I am fortunate to have been active enough in my adult life to be reasonably in shape. But, pretty much on the day I turned 40, my metabolism pulled to the breakdown lane, threw on the flashers, and decided to just take it easy. No reason to rush to burn up those calories and make energy. Nope, second half of life is time to conserve and rest. At least from a metabolic point of view.
Shortly after my 40th birthday, I asked my doctor to check my thyroid. She asked why. I said because I had gained weight for no good reason, I was active, eating the same, nothing was different, but I was gaining. She kindly said, “Well, now that you are 40…” I stared at her. “Please check my thyroid”, I said. She called 4 days later to say my blood results showed my thyroid was looking good.
NOT cool. A sad day, indeed.
I like food – all kinds of it, primarily healthy food, though I have an incredible weakness for ice cream. I’m not a dieter. I don’t have the discipline for the deprivation. I will, however, pay the price in mileage to continue including ice cream and cocktails in my life. So, one would think that the mileage required to prepare for a marathon – 6 months of increasing weekly mileage, all the way to the 26.2 haul – should open up my menu to some indulgence. One would think.
At 45, I’ve read most of the middle-aged diet plans out there – cut back the carbs, or just cut them out completely. Rely on protein and vegetables. No sugar. Or only sugar from fruit, but not too much, because sugar is sugar. And no bananas. According to any Google search, bananas and belly fat are essentially the same thing. No matter that bananas are also reported to be the “perfect” food – a tidy balance of vitamins, carbs, etc. But if you’re battling belly fat, bananas are out.
Oh, and to hell with the gluten. If you want to be really healthy, even if you’re not suffering from celiac disease, just cut out the gluten – one chapter of the book Wheat Belly and you won’t want another swallow of anything that’s got gluten in it. Avoiding gluten means that the carbs are coming from rice, corn, quinoa, legumes, and products derived from those things.
I am averaging about 25 miles a week now, with nearly half of that taking place in one long weekend run. I am definitely stronger. In fact, my daughter looked at me yesterday and said, “Mom! Look at the size of your thighs. They are HUGE!” (Honestly, I think training for a marathon is the only time that I could hear that as a compliment.) But, the blasted mid section is determined to hang on to a solid, well established extra layer. Not enormous, probably not even that noticeable to anyone besides me, but COME ON.
So, let’s recap: middle age metabolism supports belly fat – invites it and gives it a place to check in and get comfy – but I have altered my diet, dropping diet soda and all gluten products. Now, my PT, Dusty, says to cut out inflammatory foods that are inhibiting the healing of my tendonitis. What are inflammatory foods? Grains, seeds, legumes. If you’re following closely, I’ve already given up flour and wheat products, and next on the no-no list are rice, quinoa, lentils.
Me: “Where will all the carbs come from?”
Dusty: “Vegetables. Fruit. And corn”
But, corn is as bad for the mid section as bananas. So pretty much, I’m left with broccoli, blueberries, and almond milk.
No matter, this limited menu ought to do the trick right? I’ll eat a LOT of the allowed foods so that I have enough energy and the mileage will just take care of the mid section.
EXCEPT if you happen to catch the article in Women’s Health magazine (as I just did), you’d learn that sustained energy exercise, “such as running“, is surprisingly not a reliable force against the flab. Nope. Specifically not running. Bursts of energy are required. Kick boxing exercises. Burpees. Fartleks. And a long list of other exercises that boggle the mind.
You may remember from the introduction to the blog, that I actually have a life and obligations outside of this marathon training. I don’t have time to score the training mileage PLUS the energy burst exercises.
In order to make this work, I have to complete the marathon training with a firm hold on moderation. This is a bit of an oxymoron since everything about a marathon is required in the extreme – endurance, training time, pain management, psychological focus, organization, fatigue. But for the food, I need the carbs. I need them more readily available than just in fruit and vegetables. So, I’m eating the corn. I LOVE corn. And it’s corn season. I’m eating a banana before a long run because bananas give me energy and are the best for avoiding cramps. And I’m sticking with the ice cream because I love it and life is short. And I’m eating rice and quinoa and lentils because I believe they are good for me, even if they register as “inflammatory”. I already like the fruit and vegetables, so they can stay. 🙂
As for the mid section dilemma, I have to accept a moderate tolerance for the fact that my body needs fat to survive and if my age and lazy metabolism distribute that fat unevenly, choosing a resting place at my waistline, well, then so it is. I’m already in a fight with my feet. I’ll just leave the waistline out of it.