5 Tips for Getting in Shape After a Divorce

Hi Lisa,

Your blog is very inspiring.  I’m hoping you can help me.  I’m 45 and going through a messy divorce and menopause too.  Most people I know lose weight during a divorce, but I’m actually gaining weight.  The good news is I now have a lot more time I can use to go to the gym.  Do you have any tips on how I can get in shape?  I don’t need to stand on stage in a bikini or anything, just look better.weigh-in1


Dear Molly,

First, let me say I’m sorry you are going through a divorce.  According to the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, divorce is the second most stressful life event you can go through (death of a spouse is the first).  It does not surprise me that you have gained weight.  Stress increases your cortisol levels, which is the hormone that regulates satiety.  When this happens not only are you hungry, you crave the foods that can pack on the most pounds (like sugar and carbohydrates.)  If you are an emotional eater (like me) you may be inclined to reach for comfort foods (like chocolate) to soothe yourself.

Let’s talk menopause.  “A comprehensive review by the International Menopause Society has found
that going through the menopause does not cause a woman to gain weight.  However, the hormonal changes at the menopause are associated with a change in the the way that fat is distributed, leading to more belly
(abdominal) fat.”  (Source: Science Daily.)

So basically whatever fat you have migrates to your tummy.  Nice!

My daughter's picture of me with my pot belly
My daughter’s picture of me with my pot belly

Then there is also the joy of muscle loss.  The average man between the ages of 30-50 will lose 5 – 10 pounds of muscle mass and research suggests that women tend to lose muscle mass twice as fast as men.  Muscle burns more calories than fat, so if you lose muscle mass it makes it even more difficult to lose or even maintain weight.

So what’s a girl middle aged woman to do?

5 Tips for Getting Back in Shape after a Divorce

  • Divorce is the end of a relationship, but it is also a beginning of a new phase in your life.  You know that you want to get in shape – can you extend that further into a specific goal?  Like, “I want to train for a Spartan Run” or “I want to do a hiking adventure, cycling event or half marathon for a good cause.”  Goals give you something to look forward to.
  • Increase your friendship circle.  Sometimes after a split friendships fracture too, or your friends focus on the break-up when maybe you want to talk about something else.  If one of your goals was to do an endurance event for a good cause, you might want to consider Team In Training.
    Henri and Lisa at the Nike Marathon
    Henri and Lisa at the Nike Marathon

    You fundraise for cancer research and they train you for the event of your choice.  You train as a team so you get to meet dozens of new people.  I ran four marathons with them before I had kids and the experience was very uplifting.  Friends help you stick to your goals and take your mind off your problems.

  • Talk to your doctor.  The weight gain may be tied to thyroid issues, which is common among women of a certain age with unexplained weight gain.  It’s a simple test and good to rule out.  Also, you may want to discuss estrogen treatment options if the side effects of menopause are driving you nuts.  Finally, it’s always a good idea to let your doctor know when you’re trying a new exercise program so she/he can give you a little guidance.  (For example, if you have high blood pressure there are certain exercises you will want to avoid.)
  • Food is for fuel.
    Well balanced meal
    Well balanced meal

    When I’m going through rough times, I tend to think of food as a friend.  Chocolate chip cookies can always cheer me up.  But food is not a friend, or something to eat when you’re bored; the sole purpose of food is to fuel your body.  If you had a shiny new sports car (I like a red Porsche, personally) would you shovel dirt into it?  Heck no!  You’d put in the premium gasoline so it runs well.  Now is the time to fuel yourself with proper nutrients, six times per day.  It should be a mix of proteins, complex carbohydrates and vegetables, with a little bit of healthy fat.  You can click on the Bikini Diet to see what my meal plan was when I first started losing weight.

  • Cardio and strength train.  If you are trying to lose weight then cardio is key.  One of my favorite quotes is, “Sweat is Fat Crying.”  Your cardio should be at a level 5-7 effort, meaning you should still be able to hold a conversation but you’re also sweating.
    Cardio time!
    Cardio time!

    Remember when I mentioned that women lose a ton of muscle mass as they age?  You can combat this by lifting weights.  When I first started lifting I was really nervous that I would look like a scary gorilla woman.  Ha!  What a joke!  It takes years of concerted effort (and probably steroids too) for a woman to look as bulky as a man.  Lifting 15 lb. dumbbells will just make you look toned, feminine and strong.  Not sure what exercises to do?  This is also a great opportunity to talk to some new people at the gym and ask for help.  (It doesn’t have to be a potential date; some of my best buddies are women I met at the gym.)

Change can be hard, but it can be exciting too.  I’m so happy you are taking this newfound time to take care of yourself and your body.  After about a month of eating a clean diet and exercising you will feel and look better, which will give your confidence a boost.

Hope that helps!  If you have any questions I’d love to hear from you!  Feel free to email me at ShesLosingIt.net@gmail.com

Lisa :)

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