It’s no secret that losing weight after 40 can be difficult for some women. As you age, you begin to lose muscle mass, causing your metabolism to slow down. Add to the slow metabolism a dose of wildly fluctuating hormones and you have the perfect recipe for weight gain. Weight gain after 40 no longer translates into only a tight-fitting pair of pants. You are now at increased risks for a wide range of diseases, including depression, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
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.
Chronic stress can increase cortisol in your body, and lead to high insulin levels. You may even end up craving more sugary and fatty junk food,41 resulting in more stubborn pounds and belly fat. Managing your stress will increase your overall well-being and can help with weight loss. Breathing exercises, meditation, dance, gentle exercise, journaling, and listening to uplifting music are some of my favorite ways to lower stress.
Even if you’re eating reasonably well, you can still be in a calorie surplus. Whether you’re eating oversized portions, taking mindless bites while prepping family meals or grazing as part of a new work-from-home norm, all that noshing adds up. Tracking your food intake can be helpful. In one 24-week study, researchers found that time spent logging food intake was significantly linked to weight loss. If tracking your food (even with an app) sounds daunting, consider that by the end of the study, those who were still committed to tracking spent just 15 minutes a day doing it — about what you might spend scrolling through Facebook or Instagram.
While it seems like ankle weights should help our leg muscles tone faster than without the weights, our legs aren’t designed to carry around heavy feet. There is more risk for injury of tendons and ligaments than toning leg muscles. If you want to focus on leg toning, your best option is some body weight workouts or exercises such as lunges with weights.
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.
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.
Additionally, attempts to lose weight on low-calorie diets can lead to even more lost muscle. Studies have found that regular resistance or strength training may be a better alternative than your daily runs to preserve and gain muscle — even when coupled with a low-calorie diet. Aerobic exercise is still important, just don’t make it your only form of activity.
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 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.
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!
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
Alcohol adds unnecessary calories and sugar to your diet. Drinking alcohol may also increase your appetite, leading you to consume more calories.30 When you’re under the influence of alcohol, you may also be tempted to choose less nutritious options, such as processed junk foods. I recommend reducing your alcohol consumption to an occasional glass of wine or eliminating it completely.
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.