Weight Loss Over 40
Weight loss over 40
I was recently tagged in a public forum where a woman was venting her frustration about weight loss beyond the age of 40.
My response was probably too long and included an overwhelming amount of information for a discussion thread. I might have also mentioned a few things she didn’t want to hear.
But I thought this might be a great topic for a blog post. And since I work mostly with women over the age of 35, I know she isn’t the only one who is frustrated and asking about weight loss over 40.
If you are over 40 and trying to lose weight, I feel your frustration. I’m not quite 40 (I get to cross that bridge next year), but I noticed around age 35 that it became much harder to maintain a very lean weight. My body just didn’t respond to diet and exercise the way it had in the past. The harder I tried, the more of a fight it became.
Why is weight loss over 40 so hard?
There could be many reasons that a woman struggles to lose weight, and sometimes it has nothing to do with age. But beyond 40, several things make weight loss increasingly difficult.
Muscle mass declines
After age 30, we begin to lose muscle mass at a rate of 3% to 5% per decade. Muscle is your metabolic engine. The more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn, even at rest.
The loss of muscle that occurs as we age causes a decrease in the amount of energy we need. Translated, that means we have to eat less to stay at the same weight. But, far worse than a little fat gain as we get older is the loss of strength and energy that comes with losing precious muscle. Joints get weak, bones get brittle, and suddenly you struggle to lift every-day objects or climb a flight of stairs. Muscle loss can affect your quality of life.
The good news? You can do something about this. The obvious and smart solution is to train with weights and eat enough protein. This will prevent muscle loss, keep you strong and mobile, and will keep metabolism humming.
Need help with a smart weight training program? I’d be happy to get you started. Email me at email@example.com
Hormones begin to shift in the mid-30’s. In women, decreasing estrogen can cause mood, appetite, and energy shifts.
Fluffy in the waist anyone? Yeah, me too. Declining estrogen also causes a change the way the body stores fat. We begin to carry less weight in the thighs, hips, and butt, and more in the abdomen. Bummer.
With the advent of modern medicine, it is possible to use medications to balance hormones. But it’s important to remember that the changes in hormones and weight distribution are normal…and the drugs used to create a false sense of balance are powerful, and often not without side effects.
The solution? There isn’t a great solution because hormonal changes aren’t necessarily a “problem”.
That said, you can work to balance estrogen and other hormones naturally by reducing stress, getting enough sleep, eating lots of leafy greens, fibrous veggies, and fruits, while simultaneously reducing consumption of caffeine, alcohol, and red meat. If you feel that the hormonal shifts you are experiencing are out of the ordinary, talk to your doctor about hormone testing.
Finally, there’s unavoidable metabolic decline. Notice I didn’t say damage. This age-related decline in metabolism is normal! It happens to everyone – no matter how much you exercise or how clean you eat.
Have you ever noticed that elderly people have less of an appetite? I hear my dad say it all the time: “I used to be able to eat an entire Chicago deep dish pizza! I just can’t do it anymore!” Well, thank God for that!
Chalk this up to a naturally declining metabolism. The good news for all of us is that appetite also seems to diminish at the same time. That means you will naturally eat less. So while it is normal to gain some weight with age, you’re probably not going to turn into the Michelin Man.
My final point on weight loss after 40 — and no one likes to hear this, but — we’re SUPPOSED to put on some weight as we age! In fact, older adults who fall on the slightly heavier side tend to live longer than those who are thinner. And before you think I’m saying that 40 is “old” and that it’s all downhill from here…keep in mind that I’m just making an important point about true health vs. aesthetic expectations.
The fix? None. Beyond weight lifting and healthy diet to maintain muscle mass, you can’t stop age-related metabolic decline. Fighting it is kind of futile. See “embracing change” below.
Weight loss over 40 is hard…embracing change is crucial
Did your mother ever tell you about the changes your body would go through during puberty? Did she tell you that your body would change, that your hips would widen, and that you’d probably gain weight? Did she tell you that these changes were normal?
If your mother told you these things as a pre-teen, you were lucky. Most young women are never prepared for the changes that will take place at puberty. And similarly, most middle-aged women are unprepared for the normal changes that happen as we age.
In fact, our culture has us believing the opposite! Slogans like “fight the signs of ageing!” are everywhere. Every other TV commercial is for wrinkle creams and Botox. And I must see 30 Facebook ads every day for 3-minute ab-revealing workouts, and age-defying diet plans.
No matter your age, the expectation for women is clear: look perfect at all times, at all costs.
Current diet dogma, and society’s obsession with being thin gives us the impression that it’s never okay to gain weight, or to simply be satisfied with maintaining a weight that’s congruent with our current stage of life.
Weight gain after 40 is normal. Lines on your face from years of smiling and discolored skin from sunny vacations…normal. Age-related changes in your body are normal.
Weight loss over 40 is possible, but it’s not easy and may not be worth the fight. It’s one thing to work toward keeping your body healthy as you age. But let’s take a reality check. Maintaining a healthy body and weight has nothing to do with aesthetics. Worrying about your body can take up a lot of time and energy. And in the end, none of it really matters. We all die, whether or not we can squeeze our thighs in size 4 skinny jeans.
What you need to ask yourself about weight loss over 40
Much of my work as a health coach focuses on helping women achieve their goals through the practices of mindful and intuitive eating, coupled with smart exercise. Part of this is helping women be respectful of their bodies by being more accepting of the natural phases of life.
More often than not, I am working with women who are already close to an ideal weight range for their body and age…they just haven’t accepted that their 40-year-old body is going to be different than their 20-year-old body.
Here are a few of the self-discovery questions I often ask to get a client thinking:
Am I physically healthy?
Are my biomarkers — cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar — within normal ranges?
Am I currently living a lifestyle I like — I don’t feel overly restricted or deprived of the foods I love and I don’t feel compelled to exercise for the sole purpose of burning calories?
Does my weight physically prevent me from doing things I want to do?
Am I ready and willing to put up a sustained fight with my body to lose weight and keep it off?
Can I maintain the rigorous diet and exercise efforts required to suppress my weight? When I’m 60? 70? 80?
If you answered yes to 1, 2, and 3, and no to any or all of 4, 5, and 6, you are probably already at a happy, healthy, and functional weight for you body, and hopefully you are discovering that you are not willing to give up all of life’s pleasures just to achieve an aesthetic ideal.
If your biomarkers are within healthy ranges, you enjoy your current lifestyle, and your weight doesn’t preclude you from doing the things you love…why worry so much? There’s something to be said for settling into life and embracing the natural changes that happen in your body. It gives you a chance to worry less and enjoy life more!
A mindset shift about weight loss after 40
If you didn’t answer yes to 1, 2, and 3, it may be time to make some changes. And I want to be clear that it’s okay to want to keep your body healthy! And if you need to lose some weight for health reasons, or because your weight prevents you from doing things you love, that’s okay too! I won’t argue with you on those points. But staying healthy doesn’t require monumental effort or a sustained fight with your body.
If you have extra weight to lose, it will come off (probably slowly, because, ya know, weight loss after 40…) as you make small, but sustainable changes in habits that make your body healthier.
This is a big mindset shift for most people. Make your body healthy first…and it will lose weight if it’s supposed to. Either way, if you focus on doing things that make your body healthy — walking for at least 10 minutes every day, eating more fruits and veggies, and drinking more water — you will be a healthier person, regardless of body size!
Thinking about it this way takes the pressure off of YOU to lose the weight. It’s your job to make your body healthy. It’s your body’s job to release the weight. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. This will give you the mental space to enjoy your life without the pressure of achieving a specific body size.
I hope you enjoyed this post and thank you for reading!
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Blog Author: Kelly Bailey, IIN certified holistic nutrition coach, and NPTI certified personal trainer
Learn more about the author here.