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.
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.
Soda and other sugary soft drinks are all empty calories that may result in weight gain and health problems. Don’t be fooled—diet soda is not better. It’s full of artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and often caffeine that can disrupt your health.31,32 It can interfere with your hunger hormones, increase your appetite, and lead to weight gain.33,34 Herbal teas and green juices are a good option.
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."
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®.
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:
Let me see if this sounds familiar: you’re over forty and exercising regularly. You eat a balanced diet and pass on dessert at parties. And yet, you can’t get rid of those extra pounds. If this scenario describes you, you’re not imagining things. Oftentimes, losing weight does get harder as you get older, even if you’re someone who has always been able to easily manage your weight with diet and exercise. Starting at age 30, most people begin to lose about half a pound of muscle per year. What does this have to do with weight loss? The more muscle you have on your body, the better your metabolism works. So it’s not just in your head: losing weight after 40 is more difficult than when you were younger. But you don’t have to feel like weight loss after 40 is impossible. Here are six ways to lose that extra weight after 40.
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.
Sarah Mirkin, RDN, author of Fill Your Plate Lose the Weight, recommends 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal. "It’s important to take in that amount of protein at all your meals, and ideally include high protein snacks as well," Mirkin says. "This helps to prevent lean muscle protein breakdown that decreases muscle mass percentage, increases fat percentage, and slows the metabolic rate. Muscle burns calories. Fat doesn’t."
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:
If you prefer a specific plan with specific rules, make sure it goes with your lifestyle, which, for most guys, gets increasingly complicated in your 40s with more responsibilities at work, with your family, and maybe even with your aging parents. A vegan diet can be hard to do in a healthy way if you live a grab-and-go existence. Meal prep is going to be a challenge if you’re never home long enough to cook. Don’t just pick what worked for a friend; pick what’s likely to work with your busy, over-40 lifestyle.
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.
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.