I’m Over 40 and I Can’t Lose Weight
“I’m over 40, I can’t lose weight, and I have tried every diet and workout plan.” As we age, there are a few factors that can contribute to stubborn weight loss and increased fat in unwanted areas. Most commonly, women will see body fat accumulation around the belly, butt, and thigh areas. In the past, that fat was easier to reduce with a week of “dieting,” but now that fat is harder to lose. It may feel impossible actually. Here are a few reasons why and how you can shift toward a more balanced body composition.
1. Hormones Cause Weight Gain
Women in their late 30s to 40s experience weight gain based on their chronological age. Okay, you knew that but listen to this. Women in their 40s experience a shift in their body composition. Example: You are the same weight but have more body fat and less muscle mass based on your ovarian age. What does that mean? The closer your ovaries are to menopause, the more fat you could be storing. Your muscle mass can decrease and your fat mass can increase. Typically, when professionals talk about “changing hormones in older adults,” women have less estrogen and men have less testosterone. This causes a weight shift and can also cause your body to store fat in new areas.
To Manage Hormone-Based Weight Gain
- Exercise 10-15 minutes more each day
- Decrease the amount of sugar you consume
- Lift weights
- Use cardio-focused exercises to increase your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)
2. Your Metabolism is Sluggish
You aren’t going to the bathroom regularly. Hunger cues don’t happen for hours after you wake up. Your metabolism is sluggish. Here’s what happens…First, your basal metabolic rate (BMR) decreases. Second, you expend less total energy (TEE). A study evaluating total energy expenditure (TEE) – the sum of calories burned from the basal metabolic rate (metabolism), the energy required to digest and absorb food, and physical activity – confirmed what most people already know: energy expenditure decreases with age.
We Need Fewer Calories
Some experts suggest metabolism can decrease by about 5% for every decade after 40, which means you need about 60-100 fewer calories every 10 years. If you sit more at a desk or on the sofa, eat more, exercise less, and deal with more stress throughout that decade, you’ll probably need even fewer calories than that. You also burn fewer calories during exercise and together, you’ve got yourself an equation for weight gain and increased body fat.
To Increase Your Metabolism
- Drink more water
- Lift heavy weights
- Perform high intensity interval training (HIIT)
- Stand more
3. You Stopped Lifting Weights
As we age, muscle mass decreases and it is imperative to lift weights. Here’s why. Exercise is physical stress applied to the body. Two types of exercise stress play an instrumental role in reducing the effects of aging: mechanical stress, in the form of resistance training, and metabolic stress, in the form of cardiorespiratory exercise. High-intensity exercise can provide the mechanical or metabolic stress necessary to stimulate the production of naturally occurring anabolic steroids. These steroids promote muscle protein synthesis and increase lean muscle mass, both of which help mitigate the effects of the aging process. What’s all that mean? You have to lift weights AND perform cardio to produce the chemicals that will help reduce weight gain due to aging.
4. Compromised Sleep Patterns
Have you considered your sleep patterns? This issue spans all ages with science proving that consistent sleep patterns help individuals control their weight. Stress can cause a lack of sleep. Cortisol (stress hormone) spikes in the morning and lowers at night naturally. The American Council on Exercise explains, “When sleep habits are poor and stress is high, cortisol levels remain elevated, which may inhibit weight loss and disrupt sleep. A cycle of stress and sleep disruption results. Stress affects sleep and sleep affects stress, which once again makes it challenging to implement even the most well-designed program for weight loss.”
- Lay down at the same time each night
- Wake at the same time in the morning
- Exercise during the day to cause tiredness and exhaustion at night
- Avoid caffeine after 4pm
- Turn screens off one hour before bedtime
Consider Hiring a Coach or Trainer to Keep You on Track
You know how to lose weight at this point in your life. Eat less processed and sugary foods. Exercise your body regularly and consistently. Get good sleep and drink plenty of water. The key to dropping your excess body fat is consistently performing these behaviors. Not for a week or two, but for the rest of your life. If you need help while you are rebuilding these positive behaviors, hire a coach or a trainer to help you stay on task. Once you reach the six-month mark in your new behavior, you will be in a maintenance phase and will be well on your way to lower weight and a more balanced body composition.