Smorgasbord Health – Middle-Age Spread..Not always down to what you eat!

smorgasbord healthI know that the mantra is supposed to be ‘love your body whatever its shape‘ and people ‘tut, tut’ when you complain about your various bits and pieces that seem to distort your image…… but you know what….it can be a real pain at times. It is particularly frustrating when you are doing everything right.. eating, exercising, drinking plenty of green tea and only having one digestive with your coffee!!


This is me 22 years ago at age 41 on holiday in America and weighing in at 300 lbs. I would go on to add another 30lbs over the next few months until I was size 32. To put things into perspective… I am 5ft 11inches so the overall impression was huge.  Along with this excess weight came several health problems which led to me studying not just nutrition but also a deep interest in psychology and anatomy.  I made some very interesting discoveries about myself that would help me lose my weight.

I eventually lost 150lbs over 18 months, recovered my health and apart from the occasional period, when I would put on a couple of stone, I have managed to keep most of that weight off. I will never be classified as skinny but I am very happy to be at a much healthier weight rather than fit into a size 10 pair of trousers.

Each time that I have added those extra 28lbs or so, it has been the result of one particular physical response.

I believe that to be healthy you need to focus on three elements; physical, mental and emotional. You also need to identify your triggers that result in a blip in your health and weight.  I know for me it is stress and whilst I might not show it outwardly, inwardly it lays down fat in all the wrong places as my body reacts to a constant level of stress hormones into the system.

Chronic Stress is when this acute stress response is repeated on a continuous basis. Whilst the body, after a hundred thousand years, is well able to handle the occasional stress response and in fact uses it positively, if the response becomes a normal way of life, other parts of the brain and body become involved leading to long term damage.

For example, ongoing stress causes the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, which are the master controllers for the body, to release a chemical called ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) which stimulates the adrenal gland to produce and release cortisol which disrupts sleep patterns leading to increased levels of stress. Our bodies are simply not designed to live at high alert for sustained periods of time; it just wears it down leading to illness and usually weight gain.

How has it impacted me?

In the last eighteen months I have put on 28lbs despite eating normally, cooking from scratch and being reasonably active.  The one added ingredient has been stress.

There is a reason that they say that moving house is as stressful as divorce or a bereavement. And the last eighteen months have certainly demonstrated that point. Between the worry of not selling and subsequent financial concern – the Spanish intricate legal system – packing up a large house ourselves in 3 weeks – selling two cars – waiting anxiously for ten days before the banks got their act together and transferred the funds to Ireland – living under someone elses roof for three months (very gratefully of course) – finding a house as quickly as possible – the buying process – renovations etc. It has been relentless.

Don’t get me wrong, I am loving the end result and in a few weeks time the work will be finished and our furniture will be arriving from Spain. We already love where we are living; despite missing our friends we had to leave behind. We have our family closer both here in Ireland and in the UK which is such a pleasure. We are looking forward to a future that will be so much less fraught with worry.

However, the cost to the body of all this internal stress, is another reason for our middle-aged spread.

If you look around you and even in the mirror…. you will see that there are a great many of us over the age of 50 who carry that evidence of internal stress, particular around our middles. Of course some of that extra weight is down to the hormonal changes that naturally take place for both men and women, but after working with clients all these years, I can also tell you that it is also down to something more dangerous.

Most that I have spoken too about stress have textbook examples across the board. Finances, jobs, relationships, the future, health, family, the world and its apparent spiral into mindless chaos. Even the lack of extended family, as men and women in their 70s and 80s wonder what is to become of them as they become ill. Even those who feel financially secure wonder how long that might last as they see their pensions and dreams of a stress free retirement dwindle.

This is mirrored in much younger men and women too which is even more concerning as it means they will be living with this stress reaction from much longer than those in middle-age. They are the ones who will be fuelling the statistics of heart disease and other chronic illnesses of the future.

Identifying your stress triggers.

I can identify the stress over the last two years and can finally see light at the end of the tunnel. I also have something that has gone a long way to mitigate the effects of that stress which is my writing, in its various formats. For me sitting down at the keyboard is hugely beneficial and goodness knows where my weight would be if I had not been able to write every day.

I am also starting swimming again in September once the holiday season is over at the local leisure centre, I am going to be helping out with the decorating which I do with music on my head and paint all over me; we will also be getting one of the greatest stress busters of all times.. a four-legged running machine.

What I want to convey is that our weight and health is not just about eating a balanced diet, watching your fluids, taking regular exercise… You can be doing all of that and still be unable to shift extra weight or even be putting it on.

If you are looking at embracing some health changes to eat a healthier diet, get more exercise etc… you also need to be honest about the stress in your life. Make a list and you will find that by finding solutions to combat that stress will actually do your body as much benefit as making changes to your food intake.

We all have our own ways of combatting stress.. I have mine lined up and I know that by Christmas my extra two stone will have vanished. But, despite my training and experience, even I can get caught out when I allow stress to get the better of me.

I wrote some posts on stress and its impact on the body and here is a couple that you might find helpful.

Thanks for dropping in and if you have any questions you can always ask.. in the comments or if you prefer by email..

61 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health – Middle-Age Spread..Not always down to what you eat!

  1. Thank you for this post. My wife and I have been under some hellish stress over the last 8 years and it has impacted in several ways but particularly our weight. To know that it isn`t just a case of what you eat, is a god send and a relief.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am glad that you found it interesting. It is also a vicious cycle because the more you try to lose weight and fail the more stressed you become. At our age it is important to get regular exercise even if it is a 30 minute walk a day.. but it is more for the destressing benefits than anything else. Our mind needs to be distracted and as I said in the post, writing is hugely important and so is music and I will be reposting on that next week. Sally


  2. Sally, thank you for this, your post certainly does resonate with me. For the past two and a half years I have had the worry of my husband’s ill health which has also resulted in very long periods of his absence from my life. In that time, because of nessecity, I have renovated a house, sold it, moved into rented accommodation and am now looking for a new home. All of these things should have happened together but have not.
    I eat well for the most part and make sure to include good, fresh, produce but certainly dont eat so many full meals and almost never snack and yet I have developed an unmistakeable ‘paunch’ that does not please me! I have been wondering how that could be when my diet is not bad or excessive in any way. I think stress must be the answer and I am working on reducing that through writing.
    Thanks again, so many of your articles have been useful, interspersed with those that bring on a smile!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You have had a very tough time Wendy and no wonder the stress levels have been off the charts. They say don’t sweat the small stuff but in fact apart from major stress events that you have experienced, even day to day ups and downs layer onto the big stuff creating more chemical havoc. I hope you find a new home soon and that writing and some of the good things in life help bring you back to a balance. The key thing is not to add weight issues into the equation.. that will come off once you are more settled. Glad you enjoy the posts.. that means a great deal. xx


  3. Oh boy, do I identify with this post… I have been battling with my weight for years (and getting nowhere fast!) Pity there isn’t something you can do about stress, it seems to be unavoidable these days. Even if you run away out of desperation, you’d probably take most of it with you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • As they say it is like a monkey on your back. All the food and exercise advice is not going to resolve the weight issue if you do not first come to an understanding with your body about stress. I am lucky in as much as I have found some strategies that work for me… but not all the time clearly otherwise I would not have put the 28lbs on in the last couple of years.. but it could have been a lot worse based on my previous success at putting it on. It is the small things that I have put in place that help the most. Apart from the writing I am spending more time listening to music and I am taking up my tapistry again (with stronger lighting) I have also gone back to going to the hairdresser every two weeks even though I am more than capable of blow-drying my hair. I get a great head massage, my hair looks much better and I get 30 minutes pampering that I refuse to feel guilty about. hugs Sally

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is true food for thought…. As I am now in my 40’s and I see that no matter what I do, sometimes my weight, and jelly belly don’t listen…
    But the there is the stress of teaching,melting about the kids and their results/school places/happiness and then stress from family in general….
    Time to rethink things!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Stress is the hidden extra that attaches itself to most of our activities. I went shopping early this morning to avoid the crowds and since I have been going at 8.00 the roads are quieter, parking up close to the doors, very few people in the aisles. And I was through the checkout immediately. I am now having a cup of coffee and catching up with everyone online and I reckon that reducing just that stress has helped me lose a lb or so in the last month! xxx

      Liked by 2 people

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  6. Sally, you are so right about chronic stress! I got so sick of people telling me that i “must be missing something” meaning I was telling lies about what I ate (didn’t eat) and exercise, that now it’s a subject that I just refuse to discuss. Of course here, in this pretentious culture, people are so afraid they’ll “catch fat” that they can’t talk about anything except what they are doing to lose weight — as if it is a talisman to ward off catching fat from the person who is bigger than them. Admittedly an extremely passive aggressive culture plays a part in this.

    Soon you can breathe a huge sigh of relief and have your new home just the way you want it. A true blessing that is. Wishing you health, peace, and sassy happiness in your new home. Love & hugs. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Teagan.. certainly I have had it a lot easier than you have had in the stress department. Another myth is that we all have to look like cover models.. their starvation diets come with a price including 80 year old bones in their 20s and 30s.. adding that expectation to our already stressful lives is a step too far..time to get the monkeys off our backs and into the tress where they belong.. except The Story Reading Ape of course.. love xxx

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Thanks for sharing your story Sally, and it has certainly reminded me to look at the stress factors in my life. I always need to keep a close watch on my weight. It is great to hear that your life is getting back on track after such a stressful time.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you so much for this enlightening post. Stress can have a huge impact on anyone’s life. When it becomes chronic, as it did for a long period in my life, it can be very serious. I have been able to become stronger than my stress and anxiety. It will always be there, however, I feel more in control.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for such a useful post, Sally. Over the last three years my son has been putting on weight. This summer he admitted he was very unhappy studying medicine and had decided to drop out and go back to biomedical sciences which was his first degree. He said when he made the decision there was a a huge sense of relief. He has started going to a gym joining an excercise class and swimming and he is beginning to lose weight. Although studying medicine was his choice he felt he would be letting us down if he dropped out, which was why it took him so long to make his decision. I hate to think of how stressed he’s been for the last two to three years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We are the worst when it comes to piling on the stress Mary.. we also second guess those we hope to please and don’s speak up sooner. One of the positives that have come out of your son’s decision is that he will throw himself into his biomedical sciences with renewed energy and pleasure and his three years training as a doctor will not have been wasted in that field and will give him an advantage when he finishes his degree. So pleased he is feeling better. xx


  10. This does really resonate Sally, thanks for sharing 🙂
    Stress is one of the most dangerous symptoms, as we need to learn to handle. If not, it is a killer. I do still live with the damage of being heavy stressed for years, which I could live without.

    Liked by 1 person

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  12. That you share your own experience is incredibly impactful and inspiring, Sally. And since you’re so forthcoming and lead off with it, I’m sure you will attract and benefit many. I can’t imagine being so open publicly, and I can’t thank you enough for doing so… xxx

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  13. Reblogged this on mira prabhu and commented:
    Sally Cronin speaks here on a subject that most women (especially those past middle-age) consider vitally important…contrary to what some might think, it is not just what we eat that makes us heavy or sluggish…stress and other emotional factors weigh in too…and if we are not looking at the Whole Picture, then we are doing ourselves a great disservice. Without a healthy body, it is far from easy to give of our best, and everyone suffers, not just us….thanks for a great post, Sally!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing Mira.. the effects of stress are pervasive and need to be recognised and dealt with. I don’t think that as a whole, the community that we build for ourselves online, recognises the positive effect it has on our stress levels. Apart from the odd troll of course. Thank you for sharing.. love and hugs. xx


  14. What a brave person you are Sally. You, in a geniusly sensitive manner drew a coorelation between excess weight, stress and unhappiness, without being so gauche as to actually say they are connected as I just did. But they are all connected and your personal and brave example takes the sting away from anyone struggling with weight issues who reads this. Brilliant. Helpful. Courageous. But, that sort of sums you up doesn’t it my friend. I’m the shrink, but you just did this far better than I could ever have.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Cindy that means a great deal to me. Excess weight and I have always had a complicated relationship as does everyone else.. definitely not as easy as diet and exercise. I am delighted if I can make some sense of it for others who have been made to feel that it is all their fault! And it is images such as the ones you share that bring pleasure, open up the world and show us beauty that help. love and hugs


  15. Thanks for writing this post. I have ask, can stress makes you lose copious amounts of weight too? I lost so much weight over the past year with my mum dying, selling our house and moving away from everything we were used to. I’ve picked up some weight again, but noticed a drop this weekend as my stress levels went up with family visiting.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’m so sorry ro hear how much stress this move has caused you. You really appeared to be taking it all in your stride. I never realised that stress could prevent you from losing weight. I have had a lot of stress in the last 12 years, first with Malachy’s Hirschsprungs, he was such a sick baby, and then with Carys’s syndrome, and I have realky struggled to lose weight. Perhaps the stress has had a part to play. Thank you for bringing my attention to it. At least you can see an end to it, and you have a plan that you know works for you. All the best to you, Sally. Xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mine is not unique Ali and you sound like you have certainly had your share and I it is easy to forget that parents even when all is plain sailing take on an additional stress load emotionally, mentally and physically when a child is born. Your children will still be causing a certain amount of stress even when they are grown with families of their own.. it goes with the territory and is therefore dismissed as unimportant. I am sure that like me you find your blogging, researching, writing books and now reiki help deflect some of it.. xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Fantabulous post Sal! You are correct my friend. I’m well aware of all you said as truth. I too am fighting 5 pounds that found me since my return from Arizona this past winter. Stressing over my hubby’s health and getting another book out, has definitely been the culprit to this. How do I know? Well, I’ve never been much of an eater, and this year particularly I found myself missing many meals (I’m one of those who isn’t hungry when stressed, as opposed to the comfort eaters), yet going to the gym. Where an average person should look somewhat anorexic from eating how I eat, I on the other hand cannot lose these damned five pounds! ❤ xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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