Midlife Weight Gain – What’s causing your weight gain around the middle … and how to reduce it?

Midlife weight gain can make you feel heavy, lethargic and down about yourself. But what's causing it and what can you do about it? If you only have to look at cake to put on weight or you're often 'hangry', then you might be on the blood sugar roller-coaster. This blog explains along with tips of how to get off. www.midlifemenu.com/blog/midlife-weight-gain2

Midlife Weight Gain – What’s causing your weight gain around the middle … and how to reduce it?


Midlife weight gain can really get in the way. It's a time of life when we could really do with maximum energy. You could be running around after the kids and/or older parents. Work (especially in this post-Christmas/New Year slump) is stressful and there’s a household to run, so when are you supposed to make time for exercise and eating healthily? Add in feeling tired and having cravings, particularly during the afternoon or in the evening, and it can feel overwhelming.

At this time of year it can be tempting to head off after the latest quick-fix diet to tackle your midlife weight gain, but what’s actually causing it? If the way you choose to eat isn’t tackling the root cause then it’s not going to work long-term.

Midlife weight gain can make you feel heavy, lethargic and down about yourself. But of greater importance is if that weight gain is around your middle, it has greater long-term health implications than fat around the bum or thighs – that means increased risks of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and strokes.


What’s actually causing my midlife weight gain?

If you:

  • feel you gain 4 lbs just by looking at a cupcake

  • carry food around in case you get hungry or ‘hangry’ (lightheaded, and really cranky)

  • crave crisps, chips, chocolate, or crackers and cheese …

it’s possible you process carbs differently and your blood sugar levels might be a root cause.

Fat burning and fat storing are two different metabolic and hormonal states. Think of them as one-way streets.  You can't be on both at the same time because they are controlled by hormones which are counterparts (this means when one is low the other is high and vice versa).

Your main energy source is glucose and glucose is found in carbohydrates. You've probably heard of simple and complex carbs. The simpler the carb, the faster your body can digest it, and the faster glucose is sent into your bloodstream and then delivered to the cells for energy.

What happens when all that energy is sent into the bloodstream at once is that insulin (a hormone made by your pancreas) is sent out to take that sugar (energy) to the working muscles to provide them with the fuel to keep going.

The problem is when the muscles aren't working very hard (i.e. you're sitting on the couch, at your desk, at the dinner table, etc.)  So the muscles say ‘no thanks' to the offer of more energy (as they don't need it) and insulin then moves to store that energy (glucose) as fat, because insulin is your main fat storage hormone.

High insulin levels contribute to you staying in fat storage mode (insulin is your fat storage hormone) instead of fat burning mode (a way of operating that's controlled with a hormone called glucagon which is basically your fat burning hormone).

Anything else causing midlife weight gain?

The second part of that problem is the speed at which the carbs were digested. As they digested so quickly, all of the energy was sent into your bloodstream at once. Insulin then came and removed it (all at once), and now your blood sugar is too low.

What happens next?

You crave more carbs to quickly raise blood sugar back up; this puts you into the never-ending cycle of craving carbs and gaining weight. This cycle is the big picture issue with a diet heavy in carbohydrates.

Now, before you jump on the whole: ‘no carbohydrates ever’ train, we do need carbohydrates, especially women, to keep the thyroid balanced and make sure we are getting enough variety in our fruits and veggies.  Carbs also provide us with fibre which is also super important. But the amount of carbohydrate needed in a day depends on your unique tolerance and your goals. 

That's why we start by paying close attention to the amount of carbohydrate we eat. By doing this, we avoid spiking insulin and keep glucagon in the driver's seat. 

How to tackle the midlife weight gain

To balance blood sugar, regulate hormones and quit storing fat and to use up the already stored fat, we need to keep our insulin levels low, so insulin's counterpart glucagon can be in the driver's seat and trigger stored fat burning.

To do THAT you need to eat macro-nutrients that don't immediately digest down into sugar.  You need to slow down digestion and stabilise blood sugar throughout the day.

The easiest way to do that is by eating more healthy fats and protein and less carbohydrates, because fat and protein digest a lot slower.

Please note I didn’t say ‘no carbs’, I said ‘less carbs’.

As these foods digest, they slowly send energy out into the blood. That energy is slowly fed to the muscles in smaller amounts at a time, which is at a level more appropriate for most people. 

In this case, your insulin levels stay low which is important, because it keeps your blood sugar stable (which is key to managing hunger) and then you don't have cravings for the junk food later.

Also, your body can switch over from constantly needing sugar for energy burning into the mode where it accesses the energy that has been stored for later (aka fat), and it can use that to power your body. 

Choose one of the following this week to start tackling midlife weight gain

  • Reduce your refined sugars - they raise blood sugar levels, increase insulin and negatively impact your hormone balance.

Get rid of obviously sugary foods but also soft drinks, white flour products and cut down on alcohol (it’s just a sugar). Avoid artificial sweeteners too, they’re no better than sugar.

  • Reduce processed foods (and hidden sugars) - Processed foods tend to be full of hidden sugars e.g. yoghurts, cereals, sauces, fat free products, crackers, juices, soups and flavoured crisps.

Read food labels or try to get rid of processed foods and focus on nutrient dense, fresh ingredients.

  • Choose your (complex) carbs - Most carbs are processed and refined, for example, breads and pasta which will quickly spike your blood sugars after eating.

Focus on small portions of complex carbs, such as sweet potato. Reduce grains as they can disrupt sugar levels and try reducing your gluten to see if you feel better for it, or not.

  • Factor in fats - reduce your saturated fats and remember that the more processed or heat treated a fat is, the harder it is for your body to process it;

Go for avocados, nuts, seeds and cold pressed oils.

Now available!

I can now fit into the work skirt I never could before. I feel so much more energised at key times for me especially after lunch and in the evenings. The extra energy has allowed me to be patient and reduce my stress levels especially when dealing with the children. This is really important because I am juggling so many things such as after school clubs and homework, not to mention my own job!
— Pippa P.

If you’re a busy midlifer wanting to tackle midlife weight gain, have more energy and fit back into your wardrobe (of clothes!) without giving up wine or chocolate, then why not book a call to chat through where you’re at and what your goals are and the different levels of the 12 week Realife Midlife weight loss programme that’s available to help you achieve your weight goals.

Content Disclaimer

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog. Midlife Menu Ltd disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.