So here we are. In our 40s and 50s, maybe our 60s. Things aren't working like they used to. You've cut the calories and logged the hours on the treadmill, and the scale isn't budging. In fact, despite your best efforts, your middle is a little more padded lately.
In the mornings you wake up, roll over and there is it - a twinge in the back and stiffness to the feet. You didn't do anything to injure it, and yet you feel it nonetheless.
And of course, there's our mood swings and the fact that maybe our periods are now coming twice a month, or twice a year. You suddenly have PMS symptoms when you never did before.
Our mom's warned us for puberty, but what about the anti-puberty? Yes, ladies, perimenopause is upon us and it's wreaking havoc on our physical bodies and our sanity. But is this the end of our youth and livelihood? Of course not.
While there are many different hormones that play into the changes we have during the time of perimenopause, today I want to talk about the one that's the closest to the Fountain of Youth for us. That Human Growth Hormone, or hgH.
Part of the path to menopause includes a time called "Somatopause", which is basically
the decline of human growth hormone. As we get older, hgH gradually declines, and it's this decline that brings on some of the negative changes. It means that we don’t hold onto muscles like we used to. And that our bodies tend to store fat in our bellies - both the pinchable kind and the stuff around the organs that we can't see, and neither is great for our health.
The decline of hgH also means that we dieting that we used to do and the way that we used to work out doesn't produce the same results as it did even a few years ago. In addition, lower levels of hgH slow down our tissue repair and affect our sexual and brain health. This might sound all doom and gloom, but it's not. We can combat this decline and even slow it down, but we're going to have to rethink how we're moving and fueling ourselves in order to do so.
So listen. We've earned the right to move out of beast mode. In fact, our bodies are begging us to do so. It doesn't mean that you can't workout hard and sweat, or train for
an athletic event, but it also doesn't mean that you have to "go hard or go home" all of the time. In fact, our fluctuating hormones actually do better when we enter beast mode for a very short period of time, and then
follow it with more restorative activities. We want to start engaging in more activities that support our endocrine system instead of depleting it.
How do we do this?
There are several lifestyle factors that we can focus on to help us increase our bodies secretion of hgH, and this really focuses on our adrenal response.
- HIIT. Stop with the hour-long, moderate heart rate exercise. If you're training for an endurance event, then there is still a place for this. But if you're exercising for general health and fitness (and weight loss) then we need to stop. Logging hours on the cardio equipment is actually fatiguing your adrenals, increasing your cortisol levels and decreasing hgH even more. Instead, focus on short, high-intensity strength-based exercise. I'm talking 20 minutes of working at a level where you can't even think of going for a minute longer. We're looking for being breathless, muscles burning, heavy weight, and getting hot and sweating. This is the kind of exercise that will trigger the release of hgH and also start getting your body to release the fat you're eager to get rid of.
- Low-Intensity Slow & Steady (LISS). Once you've killed yourself for 20 minutes of HIIT, follow that up with some slow restorative movement. Walking (outside is a better option than the treadmill), yoga, restorative exercise, swimming, etc. Basically, you don't want to do your HIIT and then go and sit. You want to keep moving to encourage the body to continue moving the fats that have been released to muscles that can burn it off.
- All Day Movement. No, I don't want you literally moving all day and never stopping, but we do need to break the habit of logging our gym time and then sitting the rest of the day. Sitting at a desk, in a car, on the couch - whatever. And if you're just standing on one spot all day, that's no better. We need to find more opportunities to move in our day. This could mean making a dynamic work station that allows for floor sitting to standing and everything in between. Or walking for more of our errands. If you're like me and don't have shops near to walk to, then find a central parking location and walk from there. Get creative - just move more.
- Sleep and Restore. The largest source of hgH occurs about one hour after the onset of our nighttime sleep, and when we get at least 7-8 hours of sleep it aids in fat loss. Furthermore, most of us struggle with an elevated amount of cortisol due to lack of sleep and increased levels of stress in our lives. These elevated levels of cortisol actually encourage your body to hold on to and store fat in the belly. Not good. So even if you can't make an immediate jump to more sleep, you can also add in some other self-care activities. Meditation has been shown to have similar benefits as sleep. Hiking and being outdoors can be a form of walking meditation. Taking a bath, reading a book, taking a nap, journaling - all of these are examples of restorative activities and you need to find more time to incorporate them into your day.
- Eat better. Get out of the diet mentality and stop buying the pills and shakes. There is no quick fix, but there is a better way to fuel your body to work with your hormones, and many of these diets are actually doing more harm than good. First, get off the coffee and wine diet. This is a sure sign that your hormones are off. Then, cut out the sugar. Our bodies have a reduced ability to handle sugar as we get older, so cutting our sugar, specifically refined sugar and sugar added to foods, can help us to reset and use our food better. Along these lines, we do need to be mindful of the starchy carbs we are consuming. I'm not saying to jump on the keto bandwagon, but understanding how your body handles carbs and understanding timing is key. The best thing is to make sure you're getting enough protein in your diet and also colorful vegetables. These are your foundation. Then add in carbs depending on your burner type and activity levels. The more active you are, or if you're training for an endurance event, the more starch your body needs. Otherwise, most of us do just fine on small amounts of starch.
Hey, I know first-hand that this thing called perimenopause is a rough go. More than anything I want an easy solution to all of the changes that are happening - well, something that works immediately. But it's just not there. If we ask those women in their 50s and 60s who we admire what their fountain of youth is, we're going to find a lot of the things that I mentioned above. Part of the Midlife Makeover is embracing our lives as they are now, and make the changes to that part we don't like. We are grown up and have the ability to mold our lives into anything we want them to be. So do it! Stop the excuses. Anything that is on your plate is something you put there yourself. Change it and start serving yourself and your needs instead of others. Start living life on your terms - start by saying "no" to the BS "anti-aging" products that we're inundated with daily, and start saying "yes" to proves healthier habits.
What's one change that you're going to make today for your own midlife makeover? Comment below and share it with us!