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.
Have you noticed a little extra cushioning on your bottom, belly, and hips and increased difficulty losing those stubborn extra pounds? You are not alone. This is a common problem that women face as they are entering perimenopause and menopause. As a woman over 40 (and turning 50 this year), I understand your concerns. However, as a physician, I know that it is possible to achieve a healthy weight at this time of our lives.
“To achieve and maintain a healthy weight as we age, it’s imperative that we incorporate a ‘movement portfolio’ into our daily lives,” said Kushner. He explained that your portfolio should include activities of daily living (like walking, using the stairs and house cleaning), active fitness activities (like bike riding and using the elliptical machine) and resistance-training exercises. Kushner also recommended trying to reduce the time you spend doing sedentary activities like watching TV. “These targeted action steps will boost metabolism and help maintain muscle mass,” he said.
Protein is incredibly important in repairing your tissues, building muscles, combating fat, balancing your hormones, and increasing your overall health and well-being.29 Healthy proteins include grass-fed beef, pork, lamb, organic pasture-raised poultry, wild-caught fish, and wild game. I purchase my meats from ButcherBox and my fish from Vital Choice. I drink a delicious smoothie using The Myers Way® Paleo Protein to meet my protein needs. It’s organic, gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free and sourced from non-GMO, hormone and antibiotic free, grass-fed beef with 21 grams of protein per serving. My new, limited-time-only Salted Caramel flavor has just released. It’s a great summertime treat that ups your protein without weighing you down with sugars.
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.
Eating well isn’t just about skipping out on processed junk food. It’s also about filling up your plate with clean, healthy foods that can actually assist in your weight loss. Healthy fats like those found in olive oil, avocados and nut butters nourish your body while helping you feel full longer—which means you’re less likely to overeat. Incorporating healthy sources of protein like eggs and salmon will also help you feel more satiated as well as fuel the muscles you’re building through that regular strength training we mentioned above! Hungry during the day? Keep a small pack of heatlhy almonds or other nuts in your bag to snack on in a pinch. Just a handful will keep you satisfied until your next meal, all while providing healthy protein, fat and fiber. Don’t wait until you’re tummy is growling! Be prepared.
There appears to be a connection between estrogen and body weight regulation. With lower estrogen levels, lab animals tend to eat more and be less physically active. Levels that are too high or too low appear to lead to fat storage. And, lower estrogen levels may also slow down your metabolic rate (the speed at your body converts stored energy into working energy).
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.
Developing good sleeping habits is crucial when it comes to weight loss.40 The exercise and dietary tips with discussed earlier can support your sleep cycle. Avoid sugary and caffeinated foods, especially as the evening approaches, so you can feel tired and calm, instead of jittery. Limit blue-light exposure in the evening by wearing amber glasses that block harmful wavelengths from electronics. Develop a night-time routine that calms you down before bedtime.
8. Sleep more and stress less. Easy, right? This may be the hardest part. There are plenty of things you can try. Melatonin and or magnesium at night. Massages. Yoga. Meditation. Hot baths before bed. Black out windows and cooler temperature in your bedroom. A good shrink. There’s really no shortage of suggestions. It may be time to experiment if you’re not getting enough good sleep.
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.