Total Health in Midlife Episode #179: Midlife Weight Gain: Myths & Facts

Midlife Weight Gain: Myths & Facts

Is weight gain during menopause really inevitable, or is it just a myth we’ve come to accept? 

On today’s episode of the Total Health in Midlife podcast, I, Elizabeth Sherman, challenge the traditional views on weight management during midlife. We’ll explore why the techniques we relied on in our younger years—like extreme calorie cutting and intense workouts—are not only ineffective but downright detrimental as we age. 

I’ll unpack the hormonal shifts that change how our bodies handle weight and metabolism, emphasizing why a shift toward a health-focused approach is crucial. Together, we’ll discover how understanding these changes can empower us to create sustainable habits that nourish our bodies and support overall well-being.

Midlife doesn’t have to be a struggle against your own body. In the second part of our conversation, we’ll discuss how to maintain healthy habits during menopause by viewing food as an ally and exercise as an enjoyable activity. You’ll learn how to truly listen to your body’s needs and integrate practices that support quality sleep, stress management, and daily physical activity. 

This episode is all about fostering a positive relationship with yourself and breaking free from the old, ineffective methods of weight loss. Tune in to gain insights and strategies that will help you embrace a balanced, fulfilling, and sustainable approach to health during this transformative stage of life.

Are you loving the podcast, but arent sure where to start? click here to get your copy of the Done with Dieting Podcast Roadmap Its a fantastic listening guide that pulls out the exact episodes that will get you moving towards optimal health.

If you want to take the work we’re doing here on the podcast and go even deeper, you need to join the Feel Good Sisterhood - my group coaching program for women in midlife who are done with dieting, but still want to feel good! The Feel Good Sisterhood is open for enrollment, so click here to discover if group coaching is a right fit for you and your goals.

I am so excited to hear what you all think about the podcast – if you have any feedback, please let me know! You can leave me a rating and review in Apple Podcasts, which helps me create an excellent show and helps other women who want to get off the diet roller coaster find it, too.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode

  • Discover why traditional weight loss tactics fail in midlife and learn how to truly nourish your body beyond the numbers on the scale.
  • Break free from the frustrating restrict-binge-regret cycle and learn strategies that align with your body’s natural rhythms for lasting health and happiness.
  • Learn how to end the cycle of restriction and regret by fostering a supportive relationship with your body and embracing a journey of progression, not perfection.
  • Learn how to make peace with your aging body, embracing its journey and honoring its resilience through life’s challenges.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Full Episode Transcript:

Are you tired of hearing that weight loss in midlife is just a dream? And that once you hit menopause, those extra pounds are here to stay. Now, if you’ve been struggling with weight management and feel like you’re at a dead end, you are not alone, but you might be missing out on some crucial information.

In today’s episode, I am debunking the myths and uncovering the truths about weight loss during menopause. I’m exploring why old tactics you swore by in your 30s just don’t work anymore. And what you can do instead to boost your metabolism and stop fighting against your body.

If you’ve ever felt betrayed by your body or overwhelmed by conflicting advice, this episode is a must listen. Your path to easier health starts right now.

Welcome to Total Health and Midlife, the podcast for women embracing the pivotal transformation from the daily grind to the dawn of a new chapter. I’m Elizabeth, your host and fellow traveler on this journey.

As a Life and Health Coach, I am intimately familiar with the changes and challenges we face during this stage. Shifting careers, changing relationships, our new bodies, and redefining goals and needs as we start to look to the future and ask, what do I want?

In this podcast, we’ll explore physical, mental, and emotional wellness, offering insights and strategies to achieve optimal health through these transformative years.

Yes, it’s totally possible.

Join me in this amazing journey of body, mind, and spirit, where we’re not just improving our health, but transforming our entire lives.

Hey everyone, welcome back to the Total Health in Midlife podcast. I am your host, Elizabeth Sherman, and I am so grateful for you for tuning in today. So, first I need to tell you how much I appreciate you tuning in. And today, I am especially excited to dive into a topic that women reach out to me all the time to get help with, weight loss in midlife.

Now, before we dive into the meat of today’s discussion, I want to take a moment because I think it’s a great episode to share with a friend who might be relentlessly chasing diets, possibly to the point of exhaustion. You know the one. She’s always trying the next big thing, hoping that it’s the secret that she’s been missing. Yet, you can see that it’s wearing her down.

So, today, we are going to unpack why there might be a better way, and I want to invite you and her to look at our daily behaviors through the lens of health versus weight Loss. Now, if you’ve ever felt like losing weight or even maintaining a stable weight after menopause seems like a lost cause, you are so not alone.

It’s a myth that’s widely held. And quite frankly, it’s pervasive among women who start to notice that their hormones are shifting. But here’s the good news. I love debunking myths, especially ones that can transform how we live and feel every day.

So, in today’s episode, we are going to unpack some of the common misconceptions about weight loss during midlife. And why the old school methods that we did in our younger years are Just don’t cut it anymore. And so, my goal in today’s episode is to help you to understand your body’s needs and respond in a way that nourishes and supports you.

We’ll explore why traditional tactics that might have worked for you in your 30s or 40s are no longer effective, and how we can turn the tables to work in our favor. If you’re ready to look at your body, health, and weight loss through a new lens, one that’s focused on doing things with the result of solid health rather than just numbers on the scale, then you’re in the right place.

So, Why do the weight loss fads and traditional weight loss methods seem increasingly futile as we enter midlife? primarily, it’s because these approaches were not designed for women’s midlife bodies. Much of the conventional diet and exercise advice is based on the metabolic and hormonal profiles of much younger people. Often, college age men, whose bodies respond differently to these protocols.

For many women in midlife who are experiencing their hormones shifting or are entering perimenopause or menopause, the same strategies that once seemed to work, no longer yield those same results. And this is not just a physiological misalignment. It’s a psychological battle as well.

When the scales don’t move the way that we want, despite following age old advice of eat less, move more. It can lead to a spiral of negative self-talk and damaging relationships between ourselves, food, and our bodies. And so, this disconnect isn’t just about ineffective weight loss strategies. It’s also about a deeper, more harmful cycle that gets established.

These outdated methods often push women towards extreme behaviors. Severe calorie restriction over exercising, and rigid dietary rules. Not only are these practices unsustainable, but they also set up punishing rules where food becomes the enemy and exercise is a form of penance.

Think about the message that this sends. Your body isn’t right unless it’s controlled and formed in the right way. This mindset can lead to an effed up cycle where food is both a comfort and a curse.

Many women find themselves in this all or nothing mindset that can result in a restrict binge regret cycle. Where they are good for a few days following all the rules, only to find themselves overwhelmed by cravings or in social situations that they can’t control.

This often results in binge eating, followed by a flood of guilt and the resolve to start all over again the next day or the next week with even stricter rules vowing to be perfect.

Moreover, these weight loss strategies are often isolating. They focus on individual foods and nutrients, demonizing some while glorifying others. Without considering the mental aspect of what being on these diets does to us, or the holistic health of the individual. They ignore the fact that nutrition needs to be personalized and enjoyable to be sustainable.

There are so many things coming at us in midlife, and this focus on outdated and unsuitable weight loss methods can feel like a step backwards. It can make fitness and health seem like a chore, rather than a part of life to be enjoyed.

As we move forward, we’ll explore how changing our approach to weight loss can not only improve our relationship with food and our bodies, but also enhance our overall health as a result.

As we move into midlife, our bodies undergo significant changes that profoundly affect our overall health, including how we manage weight. Understanding these changes is crucial in developing strategies that support our well-being rather than hinder it.

One of the pivotal shifts in women’s bodies during this stage is hormonal fluctuation, particularly the reduction in estrogen levels. Estrogen plays a myriad of roles in the female body, including regulating metabolism and body weight.

As these levels decline, many women notice a change in how their bodies store fat, often shifting to a more visceral distribution, which is where fat is stored internally, which can be harder to manage.

Coupled with hormonal changes is increased insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. And changes in its sensitivity can lead to weight gain if not managed properly. This sensitivity can cause our bodies to store more fat, more readily, especially if we’re consuming more carbohydrates than our body needs for energy.

Moreover, these hormonal changes influence our stress reactivity. Midlife can often bring about increased stress levels due to various life transitions. Like career changes, family dynamics, or personal loss. Not to mention that women in midlife just have so much on our plates at this point.

Elevated stress can trigger our bodies to produce more cortisol, known as the stress hormone, which further complicates weight management. High cortisol levels can lead to cravings for sweet, fatty, or salty foods, all of which can sabotage our weight loss efforts.

When we add extreme diets and intense exercise programs into this already volatile mix, the effect can be more detrimental than beneficial. These extreme measures can actually increase our stress levels, not decrease them.

So, for instance, overly restrictive diets can lead to nutritional deficiencies, which can stress the body from the inside out, making it harder to lose weight and easier to gain it back. Similarly, while exercise is beneficial, intense exercise without adequate recovery can elevate cortisol levels, leading to increased fat storage, particularly around the midsection.

This stress isn’t just physical, it’s emotional and it’s psychological too. The frustration of not seeing our desired weight loss results, despite strict adherence to restrictive diets and exercise routines can lead to a cycle of stress, disappointment, and increased emotional eating.

And so, this not only disrupts our mental health, but also our physical health. Creating a feedback loop that makes sustainable weight management feel completely out of reach. So, what’s the solution? It starts with understanding and working with our body’s changes, not against them.

By recognizing the impact of hormones and stress, we can adjust our approach to food and exercise to one that supports our body’s current needs. This means embracing moderate, enjoyable physical activities that reduce stress rather than add to it. And adopting a balanced, nutrient rich diet that satisfies rather than restricts.

So, keep in mind here that our goal isn’t to just manage our weight, but to do it in a way that’s healthy so that we don’t have any health complications and we don’t regain it later down the road. By reducing stress and aligning our lifestyle with our body’s natural rhythms, we can not only look better, but we can feel better too along in the process.

Now, if there’s one pattern that can feel so incredibly frustrating for so many women, and this is something that I dealt with. It’s the restrict binge regret cycle. It’s an old habit that can date back to when we were younger but doesn’t necessarily fade as we age. We always think that it’s going to. And instead, it evolves with us. And becomes tangled with our need to achieve perfection and leaves us wrestling with a profound sense of shame. Like, why haven’t I figured this out yet?

Many women feel that they should have a handle on their eating by now. But the truth is, this cycle makes you feel powerless. Undermining your relationship with your own body. I know this cycle all too well because I was there. The endless cycle of setting a strict plan on Monday, and then by the following weekend eating all the things, followed by the inevitable flood of guilt and self-blame.

But through my own journey, I learned that what we’re doing when we restrict and then binge doesn’t work. And instead, it’s actually creating an adversarial relationship within our body. We find ourselves fighting against it, trying to coerce it into submission to do what we want. And the thing is, that between our body and our mind, neither one is willing to back down.

There’s a huge trust issue between our minds and our bodies. We believe that if all food is neither good nor bad, Elizabeth, I’m just going to sit around and eat ice cream or cookies all day. That’s what my clients tell me.

But here’s the thing. What if, we could change that relationship between yourself, food, and your body? What if, instead of seeing your body as an enemy that you could befriend it? It might sound a little woo-woo. I get it. But truly your body and your mind want the same thing to be healthy and happy.

And when we start to listen to our bodies and understand the signals that it sends to tell us what it needs, we can begin to let go of those rigid food rules and the dieting mindset that fuel the restrict binge regret cycle.

For many of us, this cycle starts with the best of intentions. We impose the restrictions to control our weight or to shape our bodies in a certain way. But these restrictions often lead to cravings for the very things that we’ve forbidden ourselves or rather, that the diet has forbidden.

When our willpower wanes, or emotional triggers hit, binging begins. And after the binge, the regret sets in, along with the promise to start over with even stricter resolve. But this cycle is not just emotionally draining, it’s also ineffective for sustainable weight management.

Breaking free from this cycle doesn’t mean swinging the other way into unchecked indulgence. Instead, it’s about finding balance and embracing a bit of imperfection. It’s about understanding that you don’t need to restrict your diet so harshly. A little flexibility can lead to better results than you might expect because it relieves the psychological pressure that often triggers the binge eating in the first place.

In my own experience and in working with my clients, I’ve found that stepping away from this cycle allows us to develop a healthier, more supportive dialogue within ourselves and with our bodies. When we can shift from a mindset of punishment and deprivation to one of care and nourishment, we start to see food as a way to fuel our body and to celebrate it, rather than as a source of anxiety or shame.

And so, this journey is about progression, not perfection. And by fostering a friendship with your body and listening to it and responding to its needs, you can end the cycle of restriction and regret.

Now, if this is something that you are currently dealing with and you think that at some point down the road, you are automatically going to stop doing it, let me tell you that the only way through is by getting coaching. You might be able to figure it out on your own, but with coaching, you will be able to fast track your progress.

If there’s one repeating pattern that many of us just can’t seem to break, it’s the cycle of being good, followed by inevitable fallbacks into old habits. And this cycle is particularly pronounced as we navigate midlife and menopause. A time when our bodies become less forgiving about our past approaches to managing our weight.

In our younger years, many of us managed to compensate for poor eating habits with really strict exercise or fasting. But as we enter into midlife, our hormones become more sensitive to how we treat our bodies. And those old tricks don’t work the way that they used to. It becomes clear that our bodies are calling for a change. Not just in how we eat and move, but how we relate to these activities.

The key to a healthier approach lies in balancing and enjoying the process. Two elements often missing from strict diet and exercise programs. Instead of viewing food as the enemy and exercise as punishment, we can shift our perspective to see them as forever habits, our new normal.

First, it’s important to start viewing food as a friend, not as a foe. And what this means is moving away from restrictive rules that eliminate entire food groups and instead aim for a more balanced diet. Incorporate a variety of foods that you genuinely enjoy, but also that nourish your body, that are good for you.

This doesn’t mean giving up on all of your favorite treats. Rather, it’s about integrating them into your diet in a way that doesn’t feel like self-sabotage. It’s about learning to enjoy a meal without the side of guilt.

Similarly, reframe your approach to exercise. If the thought of going to the gym fills you with dread, it’s time to find a form of physical activity that brings you pleasure. Whether it’s dancing, yoga, walking, or riding bikes with your family. Choose activities that make you feel good during and after, not just ones that burn the most calories.

Because if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, your chances of sticking to it are slim to none. This shift in perspective can transform exercise from feeling like a chore into feeling proud of what your body can do, which will enhance both your physical and your mental health.

So, let’s talk about listening to your body. This is perhaps the most crucial aspect of adopting a healthier lifestyle. First, how exactly do you listen to your body, right? So, you want to start by tuning into your body’s signals. Hunger, fullness, fatigue, and energy spikes are all cues that can help you to guide you’re eating and exercise habits.

By paying attention to these cues, you can better understand what your body needs and when it needs it. This attunement can help prevent overeating, undereating, or pushing your body to its limits just because a diet or fitness plan says you should.

Midlife and menopause exacerbate how our bodies are less tolerant of poor relationships with food and inadequate exercise habits. This stage of life calls for a less ‘just do it’ and ‘no pain, no gain’ approach and a more thoughtful and forgiving approach. It’s about finding what works for you and your body right now, not what worked 20 years ago or what someone else is telling you that you should do.

And so, by integrating pleasure back into how we eat, how we move, and everything else about our health, we not only improve our physical health, but also our relationship with our bodies. It’s a delicate balance, but one that pays off by making our daily lives more fulfilling and sustainable.

So, when it comes to weight management and overall health during midlife, it’s crucial to look beyond diet and exercise alone. Other lifestyle factors such as sleep, stress management, and just being active during the day also play a significant role in how we feel, how we function, and fare during this ever changing phase of life.

So, let’s talk about each of those. First up is sleep. Often underestimated, sleep is a cornerstone of health, especially during midlife. Quality sleep does more than just make you feel rested. It helps regulate your hormones, including those involved in hunger and stress. Poor sleep can disrupt these hormones, leading to increased appetite, cravings for high calorie foods, and a sluggish metabolism.

And so, by prioritizing sleep, and aiming for anywhere from 7 to 9 hours per night, of course, that’s highly individual. We can help to stabilize these hormones, which not only helps to manage our weight, but also improves our mood and cognitive function.

If I have a new client and her sleep isn’t good, it’s often one of the first things that we address because solid sleep will often knock out many of the other problems that she’s suffering with.

Next is Stress Management. Now, I know, this one is a little bit fuzzy. There’s a lot to Google about eating and exercise. But try to Google stress management and you’ll often get results like meditate or other airy fairy self-care type of suggestions. That aside, stress management is so super important because as we age, our ability to handle stress will change.

Elevated stress levels, especially prolonged can lead to higher cortisol levels, which are directly linked to weight gain, particularly around the belly. Effective stress management, whether through mindfulness practices, meditations, or hobbies that relax you or socializing with friends can reduce your cortisol levels.

This not only helps in in managing weight, but also improves overall life satisfaction and reduces the risk of several chronic diseases. Of course, we need to address physical activity.

Now, while we’ve discussed exercise previously, it’s important to emphasize physical activity in a more broad sense.

This includes not just structured workouts, but also incorporating more movement throughout the day. You know, being busy, taking stairs instead of the elevator, gardening, or even light housework. These activities help boost metabolism, improve mood and energy levels, and can significantly contribute to weight management.

Now, if you’ve ever worn a fitness tracker and have been alerted in the middle of a mall or cleaning your house that you’ve reached your exercise goal, you know that this is true. Together, these lifestyle factors create a synergy that supports your body through the hormonal changes of menopause.

For instance, managing stress and improving sleep can reduce menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats. Moreover, a lifestyle that includes varied physical activities can help maintain muscle mass, which naturally declines with age, keeping your metabolic rate higher and your body more capable of handling calories more effectively.

Improving these lifestyle factors can lead to natural weight loss and enhanced well-being by creating an environment where your body can function optimally. It’s not just about reducing numbers on a scale but building a life where you feel energetic, balanced, and capable of enjoying this stage of life to its fullest.

It’s these comprehensive changes. Small adjustments in how we sleep, how we manage our stress, and how we move that pave the way for profound shifts in our health and success towards our goals. So, I think it’s crucial to reassess not just our health strategies, but also our expectations around our body image and weight loss.

Who decided what a 55 year old woman should look like? Who determined the standards for our bodies? Too often, we cling to the ideals about our body that were formed in our youth. Believing that any deviation from that thin, youthful silhouette is a failure. But here’s a radical idea. What if we shifted our focus from being thin to actually being healthy?

Reflecting on this, I recently shared something with my clients. When we think about your body, aging, and all that’s wrapped up in what we’re fighting when we’re fighting our bodies, it is what it is. And getting upset about it is kind of like spitting into the wind. It only hurts you.

Over the years, I’ve been learning and teaching others how to make peace with what is. This includes accepting our bodies as they are today. Honoring all that they’ve been through, whether that’s giving birth, enduring stress, or surviving diets that promised so much and delivered so little.

In midlife, weight loss may indeed take longer. But the weight didn’t appear overnight and it’s not going to disappear that quickly either. However, what’s more important, speed or health? Emphasizing rapid weight loss often leads us back into the cycle of crash diets and extreme fitness programs that have long term negative effects.

Instead, adopting a health first approach not only supports your body in what it needs now, but often leads to achieving and maintaining your goal weight more sustainably. This doesn’t mean giving up and letting go completely, as if saying, ‘eff it’ and abandoning everything. But instead, it’s about a deeper acceptance of our current physical state and working from there.

Yes, it’s frustrating that perhaps our partners lose weight more quickly or that we can’t sleep as soundly as we once did. But railing against these reality only fosters negativity and leads to self-sabotage. So, I ask you, in what ways are you fighting reality? What feels unfair? What do you think should be happening?

These questions aren’t rhetorical, they are a call to action to start seeing things as they are and working with what we have. By accepting our current state and focusing on gradual improvements in our health, we create a foundation for more lasting changes.

The type of work that I do with my clients involves guiding them to adopt these healthy behaviors. Which in turn, often results in them reaching their weight loss goals. Almost as a happy byproduct of living healthier. By being health first rather than weight first, you can actually accomplish both goals. And isn’t that what we all want?

Okay, so as I wrap up, I want to acknowledge that we’ve tackled some pervasive myths and replaced them with empowering knowledge that aligns with our body’s changing needs. We started by addressing the outdated approaches to weight loss that are often not only ineffective but also detrimental for women in midlife.

I talked about the restrict binge regret cycle that no longer serves us and how obvious it becomes at this point in our lives. But also, understanding how these patterns contribute to a negative relationship with food in our bodies. We then shifted our focus to embrace a healthier approach to food and exercise, emphasizing balance and just how important it is to enjoy the process. And the importance of listening to our bodies.

This isn’t just about what we eat or how we move. It’s about fostering a positive relationship with our lifestyles. Those habits that we do on a regular basis. We also broadened the discussion to include critical lifestyle factors like sleep, stress management, and overall physical activity.

And so, these elements are essential in supporting our hormonal balance, enhancing our energy levels, and improving our overall health, thereby aiding in natural weight loss and well-being.

Now, if you’re looking to put these insights into practice, and truly transform your approach to health and wellness, I highly recommend getting the “8 Basic Habits that Healthy People Do Guide and Checklist.” This resource is designed to provide you with foundational habits that are crucial for maintaining and enhancing your health as you navigate this stage of your life.

This guide is not just a set of instructions. It’s a way to reframe your daily routines and ensure that every choice you make, contributes to your long term vitality. It’s about making sustainable changes that not only help you manage your weight, but also improve your overall quality of life.

To get your copy, simply visit my website at, and just download it there. It’s a small step that can lead to significant changes. And by incorporating these habits into your life, you’re not just surviving midlife. You are going to thrive in it.

So, thank you again for tuning in. That’s all I have for you today. Have an amazing week, everyone. I’ll talk to you next time. Bye-bye.

Thank you for joining us on today’s episode. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the plethora of health advice out there and are looking for something straightforward, our ‘8 Basic Habits that Healthy People Do’ guide and checklist is just what you need. It breaks down essential habits into simple, actionable steps that you already know how to do.

By following these habits, you’ll set yourself on a path to better health, surpassing most people you know. To get your free copy, just click the link in the show notes. It’s an easy start, but it could make all the difference in your health journey. Grab your guide today and take the first step towards a healthier you.

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Midlife Weight Gain Myths & Facts
Midlife Weight Gain Myths & Facts