As someone who battled with her weight since she was a child, worry and guilt about what I was eating has always been at the back of my mind. My first dabble into weight loss involved starving myself except for non-fat yogurt, apples and some very small dinners when I was 17. And, when I couldn’t keep this restrictive eating up for a long time, I always got fat again.
Add to this the fact that my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome prevented me from any type of exercise, I battled my weight day in and day out for years. As I got older and began eating a bit better (you know, including a few more fruits and vegetables into my day), I started feeling a bit more energetic. And I always believed that my lack of exercise was THE missing link in my weight loss battle.
It took me a few years to actually ramp up to a regular exercise routine. I was more of a casual presence at the gym, going when my friend dragged me. In fact, my first real commitment to any type of physical activity was to join a salsa and merengue class (which quickly ballooned into me taking classes in almost every type of dance). Dance was fun and I met some amazing people. It wasn’t like exercise at all (still isn’t, if you ask me)!
And, the more I danced, the more alive I felt. It was like all that movement “woke” me up. Well, knowing what I know now, movement should “wake” you up and boost energy because it totally helps remove toxins and debris from your body that drain your energy.
With dance, I suddenly wanted to move more.
So, I bought a gym membership and started going almost every day. Honestly, the only part of the gym I liked was running on the treadmill…THAT didn’t scare or intimidate me! And for about 3 years, besides dance, the only exercise I did was run.
My Traditional 40 Pound Weight Loss
When I was 28, I saw a picture that made me so miserable. I knew I’d been getting bigger over the years but that picture really hit home how fat I’d gotten. My mom was showing it to everyone (it was a family photo, which rarely happens, so I understand her excitement) and I was mortified.
After crying and feeling sorry for myself for about 4 weeks, I got super determined to lose that weight and set a goal. Drop 30 pounds in 6 months and life would be fabulous. (Yes, that last part was actually what I believed…)
My weight loss success was done through counting every calorie I ate and noting every calorie I expended with exercise. Sure, I dropped 3 dress sizes but that 6-month period of my life sucked! I was afraid to go out with friends, I turned down every single opportunity to hang out after work with my co-workers, and I basically just sat alone in my condo.
Remember how I thought life would be wonderful and easy after I lost the weight? Yeah, no, that’s not exactly what happened. It was very fun to go shopping for new clothes, feel attractive (for the first time ever) and get the compliments…
But the rebound weight gain effect is real!
I thought I’d developed this amazing, clean, healthy eating style throughout my diet, but the weight began to creep up soon after I dropped it. And I was left frustrated, confused and pretty depressed.
For years, I battled the rebound weight by trying to restrict what I ate (only to end up binging every single weekend). It kind of worked but, admittedly, my new size 6 pants were feeling pretty darn tight for most of those years.
HIIT exercise and CrossFit had started to become all the rage around that time too, with promises of faster fat loss. Naturally, I got on board and began doing Insanity 5 days a week plus a 5 km run each weekend. Much to my disappointment, though, I got fatter!
My First Discovery
When it comes to weight loss and maintenance, it boils down to 80% nutrition and 20% fitness, give or take. Which meant that my rebound weight was primarily caused by something I was eating…but I didn’t know what.
You see, I was eating a clean, healthy lifestyle…at least according to ALL the health and fitness magazines I followed. I was just so confused as to why eating smaller portions of “clean” food wasn’t working.
When I went off The Pill about 6 years ago, I did it mainly because my cousin had dropped 20 pounds within a month of doing just that. I thought it would be the same for me too (it wasn’t). However, I did get really ugly and embarrassing cystic acne that nothing helped, which led me to see a naturopathic doctor.
She started me on a seed cycling protocol to balance my reproductive hormones, as she believed that that was what was behind my acne. Within 3 months, my skin had started to clear up but the biggest discovery was that my pants were getting looser!
Hmm, so there I was, reluctantly eating a lot of ground seeds each day to clear up my skin, totally worrying that the extra calories would make me fatter, and I was losing fat?!?!
What the heck?
I began digging into this a lot more, ended up back in school for holistic nutrition, and learned all about hormonal fat loss. This discovery is what led me to develop my 40 or Less Method (which you can read about here) and is the way I now eat for long-term weight management (going on 11 years now).
But when I turned 40 last year, I still wasn’t as happy with my body as I wanted to be. Yes, I was still down 3 dress sizes and my clothes fit well. But I just wanted to ditch the belly fat a wee bit more.
My diet was great, which left the other 20% – exercise.
Road to Recovery
Honestly, discovery of how to work out for hormonal fat loss that lasts for life, and how to lose even more fat or slim down after 40, totally came to me by chance.
For about 3 years, I’d been doing HIIT workouts and running pretty regularly, up until about a month after I turned 40. I was working with a personal trainer who was pushing me super hard 2-3 times a week on top of my regular morning workouts, and I wasn’t slimming down at all.
Then, we switched focus to build up my strength. We began working on squats and deadlifts and within a couple of weeks I was hooked. Weight training at 5:30 AM is SO much easier for me than running and I was loving how strong I was becoming. I went from a 45 lb goblet squat to back-squatting 180 lbs in about 6 months. It was awesome!
But the best part? My pants were even looser! Just enough that I felt attractive again and my confidence soared.
Exercise for Fat Loss After 40
The main differences in my workouts were that I was doing more muscle strength building, less cardio and actually allowing myself 1-2 days of recovery each week. Another factor in my hormonal fat loss exercise routine was really listening to my body. And exercise cycling according to my own personal cycle.
THIS is how I slimmed down even more after 40 (and continue to do so). Because working out too much, too hard, especially when you’re stressed and tired can boost your cortisol (your main stress hormone). Which leads to belly fat.
So, the more stressed and tired you are, the more cortisol you already have pumping through your body. Add in exercise, which naturally boosts cortisol, you’ve got a TON of cortisol, which takes stored energy from your liver and muscles, converts it to glucose, and then insulin moves it on to fat storage.
Yup, too much exercise, and the wrong types of exercise, can cause weight gain and belly fat.
Allow your body to relax and recover more often, and really listen to your body, and you’ll reduce stress hormones and ultimately boost fat burning.
It’s all about your hormones!
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