This post is sponsored by General Mills, but as usual, all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands I love and use.
I’m not in favor of diets to help you lose weight – especially as a New Year’s resolution. They tend to set you up for failure with all the counting, weighing, measuring, and restricting. However, I’m also painfully aware that when you’re over 40, and even more so when you’re mid-50s, your metabolism comes to a screeching halt and something needs to change.
It’s important to accept the fact that your midlife body is not ever going to be the same as your 20 to 30-year-old body, no matter how much you resolve to change it. But it’s also important to know that as your weight increases, especially if you carry that weight in your abdomen, your risk for metabolic syndrome and chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer also increases.
Here’s why you’re gaining weight
Midlife weight gain happens to most of us for several reasons. By your mid-30s, you start to break down muscle mass faster than you grow muscles. It’s not all that noticeable for the first few years, or even until you’re well into your 40s, but it’s happening. Since muscles burn calories, less muscle means you’re burning fewer calories each day. In short, your metabolism is slowing down.
Women tend to gain weight faster than men because we have less muscle to start with. Women are also more likely to have an underactive thyroid, which further promotes weight gain.
After menopause, weight tends to accumulate more in the abdominal region. That abdominal fat, also known as visceral fat, is especially dangerous because it’s linked to high blood pressure, as well as high cholesterol, blood sugar, and triglyceride levels. It’s also a major cause of inflammation throughout your body.
3 Simple diet changes
Instead of following a diet that cuts calories to lose weight, try these 3 simple changes:
1. Eat a healthy breakfast every day. Get off the muffin or bagel train and dig into something good for you in the morning. If you’re not hungry first thing, don’t skip! Instead, try to eat within about two hours after waking. Breakfast gets your metabolism started, so eating early in the day actually helps you to burn more calories throughout the rest of the day.
A healthy breakfast includes a mix of high fiber carbs, some fruit (or vegetables) and a good helping of protein. It’s important to have this balance, because the protein and fiber help to fill you and hold you through the morning. Great options include whole-grain cereals with fruit, a vegetable omelet, Greek yogurt, or cottage cheese.
Personally, I love my whole grains at breakfast, because I need the blood sugar lift after not eating all night. If that’s you, a great new option is Cheerios™ Oat Crunch Oats ‘N Honey topped with some fresh berries, milk, and plain Greek yogurt. Cheerios™ Oat Crunch Oats ‘N Honey is a new product from the brand you already know and love, and it’s available at Walmart. I like it because it provides a little bit of natural sweetness from real honey, but it’s also got 4 grams of fiber from a mix of whole oats and other whole grains. Plus, there’s that very satisfying crunch (did you ever notice it takes you longer to eat when you eat something crunchy?).
I add a cup of mixed berries, milk, and about one-half cup of plain Greek yogurt, for a simple, tasty and satisfying breakfast that provides over 10 grams of fiber and 20 grams of protein.
Although grains often get a bad rap, I recommend them. Studies have found that substituting more whole grains for refined grains can actually boost your metabolism (which helps you to lose weight) as well as promote healthier glucose and cholesterol levels.
2. Every time you eat, eat a serving of a fruit or vegetable – any kind you like. This is a simple strategy I recommend to clients because it’s focused on adding food, not taking anything away. If you want the chocolate cake (or any treat), feel free to eat it, but add a cup of fruit, or even better, a whole sliced carrot and sweet pepper before you eat it. I promise, you’ll eat less of the treat, or even feel so full you’ll forget about it. This new Cheerios flavor is SO yummy with a handful of fresh fruit.
Most of us don’t get enough fruits and vegetables each day, so this trick helps you to up your intake. They’re all low in calories and high in fiber, so they’re a great way to fill up at a very-low-calorie cost, which helps you to lose weight. Another bonus - if you have high cholesterol or blood pressure, eating seven to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day will help you reduce both.
3. Cut out (or at least cut back on) alcohol. I know, I hate this one too 🙁 but there are several good reasons to try it. First, every drink, which is 6 ounces of wine, or about 12 ounces of beer, contributes about 150 calories. It doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up. An extra 100 calories each day over and above what your body burns, adds up to 10 pounds of weight each year. The good news is – that also works in reverse, so if you cut it out, you can lose those 10 pounds.
Another important reason to cut back on alcohol is that it increases cortisol levels. Cortisol is one of your fight or flight hormones and too much of it contributes to more belly fat, even if you're eating less. It tends to make it harder to lose weight. It also increases blood pressure, blood sugar, and triglycerides.
A good strategy (and one that I find pretty tolerable) is to enjoy a glass of wine only on the weekends – and stick to just one. I also love the idea of “dry January” or any month. It’s a little challenge I do every year to get rid of those extra holiday pounds.
If you’re struggling with keeping New Year’s resolutions, it’s probably because they’re too vague and too ambitious. A much better strategy is to focus on making just a few small, manageable, and measurable changes, like these.
I promise if you work on these 3 simple changes for a full month (and especially if you add in some exercise), you’ll start to see some improvements in your body and on the scale. Even better, after a month, they’ll become habits, and once you’ve got these under your belt, you’ll be ready for more positive changes.
Give it a try – what have you got to lose?