Before you try anything else, make sure there isn’t an underlying factor interfering with your weight loss, like a thyroid condition. Did you know that nearly 1 in 5 adults over 40 suffer from thyroid problems that can interfere with weight loss? Your thyroid is the main regulator of your body’s metabolism, so having an over or under-active thyroid gland (hyper or hypothyroidism) can truly interfere with weight loss. Talk to your doctor if you’re having trouble losing weight and also experiencing any of the following symptoms of a thyroid disorder:
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."
3. Keep a food journal or use an app to track what you eat. As we get older, our metabolisms naturally slow down. That means you need less food. If you’re still eating as much as you did in your 30’s, you’ve probably had to buy a whole new wardrobe or 2 by now. Apps like “My Fitness Pal” or “Lose It” help making weight loss goals easier by keeping you on track. Or you can go old school and write everything down then look up the calories. Not all calories are created equal, but one is for sure, taking in more than you burn leads to more body fat.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Starting in your 30s, you can lose three to five percent of your muscle mass each decade if you don’t stay active. Note the last part of that point: “If you don’t stay active.” As you get older, "there's a lot of competition for your time and energy," says Dr. Yancy. For some men, that can push exercise out of the picture. But it doesn't take heroic efforts to put it back into your life.
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.
Yeah, you've probs heard that diet tip before—as it's wise for anyone trying to lose weight. Fried foods contain a whole lot of fat and contribute to weight gain—simple as that. But again, in your 40s, you deal with natural physiological changes that make it *even* tougher to shed excess weight, so overdoing it on fried foods has larger consequences. "A 20 year old can get away with eating empty calorie meals. A 40 year old usually cannot on a semi regular basis," Mirkin points out. "Until we are age 20, [our] bodies are building muscle. After age 20, it stops."
At 41, these are the things that I notice the most. My body does not bounce back as easily as it once did and I have to work a lot harder to manage my weight. Genetics play a role in the aging process, but our lifestyle choices can help dictate how well our genes treat us as we get older. After turning 40, these are six of the top lifestyle habits to focus on.
Your body has to work harder (meaning it burns more calories) digesting protein than it does fat or carbs, so Palinski-Wade recommends the strategy of upping protein intake to many of her clients, including women who are 40 and over. "Although I don’t promote very high-protein diets, increasing your protein intake from 15 percent of your total calories to 30 percent can help you boost the calories your body burns during digestion, which may just help speed weight loss."
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.
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.
Amy Myers, MD is a two-time New York Times bestselling author and an internationally acclaimed functional medicine physician. Dr. Myers specializes in empowering those with autoimmune, thyroid, and digestive issues to reverse their conditions and take back their health. In addition, she is a wife, mother, and the successful founder and CEO of Amy Myers MD®.
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.