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.
If you're a breakfast person, what you eat in the a.m. can set the tone for the rest of your day as far as weight loss goes (whether you're 40 or not!). "A breakfast rich in lean protein, fiber, and plant-based fats is the best option for curbing hunger and cravings later in the day," notes Palinski-Wade. In other words, start off with a breakfast that fits this bill, and you may end up slashing calories throughout the rest of the day.
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.
Healthy fats such as avocados, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and ghee have a number of benefits. These include reducing the risk of heart attack, coronary artery disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.23,24,25,26,27 They can keep you satisfied longer, reducing the risk of overeating and snacking. Healthy eating doesn’t mean deprivation! Healthy fats taste good and improve your brain health, and so may help you feel emotionally satisfied, lowering the risk of emotional eating.28
Now that the whole sober curious moment is making not drinking trendy, it’s easier to find alcohol-free options. Less alcohol not only means you’re drinking fewer calories, it can also mean fewer late-night bowls of ramen or plates of double cheeseburgers on the way home from happy hour. Today, it’s also easier to maintain a social life when you’re not overdrinking, since there’s the new perception that you’re not saying no to a beer or five; you’re part of a “movement.”
Exercise can actually increase your energy. Just three hours of exercise weekly can improve the health of menopausal women.35,36,37,38,39 You may be able to add aerobic exercise into your everyday life without even noticing it! Take a walk during lunch with your colleagues. Go for a bike ride with your family after dinner. Put some music on while cleaning the house and add some dance moves. Jump on an elliptical trainer or treadmill instead of sitting while watching your favorite show.
As we age, we tend to become more insulin resistant which can put us at risk for type 2 diabetes. When you eat foods that break down into sugar, the pancreas pumps out insulin to escort the sugar out of your blood. People with Insulin resistance don’t use insulin effectively so that cells have trouble absorbing sugar which causes a buildup of sugar and insulin in the blood. Researchers still aren’t 100% in agreement as to why, but at the end of the day, people with insulin resistance gain weight, particularly around the middle. And some research shows that lack of estrogen may cause insulin resistance.
It’s usually not just due to losing muscle mass over time (more on that later). "It's multifactorial," says Fatima Stanford, MD, MPH, obesity medicine physician scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Numerous factors can sneak up on you and help you gain or hold onto weight, including your lifestyle, your food, your biology, and your sleep habits. The good news in that is that there are also numerous ways to tackle getting your weight to where you want it—you don't have to force yourself into one approach, and you get to choose what works for you.
Good stress management techniques and routine exercise will have positive effects on your sleep, but you may need to take additional steps to help you sleep better. For example, be proactive about going to bed and waking up at the same time most days, and allow yourself 30 minutes to unwind and disconnect from your digital devices at night. Eating a plant-forward, mostly whole foods diet that’s low in added sugar helps, too.
Gluten and dairy are two of the biggest culprits behind the ever-increasing rates of chronic illness, autoimmune diseases, and obesity. Gluten has been linked to increased inflammation, leaky gut syndrome, sleep disturbances, mood fluctuations, and skin issues.21,22 Consuming dairy can lead to inflammation, gut issues, and increased risk factors for a number of health problems. Banishing both gluten and dairy is one of the number one actions I recommend for you to take control of your health and your weight. To learn more read my book, The Autoimmune Solution.
"One of the reasons that it's difficult to lose weight in your 40s is that you are beginning to lose muscle mass, so the composition of your body tissue changes," explains Keri Peterson, MD, Women's Health advisor. "Having higher muscle mass raises your metabolism, so your body burns more calories." So when you're dealing with the opposite—less muscle mass—that means a slower metabolism. Argh.