Have you wondered why, despite your best efforts, you just can’t seem to lose any weight? The scale won’t move so it must be broken, right? Wrong! No matter what you do, that pair of jeans just won’t zip up. Or what about that sexy dress you wore to that party last year? Wouldn’t it be just awesome if you could breathe in it again? Unfortunately, the reality is……weight loss for women over 40 is not an easy feat UNLESS you tackle it in the right way. It’s definitely doable, but just not easy.
Since hitting the age of 40, it’s a lot easier for you to gain weight and much harder for you to lose it. But why is this so? Let’s take a look at a few reasons below.
Why It is Hard for Women Over 40 to Lose Weight
- Hormonal changes affect how your body stores fat. During perimenopause, estrogen and testosterone levels begin to decline, and by menopause, they literally plunge. This lower estrogen level tends to slow down your metabolic rate (the speed at which your body converts stored energy into working energy). This means that you need less food. The problem however is that you’re probably eating just as much as you used to eat in your younger years.
- In addition to eating as much as you used to, your eating habits have probably also changed for the worse and you’re now eating things which you know you shouldn’t.
- As you get older, you burn less calories whenever you exercise, and you’re probably exercising a lot less at a time in life when you need exercise the most. You are also gradually losing muscle mass as you get older. Less muscle mass equates to slower metabolism, and the slower your metabolism, the easier it is for you to gain weight.
- Injuries take longer to heal as you get older. You are probably exercising less because subconsciously you are afraid of getting injured and the trouble that comes with that.
- You may be losing out on quality sleep as you get older. Sleeping disorders tend to occur during menopause because of the effects of hot flashes, night sweats, stress and migraines, all of which result from lower estrogen levels.
- You become more insulin resistant as you get older. This puts you at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes and makes it easier for you to gain weight, especially around the midsection.
All is not lost, however. There are several proactive steps which you can take, and which can help you to slim down despite the odds. This is the focus of the next section below.
Ten Tips for Losing Weight
1. Eat Breakfast
Many people skip breakfast because of their busy lifestyles. Breakfast is however arguably the most important meal of the day. A healthy breakfast helps to curb that mid-morning hunger which usually causes you to eat an unhealthy snack or overeat during lunch time.
Do not skip breakfast, but instead, ensure that you eat something healthy such as oatmeal or whole wheat toast with fruit. It is also a good idea to have yogurt or other probiotic to aid in digestion.
2. Eat Several Small Meals Throughout the Day
It’s all about calorie intake. Eating less calories than you consume will help you to lose weight. Having small-sized meals or eating healthy snacks every few hours will help to keep your appetite in check throughout the day and prevent you from overeating at any sitting.
Having smaller portions and tracking your calorie intake with a food diary or an app will also help you to eat less overall.
It is also a great idea to have an eating cut-off time. Try to avoid eating too late in the evening or night. If, for example, you consume most of your calories before 6pm, you should be able to lose more weight than if you have a big meal later.
3. Choose Healthier Meal Options
Avoid trans-fats and limit your intake of saturated fats. This means that you should avoid fried foods, food that is cooked in lots of butter or oil, and processed meats such as bacon, sausage, and deli meats. Instead, prepare and consume foods which are grilled, baked, or broiled. This is a much healthier option and reduces your calorie intake. Also, try to eat less added sugar, processed food and refined grains (white bread, bagels, pasta, white rice etc.).
Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Try to have at least five to ten servings per day. These tend to have more nutrients and less fat and calories than meat, dairy products, or grains. This may also help you to feel satisfied, even if you eat less. Eat other soluble fiber as well, such as oat bran, barley, nuts, lentils and peas. Soluble fiber is important for health, digestion, and preventing diseases. It also fills you up so that you feel less hungry.
Increase your intake of foods which are high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, sardines, flaxseed oil, and light chunk tuna. Their anti-inflammatory properties may improve the blood lipid (cholesterol and triglyceride) levels and decrease the risk of coronary heart disease.
Consume more lean and high-quality protein such as skinless poultry, fish, and lean cuts of red meat.
Consider keeping a food journal or use an app to track what you eat.
4. Sit Down for each meal
Sit down whenever eating your meals. This helps you to focus on what you are eating and not be distracted by everything else that is going on around you, such as what is on your TV or computer screen. Your brain will realize when you’ve had enough and prevent you from overeating.
5. Avoid Sugar and Drink Lots of Water
Sweetened drinks have lots of added sugar, which can make you gain weight and increase your risk of developing diabetes. You should therefore avoid drinking sodas, energy drinks, and adding sugar to your coffee or tea.
You should drink lots of water, which is a much better alternative to sweetened drinks. Water has zero-calories, helps to flush body waste (which helps with weight loss), and has many other benefits such as boosting skin health and beauty.
6. Reduce Alcohol Intake
Studies have shown that moderate red wine consumption (one drink or less daily) may reduce the risk of several cancers, dementia and depression in women. Red wine may also increase insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Drinking red wine is therefore good for you, but just don’t overdo it.
In general, too much alcohol (beer, wine etc.) can result in excessive fat in the midsection. For example, a glass of beer or wine is about 150 calories. The calories can quickly add up if you drink often and drink too much. Alcohol can also make you hungry and cause you to eat more while you drink.
7. Exercise Often
It is important for you to exercise more regularly as you get older. Between taking care of the kids, having desk jobs, commuting, and other family activities, many women over 40 just do not have enough free time to work out. It is however especially important for your weight and your overall health to fit in at least 2 1/2 hours of moderate physical activity each week.
The more you exercise, the more insulin sensitive you become. This has the reverse effect of insulin resistance by lessening your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and gaining weight.
Aerobic exercise is particularly good. If you want to achieve quick weight loss results, then you should consider doing High-Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T.). You can read my blog post on that form of exercise routine here.
It is also important to incorporate weight training exercises. People naturally lose muscle mass after 40, especially women after menopause. Because muscle burns more calories than fat, this can slow down your metabolism and make it harder to lose stubborn fat. Strength training exercises (weightlifting or doing body weight exercises such as push-ups and squats, at least twice per week, can help you to keep or rebuild those muscles.
8. Relax Often and Get Better Sleep
Stress can make you more likely to binge on unhealthy foods which makes it harder for your body to break down fat and for you to lose weight. Try to relax more often and manage your stress levels to prevent this from happening. Try relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, massages, or reading a good book. You may want to read my blog post on effective relaxation techniques for anxiety here.
Stress as well as health problems, medications you are taking, and even menopause can reduce the quality of your sleep after the age of 40. Unfortunately, not getting adequate good-quality sleep tends to lead to weight gain. In addition to managing your stress level, try to change your habits and settle into a regular bedtime routine. Try having a hot bath before bed, using black out windows, and keeping the temperature in your bedroom cool at night. You should also limit your use of electronic devices before bed. These devices delay your body’s internal clock (a.k.a., your circadian rhythm), suppress the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and makes it more difficult to fall asleep.
You can also try taking melatonin and/or magnesium supplements at night to help you to sleep better. Magnesium, popularly known as the anti-stress mineral, promotes relaxation and is required for proper nerve and muscle function. Melatonin on the other hand regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
9. Get Support from Others
Many people find it easier to lose weight with others than to do it alone. You may be one of those persons who find inspiration in seeing others succeed with their weight loss goals. Or, maybe you just need someone to act as an accountability partner and help to keep you on track.
If that sounds like you, then you should consider entering a weight-loss contest at work, joining a group on social media, or asking a friend to go for early-morning walks or classes at the gym. Other people who share your goals can help keep you accountable and cheer you on as you make progress on your path to weight loss.
10. Get Your Thyroid Checked
If you eat healthy and exercise regularly but still cannot lose weight, then your thyroid might be the culprit. The thyroid produces thyroid hormone which controls many activities in your body, including how fast the body burns calories. If the thyroid is not working properly, it may not produce enough of the hormone and cause you to gain weight, have joint or muscle pain, and feel depressed, restless or tired.
There are some medications which can help with thyroid problems. Therefore, if you suspect something may be wrong with your thyroid, get it checked out with a doctor. Hormone Replacement Therapies (HRT’s) have also been shown to help control weight gain, but you need to consult with a doctor first.
Losing weight after 40 might seem hard, but with the right approach and mindset, it is entirely possible. Once you know why you have not been able to lose weight and take proactive steps towards correcting that (including lifestyle changes), you will be well on your way to achieving your weight loss goals.
I hope this post has added some clarity as to why weight loss for women over 40 seems difficult. I also hope that you have found the recommended tips useful and will be implementing them sooner rather than later.
If you have anything to add, any experiences to share, or any questions about any of this content, please leave a comment below and I will be more than happy to discuss.