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
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.
Soda and other sugary soft drinks are all empty calories that may result in weight gain and health problems. Don’t be fooled—diet soda is not better. It’s full of artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and often caffeine that can disrupt your health.31,32 It can interfere with your hunger hormones, increase your appetite, and lead to weight gain.33,34 Herbal teas and green juices are a good option.
Hormonal changes are one of the main reasons that women tend to lose more muscle as they approach menopause. Diet and exercise also play a role.12 On average, adults lose 3 to 8 percent muscle every decade after age 30.13,14 By the time you reach 80, you may have about 30 percent less muscle than you had at age 20.15,16 Muscle loss over time can lead to slower RMR, increased fat, weight gain, weakness, and fractures.17
For a sustainable plan, "I don't like to hyperfocus on calories. It's important to have a high-quality diet of lean protein, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables," Dr. Stanford says. "Processed foods lead to weight gain, so the less processed the food you eat, the better." And the more satisfied you could end up being. Her example: A nice meal of salmon plus some grains and a vegetable and a salad can give you a lot more volume than a Shake Shack stop would, and would give you more of a sense of being full afterward. When it comes to the high-quality diet she advocates, "nothing is bizarre—we know that lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are constant no matter how the guidelines for healthy eating have changed over the years," she says.
What does that mean for you? That the weight loss process naturally becomes harder as you get older...that's just a fact and accepting it means you can stop punishing yourself or feeling ashamed about your body. Instead of focusing on the negative, focus on the things you can control: Your workouts, activity levels, diet, stress management, sleep management and, most important, your attitude.
People naturally lose muscle after 40, especially women after menopause. Because muscle burns more calories than fat, this can slow down your metabolism and make it harder to shake those stubborn pounds. Strength-training exercises -- lifting weights or doing body-weight exercises, like push-ups and squats -- at least twice a week can help you keep those muscles.