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Lifestyle tips for losing weight after 40

Changes to our body composition and hormones make losing weight hard, but not impossible.

Lifestyle Tips For Losing Weight After 40 | Juniper

When we're young, it feels like we can eat whatever we want, drink as much as we like, and rarely exercise without seeing the number on the scale change.

As we get older, though, changes to our body composition and hormones make weight gain more common — and losing weight after 40 can become harder, too.

But, that doesn't mean that it is impossible.

On the contrary, there are plenty of lifestyle changes you can make to reach your ideal healthy weight (whether you're 30, 40 or 50), like improving your diet, lifting weights, eating mindfully, and more.

If you're struggling to lose weight after 40 and need help, we've got you covered.

In today's article, we're breaking down why weight gain is common with age and why losing weight after 40 becomes increasingly difficult. Plus, we've got some tips and tricks to help you kickstart your weight loss journey.

Why is it common to gain weight after 40?

Many people notice they gain weight around their 40s or struggle to maintain their weight.

If that's your case, this is likely because your metabolism has started to slow down as you get older, which means you're burning fewer calories and breaking down food differently [1].

As you hit middle age, weight management becomes harder and harder. Why? Because around the 40-year mark, you start to lose muscle mass, and that loss continues as you age

Plus, hormonal changes — like producing less oestrogen — mean you tend to experience more fat accumulation, particularly around the midsection a.k.a you might notice more belly fat.

Aside from hormonal changes and slowing metabolism, it's common to gain weight after 40 because your physical activity is generally decreased.

You're likely working more, consuming more calories, and possibly not moving around enough which can all contribute to weight gain.

Why can it be hard for women over 40 to lose weight?

On top of weight gain being common after 40, losing weight after 40 can become harder.

The eating habits you once had in your 20s and 30s — like eating whatever you like and not gaining much weight — tend to not work as well as you get older.

Oestrogen is one of the hormones responsible for fat distribution, muscle mass, and muscle strength.

Your oestrogen levels actually peak when you're in your 20s and, by the time you're 50, they may have declined by as much as 50% [2].

As women enter their 50s (and their bodies go through the usual changes associated with menopause), low oestrogen levels can change the way their body stores fat, and contribute to lower muscle mass, less energy (which often translates to less exercise), and weight gain.

Essentially, this means it's harder to burn calories.

Another hormonal change that makes it harder to lose weight after 40 is leptin — the hunger hormone.

Leptin helps inhibit hunger and regulate energy balance so that your body doesn't trigger its hunger responses when it doesn't need energy [3].

It is also directly related to body fat and obesity and helps the body maintain weight. Leptin production also decreases with age and if the body doesn't have enough leptin, it can trigger increases in appetite and food cravings [4].

5 things that can help you lose weight after 40

Losing weight after 40 can be difficult, particularly when so many changes are happening in your body.

But, try not to get discouraged because there are several things you can do to support your weight loss efforts:

1. Set SMART goals

One of the best ways to achieve any goal is to follow the SMART framework:

Specific

You want to make sure your weight loss goals aren't too generic or broad.

Rather they should be specific and tailored to you, like setting your ideal healthy weight number.

Measurable

To track the progress of your weight loss you need to define how you're going to measure your achievements. You could:

  • Look at the number on the scale
  • Measure your body mass index (BMI)
  • Take body measurements
  • Keep a food diary to measure your calorie intake and workout regimen.

Achievable

If you want to accomplish your weight loss goals, you need them to be realistic.

This doesn't mean your goals can't be challenging — in fact, they should be, but not so challenging that you give up after a few days or weeks.

Relevant

Your goals should also matter to you so you stay motivated.

Think about why you want to lose weight. Maybe you need to get rid of excess weight because of a health condition like heart disease or high blood pressure, to feel more confident by losing belly fat, or to regain mobility.

Whatever it is, get clear on the 'why' behind your weight loss goals.

Time-bound

Your goals should also have a time frame that is fair and reasonable to keep you consistent, and motivated and help you actually achieve them.

Keep in mind that on average people tend to lose about 0.5-1kg per week, so that can be a good place to start.

Now that you know what SMART goals are, let's put them together.

Instead of setting a broad goal like "I want to lose weight" your new and improved goal could be:

"I am going to lose 10 kilos by April 2025. To achieve this goal, I am going to cut out processed foods and fried foods and focus on a healthy diet with foods like lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats. I'm going to exercise 3 times a week with resistance training exercises. To track my weight loss journey, I will measure my calorie intake with a food diary and weigh myself once a week."

2. Follow a balanced diet

The best way to lose weight after 40 (and prevent weight gain at any age) is to eat a balanced, healthy diet.

That means changing your eating habits to consume a variety of foods from each of the 5 food groups including:

  • Vegetables and legumes
  • Fruit
  • Whole grains
  • Lean proteins including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds
  • Dairy including milk, cheese and yogurt [5].

Portion control is also important when losing weight, so make sure your veggies are taking up half your plate, and whole grains and lean proteins are taking up a quarter.

Additionally:

  • Reduce the number of processed foods in your diet
  • Swap high-calorie coffee drinks with a standard coffee like espresso or cappuccino
  • Be mindful of empty calories (you know, the glass of wine at the end of the day or the vegetable oil you used to cook dinner)
  • Engage in mindful eating when consuming your meals each day
  • Reduce alcohol intake, particularly if you're in premenopause, as research suggests that even moderate alcohol consumption can hinder the benefits of premenopausal women with obesity [10].

3. Get enough sleep and manage stress

Not getting enough sleep and navigating chronic stress can cause weight gain and make it harder to lose weight.

Research suggests that sleep deprivation can lead to metabolic dysregulation and not getting enough sleep is also associated with blood sugar intolerance and insulin resistance [6].

Plus, sleep deprivation can disrupt your circadian rhythm which can lead to weight gain [7].

Stress hormones like cortisol also play a role in weight gain because when you're stressed your adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol which then releases glucose into your bloodstream [8].

So, if you've got chronic stress and you're trying to lose weight, triggering the body's relaxation response through breathing exercises is one way you can reduce stress levels.

4. Exercise consistently

Consistent exercise is one of the best things you can do to lose weight and for your overall health.

Alongside a healthy diet, exercise is great for burning calories and maintaining muscle mass, and it can also reduce stress levels and promote better sleep.

If you've got a busy schedule or you're just getting started, try to implement 30 minutes of exercise per day, whether that's walking, swimming, doing Pilates, engaging in bodyweight exercises or weight training [9].

The best way to stay consistent with your exercise routine is to find something you actually enjoy doing.

Try, as well, to incorporate more incidental exercise into your day as a way to keep moving by doing things like:

  • Going up the stairs instead of taking the lift
  • Walking the dog
  • Gardening or mowing the lawn
  • Taking the kids to the park
  • Parking further away from your destination
  • Taking walking meetings
  • Standing up during phone calls
  • If you have a desk job, taking regular breaks to stretch

5. Consult a healthcare professional

Losing weight after 40 can be a real challenge and sometimes it might feel like the cards are stacked against you.

If you've tried mindful eating, followed diet tips and reduced your calorie intake and nothing seems to be working, it may be time to get professional help.

Juniper's Weight Reset Programme combines breakthrough weight loss medication — which works to decrease your appetite and keep you feeling fuller for longer — with community support from our medical team and health coaches.

There are two medication options available: Wegovy, which contains semaglutide, and Mounjaro, which contains tirzepatide.

We use medication to give your body a biological reset, targeting areas of the brain involved in appetite regulation and lowering your body's set point to help you achieve a significant reduction in weight and reach your weight loss goals.

It also connects you with a supportive community of like-minded women to help keep you motivated and accountable to your (SMART) weight loss goals.

No matter your age, it's important to always strive for a healthy metabolic rate by following a healthy, balanced diet, exercising regularly and managing your stress levels.

If you need a helping hand, programmes like Juniper's Weight Reset are here to give you the support and guidance you need to build habits that last for life.

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