Are you a woman over 40 and noticing it’s getting harder to lose weight? Got some extra stubborn fluff and puff around the middle? Maybe you’re finding that the diets you did in your 20’s or 30’s don’t work as fast as they used to or don’t even work at all! If you’re already well past 40, chances are you’ve found it’s harder to lose weight. And, those inches around your waistline won’t budge.
That delicious plate you just bought or cooked up might temp you to gobble it up in just a few bites, but that's probably not a good idea, says Palinski-Wade. "Eating slowly, eliminating distractions at meals, and even putting your fork down in between bites all allow you to get in touch with your body’s satiety signals and to stop eating when satisfied."
Guys often wonder whether a dip in testosterone is at the root of their weight gain, says Dr. Stanford. "When men develop overweight and obesity, they tend to have a drop in testosterone that leads to a drop in energy and more retention of adipose tissue,” she says. The excess adipose tissue drives testosterone down. But taking testosterone isn’t usually the answer. “That’s not the underlying problem. Once we normalize the weight, the testosterone normalizes," she explains.
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.
Why that’s so important: “The more muscle we have, the more calories we burn,” Kirkpatrick says. Even if it doesn't actually help you lose weight, it can help keep you from gaining it—along with all the other good things it does for your body, mind, and life. Lots of over-40 guys like HIIT, since its compressed timeframe ends up having a low impact on your schedule.
To jumpstart your weight loss, the biggest focus should be to develop habits that will help you build or maintain your muscle mass. "The most effective way that women over 40 can boost their metabolism is by building muscle through weight-lifting and resistance training," says Dr. Peterson (more on that to come). But nutrition and sleep habits also play a role here.
A 2014 study found that the type of fat we consume might make all the difference. Participants in the study were asked to eat 750 extra calories every day for seven weeks. Those having excess calories from saturated fats had activated cells that promoted fat storage in the belly and increased insulin resistance. However, individuals who had a high consumption of polyunsaturated fats found in fatty fish, nuts and seeds, gained less abdominal fat and were more likely to increase muscle mass instead.
Your muscles are important for bone density, strength, and overall health. However, your body starts to lose muscle as you age. Building muscle can increase your metabolism and help you burn more calories at rest. Muscle also takes up less space than fat, so you can feel leaner and toned as you increase your muscle mass. Good options to increase your muscle mass include light weightlifting, body weight exercises, and Pilates.
Non-starchy vegetables, particularly greens, are rich in nutrients, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, and quite low in calories. They can nourish your body while helping you lose weight. Greens and veggies are low in calories, yet thanks to all the fiber, they can keep you full and satisfied longer. They may also prevent sugar spikes and sugar cravings, lowering your risk of reaching for unhealthy snacks or sugary desserts. If you are looking for an easy way to get 14 veggies in one serving, my Organic Greens powder is a simple solution.
Many women have trouble sleeping during menopause due to hot flashes, night sweats, stress and the other fun stuff that goes along with low estrogen levels. Migraines anyone?? The bummer is poor sleep is linked to hunger and weight gain because of two more hormones: ghrelin (the “feed me” hormone) and leptin (the “I’m full” hormone). Here’s a short blog I wrote on that topic. If you’re sleep deprived, these hormones get out of whack.
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.
How intense does the strength training need to be? Are push ups and squats and using hand weights during your HIIT training enough or should it be a more classic free weight workout where you do 3 reps of 12? I eat well and work out 6 days per week (get healthy u TV, running, etc) for 30-60 minutes each day. Nothing is helping my weight loss and I'm so frustrated!
Another great idea it to get into a group fitness strength training class. This is a less intimidating way to get started and in most gyms you will find people of all ages and abilities attending; just ask the instructor if it is the right level for you. Strength training at home is another possibility. By joining GHU TV you are spending a minimal amount and getting the personal training of experts like Chris Freytag and others who will do the workout with you providing the expertise needed to do it correctly! Just pick up a pair of dumbbells, bring them home and get started. Keep in mind that if you are afraid to pick up the weights you can even use your own bodyweight to build strength through moves like push-ups, lunges and squats. Strength training for as little as 20 minutes two to three times a week can build enough muscle to increase your resting metabolic rate (RMR) over time.
Pay attention to what you are eating. Read labels and ensure your foods are organic, nutrient-dense, and anti-inflammatory. Avoid eating in front of the TV, while standing up, and when busy with other tasks. Keep a regular eating schedule. If you are craving something, check-in with yourself to see if you are truly hungry or just thirsty, stressed, or bored.
2. Exercise More. Contrary to what your body may want to do, you must exercise more regularly as you age, not less! If you’re finding yourself slowing down, gradually start ramping it back up. It’s not a good idea to go from taking an occasional walk to running a 10K. That’s a fast track to getting an injury. But start finding ways to fit more physical activity to your life. The more you exercise, the more insulin sensitive you become (that’s the opposite of insulin resistant!)
Between desk jobs, commutes, and family activities, many 40-somethings don’t have a lot of free time to work out. But it’s important -- for your weight and your overall health -- to fit in at least 2 1/2 hours of moderate physical activity (like brisk walking or light yard work) every week. Pencil times in to your calendar, and make them a priority.