Lucy Cavendish gained weight in middle age, left, but now at 45, right, she is a
size ten again after learning she can’t eat like she used
Getting older has it’s difficulties (although, it has its compensations too!), not least is the fact that losing weight can be difficult.
Losing weight in your 20s and 30s is simple: just eat a bit less, move a bit more. Back then, I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, and I remained a size 12 — regardless of whether or not I gobbled chocolate eclairs every day. But five years ago, once I reached 40, everything changed.
I was at a restaurant a year after I’d had my last child and the waitress said: ‘Ooh, you’ll be popping that baby out soon.’
I wasn’t even pregnant! I went to the toilet and took a look at myself. She was right. I wasn’t just fat, I looked as if I was about to give birth. I was more than 25kgs heavier than I am now – and over 30kgs heavier than at my slimmest, aged 25.
I kept telling myself that losing the extra weight would be simple; that if I drank less or cut down on carbs, the kilograms would drop away. But though it took me a while to realise it, my magical ability to shift the weight had left me.
Like so many women of my age, I was working flat out looking after my children and the older members of my family. I found it impossible to concentrate on dieting. In desperation, I tried mad fads. Subsisting on just vegetables for a week, eating only orange and yellow-coloured food. Nothing worked.
I’d got fat in my 40s for many reasons. I’d had four children – three of them in quick succession – and my entire life revolved around food.
As soon as I got up, I thought about what I was going to have for breakfast. After that, I thought about lunch. After lunch, I thought ahead to dinner.
Like many other middle-aged, middle-class mothers, cookery books were my obsession. I worshipped at the altar of deliciously fattening food: risotto oozing with butter and parmesan; rich potato dauphinoise; chicken smothered in a creamy sauce; chocolate mousse…
But as Dr Pamela Peeke, author of Fight Fat Over 40, points out, this was my downfall. After 40, it is just not possible to eat like this and drink copious – or even moderate – amounts of wine and stay thin.
According to Dr Peeke, this is because once we turn 40, our metabolic rate – in other words our ability to burn kilojoules – drops. We lose muscle tone. We get stressed and eat more kilojoules than we need, when what we should be doing is exercising more and controlling portion sizes.
Her point is you can stay or become thin, but it will take more effort.
That much I’ve learned for myself. It has taken a massive effort, but over the past four years, I have gradually lost all that excess weight. At 45, I am a size 10. I feel and look great. I exercise, eat sensibly, don’t drink much. I changed my habits entirely. I reassessed the way I ate and what I was eating. I have shown willpower I didn’t know I had.
Do not be fooled into thinking it’s easy. It isn’t. It’s not like in your younger years when the kilograms magically disappear simply because you cut out sugar in your tea. In your 40s, it’s a long hard graft… but it certainly pays off.