Sustainable Ways To Lose Weight In Your 40’s

  • Anita C Mgbakor BSc in Health Care Management, University of South Dakota
  • Shazia Asim PhD Scholar (Pharmacology), University of Health Sciences Lahore, Pakistan
  • Regina Lopes Senior Nursing Assistant, Health and Social Care, The Open University

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Overview

If you're finding it harder to manage your weight now, you're not the only one. As you hit 40, staying at a healthy weight can get more challenging.

Hormonal changes, slower metabolism, and loss of muscle mass can all play a part. Everyone's different, so the causes of weight gain for one person might not be the same for another. 

Reaching your 40s has advantages, like wisdom, self-awareness and confidence, but adjusting to physical changes can be challenging. One hurdle is a slower metabolism, making it harder to maintain weight and lose it. 

You may have noticed that your old diet and exercise routines are not working anymore. This can be frustrating. However, losing weight after 40 is possible with a deeper understanding of the age-related challenges, a change in approach, and a commitment to a healthier lifestyle. Eating right, exercising regularly, and getting good sleep are key factors. Additionally, the medications you're on, your dietary choices, and the stress you experience can all influence your weight. 

Why is it challenging to lose weight after 40?

Hormonal changes

As you progress beyond your 40s, changes in hormone levels can impact your muscle mass and overall body composition. For instance, the levels of growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor 1 rise until puberty, gradually declining by approximately 1–2% annually. This decline in hormone levels is associated with a decrease in muscle mass over time.1

Similarly, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a steroid hormone responsible for synthesising other hormones, including sex hormones, also experiences a decline of about 2–3% per year after reaching one's 30s. Reduced levels of DHEA have been linked to decreased muscle mass and increased body fat.2

As people are assigned male at birth past 30–40 years, testosterone levels decline by 1–2% annually. This decrease in testosterone is linked to decreased muscle mass and increased body fat.3

In people assigned female at birth, the 40s bring hormonal shifts like menopause and perimenopause. These changes result in reduced oestrogen and progesterone production, leading to weight gain.

Oestrogen plays a crucial role in regulating body weight by affecting fat storage and metabolism. Declining oestrogen levels can cause an increase in body fat, especially around the abdomen. Lifestyle and environmental factors also contribute to weight gain during menopause.

Decline in muscle mass

As we get older, we naturally experience a decrease in muscle mass, which can result in a reduced metabolism. With a slower metabolism, the body burns fewer calories while at rest, making weight loss more challenging. Various factors contribute to this, such as a lack of physical activity, dietary habits, chronic health issues, and genetic predispositions.

Lifestyle factors

Generally, people tend to become less physically active as they age, which can lead to weight gain. Additionally, dietary habits and eating patterns often change over time.

According to the National Institute on Aging, several other factors can influence weight management as we grow older, including genetics. Certain genes may predispose individuals to weight gain.

Furthermore, sleep patterns play a significant role, as inadequate sleep can increase the likelihood of weight gain for some individuals.

Effective strategies to lose weight

Set realistic goals

Trying to achieve too much too quickly isn't sustainable and can be risky. Setting realistic goals is important for developing healthy habits that support weight management.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), aiming to lose 1–2 pounds per week is a sustainable target for weight loss. They also recommend aiming to lose 5–10% of your current body weight over the long term,  as this can reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes if you're overweight or obese.5

However, there's no one-size-fits-all goal; it depends on your body. It's a good idea to talk to a doctor or dietitian to figure out a healthy goal and how long it might take to reach it.

Engage in physical activities regularly

As you navigate your 40s staying active, for the purpose of losing weight can be challenging especially while you are balancing the demands between family, work, and daily life . It is recommended adults aim for 150–300 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75–150 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly. While exercise alone may not solely lead to achieving a healthy weight, it is crucial for weight maintenance and offers various health benefits.6,7

Starting an exercise routine doesn't always involve traditional gym workouts or running sessions. Engaging in activities like gardening, dancing, walking your dog, or opting for stairs instead of elevators can contribute to increased activity levels.

Adopt a healthy diet

As you age, the impact of your dietary choices on your weight may change. If you're in your 40s, understanding which foods work best for your body can aid in weight management, which may differ from your younger years. 

Implementing the following strategies can help with weight management:

  • Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, which are filling, rich in beneficial compounds, and lower the risk of diseases. Professor Tim Spector suggests aiming for 30 different plants weekly.
  • Transition to whole grains, which support weight management, reduce inflammation, and promote a healthy gut microbiome, as evidenced by a 2019 study.
  • Emphasise a diet rich in protein, as shown in a 2016 study to assist older adults in maintaining muscle mass and losing fat. High-protein foods include lean meats, fish, legumes, seeds, and nuts.
  • Reduce intake of ultra-processed foods, which often leave you feeling unsatisfied, contain high amounts of added sugars, and lack essential nutrients. Opt for less processed or minimally processed alternatives whenever possible.

Avoid skipping breakfast

Experts advise starting your day with a nutritious breakfast, such as oatmeal or whole wheat toast paired with fruit. A healthy morning meal can effectively prevent mid-morning cravings, reducing the likelihood of unhealthy snacking or overeating at lunchtime. Incorporating small meals or snacks every few hours helps regulate your appetite throughout the day.

Reduce alcohol consumption

A single glass of beer or wine typically contains around 150 calories, and regular consumption can lead to calorie accumulation.9

While beer bellies may not solely result from alcohol consumption, excess alcohol intake can contribute to the development of a "spare tire" common in middle age.  Furthermore, alcohol may increase hunger levels, prompting you to consume more food while drinking.

Prioritise quality sleep

Due to our hectic schedules, sleep often doesn’t get the space in our lives that it deserves. Research shows that individuals with irregular sleep patterns, poor sleep satisfaction, and late bedtime lost fewer pounds over 12 months compared to others. Instead, prioritising good sleep hygiene can significantly bolster weight loss endeavours.4

Additionally, going to bed earlier is more beneficial than trying to catch up by sleeping in. Quality sleep is integral to effectively managing your weight, as it correlates with increased weight and fat loss.

Avoid stress

Stress, whether positive or negative, impacts individuals of all backgrounds. Prolonged stress triggers an overproduction of cortisol and other stress hormones in the body.

A study published in Physiology & Behavior in 2022 revealed that individuals experiencing stress were more prone to consuming comfort foods as a coping mechanism compared to others. Therefore, reducing stress may help mitigate such behaviours.

Experiencing stress can increase the likelihood of indulging in unhealthy eating habits and hinder your body's ability to metabolise fat efficiently. Incorporate activities like yoga, deep breathing exercises, meditation, leisurely walks, or enjoying a good book to alleviate stress. Stress management techniques vary for each individual, so explore different methods to discover what best suits your needs.

Explore intermittent fasting10

Intermittent fasting, particularly time-restricted eating, is a popular approach. With time-restricted eating, you limit your eating to a specific window each day, such as between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Instead of focusing on what you eat, the emphasis is on when you eat, while maintaining an overall healthy diet.

Several short-term studies have shown that intermittent fasting can aid in healthy weight management, resulting in a loss of 0.8–13% of body weight without significant side effects. However, intermittent fasting doesn't necessarily lead to more weight loss compared to other diets.  It's best to discover the approach that suits you.

Consider getting your thyroid checked

If you maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise routine but struggle to shed pounds, your thyroid function may be compromised. This occurs in approximately 5% of individuals, with a higher prevalence among women and those over 60 years old. Besides weight gain, thyroid dysfunction can manifest as fatigue, muscle or joint discomfort, and feelings of depression.8

Seeking medical attention is advisable, as medications can effectively address thyroid issues. If you suspect your thyroid may be a concern, it's important to have it evaluated.

Summary 

Managing your weight becomes more demanding as you enter and progress through your 40s. It's okay if you don't get it right immediately, and some days will be tougher than others.

Losing weight in your 40s needs a mix of strategies to deal with the changes happening in your body. By knowing how hormones shift, staying active, eating well, and managing stress, you can drop those extra pounds and feel better overall.

If your progress doesn't meet your expectations, consider adjusting your goals to make them more attainable and manageable, while still pushing forward.

Get support from experts and be flexible with your goals along the way. With determination, you can reach and keep a healthy weight in your 40s and beyond.

References 

  1. Colon G, Saccon T, Schneider A, Cavalcante MB, Huffman DM, Berryman D, et al. The enigmatic role of growth hormone in age-related diseases, cognition, and longevity. GeroScience [Internet]. 2019 Sep 4 [cited 2024 Mar 1];41(6):759–74. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6925094/
  2. Pataky MW, Young WF, Nair KS. Hormonal and metabolic changes of ageing and the influence of lifestyle modifications. Mayo Clin Proc [Internet]. 2021 Mar [cited 2024 Mar 1];96(3):788–814. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8020896/
  3. Martins da Silva S, Anderson RA. Reproductive axis ageing and fertility in men. Rev Endocr Metab Disord [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2024 Mar 1];23(6):1109–21. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9789007/
  4. Kline CE, Chasens ER, Bizhanova Z, Sereika SM, Buysse DJ, Imes CC, et al. The association between sleep health and weight change during a 12-month behavioural weight loss intervention. Int J Obes (Lond) [Internet]. 2021 Mar [cited 2024 Mar 1];45(3):639–49. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7914147/
  5. CDC. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. 2023 [cited 2024 Mar 1]. Healthy weight loss. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/index.html
  6. Yang YJ. An overview of current physical activity recommendations in primary care. Korean J Fam Med [Internet]. 2019 May [cited 2024 Mar 1];40(3):135–42. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6536904/
  7. Piercy KL, Troiano RP, Ballard RM, Carlson SA, Fulton JE, Galuska DA, et al. The physical activity guidelines for Americans. JAMA. 2018 Nov 20;320(19):2020–8.
  8. Management I of M (US) S on MW. Weight-loss and maintenance strategies. In: Weight Management: State of the Science and Opportunities for Military Programs [Internet]. National Academies Press (US); 2004 [cited 2024 Mar 1]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK221839/
  9. 11. Marcos A, Serra-Majem L, Pérez-Jiménez F, Pascual V, Tinahones FJ, Estruch R. Moderate consumption of beer and its effects on cardiovascular and metabolic health: an updated review of recent scientific evidence. Nutrients [Internet]. 2021 Mar 9 [cited 2024 Mar 1];13(3):879. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8001413/
  10. Welton S, Minty R, O’Driscoll T, Willms H, Poirier D, Madden S, et al. Intermittent fasting and weight loss. Can Fam Physician [Internet]. 2020 Feb [cited 2024 Mar 1];66(2):117–25. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7021351/

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Anita C Mgbakor

BSc in Health Care Management

She is a freelance Health Writer who has written for several brands and has direct patient engagement experience. Currently, she is pursuing a nursing degree.

my.klarity.health presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
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