You eat a healthy diet, you exercise and you've even cut back on the booze - so why aren't the pounds falling off? Here are six things that could be stopping you from losing weight.
See also: How the menopause affects your weight
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1. You're over the age of 40
Your metabolism will gradually begin to decline over the age of 40, which means you need fewer calories than you did in your younger years.
If you're a woman in your 50s, you need around 200 calories less per day than you did in your 30s to maintain your body weight. Not only that, but you need to eat more protein and do more weight bearing exercise to maintain the same muscle mass as a younger woman.
Many people become more sedentary as they get older, but there's no reason why you can't get more active. To boost your metabolism, combine cardio exercise, whether that's swimming, a brisk walk or jogging, with two sessions of weight training a week. If you don't fancy going to the gym, invest in a weight training DVD and some hand weights.
If you carry on eating the same amount of calories as you did 10 years ago, you'll gain weight. Likewise, if you only walk the dog or go on the treadmill at the gym, you're not building enough lean muscle mass to keep your metabolism revved-up and working well.
2. You're stressed
Studies show that stress can lead to weight gain, particularly around the middle. When stressed, the body produces the hormone adrenaline and cortisol as part of the 'fight or flight response.' Cortisol is particularly bad for weight gain, as it triggers fat to be stored around the belly, where it's easily available to be used as energy.
Stress also slows the digestive system the body's metabolism, so that we don't burn up our fuel supplies so quickly. As a result, your body holds onto its fat stores.
3. You eat too much healthy food
Nuts, fruit, avocados, brown rice and pasta, olive oil, and dark chocolate are all healthy but they still contain calories. For example, six Brazil nuts contain 190 calories and one whole avocado has over 200 calories. Keep a close eye on your portion control (invest in measuring cups and spoons) and make sure you're not over indulging on foods because they are healthy.
4. You skip meals
Skipping meals may seem like a great way to save calories, but the body uses up its glycogen stores for such eventualities – not fat. As soon as you eat normally again, your glycogen stores are replenished and your fat stays exactly where it was. Plus, if you deliberately ignore your hunger signals, your body reacts to a potential risk of starvation by making you want to eat even more at the next meal time.
Studies show that people who eat breakfast lose more weight – in fact, people who eat chocolate cake for breakfast lose more weight than those who go without! This proves the theory that going hungry in the morning only makes you consume more calories throughout the rest of the day and evening.
The best breakfasts for weight loss contain protein and fibre to keep you feeling fuller for longer – poached egg on a slice of brown toast is a good choice.
5. You don't get enough sleep
If you're sleep deprived, it could be why you're struggling to lose the pounds. Research shows that people who sleep for less than eight hours a night are more likely to be overweight or obese.
When you don't get enough sleep, your body produces a hormone called ghrelin, which stimulates appetite. Not only that, studies show that sleep deprived people are more likely to choose calorie-dense foods – which is why that muffin or croissant is even harder to resist when you're tired.
6. Your medication is making you fat
Certain prescription drugs can cause weight gain as a side effect. Anti-depressants, medications from the sulphonylurea group of drugs (taken for diabetes), steroids, (for rheumatoid arthritis, severe asthma and cancer), can all lead to weight gain. Speak to your GP if you're concerned.
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