You hear it and repeat it: age is just a number. It's true that age cannot dim vibrancy, playfulness, humor, and joy. Getting older should not prevent the pursuit of new goals and dreams. Maybe that is what the phrase is suggesting. To me, "age is just a number" seems to minimize the significant gains and losses experienced through aging. (I overthink...therefore, I am.) Age is more than just a number and you must pay attention to it because several not-so-great changes occur, especially if you aren't proactive. As I approach my fourth decade of life, I'm seeing and feeling those changes already. I’ve been told by many lovely women, “Wait, it gets worse!”
Battle of the Belly Fat! Blame it on the Hormones (at least partially)
One of the most common body complaints I hear from women in their late 30s and onward is ever-increasing belly fat. I have noticed in recent years if I have take a break from exercise or change my dietary habits, I gain fat in my stomach and torso regions first. It used to go straight to my hips and butt. The gain happens faster now, too.
Why? Probably my hormones.
Estrogen has been friend and foe since puberty. And like many relationships, we don’t know what we got until it’s gone. Estrogen levels often start to decline in the mid to late 30s and continue to do so through perimenopause and then menopause. Studies have shown that the decline in estrogen results in changes in body composition and fat storage. As in: body fat increases (mostly in the midsection). Not only that (!) but as estrogen drops, fat cells store more fat AND cellular changes cause slower fat burning. The concern over this change isn’t purely aesthetic: excessive abdominal fat is associated with numerous health concerns including diabetes.
Fats not all…
Sarcopenia is age-related muscle loss. Starting in early middle age, 0.5% to over 1% muscle mass is lost annually and the decline ramps up after around 60 years old. This decline is much more pronounced in the sedentary and can have significant effects on strength and function.
Osteopenia & Osteoporosis is bone density loss of varying degrees. Women lose about 1% of bone density per year after age 35 and it accelerates after menopause. This puts you at an increased risk for fractures.
That's not all but that's enough!
I appreciate growing older and recognize the privilege that it is. I am happier and more confident now than I was a decade ago. It is a common sentiment. Many women feel better about themselves as they approach middle-age. That doesn’t mean you should accept age-associated changes without push-back.
The Push-Back Plan
MOVEMENT & EXERCISE
Focus less on "staying young" and more on improving or maintaining your body as best as you can so you can live each year to the fullest. We CAN slow down a lot of those “not-so-great” changes but some will occur eventually. Self-acceptance is important. You can simultaneously work to improve the health of your body AND love it as is!
Here’s to your next birthday!