Wondering how to lose weight after 40 years of age? It’s no longer a simple tasks, but these slow, sustained daily changes will show you how.
Most of my life, I was a slim person. At 5 foot 7 and 125 pounds, I was happy about the way I looked.
And I never did much to stay at that weight either.
I never exercised and I never dieted.
The one exception was when I went on antidepressants after my cancer diagnosis. Those pills made me put on weight like no-one’s business.
The only way I could get rid of it was by going on the South Beach Diet. That, quit the pills, and quit drinking, but that’s another story.
Other than that, if I felt myself getting a little heavy, I was a little more careful for a week or so and then I would be back to normal.
That was until I turned 40.
The sudden weight gain at 40 that I experienced took me by surprise.
As the months increased, so did my weight.
It seemed every time I stepped on the scale I weighed more.
I tried to calorie count, but that created a rebound obsession with food, that, having a sister who’s a lifelong sufferer of anorexia, was something that set off alarm bells.
I tried intermittent fasting.
I tried this, I tried that.
One of the most frustrating things would be that I would make progress, lose five pounds, and then in a day or two of eating too much, like you might do around a birthday, Christmas, or one of those weeks at work when everyone’s shouting something at morning tea, I’d gain that back AND an extra five.
It seemed to take a month to lose weight and two days to gain it.
It was Christmas 2016 when I hit that 160 pounds.
And I hated myself and I hated my body.
My pride and self-confidence as it was related to my appearance was shattered.
I didn’t want to buy clothes. I didn’t want to be in any photographs.
And when I checked out my BMI, it told me I was overweight.
That was the final straw.
I knew I had to change, but I didn’t know HOW. Like I said, that weight gain after 40 is a mysterious and stubborn beast.
But I was determined that the following Christmas, that 160 pounds would be a distant memory, and after I finished eating all the Christmas leftovers (ha!), I got started with a plan.
These are my tips for losing weight over 40.
Following them is what enabled me to achieve my goal.
Know the answer to “Is it difficult to lose weight after 40?” is yes
There are several things that happen after you turn 40 that affect both how you gain weight and how you lose it. These include:
- You lose muscle mass
- Your metabolism slows down
- Your ovaries produce less estrogen, and your body subsequently adds fat to maintain a hormonal balance
- Demands on your life mean you’re less active
- Various life stressors mean you sleep less, which can make you gain weight
Knowledge is power, so you can also start to address specific causes with tailor made solutions. While I didn’t do any weight training, this would be a natural thing to do to address the issue of losing muscle mass, for example.
You could also work on your sleep.
For me, it was simply accepting that this stage in my life meant that losing weight would no longer be an easy task.
Once you understand that there are a whole lot of things working against you even maintaining the weight you currently are, then things feel a little bit easier.
Related: 10 tips for a better night’s sleep.
Lose weight slowly if you want to sustain it
At every step of progressive weight gain, I wanted to shed it and shed it FAST.
But especially if you don’t have a huge amount of weight to lose in the first place, losing it fast when you’re over 40 is super hard.
What’s more, even if you could achieve it, experiencing a rapid drop in the pounds means you wouldn’t be ingraining the lifestyle changes you need to maintain your weight loss.
So firstly, work out what your target weight is.
I so wanted (and still occasionally think about) being 125 pounds again. But I knew that aiming for 135 to 140 pounds was a more realistic and sustainable goal.
I was also reminded of the quote “your ass or your face”, which basically means that once you reach a certain age, if you lose enough weight to have a great butt then your face might look a little haggard. While I’m not 100% sure of the accuracy of this quote, I do think thin older women can look gaunt and that looking gaunt is aging.
So my target seemed good to me.
Then work out how much you need to lose over a six month to one year period.
I wanted to make it to the next Christmas being my goal weight. If I lost 2.2 pounds a month, then in 10 months I would have lost 22 pounds and still have two months to spare.
That shift between wanting to lose weight fast and taking the slow and steady approach was key to my success.
Use smaller plates for portion control
My husband can eat a lot of food and after a while it became clear that I was matching him, despite the big differences in body composition, gender, activity level and so on.
This is one of the reasons I decided to shift to a smaller plate. The simple idea behind this is that your mind tells you that because your food covers most of your plate, you must be having a big portion.
Doing this was a game changer in my weight loss journey. And I did it in a very particular way.
I told myself that I would eat off a small plate BUT if I finished my meal and I was still feeling hungry, I could go back for more.
In almost two years, I can count on one hand how many times I have gone back for seconds. But I never get those feelings of deprivation that would kick in with calorie counting.
Using a small plate is a simple solution to control your portion sizes.
Go for the low hanging fruit in your regular food consumption
Try writing down what you eat for a week and use this to identify patterns and pig outs you may not be aware of.
My husband and I had some traditions, that we loved, but that also revolved around food.
- Nacho Friday
- Sharing a large block of chocolate and a large bottle of chocolate milk after nachos as our Friday “treat”
- Pizza Saturday
- Pancake breakfast Sunday
After looking at this you can probably see why I kept gaining weight even though I told myself that being good during the week for a “few” treats in the weekend was perfectly fine.
We kept Nacho Friday (we’ve been together almost seven years and have had nachos every Friday probably for at least six of these!).
However Pizza Saturday disappeared to never be seen again.
Chocolate and chocolate milk is probably a once every two months’ occasion.
Pancake breakfasts are now part of our traditions for birthdays.
These were super easy changes to make.
While I thought at the time that I would miss them a lot, in reality, their scarcity made them even more valuable.
Another easy change was to remove the sugar from my coffee.
As I drink about four cups a day, this added up!
Once you’ve done the diary, have a look at your entries. Like me, do you have special treats four times a week – and could cut this down to one?
Could you make a simple elimination or substitution?
What low hanging fruit could you cut from your diet?
Structure your environment for weight loss success
The harder you make it to have something bad for you, the less likely you are to have it.
For me, that comes down to, if it’s not in the house, you can’t eat it. Simple.
Now we’re lucky in that we also live in the country, so that makes the late night runs to the shop for an ice cream a thing of the past.
We don’t buy any treat type foods or even snack foods to keep in the house. There are no cookies, sweets, bags of potato chips…. nothing.
We buy food for meals and that’s almost it – we also buy fruit.
Yes the rule is we can eat as much fruit as we like. This helps with the after dinner sweetness craving that I seem to get and is also good for me (I will never believe that the sugar in fruit counts the same as processed sugar).
We also don’t keep any food on display on the kitchen countertops. Everything is in the scullery or fridge – with the exception of the fruit.
Another hack is that instead of a normal sized spoon, I use a teaspoon (although only in the comfort of my own home I must add). This makes the eating process take even longer which again tricks you into thinking you are eating more – as well as giving your stomach more time to signal to your brain that it’s full.
Drink lots of water
I was brought up with the eight glasses of water rule. Ever since I started trying to lose weight I have also made this a daily goal.
I’ve been doing it long enough that I know the idea that the feeling of hunger is often thirst is certainly true in my case. If I don’t drink a decent amount of water I get hungry – and that hunger lasts and lasts.
Using the environment suggestion above, I find the easiest way to drink the right amount of water on a work day is to have two glasses when I wake up and then carry my bottle with me. I have to drink two bottles during the day.
I also use time triggers in the weekend, like having a glass of water every hour.
As well as water consumption making you feel less hungry, studies have also shown that drinking water half an hour before a meal also reduces the number of calories you have – especially if you’re an “older” person (source).
For both these reasons, you can see that drinking eight glasses of water a day supports your weight loss goals.
My final tip is to do the one thing I resisted for so long, and that is to exercise.
I had never been an exerciser until I hit 40 and decided that needed to change. I started running, and this led to me completing my first half marathon when I was 43.
Running not only helped me lose weight, it also helped me to reduce my stress levels and made me a calmer, nicer person to be around (because the other thing about being in your 40s are those hormone fluctuations that can turn you from calm to crazy in five seconds flat).
Nothing about how I lost weight was fast or earth shattering.
It was about changing my expectations, my environment and my habits.
I was able to lose the 20 pounds and celebrate Christmas the following year feeling more confident, happy and healthy.
And I’ve largely been able to keep it off – I say largely because my running has eased off significantly since I achieved my half marathon goal and as a result I’ve gained three pounds.
Whether it’s running, walking, weights, yoga, cycling- experiment until you find an exercise that you enjoy most of the time, is sustainable and makes you feel good, and then engage in it on a regular basis.
Losing weight when you’re over 40 is hard, but it is possible. Rather than diets or restrictive eating plans, it’s my belief that lifestyle changes are the best way to lose weight at our age.
So to sum it all up, if you’re over 40 and struggling to lose weight:
- know that it’s hard to lose weight
- adjust your expectations regarding time frames
- switch to a smaller plate
- adjust your environment
- go for the low hanging fruit
- drink more water
Have any other weight loss tips for over 40 women? Share them in the comments!