#LetsTalkAboutIt: Putting On Weight Over 30 (And What You Can Do About It)

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?

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.  

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.

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.

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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  1. Petra / Be Healthy Now
    May 13, 2016 / 5:15 pm

    This is such a great post highlighting the realities of 30+ women. I am also 33 and since my twenties I only gained a bit of weight but what I noticed is that the fat likes to sit more around my middle than anywhere else! Before it wasn't like that.. To keep healthy I make sure I am active as much as possible and have really healthy meals during the week. At weekends I have a treat. It's important to watch empty calories too. Alcohol and sugary drinks are full of calories. I never drink any. I drink lots of water and herbal teas (with no sugar) instead.

    • Hayley Carr
      May 15, 2016 / 6:05 pm

      You're so right about the middle weight gain – why is it it wants to stick there?! And on my arms too… Never ever had bingo wings in my life,but all of a sudden it's become the most hated part of my body.

  2. Natasha
    May 13, 2016 / 8:47 pm

    Such a great post – loved it !

  3. Liz S
    May 14, 2016 / 11:05 am

    So true! Gone are the days when I could eat anything I wanted with no weight gain… Love your sensible tips too, looking after yourself and embracing your body shape are both so important! Liz xDistract Me Now Please

    • Hayley Carr
      May 15, 2016 / 6:05 pm

      Thanks Liz!

  4. Bee
    May 14, 2016 / 7:01 pm

    You just read my mind! Crash diets don't work anymore & that would just make it worse. I also find that yoga relaxes me & sometimes I do a lot of walking even for a few kilometers & I feel so good about myself. It's my way to repay all the fast food junk that I've stuffed myself. It may sound cliché but we only have 1 life, might as well take care of it.

    • Hayley Carr
      May 15, 2016 / 6:06 pm

      Love your mentality! I'm all about embracing what makes you happy (i.e. cake) but also keeping active and making good choices.

  5. Yiotou_La
    May 16, 2016 / 7:29 am

    I am 35 now and I am glad my weight is still the same as it was ten years ago, but I feel that I have to try more in order to maintain the same weight. I eat healthy, I do to the gym and I try to avoid temptations as much as I can. I don't know if this will change when I have kids but for now, I am so glad I managed to maintain it. Lovely post and thanks for writing this :)YiotaPinkDaisyLoves

  6. Rebecca PurleyGirly
    May 16, 2016 / 11:20 am

    I've found that the weight is so much harder to shift after 30 too. And so much easier to put on. Sigh. I think this post will definitely strike a cord with so many readers, and we're all nodding our heads reading it, thinking "me too". I did The BodyCoach last year and thought that was great. But I've slipped back into some naughty habits again and need to be a bit stricter about the booze and sugary treats.

  7. Áine McGovern
    May 17, 2016 / 6:19 am

    I've always been relatively slim, being a dancer on the side. I did notice in recent years that my weight has slowly crept up. Even with all the exercise! Recently I had a good look at my health & fitness and realised that my body had still managed to slow down – my metabolism had slowed. So I switched up my training to include weight training and I've noticed a slow steady weight loss…now if I could only manage to sleep more and try to reduce the amount of stress in my life. I'm slowly getting there. Small increments.

  8. Other Reality
    May 17, 2016 / 6:54 am

    I couldn't have wrote this better myself. I literally only have to smell sugar and up goes the scale. It's been such a struggle particularly since I turned 31. I got to my goal with slimming world for my 30th and gained it all back and then some in less than 18months. I'm still trying to find the balance, we two kids and work. It sucks and it's such a downer.

  9. Laura Scott
    May 17, 2016 / 5:53 pm

    A very interesting article and I just came from Twitter to your blog to comment on it. Some great points made here and enjoyed your tips for the 30+ especially as I'm one of them.I actually started my Get Fit for 2012 and I haven't really looked back. I'm 32 now my weight is the exactly the same as it was when I started to get fit. My secret (or not so much) is HIIT workouts, weight training and cardio, mixed with a healthy diet. I don't eat ready meals at all, I ditched those many years ago. Working out- HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training which is a short intense workout of 10-15 minutes. Toning & Weights, I do low weighted workouts such as squats which help tone, and also do various toning ab workouts to target various areas. What's great about HIIT is you only need to do it for a short amount of time and you can do it via YouTube at home -perfect if you're a mum for example or just leading a busy life.DIET -Chicken, Turkey, Quorn Mince, Lean Mince Meat, Vegetables stir fried in a little Coconut Oil. I don't really eat white refined carbs (full of sugar) but if I do want to treat myself I will go for a dark chocolate treat. I want to try more Vegan based cooking as I do have a sweet tooth as I know many of you will do. A glass of Red wine is fine with a meal, just stay away from drinking regularly as it's basically like downing sugar, no joke.Go out on special occasions for dinner, and when you do opt for the healthier options on the menu but do allow yourself treats on occasion like your favourite chocolate cake.Also water!!! stay hydrated and it keeps you full, if water gets boring have herbal teas.I brought The Body Coaches Leanin15 book which is full of diet and workout inspo, I recommend it :)Hitting 30 yes we can slow down a little but in all honesty if you eat right and workout, you'll be just fine.A great post and thanks for sharing it with us!Laura xowww.shehearts.net

  10. Emma K
    May 18, 2016 / 6:04 pm

    Great post but I do have to just say one thing about the science of metabolism. I'm doing a medical degree and have just been working on age-related weight gain. There's lots of studies showing it's a common misconception that your basal metabolic rate can slow down very quickly and it actually doesn't usually happen until you're 40-50 years old. Muscle mass decreases around this time and without muscle using up lots of energy its easier to put on weight. Free radicals can build up with age but I'm not to sure about the research in weight gain as far as I know it's been linked to problems such as heart attacks, cancers etc. due to damaged blood vessels, I'm not sure it's something that happens in your 30s. Of course everyone's different! Loved the tips you gave so nice and relatable

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