Each month, WebMD the Magazine puts your questions about weight loss and fitness to top exercise and motivational experts. This month, 62-year-old Maria B., a travel consultant and mother of two grown children in New York City, asked for help dealing with her slowing metabolism. Long an active woman, Maria says that once she hit menopause, she felt slower and "in a fog." For advice, we turned to Kristin McGee, a New York City-based personal trainer, yoga instructor, and master Pilates instructor who works with a lot of women in their 50s and 60s who are struggling to lose or keep off weight.
Maria's Question: I first noticed my metabolism slowing down in my early 40s. Then I had a hysterectomy at 48, and I had a long recovery. I wasn't as careful about my calorie intake, and I had these sluggish years. Plus, I have arthritis and I've worn out my patella and knee from skiing and hiking, so I have a lot of discomfort. I've worked hard to overcome all of this, and I've done it slowly, but I still have another 10 pounds I'd like to lose. What can I do?
Answer: At menopause, the way your body stores fat changes. You have to be realistic -- you're not going to lose weight as fast as you did in your 20s or 30s. But you can still do it.
How? McGee offers these tips:
Work your core. Body fat settles around the midsection in many older women. You can't spot reduce (target your tummy to lose inches in that area only), but you can do moves to strengthen your core, such as the plank. Get on your hands and toes (or knees and forearms, to modify) as if you're going to do a push-up. Then hold your body there, keeping your abs pulled in, for as long as you can. Do this several times a day.
Make strength work for you. A pound of muscle burns more calories than a pound of fat, so strength training pays off by boosting your metabolism even when you're at rest. Many women think that if you're not running around and sweating, you're not exercising, but lifting weights makes your body work harder even at rest. (And if you don't use it, you lose it -- adults who don't do any form of strength training lose 5 to 7 pounds of muscle every decade.)
Get on the circuit. Walking is great, but short spurts of cardiovascular interval training between yoga or strength moves -- fun things like jumping jacks, jumping rope, or marching up and down -- keep your heart rate up and make your workout do double duty.
Balance it out. Mixing up exercises, such as yoga and working out on the stability ball or a wobble board, is important for improving balance, but even more so once you reach menopause because falls are particularly dangerous for older women.
Reverse your meals. Eat like a queen in the morning, a princess at lunch, and a pauper at dinner. Taking in the bulk of your calories earlier in the day, when your metabolism's going strong, helps a lot.
Take your time. It's going to take longer to lose weight at this age. But remember: if you lose weight slowly, you're more likely to keep it off. You're not starving yourself to get into a wedding dress; you're making healthy changes for the rest of your life.