“You are what you eat” is never more true than at midlife when your metabolism slows down. At this age for many women, a period of dietary indiscretion or eating unwisely while on a vacation or during a time of stress can play havoc emotionally and physically. In other words, your midlife metabolism does not permit much fooling yourself with food.
Beginning in your mid-thirties, and compounded by menopause, which usually begins in your early fifties, your food intake needs to be scaled back to accommodate your slower metabolism. Nature has rigged our basal metabolic rate (BMR) to slow down after the age of twenty-five, sliding between one-half and one percent per year. It happens gradually, so that it may be some time before you realize that you can’t eat the way you once did. If you continue to consume the same amounts and kinds of food that you have in the past, you will have difficulty keeping your figure.
This is the age when even those women who have not had to do so previously may begin each day with a new ritual: praying to the bathroom scale. They get on the scale gently to keep the pointer from going up too quickly or jiggling too much. Finally, they look at the dial on the scale knowing well that whatever the scale reveals will dictate their level of self-satisfaction for the day. “I’ve lost weight” equals “I like me.”
“Therefore, today I’ll dress nicely and I’ll look terrific. I’ll eat less and exercise more, and everything will go well with me today!”
Conversely, “I’ve gained weight” means “I’ve been bad.” A woman berates herself: “I’m so disgusted with me. No matter what I do, I can’t lose weight. I might as well eat whatever I like because I won’t look good today anyway.” Or it may mean, “I’ll try harder today to diet and exercise, but I’m still unhappy with myself.”
These feelings can influence the quality of a woman’s interpersonal contacts that day as well as her dietary behavior. They may even influence her interest in sex. Although the problems of being overweight and having a poor diet affect high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and a host of other diseases and conditions, we also know that for many women diet is an important social and emotional issue.