Getting (and staying) Fit Over Forty

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Hello, Fat Burning Badass Babes Worldwide! Michelle here.

We get a lot of emails from women over forty that have my complete empathy. They go something like:

  • I was an athlete when I was younger and then all of a sudden, no matter how much I exercise, the fat keeps piling on.
  • My body composition was fine until menopause and now I'm gaining weight and lethargic.

  • My body composition was fine until I had a hysterectomy and now I've packed on 60 pounds.

  • I've been doing this for a month and lost lots of weight initially but everything seems to have stalled. How come I'm not in the shape of my life in one month after a lifetime of metabolic derangement and eating crap?

OR a combo or all of the above.

First, I completely understand your frustration. There just isn't enough information out there for women about sustainable and healthy fat loss and muscle gain. The insult to injury is that women over forty or those who resemble one of the above scenarios are really screwed when it comes to finding information that applies uniquely to them.

Read No Fail Fat Burning for Women
Second, like I've said before, the No Fail Fat Burning for Women protocol is an eye-opening, great foundation and primer for fat loss, getting control of your hormones... and frankly, getting control of your relationship with food. If you've read it, you know that the emphasis is on you being responsible and dedicated enough to your own wellness to take the plan and tweak it to your own individual biomarkers. This means doing work.

There is no one-size-fits all. I work with high performance athletes looking for any edge and women who just want to stop the post-hysterectomy fat gain. The protocols for the former and latter are going to look vastly different.

Your body's reliance on sugar (read: how much crap you've consumed in the past) and the amount of time you've been carrying an excess of body fat is going to determine what we need to get you to your goals, how we do it and how long it's going take. This is on top of an infinite amount of variables completely unique to you.

What if you're 40% body fat and your goal is 22%. Can you get there? Absolutely. Let's say your sister or best friend is 22% body fat and pretty much always has been. That means she's never really been in a state of insulin or leptin resistance among other things. Let's say nine months to a year or more later of changing your nutrition habits and timing and weight training that you are now also 22% body fat.

If your friend or sister who has been 22% body fat this whole time decides to do a fat loss challenge with you and you both have a goal of getting to 18% body fat, even if you do everything as prescribed, she's going to have the edge. Why? Because although you have lost a significant amount of fat, the fat cells that housed all that fat are still there. Waiting with open arms to get full and plump again. Your friend who is the same body fat as you doesn't have these extra internal terrorists to deal with. Your friend with same body fat as you has much more room for error because they didn't do all this metabolic damage when you both were young.

I'm not saying this to make you feel bad. Considering the environment, saturated fat scares, sugar addictions, chemical food additives, pollution, toxic livestock and seafood, pasteurized franken-dairy, soy, etc, we've all got some issues.

The good news is that if you stay the course, in about ten years those empty fat cells will die. More good news: the No Fail Fat Burning for Women protocol, when applied correctly to your situation, isn't restrictive. It's actually liberating, simple and life sustaining.

I ran my body into the ground when I was younger for the sake of athletic performance. Anything for an edge. Frankly, I didn't think about being forty or suddenly being sucked into an avalanche of fat gain -- and other metabolic issues -- I felt helpless to control against all the exercise and 100-calorie packs of chemicals I consumed. My doctors were useless and uninformed.

I was a writer and researcher for one the largest health care systems in the country that shall remain anonymous. It's just band aid over band aid instead of getting to the heart of illness. I remember interviewing doctors and therapists in bariatrics and neurology who know nutrition is the best medicine but their hands are tied to advise patients appropriately with such "controversial" things like saturated fat. I have no doubt my father would be alive today if we could've gotten him off the fat-phobic, high carb, treadmill for hours regimen his cardiologist prescribed. And it's worse for women. And we're forced to take studies and results that worked for men and then try to apply it to our very different metabolic systems. This normally backfires with body fat gain, blaming ourselves and depression. Really, we're just not built to burn fat and gain lean muscle the way men are.

Sorry for the rant. Here's the good news.

To all the women who write in saying nothing will ever work.

To all the women who say they just need to accept that they're going to be unhealthy and in constant conflict with their bodies.

To all the women who believe all is lost:

You're wrong. There is always an answer. It's often a minor tweak.

The only people I see who don't succeed are those who are lazy, uncommitted, excuse makers, obsessed with being 'skinny' over strong, and expect immediate results after a lifetime of poor choices and worse information from "experts."

You have to trust the process. Your body is a living, dynamic, gorgeous organism. Who you are at a cellular level today is not who you were yesterday and nor who you'll be tomorrow. You need to adjust for that.

There will be peaks and valleys. There will be freak out days. There may be toxic people in your life you need to cut loose. Emotional dead weight shows up as excess weight.

Your goals shouldn't be the outcome but the process. Outcome is great because we all love to look good. Who doesn't love the before and after pictures? I do. I love fitting into my favorite jeans. I love being able to knock out pullups and pushups. But make your goal the process and you will get the outcome. Make the decision to change then let your attachment to the outcome go. Then, guess what? You'll have your outcome.

That means enjoying the adventure of understanding your body. Instead of applying external rules onto it, learn what works from the inside out. Learn for the first time in your life what real hunger is vs a hormone crash and craving. Learn that you really shouldn't be in a constant state of digestion from snacking and adhering to a clock about when to eat. Mind what your body is saying. Get strong. As one of my clients said to me last week, "For the first time, I feel unstoppable."

Like I tell my private clients: listen to your gut and heart. There are neurons in both places, not just your brain. Get those two things healthy, too. Listen to them. It's not just a cliche. Spiderman (and woman) aren't real. Spidey-sense is.

Last, for us ladies who reside on the fourth floor of life and above, you gotta watch your protein intake. The whole "high protein to keep muscle" is a marketing message fed to you by questionable supplement companies and commercial food industries. Ever find it odd that the Food and Drug Administration is run by the Department of Agriculture? Wouldn't the Department of Health & Human Services seem more appropriate?

I digress,  excess protein can convert to sugar via a process called gluconeogenesis. It's not enough to keep net carbs really low and fat really high. You need to empower yourself by understanding your body fat percentage, your lean body mass percentage and what those numbers look like in pounds. You need to play with the combos of fat, protein and carbs and see how they impact you. Gaining and maintaining muscle is a must. Plus, you'll be completing the trifecta of mental, physical and emotional health.

85-90% of physique transformation is contingent on nutrition and nutrition timing. I don't care if you live at the gym.

Depending on your body composition it can sometimes take a month just to get your body understanding it should be burning fat for fuel. And that's okay. Stop wanting everything NOW. A lot of us ended up sick and overweight because of things we had to have NOW. The goal is the process and it's amazing to witness in the women I work with. Master the process and you'll get the goal while enjoying rewards daily.

There will be bad days but don't you ever, ever, ever quit.

You are not a damsel in distress. You are the hero of your own story.

Your are not a damsel in distress. Be the hero of your story.
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