June 8, 2024
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Four Ways Women Over 40 Can Lose Weight

Do you feel like it is impossible to lose weight once you have reached 40? My hope is that by the time you reach the end of this article you will realize that although it may be hard to shed the weight, it is not impossible.

As women age, certain physiological changes happen in our bodies that make losing weight more challenging. First, as each year passes we need less calories. How many fewer calories? By the time we reach 40, we need 200 fewer calories/day. That is equivalent to about one medium sized cookie, two large eggs or one cup of quinoa. This might not seem significant, but if we aren’t making the adjustment to eat less, those 200 calories/day become about a 20-pound weight gain in a year!

Secondly, as we get older, we lose lean muscle mass. This is due to decreased levels of anabolic (building) hormones such as testosterone, estrogen and growth hormone and an increased level of catabolic (degradative) hormones like cortisol.

Furthermore, our bodies become more insulin resistant as we reach menopause due to hormonal shifts and increased fat around the abdominal area. When our cells become more resistant to insulin, our blood glucose levels elevate, which can lead to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Okay, I just painted a very bleak picture of what happens to our bodies as we age, but here is the good news: we do have some control over this. In other words, it’s not inevitable that you are going to gain 20 pounds, lose muscle and become insulin resistant once you reach 40 and beyond.

Here are four ways to take back control of your body as you age and help shed weight:

  1. Eat Less. As I explained above, we need less calories as we age. If you need to lose weight, start by decreasing about 200 calories/day for a month and see the impact it has on your weight. Once you get comfortable with a 200 calorie deficit, see if you can increase it to 300 calories/day.

How can you achieve this? Start by paying attention to the grazing that you are doing throughout the day. This includes picking at a cookie, taking a handful of chips and finishing your kid’s leftovers. These bites, licks and tastes all add up.

  1. Move More. We know that as our hormones shift as we age, we lose lean muscle mass. The best way to counter this is by lifting weights. I suggest that my clients lift weights or engage in resistance training to help prevent this muscle loss. In addition, cardio is also really important in helping reach the caloric deficit that will bring about weight loss. Find the type of movement that you like: Zumba, walking or cycling and do it as many days as possible. Finding something you enjoy and will be consistent with is the key.
  2. Sleep More: One of the many intolerable symptoms of menopause is insomnia and night sweats. That coupled with screens and busy lives makes getting a solid seven hours of sleep/night very challenging.

What does sleep have to do with weight loss? Ghrelin is the “hunger hormone” that increases appetite, while leptin is the “satiety hormone” that signals fullness. Lack of sleep increases ghrelin levels and decreases leptin levels, leading to increased hunger and appetite. Also when you are sleeping, guess what you are not doing … right answer … eating!

If you are dealing with night sweats and waking up with your mind racing in the middle of the night, speak to your doctor about what you can do to alleviate these symptoms.

  1. Decrease Your Stress: Our food choices and emotions are very intertwined.

Picture this scenario. You come home after a long day at work, exhausted and hungry and have to deal with your kids and their various school projects and even harder, their emotions from the day. Needless to say, you are tired and stressed out. This is the perfect storm for emotional eating.

Food is a source of comfort and we frequently use it to calm our emotions. Instead of relying on food, it’s important to find other behaviors to de-stress. Some examples are deep breathing, going for a walk and calling a friend to vent.

Lastly, focus on simplifying your life so you do not constantly feel overwhelmed and stressed. Can you swing getting more help around the house? Can you learn to say no and not overcommit yourself? If you find that you live in a constant state of being overwhelmed and stressed, seek out ways to build better coping skills, such as meditation, breathing, exercise and/or therapy.

As women, we go through huge changes that make losing weight challenging coupled with the stress of work and our family life. There are things that are out of our control; however, it is important to focus on tangible things we can do to make sure we are taking care of our bodies through the aging process. Decreasing our caloric intake, increasing our movement, sleeping more, and decreasing our stress are all actionable ways to take back that control.

Are you looking for more tangible ways to lose weight? Book a free jump start weight loss call at calendly.com/alyson-small-nutrition.


Alyson Small is a registered dietitian who helps women achieve a sustainable weight loss of 10 pounds or more without food rules or an all-or-nothing mindset. Once an avid follower of food rules, she realized that eating more balanced and mindfully was the key to a healthy diet and food freedom. Follow her on instagram @alysonsmallnutrition for more nutrition tips, recipes and freebies.

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