“Instead of eating less of everything and feeling deprived, you want to replace more calorie-dense foods, such as fried foods, high-fat meats, cookies, cakes, candies (and) chips, with nutrient-rich, less calorie-dense foods, such as vegetables, fruits, salads, bean dishes, broth-based soups and whole grains like oatmeal,” said Kushner, adding that the high water and fiber content of foods like these increase their volume, making them more satisfying for fewer calories.
If you were very active in your younger years, you may have had some injuries. Like a spicy pepperoni pizza does after dinner, those injuries from your carefree days can come back to haunt you. These ghosts of injuries past show up in the form of early arthritis, bone spurs, tighter muscles, pinched nerves, etc. After our 30’s, new injuries also take longer heal. No wonder we slow down.
The more years we live, the higher our risk of developing a disease, especially heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. All of these conditions are tied, in some way, to inflammation. A 2017 study from Georgetown showed that mindfulness meditation had a significant impact on reducing stress hormones and inflammatory proteins and a 2014 study found that just 25 minutes of meditation a day could alleviate stress levels.
Sarah Mirkin, RDN, author of Fill Your Plate Lose the Weight, recommends 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal. "It’s important to take in that amount of protein at all your meals, and ideally include high protein snacks as well," Mirkin says. "This helps to prevent lean muscle protein breakdown that decreases muscle mass percentage, increases fat percentage, and slows the metabolic rate. Muscle burns calories. Fat doesn’t."
In your forties, your body may have an increasingly difficult time digesting carbohydrates, which may lead to weight gain. Living a stressful life can lead to an increase in the stress-hormone called cortisol, which can make you more prone to gaining belly fat. Estrogen loss may also lead to fat redistribution in your body and cause belly fat gain.11
Oxidative stress occurs when the balance between free radicals in the body and our ability to fight against them is uneven, with free radicals prevailing. Free radicals can cause disease and there is an association with an increased risk of formation of free radicals as we age. That's why after a certain age, building up our defenses (through having lots of antioxidants in plants) can help reduce this imbalance and stack the cards in our defense system instead.
Changes in your activity levels are one of the main reasons that losing weight after 40 may be more challenging than before. Like many women, you may be putting others first and simply not finding time to exercise. You may also notice that your joints can no longer handle the same activities as before. However, a lack of exercise can lead to muscle loss and fat gain.
Once you hit 40, losing weight can feel like a lost cause. Dr. Robert Kushner, director of the Center for Lifestyle Medicine at Northwestern Medicine Center in Chicago and author of “Six Factors to Fit: Weight Loss that Works for You,” told TODAY that the total amount of calories burned every day diminishes for most people with each passing decade.
Difficulty sleeping can be a symptom of menopause, so it's not uncommon for women in their 40s to struggle with getting enough sleep. Unfortunately, this can also cause weight gain. "When you get less than seven hours of restful sleep, metabolic changes occur that can make it significantly harder to lose weight," says Palinksi-Wade. "The appetite hormone ghrelin is increased while leptin (which controls hunger cues) is reduced, triggering an increased desire to eat, especially for foods rich in fat and sugar. Insulin resistance increases, which can trigger the body to store fat."
Erin Palinski-Wade, RD and nutrition and diabetes expert, adds that you can use fruits and veggies to help exercise portion control, too. "If you aim to fill half your plate with vegetables, it can help you to reduce the portion size of the other foods while feeling just as satisfied," she explains. "And since vegetables provide few calories, this strategy can reduce your overall calorie intake at each meal, helping to promote weight loss.
When you were young, you probably didn't spend too much time thinking about preparing your body for the future. In your teens and twenties, you're in peak condition and it's the perfect time to start exercising. Cut to 20 years later and, if you didn't start exercising, you probably wish you had since there's something we all start to experience in our 40's—weight gain.