Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Women's Health

Font Size
A
A
A

Boost Metabolism and Prevent Middle-Age Weight Gain

Mistake: Eating Lightly (or Not At All) Before Noon

“Women often have one of two problems with breakfast,” says Elisabetta Politi, R.D., nutrition director of the Duke Diet & Fitness Center in Durham, NC. “If they overindulge at night, they don’t have much appetite in the morning. Or they’re trying to cut calories early in the day, so they don’t eat enough in the A.M.” Breakfast skimpers and skippers, plus women whose diet resolve is strongest in the morning (“Just coffee and dry toast, please”), commit the same metabolic faux pas: eating too little to flip on their metabolism as well as vital “satisfaction switches” in the brain that register fullness in the stomach.

The Fix: Munch on More Food in the Morning

When researchers at the University of Texas at El Paso analyzed the food diaries of 867 women and men, they discovered a metabolic window of opportunity for appetite control: a hearty breakfast. Study volunteers who ate a bigger meal in the morning went on to eat 100 to 200 fewer calories later in the day. Research from Michigan State University that tracked 4,218 people showed that women who skipped breakfast were 30 percent more likely to be overweight. The best A.M. filler-uppers: oatmeal, eggs, peanut butter — or “anything with fiber and protein,” says Politi.

Mistake: Living a High-Stress, Low-Sleep Life

When things get extra-hectic, your levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, shoot up. And that can trigger cravings for high-fat, high-carb foods, report University of California, San Francisco, researchers. The worst part: Your body also sends that extra fat to your waistline. Millions of years ago, this metabolic trick might have helped cavewomen refuel after fending off marauding mastodons. But if you’ve got 21st-century chronic stress (Job! Kids! House! Marriage!), all that extra cortisol could land you in perpetual “pass the Twinkies” mode.

Sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on your waistline, too. When Harvard Medical School scientists followed 68,183 women for 16 years, they found that those averaging five hours of shut-eye per night were 32 percent more likely to gain 33 pounds than those who got seven hours a night. Those logging an average of six hours per night were 12 percent more likely. What gives? Sleep deprivation increases the appetite-stimulating hormone, ghrelin, and decreases the satisfaction hormone, leptin, say researchers from the University of Chicago. In a study they conducted, tired volunteers craved more candy, cookies, chips, and pasta.

The Fix: Sleep More, Stress Less

Aim for at least seven hours of slumber most nights. Women who snoozed for that long, or longer, had a lower risk of weight problems, the Harvard researchers found. And try meditation — it could keep you in your skinny jeans. A Canadian study of 90 meditators found that those who practiced in a group setting for 1 1/2 hours a week for seven weeks and fit in additional time at home had less stress and anxiety than non-meditators. Or tie on your sneakers and go for a walk in the park or the woods: In a British study, 71 percent of people who walked in the countryside felt less tense afterward. Other research on the health benefits of nature backs this up: A Dutch overview confirmed that just looking at greenery can improve well-being.

 

Originally published on: February 28, 2008

 

Related content on goodhousekeeping.com

 

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Today on WebMD

woman looking in mirror
Article
Woman resting on fitness ball
Evaluator
 
woman collapsed over laundry
Quiz
Public restroom door sign
Slideshow
 
Couple with troubles
Article
cat on couch
Evaluator
 
Young woman being vaccinated
Slideshow
woman holding hand to ear
Slideshow
 
Blood pressure check
Slideshow
mother and daughter talking
Evaluator
 
intimate couple
Article
puppy eating
Slideshow