Have you recently turned 40 and are finding it difficult to maintain or achieve your desired weight? Are you calorie-counting and engaging in exercise, but the scale doesn’t seem to budge? It wasn’t this difficult in your 30’s and especially your 20’s. As you have turned 40, why does it feel like you are working twice as hard to lose a single pound? If you have had these questions or are experiencing these scenarios, you are not alone.
What Happens When a Woman Turns 40?
Bodily changes that impact a woman’s ability to lose weight start as early as the age of 30. At this age, it is typical for a woman’s muscle mass to decline, which results in a slower metabolism. A slower metabolism makes it more difficult to burn calories, resulting in the need to fine-tune one’s eating habits, increase exercise, and possibly consult with a medical provider. If these changes do not happen, it is likely that weight gain will follow.
As a woman reaches her 40’s and 50’s, she begins the process of menopause, which can create several levels of frustration. Menopause has an impact on hormone levels and often results in weight gain. One of the main hormones that is impacted during menopause is estrogen, which is essential in regulating hunger, metabolism, insulin sensitivity, glucose levels and body weight. Many women find as they are going through menopause that they have weight gain around the abdominal area.
What Can You Do?
Engage in regular exercise. Although it can be frustrating that you are exercising and your weight does not want to budge, this is not a time to give up on exercise. Discontinuing exercise will only make weight loss more difficult and increase the likelihood of a multitude of other health complications. Exercise helps:
- Control weight
- keep your heart and body strong
- Manage blood sugar levels
- Improve mental health and mood
- Reduce the risk of cancers
- Improve sleep
- Increase the chance of living longer
Obtain 7-8 hours of sleep per day. Obtaining sufficient sleep is often overlooked, yet it is vital to the proper functioning of the body. Our busy culture and “wearing of many hats” have resulted in people not getting enough sleep. Several side effects can occur when a person does not get sufficient sleep. These side effects can include a weakened immune system, slower metabolism, increased appetite due to an increase in the hormone ghrelin, hormonal imbalances, increased risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, and decreased mental capacity and clarity. Individuals who average 5 hours of sleep or less are at a 50% higher risk of obesity.
Establish healthy eating habits. One of the best ways to manage your weight is by putting healthy, nutrient-rich foods into your body and getting rid of unhealthy eating habits. Fad dieting typically results in frustration and the weight that is lost often returns. Further, as we grow older, we likely have picked up some unhealthy eating habits that wreak havoc on our ability to obtain our goal weight. Establishing healthy eating habits will boost your ability to lose weight and keep it off.
So, what are some healthy eating habits you can engage in?
- Reduce the intake of high-sugar and high-fat foods such as cookies, ice cream, brownies, candy, fast food, refined pasta, and bread.
- Eat protein such as lean meats, beans, and nuts with every meal.
- Eat more vegetables and fruit.
- Decrease the portion size of your meals.
- Have healthy snacks and food readily available in your home and with you, so that you are not tempted to eat unhealthy options.
- Substitute sugary drinks and soda with water or low-calorie, sugar-free drinks.
- Discontinue night eating and try to limit snacking after dinner.
Decrease your stress. You have probably heard it before, but stress takes a toll on your body and it can make it extremely difficult to lose weight. When a person becomes stressed their body goes into fight or flight mode and releases a hormone called cortisol. When the body is in the fight or flight mode, it feels like it must survive and tells the body that it needs to eat to survive. Further, the hormone cortisol increases insulin levels has an impact on blood sugar levels, and makes it drop. When blood sugar levels drop, it is common to crave sweets and high fat food. The impact of the fight or flight mode due to stress and increased cortisol levels becomes a downward spiral, and the body is tricked into eating foods that will only contribute to weight gain, especially if the individual is inactive. Be cautious about what might be triggering stress and engage in activities and methods that will lower your stress. Many individuals have engaged in the following activities to help control stress levels.
- Eat healthy and nutritious foods
- Sleep for 7-8 hours per day
- Listen to relaxing and uplifting music
- Speak to a family member, friend or professional
- Disconnect from negative news and media
- Do not overschedule yourself and know your limits
- Engage in wholesome activities that you find interesting
Talk to a health provider. Figuring out how to work with your body can be frustrating and overwhelming. At Treasure Valley Metabolic Medicine, we understand that losing weight for women, after 40, is a different scenario. We are experts in helping women over 40 lose weight through medical, nutrition, and exercise therapies.
John Hopkins Medicine (2020). The effects of sleep deprivation. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-effects-of-sleep-deprivation
Franciscan Health (2019). Why Is It Harder for Women to Lose Weight After 40? https://www.franciscanhealth.org/news-and-events/news/why-it-harder-women-lose-weight-after-40
WebMD. 14 Ways to Shed Pounds After 40. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-lose-weight-after-40
WebMD. 10 Ways to Lose Weight Without Dieting. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/10-ways-to-lose-weight-without-dieting
WebMD. Can Stress Cause Weight Gain. https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/stress-weight-gain#1
Medline Plus. Benefits of exercise. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/benefitsofexercise.html