As I drew nearer to the big three zero, many things started to concern me: whether I would ever settle down and pop out a couple of kids, how I’d cope with hangovers in ten years time, and most importantly if I really should’ve really started the botox sooner rather than later. In my late twenties I was too busy having fun and following my dreams to really worry about anything other than superficial issues, but the one thing I didn’t expect to hit me like a brick wall pretty much as soon as I transitioned from one decade to the next (apart from the atrocious hangovers) was the rate at which I’d pile on the pounds. We’re used to hearing tales about men and women who struggle to keep their weight under control as the decades pass, but as someone who’d always been able to strip back my diet when I needed to look kick-ass at the weekend, I didn’t think it would happen so suddenly or abruptly. Practically overnight I started to fill out and become even more wobbly than I was before; I pretty much had to look at a slice of chocolate cake and find myself a dress size larger, while losing weight was increasingly difficult once I’d actually put it on. Over the last three years I’ve gone up at least a dress size (if not two) and have struggled to keep my weight under control – so much so that it impacted on my confidence and self-worth.
I’ve never been a skinny minny, always showcasing a set of curves that I
was proud of, but with age I felt myself filling out and getting to a
point where I just wasn’t happy with the way I looked. Sure I left a full time job in the city to work for myself at home (too little walking, too much access to the fridge) and settled down in a relationship (with someone who loves chocolate and cake twice as much as I do,) but fundamentally I felt something had changed. It’s only now, aged 33 and a third, that I’ve finally learned to embrace my new found shape while simultaneously learning to enjoy exercise for the first time in my life. Gaining weight after 30 is rarely discussed outside of conversations related to postpartum figures, but it’s an issue that impacts the majority of us at some stage or another. So why is weight gain so prevalent in our thirties and beyond – and what can we do about it?
WHY DO WE PUT ON WEIGHT OVER 30?
At this stage in our lives we’re often at the tip of our career trajectory and under increasing amounts of stress; as a result we’re working longer hours, eating when we get the opportunity, sleeping less and generally not looking after ourselves. Importantly, chronic stress produces the stress hormone cortisol and can also cause changes in blood sugar levels; this not only slows down metabolism, but makes it more difficult to shed unwanted weight. However, weight gain isn’t just due to external factors – it’s directly linked to the way our body functions as we age. Put simply, aggressive free-radicals that we’re exposed to decrease energy production within our cells, which in turn decreases hormone levels and your metabolic rate. The result is increased fat in the body which is increasingly hard to shift; like those pesky wrinkles, it’s just another side effect of ageing. Great.
HOW DO WE KEEP OUR WEIGHT IN CHECK?
It’s not just about eating a diet of green soup and lemon water, but about looking after yourself as a whole. Ensuring you get a better nights sleep, minimise stress wherever possible, eat healthily and make time for yourself to relax will help as much in the long-term as in the immediacy. Finding an exercise method and routine that works for you is also of paramount importance; as we age we tend to move a lot less than we may have done in our teens and twenties, so getting your heart pumping will keep you glowing both inside and out. It’s important to not embrace crash diets or mad temporary solutions that won’t last beyond the initial few days, as our body will go into ‘flight or fight’ mode and cling onto that excess fat with even more tenacity. I’m no expert, but I’ve tried every quick fix going and they simply don’t work; the best way you can look after yourself is to adopt anew lifestyle and integrate little changes into your daily routine.
TOP TIPS FOR STAYING FIT & HEALTHY
1. Banish the ready meals and shop-bought dinners in favour of freshly prepared concoctions. I’m no chef and I’m incredibly impatient when it comes to cooking, but having a few quick recipes at my disposal really helps to ensure I’m eating well and I know what I’m putting in my body. Buy yourself some cook books!
2. Save the treats for the weekend, when you can really enjoy them. It’s hard to turn down a slice of cake or a glass of wine, but you’ll enjoy it so much more if you’ve waited all week for it. I try to be as good as possible in the week, but blow out at the weekend and don’t worry about what I’m stuffing in my face.
3. Find a form of exercise that works for you and stick to it. I’ve discovered a love of yoga, as well as circuits in the gym; I get bored so easily that I need something fast moving and always a little bit different. Jogging on a running machine for an hour is not my style, but popping down to lift some weights and do a bit of aerobics really helps me to feel good.
4. Get a good night’s sleep and your body will thank you for it. Sleep is key to our body functioning at its best, so make sure you don’t have too many late nights or it will start to show on your face. It’s also increasingly tempting to reach for the biscuits when you’re a bit knackered.
EMBRACE YOUR NEW SHAPE
Although I’m sure we’d all love to have the figure we did aged 19 for the rest of our lives, it’s important to embrace your new body and appreciate everything it does for you. I may not be able to fit in my favourite dress from three years ago, but I’m happy and healthy and enjoying my new regime. Whether your body has changed because it’s given you children, eaten too many Cream Eggs or simply because you’ve been too busy progressing in your career – be proud of it. It’s got you to where you are and it’ll be there for as long as you need it.
Have you struggled with weight gain after you hit 30? Do you have any top tips for living a healthy lifestyle and ensuring you don’t pile on the pounds?
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