You Know You're Over 40 When…

You Have To Work Your A*** Off To Lose Weight

Or to my American readers: You Have To Work Your A** Off To Lose Weight

Birthday-Cake--PigMe at my 30th birthday party (artist’s impression)

Now, first things first: I used to be a bit of a porker. And before you say “Don’t put yourself down, Andrea!”, trust me: there was a time when nobody could put me down. Because I was too heavy to lift up.

My first noticeable weight gain as an adult (as opposed to as a baby, when it’s positively encouraged) came when I was a student. Looking back, I don’t really know how this happened, because I was a vegetarian – and like all good vegetarian students in the ’90s, I consumed mostly lager, Hob Nobs and chips. But amazingly, put on weight I did (as Yoda might say, if Yoda ever became a porker) and this pattern continued gradually, continually, throughout my 20s.

In my mid-30s, it finally hit me what had happened, thanks largely to every woman’s friend: holiday bikini pictures. Fortunately, around the same time, I stumbled upon a book called ‘The Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet’ (a sort of precursor to the Atkins Diet) and the shock that I wasn’t just fat but also, apparently, some sort of addict led me to shed two stone and three dress sizes, merely through changing how I ate. Well, not the way, so much – I still put food in my mouth, like some kind of crazy homo sapiens – but by the kind of things I ate and when I ate them. I was no longer eating in my sleep, for example, and this made a huge difference.

But since the age of 40 – ie for nearly two years now – the weight has crept back on. This is partly due to the cliché of being in a happy relationship – something which is very lovely, of course, except that this happy relationship has in turn led to me having one too many celebratory ‘fizz and chips’ nights. Frank and I would initially have these evening meals of Prosecco with fish and chips to celebrate special occasions; but then we’d start celebrating the end of the working week; and then the fact that it was a Tuesday; then we’d celebrate being alive etc etc. It was a slippery slope, largely due to the amount of mayonnaise.

In short, my inner glutton escaped, went on the run and was impossible to recapture, despite being fat and thus unable to go far. I couldn’t look at a cake without putting weight on. Mainly because after looking at the cake, I would eat it.  In fact, my desire to eat Evil Carbs started to feel like a Pavlovian reaction (fun fact: this phrase comes from an experiment in which a group of dogs were fed pavlovas!) and once again, I realised I needed to rein myself in. The final straw was the zip bursting on not one but two pairs of trousers, in some sort of comedy, Looney Tunes fashion. You can ignore the slowly growing muffin top; you can ignore the fact that jeans feel a little tighter. You can’t ignore the fact that your clothes are physically turning against you.

But hey – as I’d lost weight in my 30s as a result of simply changing my diet, I thought this was all I would have to do this time round, too. And apart from anything else, I’d seen Lorraine Kelly, Carol Vorderman and a whole host of other… well, female daytime TV presenters, mainly, slim down quite dramatically in their 40s and 50s. So obviously I thought: how hard can it be? The media is full of women d’un certain âge going from un certain weight to a much lower one. In fact, I’m sure that this was what subconsciously kept me going through my early 40s’ weight gain: the knowledge that when I decided to shift it, I would just have to change my diet again and soon enough I would be wiggling around London in a wiggle dress, solving highly complicated maths problems and winning Rear Of The Year.

But guess what? It’s not that simple. Especially the maths problems.

Because I tried, but the fat simply would not move. I’d eat only healthy carbs. I’d cut carbs altogether. Then I’d realise that was stupid, and eat healthy carbs again. I’d try truly drastic things like walking up the escalators on the Underground instead of letting them move me through the twin miracles of science and engineering. But none of it worked.

At first I wanted to blame Lorraine and Carol for making it look so easy. But then I realised I should blame cakes myself. And then it occurred to me that I shouldn’t blame cakes myself. Because the simple truth is: losing weight once you’re over 40 isn’t as easy as losing it when you’re d’un much younger âge. Instead of simply altering your diet it requires a change in physical habits. It requires something apparently known as ‘exercise’.

When this slowly dawned on me, I was initially filled with cakes horror. My relationship with exercise isn’t so much estranged as ‘Look, we never even had a relationship, exercise!’. But then I realised that this new need for physicality was actually as it should be. Because now, in my early 40s, I have occasional lower back pain. I have knees that can’t stay in one position for too long. I have a general lack of girlish sprightliness – as demonstrated all-too clearly on a recent country walk with my boyfriend, during which I tackled each stile with a slightly laboured 10-point turn.

Yes, there’s no denying it: in its reluctance to shift weight and its small aches and pains, my body has been telling me that drastic action isn’t just desirable now, it’s actually necessary. My body has been telling me that I finally have to, in the words of Reel 2 Real, both move it AND move it.

So I thought. I thought about how many hours a week I spend sitting in an office. I thought about how I want to form a new habit that I can make part of my life and do anywhere. I thought about how much I hate gyms. I thought: ‘What would Carol Vorderman do?’

And I decided to take up running.

Now, before you go saying: “BUT YOU CAN’T RUN AWAY FROM YOURSELF, ANDREA”, let me say: you’re right. I can’t run away from myself, mainly because I can only run for about 60 seconds at a time, and it’s not at a terrific pace when I do so.

But I can run away from the fat me. From the fat, future me with respiratory problems. It’s like Sliding Doors: if I go down one path in life, I will end up a hugely overweight middle-aged woman with severe health issues. If I go down the other, I’ll be Gwyneth Paltrow in a brown wig. See? Scary.

So now I’m running. I’ve started the Couch To 5K program – which will give me £5k if I get off the couch, or something – and already, I love it.

I love doing something completely different from my other activities, which are generally cerebral/computer-based/alcohol-related. I love knowing that I’m doing something nurturing for myself. I love running in my local park – which has views of London stretching from the Shard to the Millennium Dome, and which is full of other runners, children playing and dogs walking their owners. I love seeing the buds coming out on the trees and I love the long shadows those trees cast in the evening sun.

I also love the fact that one day, I’m going to be able to levitate.

That’s right. When you’re a really good runner, you start levitating. I know this because all the photographic evidence points to it:



running woman

Incredible, no? And yes, you might tell me that these snaps are merely the human equivalent of the famous Sallie Gardner At A Gallop photographs – which not only proved that horses have all four hooves off the ground when they gallop but also led to the development of motion pictures, most notably the motion picture Seabiscuit.

But I prefer to think that these women are so happy, so joyous and so bloody fit that they’re levitating.

And someday soon, cakes god willing, I will be too.

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44 thoughts on “You Have To Work Your A*** Off To Lose Weight

  1. Loved every word of this Andrea! Thank you! x

  2. I love this! Especially the bit with your clothes physically turning against you.

    Keep running; start levitating!

  3. Absolutely hilarious and so true, even coming from the male perspective. At 44 this month, I’ve decided that being round isn’t quite the shape I want to be in. Thanks for the inspiration as well!

  4. Hilarious. Felt like you’re living my life. I too love cake and things carb. At 46 I have started exercising like a fiend and my whole body aches. The weight comes off in teeny, tiny, bit but at least it’s moving. Good luck to you. 40+ is a bitch but we can do it! Here’s to next years: Butt of the Year Queen.

  5. Reblogged this on Kevs' Blog and commented:
    Damn RIGHT.

  6. I love it too !
    I’m 41, never had any weight issues… Then last summer I suddenly put on 7lbs in two weeks and soon realise they had decided to stay 😦
    Jeans becoming tight and my daughter positive’s view on this was to have fun shopping for a new wardrobe !!!
    I did not want to admit defeat so fast, so I took a 3 months membership in the local gym, felt totally inadapted, old and ugly there, was poorly a whole month and did not renew.
    Then last month I had a bout of gastric flu and miracle, my 7lbs went in one go!
    I take it as a warning, I cycle to work as often as I can and I avoid crisps 🙂
    You are SO brave to run, I just cannot do that, my ankles are totally against the physical reality of this strain, and I’d suffocate in 30 seconds !
    Keep writing please, a real pleasure to read you.

  7. A FABULOUS Post Andrea, MUCH Appreciated. :-).

  8. Fabien H. on said:

    Started doing kettlebells not too long ago and noticed a difference in the hip area: logical as it’s your hips that are doing all the work.
    Way more fun than exercising with dumbbells or any gym equipment.
    I alternate days with kettlebells+crunches and 90 mn mountain bike rides the next day (when I get the chance, obviously), works pretty well so far.

    There’s no easy path to get and stay fit, but making it fun is surely part of the equation. Good nutrition, kick-ass playlists, punny nicknames for the workouts worked for me.

    In the end, it’s all about eating well and motivation, believing you can fly and touch the skyyyyyy…

  9. I know exactly what you mean….I started running a couple of months ago…mainly because I am hiking the inca trail in a couple of weeks time. But I am loving it. Never believed I would ever say that! And Pilates. And the weight is also shifting. Slowly, but surely!

  10. Great post, hope the weight starts to roll off pretty soon, and you are flying through the air!

  11. I never knew that about Pavlov’s dogs… and I have a degree in psychology and EVERYTHING! 🙂

  12. Thank you, this has made me laugh out loud. I can’t wait to see the pictures of you levitating.

  13. Thanks for this, you’ve made me laugh this morning! 🙂

  14. snarlsie on said:

    Great blog, Andrea. I took up running about nine months ago. Was crap at it. A friend recommended a running mechanic–someone who analyses your run and shows you how to run properly and improve your technique. I highly recommend seeing one if you can find one. I ran like Quasimodo’s drunk cousin. I am pretty sure I would have (a) injured myself (b) given up running and (c) been really depressed about not getting faster if I hadn’t seen him. Now I am on the brink of levitating. Scary but thrilling; it is well worth the effort!
    ALSO, find a crowd to run with. It really does help for motivation. Meet at different spots once a week and run for an hour (out for 30 mins and back for 30 mins). In my group, we all go at different paces. This way, everyone gets a run for an hour at their exercise level. Then we go to a nice nearby cafe for breakfast. (We choose the running spot based on where the nice cafes are; we have our priorities sorted!)
    These are the things that have helped keep me running, and setting goals. I’ve run two half marathons and I’m going in the Berlin marathon in September. Terrified, but I’ve got to set goals for myself to make sure I don’t talk myself out of running.
    Now I find if I don’t run at least four times a week, I get very grumpy. Not sure if the weight is shifting or not, but mentally I feel stronger to face whatever hand I’m being dealt during the day.
    Good luck and maybe I’ll see you levitating in the distance on some beach somewhere!

    • Cheers! And fantastic stuff re the marathons – bravo, and good luck to you, too! Thanks for the tips also; there’s a local 5k run near me every Saturday (I saw them run as I did my own little program last Saturday!) and it seems like a nice friendly bunch – so once (fingers crossed) I am up to doing a 5k, I will undoubtedly join them.

  15. God almightly I do believe THIS post AND the comments may, just may have inspired me to THINK about taking up running *yikes*.
    Found you through your being on the front page of Mumsnet blog network today.
    Liska x

  16. It’s an evil twist of fate that just when you need fizz, chips and chocolate more than you ever did when you were young and life was hopeful, you can’t shift a flipping ounce for love nor money.
    Running (slowly with a lovely talking book on the mp3 for company) is excellent and seemly exercise for those of us in our 40s, but my mistake (repeated several times) is to believe that because I’m exercising I can eat what I like. Apparently this is not the case.

  17. The Reblog was NO problem Andrea

  18. Liked the post. Gets even harder in your fifties, believe me, so if you can make it stick this time so much the better. Good luck!

  19. bilalmussa on said:

    This is excellent. I will remember this when I turn old. I have been drinking grapefruit juice which helps burn the cholesterol and aid burning fat too. You should try it.

  20. I complimented a woman on Twitter the other day that had lost 60 lbs. She replied, “It was easy. All I had to do was exercise 3-5 minutes a day.”

    Yeah, right.

    Personally I’ve been losing and gaining the same 30+ pounds for years…you’re absolutely right that it’s so much harder after 40!

  21. vishalbheeroo on said:

    Age is but a number and as they said, the most important is how we feel inside. Such a youthful, fun and jazzy post:) But, guess as we turn a certain age, we have a tendency to be careful about what we eat and exercise to keep fit:)

  22. Good on you for taking that first step (towards levitation). It’s great that you’ve got a clear goal as that should help you along 🙂

  23. Pingback: You Love Talking To Strangers | You Know You're Over 40 When...

  24. Very funny post. I’ve done the couch to 5k app, by the end of it I could run for 30 minutes solid. (regretfully too lazy to actually run a 5K. I might have to fill out a form and show up on time. )

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