"One of the reasons that it's difficult to lose weight in your 40s is that you are beginning to lose muscle mass, so the composition of your body tissue changes," explains Keri Peterson, MD, Women's Health advisor. "Having higher muscle mass raises your metabolism, so your body burns more calories." So when you're dealing with the opposite—less muscle mass—that means a slower metabolism. Argh.
Very soon, I’ll stand up in front of the graduating class of my former high school and give the commencement speech. I’ll focus on the usual “work hard” and “follow your dream” themes, but, in reality, I just want to shout out to all those 17-year-olds — “have that ice cream cone, you’ll still fit into your skinny jeans tomorrow! ” Or “it’s OK to skip a workout, your muscle mass will help you bounce back!”
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
Let's get down to business: If you're having a hard time achieving your weight-loss goals after 40, these 16 expert-backed tips for losing weight in your 40s are totally doable and can nudge your body in the right direction again. (And, tbh, they're wise for anyone looking to move the needle to keep in mind—not just those over 40.) You'll be on your way to a stronger, healthier you in no time.
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.
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.
Sometimes the medicines you're taking for other issues, such as high blood pressure and antidepressant meds, can increase your weight or keep you from losing it, says Dr. Stanford. Ask your doctor if your weight concerns could be side effects of the prescriptions you're getting filled. Often, there are other formulations that can be effective but wouldn't have those side effects for you.
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!)
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.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is where you exert maximum effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise followed by short recovery periods, and it’s a great way to amp up your weight loss. If you’re currently only using doing steady state cardio workouts like jogging or elliptical weight loss exercises, for example, you could benefit from incorporating HIIT workouts to your regimen. Because the intervals get your heart rate more elevated, they help you work harder, not longer. Studies show that HIIT also burns more fat than other workouts. If you’re looking to try HIIT for the first time, check out these HIIT workouts on Get Healthy U TV!
Erin Palinski-Wade, RD and nutrition and diabetes expert, adds that you can use fruits and veggies to help exercise portion control, too. "If you aim to fill half your plate with vegetables, it can help you to reduce the portion size of the other foods while feeling just as satisfied," she explains. "And since vegetables provide few calories, this strategy can reduce your overall calorie intake at each meal, helping to promote weight loss.
“There are many eating patterns that can be used to lose weight,” says William Samuel Yancy, M.D., director of the Duke Diet and Fitness Center and associate professor of medicine at Duke University. Many have evidence behind them, whether that’s keto, Paleo, Mediterranean, vegan, or anything else. Interestingly, there’s not as much research on what works for men as there is on women, but “for men, sometimes it’s as simple as shortening the time in which you are eating to an 8- to 10-hour window a day,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D.N., consultant for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine for the Cleveland Clinic. Even something as straightforward as not eating after 6 PM can make a big difference—one of her male clients who lost 150 pounds found that to be especially helpful, she says.