There appears to be a connection between estrogen and body weight regulation. With lower estrogen levels, lab animals tend to eat more and be less physically active. Levels that are too high or too low appear to lead to fat storage. And, lower estrogen levels may also slow down your metabolic rate (the speed at your body converts stored energy into working energy).
“Has something happened — a change in relationship or job? Has that affected the times that you’re eating, how and what you’re eating, and who you’re eating with? Those changes in eating nutritionally can affect your weight,” Weiner said. “If you used to eat with other people, you maybe had more vegetables. Alone, you may be eating less healthy foods.”
Your metabolic rate naturally continues to decline 5 percent each decade once you hit 40.3 Your resting metabolic rate (RMR) determines how many calories you just to survive. It is determined by a variety of chemical reactions inside your body. These reactions rely on your mitochondrial function and sodium-potassium pumps. Your mitochondria help to create energy, while your sodium-potassium pumps generate muscle contractions and nerve impulses.4,5,6,7,8 Both of these processes become less effective over the years and slow your metabolism.9,10 If you eat more than your RMR yet lead a sedentary life, you set yourself up for weight gain.
When you’re under-rested, your appetite-regulating hormones get short-circuited, so your appetite goes into overdrive, but the hormones that tell you you’re full don’t kick in promptly. Studies also suggest that when you’re sleep-deprived, it alters the way you think about food, so you have stronger cravings for sweets and other less healthful eats.
Sleeping enough is important, and if your lifestyle is making you cheat sleep, then think about what you can do to get enough. Sometimes, however, biology is keeping you from enough shuteye, and it's imperative to solve that. "Untreated obstructive sleep apnea can lead to additional weight gain," says Dr. Stanford. If you are making all the right efforts to get restorative sleep and still don't feel restored, consider seeing a sleep doctor, who can drill down on the problem and help you find some solutions.
Good stress management techniques and routine exercise will have positive effects on your sleep, but you may need to take additional steps to help you sleep better. For example, be proactive about going to bed and waking up at the same time most days, and allow yourself 30 minutes to unwind and disconnect from your digital devices at night. Eating a plant-forward, mostly whole foods diet that’s low in added sugar helps, too.
Hormonal changes are one of the main reasons that women tend to lose more muscle as they approach menopause. Diet and exercise also play a role.12 On average, adults lose 3 to 8 percent muscle every decade after age 30.13,14 By the time you reach 80, you may have about 30 percent less muscle than you had at age 20.15,16 Muscle loss over time can lead to slower RMR, increased fat, weight gain, weakness, and fractures.17
Oxidative stress occurs when the balance between free radicals in the body and our ability to fight against them is uneven, with free radicals prevailing. Free radicals can cause disease and there is an association with an increased risk of formation of free radicals as we age. That's why after a certain age, building up our defenses (through having lots of antioxidants in plants) can help reduce this imbalance and stack the cards in our defense system instead.
Amy Myers, MD is a two-time New York Times bestselling author and an internationally acclaimed functional medicine physician. Dr. Myers specializes in empowering those with autoimmune, thyroid, and digestive issues to reverse their conditions and take back their health. In addition, she is a wife, mother, and the successful founder and CEO of Amy Myers MD®.
As you reach mid-life, the pressures pile up. Just think of the typical stressors, like caring for kids and aging parents, facing financial burdens and dealing with the demands of a job. When you’re experiencing stress, your body responds by releasing the hormone cortisol. If your stress diminishes, your hormone levels return to normal, but if you’re experiencing ongoing stress from “adulting,” cortisol levels will remain high. This can set off a series of biological events that may lead to an increased appetite with more cravings and a propensity to store fat in your belly.
When you were young, you probably didn't spend too much time thinking about preparing your body for the future. In your teens and twenties, you're in peak condition and it's the perfect time to start exercising. Cut to 20 years later and, if you didn't start exercising, you probably wish you had since there's something we all start to experience in our 40's—weight gain.