There are many stages in a woman’s life where she is more vulnerable to weight gain. These include:
Going away to University
Going away to college or university is a classic time when young women put on weight. A family setting tends to be more ordered and regulated than the chaotic life that comes with University life.
It is known that regular patterns of eating can help control weight, so if this is lost, it can lead to weight gain. Students also tend to eat more fast food than when they were home- kebabs, pizzas and Indians’ are not the most calorie controlled of foods!
Students also tend to drink more alcohol than they did at home and this can contribute to weight gain. One pint of larger or cider contains about 230 Calories, so a few pints in the evening can add up to quite a number of calories (equivalent to an extra meal)
Often, new student weight will creep on so they may be a few pounds heavier by the end of the first term, but by the end of the year it could be a stone. It is therefore advisable to check weight regularly if it is felt weight is creeping on. So access to weighing scales would be helpful. Being aware of weight creeping up often can act as a mental barrier to going for extra food and drink such as a late night kebab!
As alcohol is a big culprit for weight gain, it is worth putting the brakes on drinking-maybe just conserving the drinking to the weekends, and no binging. Students could Invest in a simple cookbook and enjoy the new freedom to experiment with new foods and meals that have not come from the nearest take-away.
Getting married and settling down
It is maybe a lesser known statistic that women who are married are plumper than their female counterparts who are not; whereas with men, being married actually keeps them slimmer. No one has really proved why this is the case but many theories abound including the one that women just feel they dont have to try as hard once they have their man, which is rather sexist!
However, there may be a certain element of ‘relaxing into the relationship’ and feeling happy and relaxed can go along with enjoying food more, making more of an effort with food and maybe eating more.
Most women still tend to be the one that do the majority of the day to day meals but when in a partnership, instead of just catering for one, women have to cater for their partner, who often will have a good appetite! So meals can get larger and more elaborate and women may find themselves sharing equal amounts between them and their partner. However, men do need more calories in a day than women (on average, 610 Calories more each day than women) so women shouldn’t really be trying to keep up with the man’s intake!
It is nice to try out new meals when there is more than just oneself to cater for, but women should remember to serve themselves smaller portion sizes than their man. Sometimes couples entertain more than when they were single, so too many dinner- party type meals could also lead to weight gain.
The reason for weight gain during pregnancy is thought to be due to women letting up on the breaks that normally control over eating! Also, women often slow down and are less physically active, even before the third trimester when sheer bulk makes moving about harder!
It seems that subconsciously women still hang on to the ‘eating for two’ idea even though experts tell us that only in the last trimester are more calories required, and it is only 200 calories extra a day (just two slices of bread with a thin scrape of low fat spread)
We now know that gaining too much weight during pregnancy can pre-dispose the baby to health problems such as diabetes. It can also make the woman at greater risk of developing gestational diabetes and having to give birth to a large baby, with all the risks that involves.
Eating healthily while pregnant is important but it is equally as important to not eat excessively. If you are normal weight before you are pregnant then 11-16kg (25-35lbs) is a normal amount to gain. If you were overweight before pregnancy then gaining slightly less weight than this may be beneficial.
It is also important to keep active unless advised otherwise.
Hitting the menopause
At middle age women may not be running around as much as you were when they juggled work and a young family and so are not as active. The menopause also signals a slowing down in metabolic rate. to counter this it is important to make a concience effort to be as active as you can. To help maintain muscle mass and keepmeatbolic rate tweaked up, it is also important to consider somew resistance training/weights. Weight gain during this time often settles around the tummy area and this is the risky area to have fat as it can predispose women to heart disease and diabetes.
Women also tend to be emotional eaters and so eat when feeling depressed, angry, upset or even board in the absence of real hunger. If taken to extreme it can lead to binge eating where a lot of food (usually carbohydrate based) is eaten in a short period of time. It is more common in women than men. The causes can be complex but it is as if some feelings that women get demand some sort of compensatory action; and that action is to ‘comfort’ eat.
Eating when feeling emotional can be ‘unlearnt’ and the first stage is to become more mindful around the process of eating. ‘Mindful eating’ is a technique which is being used more and more in main stream healthcare, especially in treatment of obesity and eating disorders.
Some of the elements to mindful eating involve being aware before eating whether one is hungry or not. Eating when not hungry is discouraged and the person is encouraged to do something else instead of eating such as going for a walk. There is a scale between 0-10 for feelings of hunger (where 10 is so famished one feels shaky and weak). In mindful eating people are taught to arrive at a meal with a score of around 6-7.
Mindful eating also teaches not be judgmental about food as feeling guilty about what is eaten can lead to emotional spirals. However mindful eating also encourages you to think about what is being eaten and whether it is what the body really needs. Taking time to enjoy each mouthful and not being distracted while eating is also encouraged, and slower, less distracted eaters tend to eat less!
There are certain conditions women get that we cover elsewher eon this site which can trigger eating:
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a condition that only women get (as it affects the ovaries) and seems to be on the rise – affecting as many as one in fifteen women. Having the condition makes women more prone to weight gain and it’s a vicious circle as symptoms become more noticeable when weight gain happens. Keeping to a normal healthy weight is the best treatment for PCOS as most women manage to be pretty symptom free if they can get to be normal weight.
PCOS occurs when the normal egg making process in the ovaries seems to get stuck, and so instead of the eggs maturing and getting released; they stay as cysts and build up on the ovaries. As well as causing period disruption, other symptoms of PCOS include growing facial hair but likewise getting thinning hair on the head and acne.
The weight gain, and other symptoms, is believed to be due to excess insulin being produced by the body which encourages fat to be stored, especially around the tummy. In severe cases, type 2 diabetes can develop in women with PCOS.
The aim is therefore to lose weight which then helps to lower insulin levels. Insulin levels can be lowered also by following a low Glycemic Index diet and ensuring plenty of physical activity is built into the day. Carbohydrate foods can be rated as high, medium or low GI. A low GI carb breaks down slowly in the body so does not cause a high glucose spike and therefore does not invoke lots of insulin to be released.
Most women get some PMS, but for some it can last a full two weeks and can wreck their lives for that time. One of the symptoms is a craving for food (usually fatty and sugary), or sometimes alcohol. Although there can be a slight rise in metabolism at this time, for some women the need to binge that they feel prementrually can lead to significant weight gain. A low glycemic index diet and sticking to regular meals and snacks can help.