Today, I went to my monthly check in with my nutritionist. As we chatted, she showed me printed out copies that she had made of my blog. She keeps them on her desk and told me that she has been sharing those copies with some of her clients who are not particularly “techie-savvy” and do not have easy access to online stuff. She tells her clients that it is a great resource that they should look at. She said to me, “you have no idea the impact that you make on other people.” That was such a wonderful revelation.
In starting this blog, all I wanted to do was help others in their own personal journey that is no doubt a huge challenge. Through sharing my journey, I want to give other people, especially women nearing or well into their 50s, a realistic perspective that it is possible to keep your weight under control if you have the right information, support, and inspiration.
The proof is in the bloodwork
Something I’ve learned is that after menopause, medically speaking, women go into the same higher risk category as men do at a much earlier age. My endocrinologist was not kidding when he said he wanted me to lose about 15 pounds. In August 2021, after having lost a significant amount of weight in previous years, I had gained most of it back. Weighing in at 180 pounds, I knew I had to refocus my mind on this weight-loss challenge. I had become more complacent, thinking that walking and running and accumulating steps was offsetting any extra calories that I might be consuming. Wrong. Not only was I eating too much, but clearly my food choices were a problem when it came to my bloodwork, and all the walking in the world wasn’t going to change that.
I get my blood levels checked every year as part of my well visits with the endocrinologist. I see the endo because I had thyroid cancer when I was 24 and had my thyroid removed, requiring yearly visits to make sure my hormone levels are being managed properly. As par for the course, he does a complete lipid profile. Every year, the report comes in and it’s a bunch of numbers and ranges that they should fall within. I wanted to better understand what it all meant, so for reference, I looked up the basics about the lipid profile at Johns Hopkins Medicine and The Mayo Clinic. This is a breakdown of what the lipid components are:
- HDL (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol) – the “good” cholesterol that helps remove cholesterol from the arteries and prevent fatty buildup. Your HDL cholesterol levels should be above 40 mg/dL. This type of fat is actually good for you because it lowers your risk of heart disease. The higher the number, the lower your risk. Sixty mg/dL or above is considered the level to protect you against heart disease. (Johns Hopkins Medicine)
- LDL (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol) – is the garbage left behind after the beneficial cholesterol has been used. (Johns Hopkins Medicine)
- VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein cholersterol) – another “really bad” cholesterol – worse than LDL.
- Triglycerides – the fat molecules that store unused calories and provide your body with energy. When you eat, your body converts any calories it doesn’t need to use right away into triglycerides. The triglycerides are stored in your fat cells. Later, hormones release triglycerides for energy between meals. (Mayo Clinic)
With that knowledge, I offer a snapshot of my lipid profile in 2021 and 2022:
While the total cholesterol numbers were basically the same from one year to the next, the notable changes (for the better) are in my triglycerides and VLDL numbers. I have also weighed in the mid-160s consistently for months. This makes my nutritionist and my endocrinologist very happy. If they’re happy, I’m doing something right.
How do you get this done in your fifties?
Those of us who are facing the menopause phase of our lives are well aware of just how maddening the cycle is. Age and waning hormones are not our friends. To counteract the inevitability of these things banging down our door, we must remember to love ourselves enough to make the best choices so that we can live our lives with vigor and strength. While there are so many things that are not in our control (aging, genetics, body chemistry), the one thing that we can control is what we put into our bodies and how we use our bodies from day to day.
I am now starting to look at my future retirement plans, setting myself up for a new chapter that I hope to fill with activity and accomplishment. I want to hit the ground running when I get there, and avoid the proverbial slog that is filled with health issues because I did not take care of myself when I was younger. I want to keep myself out of the “high-risk” category and out of doctor’s offices, save for yearly well-visits. I want my endocrinologist to keep looking forward to our yearly check-ins to give him a break from all of the diabetics he sees during the week.
As I see it, there are three things to focus on to get this done: proper nutrition, mindful consistency and having grace.
As it turns out, a well-developed nutrition plan is the most important component of your weight-loss journey. You need to know what nutrients your body needs to function properly at every phase of your life, which changes as you age. Exercise is important for health, but less vital for the actual weight maintenance part of life.
Case in point: during the last couple of years, I had been running and walking regularly, getting involved with virtual races and a few in person races thinking that stacking up the miles was a great addition to my weight loss plan. I thought I had my nutrition plan under control (I didn’t – it had spiraled) and at the end of July I weighed in again at 180, which is almost where I was when I started seeing the nutritionist three years prior. That’s when I knew I needed to go back to square one and start over again.
This summer, since I have been dealing with several joint related issues, like my hip being in pain all year from all of the repetitive-stress movement from my dance-teacher job, I decided to back off the walking for distance and just concentrate on my gymnastics and aerial yoga routines for exercise. Now, mid summer, I am no longer in a lot of pain. My knees and hips are actually feeling pretty good. As it turns out, doing less distance on the roads did not make me gain any weight. In fact, as I’ve put more focus on the nutrition plan, I’ve been able to maintain the 5-pound swing under 170 all summer. It’s definitely given me something to think about. Maybe I don’t need to record more than 10,000 steps a day. Maybe I just need to work smarter, not harder.
This brings me to my next focus, the need to be mindful and consistent in following the nutrition plan.
Your everyday, moment-to-moment behaviors are what affect the difficult process of losing weight and keeping it under control. As I’ve talked about extensively throughout this blog series, every choice you make matters. Doing right by your body is not easy, and you must be properly informed and mindful of every food choice you make and how it affects your body in any point in your lifetime. That’s why tracking was such a valuable tool for me when I got started. I talk about it in the first blog post of My Weight Loss Journey. Tracking helps you develop mindful consistency.
Being mindfully consistent means you are committed to reinforcing the right behaviors and turning them into healthy habits every single day. How many bad behaviors do we have that have become bad habits? We know bad habits are hard to break, and in order to break them, we have to accept that it is hard, stay mindful of the choices we are making, and remembering that every good choice will have a good impact down the road. It’s never a perfect system, but weight loss really is a marathon. If we are going to cross the finish line and survive to run another one, we have to prepare adequately and be slow and steady in the process. One step at a time.
Grace is what you need when you fall off the wagon and make a “bad choice” so that you don’t throw your hands in the air and give up. Too much salt, not enough water, missing fiber, having a fatty meal; remember, you can restart your good habits with your next meal choice. Acknowledge what you did, then make a better choice. Forgive yourself and do better.
During today’s visit I was a few pounds up. Of course it has been very hot over the last few weeks. Summertime heat regularly causes the body to retain more water. I’d indulged in a few saltier/fattier meals over the last week, and maybe I was not as militant about drinking water, which my nutritionist never fails to remind me be at the end of every session. But, I was prepared for it. I have been keeping mental track of my choices, doing my morning weigh-ins, and making adjustments accordingly. I do not beat myself up for enjoying a “less healthy” meal or indulging in a fancy cocktail. I plan and execute better choices in the following days to balance things out.
I cannot stress enough that there is no magic pill that will help you lose weight. Every fad diet, every hormone-replacing supplement that promises to shed the pounds is bunk. Losing weight is just plain hard. Maintaining a healthy weight is harder. I hope that these blog entries can help you to gain some perspective, stop the wishful thinking, and commit to your health for the long haul. Invest your time and effort into yourself, and your body will thank you later.
Check out some of my other entries in My Weight Loss Journey series:
- Part 2 details more specific nutritional strategies I’ve used.
- Part 3 and Part 5 are about the struggles and strategies for holidays and travel.
- Part 4 is about the dilemma whether or not to give up tracking.
- Part 6 talks about the perils of getting off your regular schedule and making adjustments.
- Part 7 is all about fiber.
Do you find these blogs helpful or informative? Is there a topic you’d like me to talk more about? Leave a comment below! I’d love to get your feedback.