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.
Now that the whole sober curious moment is making not drinking trendy, it’s easier to find alcohol-free options. Less alcohol not only means you’re drinking fewer calories, it can also mean fewer late-night bowls of ramen or plates of double cheeseburgers on the way home from happy hour. Today, it’s also easier to maintain a social life when you’re not overdrinking, since there’s the new perception that you’re not saying no to a beer or five; you’re part of a “movement.”
One of the main culprits for weight gain is, of course, our hormones, which start to change right around the mid-30s and into the 40s. This change in hormones, less estrogen for women and less testosterone for men, cause the fat in our bodies fat to shift to the middle of the body while abandoning other areas of the body you could care less about. That's one reason you may get a little fluffier around the middle while other parts of you actually get smaller.
Changes in your activity levels are one of the main reasons that losing weight after 40 may be more challenging than before. Like many women, you may be putting others first and simply not finding time to exercise. You may also notice that your joints can no longer handle the same activities as before. However, a lack of exercise can lead to muscle loss and fat gain.
This is a great article. I appreciate all this insight and help as hitting 40 a few years ago was a shock to my body for sure. I would also add to your stress reducing ideas to spend some time reading the Psalms in the Bible. The God who created you longs to take your burdens and teach you how to stop trying to solve all your problems on your own. He is there to show you the way to stress reduction and a while new/better way of doing life. If you don’t know God or how you can start a personal 1-on-1 relationship with Him, check out some of these helpful apps in the App Store: Knowing God Personally (by Power to Change), God Tools (by Cru), Life Conversation Guide (by North American Mission Board), or talk to a pastor at a local Christian church in your neighborhood. My rule of thumb is that while working to take care of my physical body throughout my lifetime, I never want to neglect my soul that will continue on for all eternity.
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
“Has something happened — a change in relationship or job? Has that affected the times that you’re eating, how and what you’re eating, and who you’re eating with? Those changes in eating nutritionally can affect your weight,” Weiner said. “If you used to eat with other people, you maybe had more vegetables. Alone, you may be eating less healthy foods.”
Many women have trouble sleeping during menopause due to hot flashes, night sweats, stress and the other fun stuff that goes along with low estrogen levels. Migraines anyone?? The bummer is poor sleep is linked to hunger and weight gain because of two more hormones: ghrelin (the “feed me” hormone) and leptin (the “I’m full” hormone). Here’s a short blog I wrote on that topic. If you’re sleep deprived, these hormones get out of whack.
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.
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.
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.
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.