they are a sign that oestrogen is having an effect on a man too.
Testosterone is important for muscle tone in both sexes. It drops in men as they age (andropause or male menopause) but also reduces in women. The effect on all of us is a loss of muscle tone, another facet of middle aged body.
So far, so depressing. However, the good news is you can do something about all of this. You don’t have to resign yourself to a future of elasticated waists. Here are my top tips for keeping middle aged spread at bay:
Lowri Turner is a nutritionist and hypnotherapist and specialist in weight loss and hormone balance. For more info, go to www.lowriturner.com