Article written by Louise Hughes (Banting Buddies coach – KZN, South Coast)
Why do we battle more with our weight as we age? Jade Teta, personal trainer and author of The Metabolic Effect Diet has some answers.
During menopause, a woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels decline. These are both anti-stress hormones. Estrogen is also an insulin-sensitizing hormone, and as levels fall, insulin, a fat storage hormone, doesn’t operate as well. With less estrogen and progesterone circulating, a woman’s cortisol level can rise, leading to weight gain around the middle.
For men, a similar effect takes place as they age and experience andropause, which is a collection of symptoms including fatigue and a decrease in libido due to a gradual decline in testosterone. As their testosterone dips, it allows cortisol and insulin to rise, with the result that men’s bodies are not hormonally as well equipped to deal with stress as they were before, and weight creeps up.
Jade’s advice for weight loss
The best tactic for both older men and women, says Jade, is not to follow the conventional advice to exercise more or cut calories. This approach simply stresses the body more, at a time when, hormonally, the body is not dealing with stress efficiently. He advises us to rather focus on stress reduction if we want to see weight reduction. Jade has coined the term “rest-based living” for his stress-busting weight loss approach. Jade says it’s far more beneficial for your waistline to go for a massage, or do gentle exercises like Thai Chi, yoga or meditation than a strenuous workout. He also highly recommends leisurely walking. This type of walking lowers both insulin and cortisol, both of which are “fat promoting” hormones. Power-walking or jogging can raise cortisol and therefore can hinder your weight loss efforts. Jade has done cortisol saliva tests on his clients, and on the days they walk, their cortisol levels show a decrease.
Personally I can attest to the power of simple daily walking, as many years ago, I lost a fair amount of weight from doing just that.
Cortisol makes you insulin resistant, says Jade. He also says that it changes your brain chemistry, turning on the reward centre, which makes you crave things, and turning off your motivation.
Cortisol is good in small doses, especially during short bursts of intense training, when other hormones like testosterone and GH (growth hormone) are high, thus allowing the body to build and repair muscle. But to have cortisol elevated throughout the day is problematic and will sabotage weight loss. Jade’s top three ways to lower cortisol are sleep, meditation and leisurely walking. In fact, getting extra sleep as we age may be better for weight loss than waking up early to do a fitness class!
But what about “real” exercise?
Surely leisurely walking is not enough? According to Jade, for those of us over forty, we need to do what he calls “rest based training”, and only twenty to thirty minutes, three times a week. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but the secret is the intensity with which you train. During that time, no matter what combination of exercises you do, he advises to push hard until you simply cannot do anymore, then rest until you can go again. It’s basically interval, or HITT training. Why is it so effective? Jade answers that by saying “Because it utilizes rest.”
Weight gain or loss is mainly hormonal, and to that end, Jade talks about the importance of testosterone in both men and women. Women also experience a drop in testosterone with age, and just like men, can boost it naturally by ensuring they get adequate vitamin D3, zinc and magnesium.
Hunger, energy and cravings
Nutritionally, for effective long-term weight loss and maintenance, Jade talks about keeping your “HEC in check” with your diet. What the heck is HEC, you may ask? H.E.C. is a term he coined, which stands for:
According to Jade, we need to eat so that we have plenty of energy throughout the day, and feel satisfied so that we don’t get major cravings. He advises people to build their meals from a base of protein. As we age protein becomes very important in maintaining our muscle mass. Add to that low-carb vegetables (fibre) and then include fat/and/or starch to satiety. You need to listen to your body’s signals about how much fat or starch you need. There is no “one size fits all” diet for everyone and you will have to listen to your body and it’s ever-changing needs. Jade also cautions women against going too low with their carbohydrates, and says that women need to find the level that is “just right” for them. He says you will know you are eating correctly if your hunger, energy and cravings are in check.
Overall Jade’s plan to combat age-induced weight gain can be summed up as follows:
- Manage your stress (rest-based living)
- Leisurely walking – an hour a day
- Short duration intense training (rest based training)
- Healthy, high protein, low carbohydrate diet based on your own body’s needs to keep your HEC in check
- Get as much restful sleep as you can
It’s a plan that works with the body and it’s changing hormones, which is why Jade has found it to be so effective.
Article written by Louise Hughes (Banting Buddies coach in Margate, KZN South Coast).
To contact Louise, e-mail her on firstname.lastname@example.org