This is a guest blog by Lucy Chamberlain: It’s a fact that the older we get, our bodies don’t respond the same way to weight loss efforts and it becomes harder to shed the pounds. I have always had a battle with losing weight, way before I even reached my 40s. And despite my efforts over the years, I haven’t ever seen the results I wanted. Welcome to the ‘Lifelong Struggle with Weight Club’ where I can tell you, that your 40s DON’T make it any easier.
It all seems to take twice the effort, for half the results. Our metabolism changes, we lose muscle matter, our hormones work against us. So I am left pondering; Will my lifelong battle with losing weight continue in my 40s and beyond? Will I always struggle against my waistline? Or as I age, will there be a level of body acceptance that comes with the territory of having faced this tiring lifelong argument with my body?
I’ve read what feels like every article, blog or book on how to lose weight. And how so many other people find a way to win. But today, I just want to talk about the struggle.
Losing Weight: The Pre-40s Active Battle
I’ve never been naturally slim or athletic in build, and my body is a typical pear shape. If I was a few inches taller I could be almost ‘normal.’ But I’m annoyingly short so that has always gone against me. But I have always been active. In earlier years I ran half marathons. Trained hard at the gym. Loved a plethora of aerobics classes. And I completed two London to Brighton bike rides before a collision that literally ended my biking confidence.
I was actively sporty for more than 20 years and although I was fit, I was still never what I’d consider ‘thin’ for me, even at my peak fitness. I went on to get married. Have two kids – they kept me busy – and remained quite active, always on the go. But my weight loss battle remained an issue, despite my active nature.
Losing Weight: The Dieting
And with a busy life and lack of time, activity lessened and I turned to dieting more. I honestly tried every diet going; Weight Watchers, 5:2 Plan, Atkins, Cabbage soup! I deprived myself because I wanted to see results fast. But I would only get disappointed and lose heart when the pounds didn’t fall away quickly. So I failed to stick to anything for a long time.
Similarly, I would fall for the adverts on those fat binding slimming pills. The potions and tonics that help you drop a dress size after a month. Countless pots of tablets thrown out because they made me sick or tasted vile, or just plain never did anything except drain my bank account.
Losing Weight: Exercise gadgets that never work
And over the years, I must have spent a small fortune on gimmicks and gadgets that all promised great things. When will I learn that these gadgets never work for me? We must all have that cross trainer that starts off in the bedroom, with the early morning intention to work a sweat up, only to slowly become an ironing pile holder, right?
I would buy all the exercise gear, but never felt I quite looked the part. So it remained screwed up at the back of the cupboard in temper. With the hand held weights, and dusty ‘ab trim pro’ device that also never worked, never to see the light of day again.
Not to mention the foldable exercise bike, that remains folded away because the seat is so uncomfortable that I can’t bear to set it up for a two minute spin that leaves me battered and bruised. And how could I forget those stacked up DVD’s? Hosted by that TV star who lost 20lb in two weeks, but little did I know that they’d had a gastric band and failed to tell me, whilst I was sitting on the floor doing my 57th sit up with clenched teeth and blowing like Moby Dick.
And then at this time in my life, when it was hard enough to be active and eat healthy or diet and lose weight, I had this new rule to deal with: Lockdown. My husband was at home with us more, so of course the TV nibbles and wine became less of a weekend treat and slowly crept into the midweek days. I baked banana bread. And at one point we could only exercise once per day outside. It all went downhill from there. My life, as everybody’s was, went up in the air, and my usual routine changed. And slowly, all my good intentions went into disarray. And the weight slowly went on.
Working in the Danger Zone
I then changed career at the same time, and began working from home permanently. I got out of bed and went to work in the kitchen (or as I refer to it, the danger zone). Combined with enduring lockdowns, I realised how inactive I was becoming. I moved less and less and in turn, my waistline was getting thicker.
I was in a happier state of mind mentally and professionally from the career change, but my body was adjusting to my new lifestyle with a drastically worrying effect. And after years of being active and dieting, staving off weight gain (always battling with weight loss) all it took was a career change, being a bit older and lockdowns to move my weight in the opposite direction to what I’d been trying to achieve all of these years!
Does it get any easier in our 40s? The 40s Muffin Top
So my weight and I have never been on great terms. And my age is now yet another hindrance to my struggle. And then 40s mid-life muffin top comes along, which is a real problem let me tell you. My waist has disappeared overnight, and I cannot walk uphill without sounding like Darth Vader. It crept up on me, without any notice or inclination. So be warned that one day it will appear from nowhere.
Does it get any easier in our 40s? 40s Curve Balls
Age throws in other factors too, such as menopause, metabolism decreasing, increased water retention, muscle loss, and a multitude of other reasons why ‘thin’ (and I use that term ‘loosely’ as it’s completely subjective) becomes even harder to achieve.
And just because life likes to throw curveballs at you, add into the mix being labelled ‘pre-diabetic’ in my 40s based on my waist size. When the word diabetes is thrown at you, it is a shock. And it’s embarrassing to be put into a category, based on weight and measurements alone. They handed me some leaflets on the best way to lose weight and take up exercise, and I nearly laughed in their face!
Of course they couldn’t understand fully the years of struggle, and the effort it took to not be that size twice over. But it was demoralising when they looked at me as only statistics and charts. And didn’t appreciate how much of a lifelong battle I had had with my weight. Or how hard it has been to stay the size that I now am. But I suppose it was a turning point.
A Lifelong Battle with Weight, Continues …
The diagnosis lead me to reembark on new ways to lose weight. And I can tell you from my own experience, that losing weight in your 20s is so much easier than in your 40s. So next came the tireless detective work seeking out magic remedies for fast fat loss, and how to reverse diabetes in one month.
I threw out all the cookery books and read medical books instead. Trying to fathom it all whilst my self-esteem and motivation hung by a thread. Tedious calorie counting became my new past time, and life was consumed with any which way I could use to help my weight loss success, once again. I was a little bit older, and the struggle wasn’t any different. But the goal had changed.
This time, it wasn’t about losing the weight to be ‘thinner’ it was about weight loss to improve my overall health. No less difficult than it has ever been for me, and in fact, definitely harder with age. But health was now top priority in my battle with my weight.
Trying to be a gym bunny in my 40s
So I decided to get active, and joined the gym. Again.
But my 40s don’t help body confidence at all, and going to the gym is no easier than in my pre-40s gym days. I spend most of the time comparing myself to others. And instead of feeling better about my weight struggle, I feel very insecure and self-conscious. It’s even less comfortable than in my 20s and 30s, and infinitely more embarrassing.
Because I turn a funny colour purple and breathe too heavily to hide. Or enjoy the breathing sessions in a yoga class so much that I nearly fall asleep. And I spend most of my time walking on a treadmill, fighting the fear that I’m going to fall off at any given moment. I could do the heavy weights, but I’d only injure my back or end up with a twingey knee, and be left in a worse state, rather than a physically better one.
Trying a more relaxed approach to exercise
With the gym only increasing my body de-confidence, and so many factors seemingly working against me, I decided to take control in another way, before it was too late! I started walking every day. But I’ll be honest, walking by myself is not easy. I always feel like someone will think I have lost my dog or something.
I feel so awkward in fact that I usually end up talking to stray cats on the way or saying, “Hi” to sheep and cows. Wondering if I’ll make it to the post office still breathing and alive (Panic, another wonderful element to navigate that comes with age) and if the lady at the counter suspects the unattractive beads of sweat working their way down my neck, dripping all over the place and panting means I’m mid-menopause? There is no hiding the ageing process sometimes.
And so the biggest achievement for me personally isn’t just managing walks alone in my plight to achieve weight loss and a healthier lifestyle. It’s completing a walk without tripping up or fainting, and keeping my nerves in check.
Honestly, does it get any easier in our 40s?
No, sorry, it really doesn’t. For me at least. I am clearly no longer a gym bunny. And I do just find it incredibly hard to lose any actual pounds in weight. I’ve tried so many things over the years, but I’ve also had to now accept that age only means that my body is going to continue to work against me. Whether its muffin top, metabolism, self-confidence, panic or menopause, the struggle will always continue for me.
And I do wonder actually, if as we get older do we just start to give up the battle we have lost for so many years, and instead learn to become more comfortable in our own skin and accept the way it is? And so does the drive to change ourselves lessen as we get older?
I am learning to be more comfortable now in my body and start to realise that I cannot turn the clock back and be 20 again. Of course I still wish I could fit into skinnier jeans and be more confident in an outfit. But maybe I have started to not care so much about the pressure to be this weight or that, and just enjoy my natural pear shaped self. Less hung up on my inadequacies in my image, because by now I have learned that what truly matters is my overall health and happiness.
Is that acceptance? Or is it defeat? Either way, I’ve learned that all I can do is look after myself the best that I can. Physically, mentally and spiritually. Health is more important than the way my body looks. And maybe it’s taken to getting to my 40s to realise that.
A Lifelong Battle with Losing Weight
But hang on, before total acceptance, do I just have to give things one last try before I reach that old age that is creeping up on me, in an attempt to stay young, be healthy and not blame age as the culprit of my weight gain? Well, I’ve just signed up to running 31 miles in the 31 days of January. I’m a glutton for punishment and just can’t give up can I? But maybe 2022 is the year I lose weight!?
As I said earlier, there is always hope that I’ll overcome the struggle. And trying to lose weight, really has been a lifelong struggle for me. So if you’ve also battled a lifetime with losing weight, I understand. And I know it’s even more frustrating when you’ve tried what feels like everything to achieve it.
We might learn to accept the factors that come with age, or gain a little more body confidence and physical self-acceptance. Care a little less about what other people think than we did in our younger years. And take on the challenge more for ourselves. I know that the goals might change. But weight loss always has, and will always continue to be a struggle for me.