Fighting the Uphill Battle: Weight Loss Over 40
The big 4-0
You’re not over-the-hill, you’re just getting started! You’ve got four decades of wisdom and accomplishments under your belt, and it’s time to celebrate. But if you’re like many women, along with some important life lessons and additional candles on your cake, you may have gotten more than you asked for in your 40s—some extra pounds.
For several reasons, it’s harder to stay trim in mid-life than it was 20 years ago. Weight seems to park itself in places you never saw it before, especially around your middle. But you don’t have to sit back and take it. When it comes to losing weight after 40, knowledge is power. The better you understand why you’re gaining weight in midlife, the harder you will be able to fight back. Here are some insights, as well as some tips on what you can do:
What makes weight loss over 40 so difficult?
A sluggish metabolism
It’s a cruel irony: As you add more years to your age, you can subtract daily calories burned. At age 40, you burn about 300 calories per day less1 than you did in your 20s, to be precise.
Hormones going haywire
Starting in your early 40s, estrogen levels2 start to fall. Less estrogen can cause insulin sensitivity, which makes your body less adept at controlling the sugar in your blood. This is one reason why menopause and weight gain are so closely tied. These blood sugar rises—and resultant falls—can increase your urge to snack on foods low in nutrients and high in sugar and carbs.
More candles, more flame
As you get older, your body naturally becomes more inflamed, a phenomenon sometimes called “inflammaging”3. Chronic inflammation is thought to increase risk of chronic diseases associated with aging, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. It’s also been linked to age-related weight gain.4 It can also increase insulin resistance, slow your metabolism, and cause you to retain water, all of which can lead to extra pounds.5
If you feel a little weaker than you did 20 or 30 years ago, you’re not imagining things. The average women loses up to 40 percent of her muscle mass between ages 40 and 80, a condition called sarcopenia.6 And because muscle burns more calories than fat, the less muscle you carry, the lower your metabolism will be. It’s an unfortunate recipe for a softer, plumper you.
So, now that you’ve gotten the bad news, what can you do about it?
Eat less, burn more
Your metabolic rate may have changed, but the best method for losing weight is still the same. You need to burn more calories7 during your gym workout and other activities than you take in. Period. Everyone’s calorie needs are different, and you should consult a nutritionist to find yours. But in general, if you’re currently eating 2,000 calories, cut back by about 400 to 500 to jump start your healthy diet plan. When it comes to your activity level, make sure you continue with at least five days a week of the 30-minute Curves circuit. To give yourself an added boost, throw in a boxing or cardio class.
Shrink your portion
Although some serve up more nutrients, a calorie is a calorie; you can overdue healthy foods like fruits, whole grains, and lean protein, too. If you’re embarking on a weight loss eating plan, start by cutting the size of your portions8 ¼.
It’s a good rule of thumb during your gym workout, and it’s the right way to go when it comes to a healthy diet plan, too. If you’re losing weight after 40, aim to lose about one to two pounds9 per week. This slow, steady approach will help you build healthy habits and keep the pounds off long term.
Follow the right healthy diet plan
There’s a fad diet everywhere you turn these days, and many tout high fat and protein at the expense of the nutrient-dense foods that are imperative for weight loss over 40. Fight the urge to follow fads and do the following at each meal as part of a weight loss eating plan:10
- Fill half your plate with vegetables. High in fiber and water, these plants will fill you up without adding too many calories.
- Remember that your intake of lean protein should be about the size of your palm. Good sources include fish, chicken, Greek yogurt and eggs.
- Eat complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, beans, starchy veggies, and fresh fruit, in servings about the size of a closed fist.
- Go for seven to 10 grams of healthy fats. This equals 1½ teaspoons of olive oil, a quarter of an avocado or two tablespoons nuts or seeds.
Fight back against inflammation
To combat some of the age-related inflammation that may be causing you to gain weight in your 40s, eat anti-inflammatory foods.11 Some of the best choices as part of a healthy diet plan: salmon, berries, green tea, nuts, green, leafy vegetables, and olive oil.
Cut sugar wherever you can
It’s OK to treat yourself now and then, but the reality is, you won’t be able to mindlessly eat chocolate and suck down frappes in middle age like you did in your 20s. Not only does the sugar in these foods and drinks serve empty calories that pack on pounds, it has been shown to speed up the aging process.12
Build muscle mass
To preserve the precious calorie-burning muscle you have left–and to build back some of what you’ve lost–you will have to step up your strength training game. Schedule 4-5 Curves gym workouts each week. The Body Basics class at Curves is a great option; it focuses on strength-based movements that target your arms, legs, and core.
Bring your friends!
At Curves, we want to shout our benefits to the rooftops! We are all in this together, and we want to give each other the support we all deserve. That means it’s time for you to help empower someone you care about who is also trying to lose weight after 40 to take control of her future. This is a responsibility we’re asking you all to take seriously: If we each bring just one new person to Curves, together we will help change the lives of TENS OF THOUSANDS of women. In turn, these women can then become healthy role models and inspire many more people around them as well. So, make it your mission to partner with Curves over the next 30 days to help someone you know and love to live a healthier, stronger life.
3 US National Library of Medicine
9 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research
10 United States Department of Agriculture