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.
Unfortunately, you can't just focus on one area of your body. "Women should focus on all muscle groups in order to lose weight and build muscle because there's no such thing as spot training," Diamond reminds. "With that said, women have a tendency to gain weight in the midsection as we age and focusing on the core and a well-balanced workout will help to reshape body composition."
1. Eat less added sugar, processed food and refined grains (white bread, bagels, pasta, white rice, you know the drill). A lot less. According to the sugar science department at UCSF, added sugar is hiding in 74% of all packaged food. And, the majority of carbohydrates in the typical American diet is made of refined grains. This means reading labels folks and knowing how many different names there are for sugar. Just because it’s called “agave nectar” or “cane juice crystals” doesn’t mean it’s any better for you than the white granulated stuff. Your body doesn’t know the difference and once you eat it, it’s all the same to your pancreas (the organ that produces insulin in response to sugar). Click this link to see 61 different names of sugar then run to your pantry and read the ingredients on your packaged food. Prepare for a rude awakening!
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.
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
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.
In your forties, your body may have an increasingly difficult time digesting carbohydrates, which may lead to weight gain. Living a stressful life can lead to an increase in the stress-hormone called cortisol, which can make you more prone to gaining belly fat. Estrogen loss may also lead to fat redistribution in your body and cause belly fat gain.11
However, the important takeaway here is this: The biggest factor in losing muscle is the lack of physical activity, which makes exercise a crucial component when it comes to preventing muscle loss. If you want to figure out the real deal, enter your information into a calculator to learn how many calories you really need for your age and activity level.