As you enter your forties, you are also entering perimenopause, when levels of your sex hormones progesterone and estrogen decline. Besides regulating your menstrual cycle and reproductive functions, these hormones also impact restful sleep and relaxation. A decrease in progesterone and estrogen levels may lead to sleep disturbances, restlessness, and insomnia.1 Because changes in sleep patterns have been associated with weight gain, sleepless nights may make weight loss increasingly difficult.2
If you eat healthy and exercise regularly and still can’t lose weight, your thyroid might not be working like it should. This happens in about 5% of people, and it's most common in women and people over 60. In addition to weight gain, it can also cause fatigue, joint or muscle pain, and depression. Medications can help, so get it checked if you think it might be an issue.
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.
You may wonder if you should even try to lose weight in midlife. Shouldn’t you just accept weight gain during menopause as part of life? The answer is “No!” While accepting and loving your body is important, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight as you are reaching menopause is not about how you look. Excess weight in later life holds a variety of dangers to your health and well-being.18 Losing excess weight, and especially belly fat, may significantly decrease your risk of a variety of health issues, including19,20:
Remember how we said that the more muscle you have on your body, the better your metabolism works? Having more muscle increases your resting metabolic rate (RMR). This helps you burn more calories at rest—which is what you want if you’re aiming for weight loss after 40. So if you’ve been avoiding those weight machines or dumbbells, now’s the time to dedicate yourself to strength training. It is never too late to start strength training! If it is new to you, take advantage of any free personal training sessions that might be offered when you join a local gym or health club. This is often to familiarize you with the equipment and the layout of the facility, but can be a useful tool to get you started on a routine. Of course, if you have the finances to hire a trainer for a few sessions that’s another way to go.
One of the main culprits for weight gain is, of course, our hormones, which start to change right around the mid-30s and into the 40s. This change in hormones, less estrogen for women and less testosterone for men, cause the fat in our bodies fat to shift to the middle of the body while abandoning other areas of the body you could care less about. That's one reason you may get a little fluffier around the middle while other parts of you actually get smaller.