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Losing Weight After 40: A Thoughtful Approach to Diet and Exercise

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By: Erin Coleman, B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.,

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

losing weight after 40

Losing weight after 40 has never been easier. It’s true that turning 40 means your metabolism might not be what it used to be, and losing weight may seem like an impossible feat. In fact, metabolism may decrease 10 percent for each decade after age 20, says Piedmont Healthcare.

Fortunately, there are ways to boost metabolism, successfully shed pounds after 40, and get the body you’ve been striving for.

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Losing Weight After 40: Gender Differences

Women are different than men when it comes to weight loss. While basic principals are the same, women generally require fewer calories for healthy weight management and have different nutritional needs.

That’s why knowing a few weight loss tips and tricks for women over 40 is key when it comes to getting the weight off — and keeping it off long term.

Calorie Requirements

You don’t have to count calories when losing weight after 40, but it’s helpful to have a general idea of how many calories women need in a day to shed pounds and maintain lost weight.

For healthy weight maintenance, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020 provide the following calorie estimates:

AgeSedentaryModerately ActiveActive
41-451,8002,0002,200
46-501,8002,0002,200
51-551,6001,8002,200
56-601,6001,8002,200
61-651,6001,8002,000
66-701,6001,8002,000
71-751,6001,8002,000
76 and up1,6001,8002,000

Simply subtract 500 to 1,000 calories from your usual intake to drop weight at a safe, effective rate of about 1 to 2 pounds per week.

This equates to eating about 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day as a weight loss goal for many women. Men, in comparison, often need about 1,500 to 1,800 calories to effectively shed pounds without feeling hungry.

Women (and men) should avoid dropping below 1,000 calories daily unless working with a doctor or dietitian. That’s because there are some health risks involved in following very low calorie diets (VLCDs) containing 800 calories or less per day.

Side effects of VLCDs can include gallstones, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, constipation and hair loss.

muscles of the body man and woman losing weight after 40Muscle Mass Differences

Another difference between men and women during weight loss has to do with lean body mass. Men naturally contain more muscle mass than women, though body fat percentage can be altered with the right diet and exercise regimen.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) says that while athletic women may have body fat in the range of 14 to 24 percent, athletic men often have body fat percentages in the 6 to 17 percent range.

Lean muscle burns more calories than body fat, giving men the advantage over women when it comes to shedding pounds. However, weight loss can be just as easy for women (even when you’re over 40) when using the right diet and exercise strategy.

Gender Differences in Weight Loss Preferences

Men and women seem to prefer different strategies when it comes to losing weight, but it really depends on your personality type.

One 2017 study published in the American Journal of Men’s Health found that women are more likely than men to use organized weight loss programs, and have improved self esteem as a weight loss motivator.

Men in this study were more likely to use self-directed weight loss strategies, rather than organized programs as women did.

Tips and Tricks for Losing Weight After 40

If you’re in the overweight or obese category, as many Americans are, following a few simple tips and tricks will help you meet your goal weight and lower disease risks in no time.

Start an Exercise Plan

workout schedule losing weight after 40Beginning an exercise program is one of the best ways to burn unwanted body fat, boost metabolism, and be successful in your weight loss journey.

Find a plan you can stick with long term. Many women do well following specific programs that combine cardiovascular workouts with resistance training.

One 2014 study found that exercise is crucial for long-term weight loss maintenance, and is effective for weight loss when you focus on large quantities of aerobic exercise — such as biking, jogging, walking uphill, swimming, stair climbing or using an elliptical machine.

Aim for at least 150 to 250 minutes (2.5 to 4 hours) of aerobic exercise weekly, as recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Choose Water

losing weight after 40Drinking lots of water is an excellent weight loss strategy for women losing weight after 40. Aim to drink at least 2 cups of water 30 minutes before meals, as this amount was effective for weight loss in a 2013 study published in Australian Family Physician.

That’s because water helps boost feelings of fullness at meal time. Making your water ice cold (or adding fruit chunks to it for flavoring) often makes it easier to take in enough water daily to maximize weight loss.

Record What You Eat

losing weight after 40You might be surprised to find out you’re eating more than you think, which is why recording your food intake can help you shed pounds after 40.

Penn State Extension says people who record food using food journals lose twice as much weight as people who don’t keep food diaries, as writing down what you’re eating in a day helps identify problem areas.

Use a paper food diary, or a free online site — such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Tracker tool (which also tracks calorie, carbs, protein and fat intake).

Give It Time

Don’t get down on yourself if the weight doesn’t come off immediately, especially if you’ve recently started a new workout routine.

If you’re new to exercise you may be gaining muscle mass, which can hinder weight loss initially. But in the long run you’ll end up getting rid of excess body fat (and weight) if you discover the right diet and exercise combination.

Aiming for a weight loss goal of 1/2 to 2 pounds weekly is safe and effective when you want to keep lost weight off long term.

De-stress and Get Enough Sleep

losing weight after 40Stress and lack of sleep can hinder weight loss, leaving you feeling hungrier than usual, irritable and frustrated.

Stress and sleep deprivation alter hormone levels in your body, affect your appetite, and often lead to weight gain. Stress isn't always preventable, but limiting chronic (long-term) stress helps maximize weight loss.

One 2012 study found that sleeping 8.5 hours each night led to greater losses in body fat compared with sleeping just 5.5 hours per night in study subjects trying to shed pounds.

Women over 40 need at least 7 hours of sleep each night to maximize health and maintain a healthy weight.

Know How to Fill Your Plate

salmon and salad losing weight after 40If calorie counting isn't your thing, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ChooseMyPlate method works wonders as an effective healthy eating strategy.

For example, instead of focusing on detailed meal plans and menus, simply fill half your plate with fruits and veggies, one-fourth of your plate with healthy protein foods, and 1/4 of the plate with nutritious starches — such as quinoa, brown rice or sweet potatoes with the skin.

Add healthy fats (oils, avocados, olives, fish oil, nuts, seeds or nut butter) to complete each dish.

Get Protein at Each Meal

losing weight after 40Focus on protein when losing weight after 40, as this essential nutrient helps fill you up and keep your metabolism going strong. Women need at least 46 grams of protein daily, which is the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for this essential nutrient.

However, exceeding the RDA often comes in handy when you’re trying to drop weight and burn fat. A 2015 review published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says getting at least 25 grams of protein at each meal aids in healthy weight management, keeps appetite in check, and reduces chronic disease risks.

Choose grilled chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, eggs, low-fat dairy foods, tofu, legumes (dried peas and beans), and protein powders to meet your body’s protein requirements during weight loss.

Important Lifestyle Changes

The key to effective weight loss (and keeping lost weight off long term) is making lifestyle changes you can stick with indefinitely vs. following short-term fad diets as a quick fix for rapid weight loss.

Establish Exercise and Sleeping Patterns

losing weight after 40The best way to establish healthy habits, regardless of age, is to get into a routine. Set aside some time each day to head to the gym or run outside. This might mean getting up early and working out before work, or stopping at the gym on your way home. Or, sign up for group exercise classes with a friend to keep you accountable.

When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep to keep your appetite in check during weight loss, head to bed at the same time each night to ensure you’re sleeping at least 7 hours.

Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool to maximize sleep quality.

Nix Alcohol and Nicotine

no alcohol losing weight after 40Alcohol calories add up quickly, which can hinder weight loss. Some alcoholic drinks contain 500 calories (or more) per drink, as alcohol contains 7 calories per gram (versus 4 calories per gram in carbohydrates and protein).

If you’re a regular drinker, simply cutting alcohol out of your diet may help you lose about 1 pound per week.

Smoking can affect sleep quality, says the American Sleep Association, making it difficult to get a good night’s sleep and feel well rested. That’s because nicotine is a stimulant, which can keep you up at night.

Because a good night’s rest is so important for healthy weight management, and the fact that nicotine is cancer-causing, it’s best to nix nicotine once and for all. Look for a support group if a smoking addition is getting the best of you.

Find a Weight Loss Program

fm30x - weight loss supplements for womenEven if you prefer attempting weight loss on your own, it’s often an effective strategy — especially for women losing weight after 40 — to go with an organized program to ensure you stay on track.

Commercial weight loss plans are often effective for many women.

Your strategy might be as simple as tracking food intake and calorie expenditure to ensure you’re burning off more calories than you eat.

Or, find an organized 30-day diet and exercise program with free meal plans to get you headed in the right direction — and provide motivational support along the way.

Eat Out Less

losing weight after 40There are a few simple things you can do to maximize weight loss effectiveness over 40, and eating out less is one of them. It’s difficult to determine how many calories you’re getting (and the ingredients in your favorite fast foods), as many times restaurants add extra fat and calories to boost flavor.

It’s best to avoid fast food altogether if you can when trying to lose weight after 40.

If you do end up dining out, always ask for dressings and dips on the side. Pass on the gravy, cream-based soups, biscuits, burgers, fries, shakes and other desserts. Instead, choose lean protein (grilled chicken or fish) and a salad or veggies.

Burn Extra Calories Throughout the Day

losing weight after 40Burning extra calories throughout the day involves more than simply scheduling workouts. Go for a short walk during your lunch break, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and find the furthest parking spot while at work or grocery shopping.

Being sedentary at a desk job is a chronic disease (including obesity) risk factor, so chose a sit-stand desk when you’re working to keep blood flowing and burn extra calories.

One 2012 study found that standing desks help you burn an additional 1/3 calorie per minute, which equates to about 20 extra calories burned per hour. If you’re really feeling ambitious, consider a treadmill desk!

Monitor Progress

losing weight after 40Once you begin a weight loss program, monitoring your progress is a must. This means tracking the foods you’re eating, your sleeping patterns, and activity level — in addition to weighing yourself regularly (one time each week generally works well).

A 2014 study published in Obesity found that self-monitoring strategies (such as keeping a food journal) help improve long-term healthy weight management.

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Getting Started

The first step in losing weight after 40 is making the commitment to lifestyle changes vs. following short-term fad diets. Finding healthy eating strategies you can stick with long term is key.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start with a few healthy lifestyle goals — such as getting high quality sleep and beginning a regular workout routine. The next step is finding a diet program you can stick with, and don’t forget to monitor your progress.

Recruit a friend to shed pounds with, or use a health coach to keep you accountable. If one strategy isn’t working for you, try another. Don’t give up, you can do it!

Erin Coleman
Writer, The Fit Father Project

A 15-year freelance writing veteran, Erin is registered dietitian and health educator who is passionate about health, fitness and disease prevention. Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife and mom of two beautiful children.

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Fit Mother Project Fact-Checking Standards

Our Fit Mother Project Team’s deepest commitment is to helping you live healthier for both yourself and your family. And when it comes to online content, integrity and trust is everything. That’s why our Fit Mother Project staff-writers are all trained professionals in the field of health and wellness (registered dieticians, licensed personal trainers, and licensed physicians) – see the full team here. We rigorously run all of our articles through a rigorous editorial process to ensure the accuracy, simplicity, and utility of the information. And we aren’t just a team of “academics” sitting in an ivory tower. We are real people – with jobs, responsibilities, and families – working hard in the trenches and testing our tips & methods out to make sure you can stay healthy for family.

Here is what you can expect from us on our Fit Mother Blog and YouTube channel:

  1. All of our content is written and reviewed by licensed health professionals (dieticians, personal trainers, doctors).
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Thanks for checking out the blog. We can’t wait to support you toward greater health, energy, and vitality.

– The Fit Mother Project Team

 

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