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Why Is It So Hard To Lose Weight After 40?

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: August 10, 2021

Some call it a kick in the teeth, just as you’re going through a midlife crisis. But the unfortunate reality is that a lot of things start to change in our bodies at 40 that make weight loss much more difficult.

Even if you managed to maintain a healthy weight for most of your life, those 40 birthday candles could lead to weight gain. And if you’re not aware of why it becomes harder to lose weight, then you could end up on a slippery middle-age slope.

To help you avoid that, we sought the expert’s advice on overcoming obstacles of losing weight at this age.

What Happens At Age 40 That Makes Losing Weight Difficult?

Beyond a big birthday cake with extra cream, there are three key areas you have to be aware of if you want to shed pounds after 40.

1. Metabolism Changes

woman shaping a heart on her bare stomach

One of the most common reasons for age-related weight gain is a gradually slower metabolism.

Several studies have shown a clear link between age and how effective your metabolism is, and one reason for this may be slower organ metabolic rates [1].

The result is a lower basal metabolic rate, which means you burn fewer calories when you’re at rest.

But many people don’t adjust their calorie intake, which makes them gain weight slowly but consistently.

Another effect is that you simply don’t burn off body fat as effectively as you used to, even during physical activity.

We’ll get to some solutions for this shortly.

2. Hormones

woman seated on the couch tired

While most people think of menopausal women when they think of hormonal shifts in the 40s, it’s important to understand that men will experience something similar.

For women, it’s a significant change in estrogen levels that research suggests can cause excess weight to build up [2].

And for men, it’s a gradual drop in testosterone production from as early as 35.

As a personal trainer, I have seen a lot of men who started to notice muscle loss from age 40 and difficulty getting rid of stubborn pounds.

3. Lifestyle

man holding his face in exhaustion

Whether you’re dealing with very busy family life, or your kids have grown up, and you’re less busy, your lifestyle and day-to-day activities have a huge impact on how you store fat.

Everything from your food intake and how many calories you eat to your exercise routine and sleep habits will add a few pounds here and there.

And those all add up to more weight that becomes increasingly difficult to shift.

That’s a lot of bad news for the over-40s.

So let’s turn to some solutions.

8 Top Tips For Losing Weight After 40

You’ll notice in this section that most of the tips are around creating healthy eating habits that promote weight loss.

And it all comes down to the fact that you simply can’t out-exercise a bad diet.

1. Be Careful With Carbs

woman cover her eyes and saying no to burger

Most people think that dietary fat is a big evil. And while trans fats from fried foods certainly bring on major health issues, it’s refined carbs that are the biggest enemy of weight loss.

Cut out simple carbs from bread and pasta and replace them with whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.

The more calories you get from other sources, the less you’ll stimulate appetite, and the more you’ll increase your chances to lose weight.

2. Avoid Processed Foods

The more processed something is when it arrives in your home, the worse it’s going to be for your health and weight gain. As your metabolic activity slows, empty calories become more potent, causing blood sugar spikes.

The overall effect can further influence your thyroid hormone, which could further slow down your metabolism.

3. Eat Fewer Calories

Energy in and energy out is the simplest way to look at the problem of a few extra pounds. And because your base metabolism slows down from about age 40, it becomes more important to track and reduce your calories.

4. Try Intermittent Fasting

plate with fork and knife and a clock beside

If you have found it consistently harder to lose those unwanted pounds, then extending the time between your last meal of the day and the first one the next day is an effective option.

I have worked with several aging parents who switched to not eating any calories after 7 pm and not having breakfast until 9 am, and they have managed to turn up their weight loss again.

We have an article on intermittent fasting, you can learn more about the diet there.

5. Cut Out Sugar And Alcohol

This is an unfortunate tip, but if everything else isn't working, then start tracking everything in Noom. You’ll be surprised how that odd glass of wine or beer and a sneaky cookie add to your daily calorie number.

6. Mindfulness And Sleep

Stress is a big factor in people’s lives, becoming a huge barrier to optimal health. Try out a mindfulness app like Calm and go through some regular breathing exercises throughout the day.

And make sure you get 8 hours of good sleep every night to help your body regenerate.

7. Body Weight Exercises

old couple working out in the gym

My top recommendation would be to do high-intensity interval training.

Moderate exercise is fine to keep your muscles active and joints loose, but it’s not going to be enough to lose the love handles.

The more intense you train, the better the results will be for your overall health, including your heart and metabolism.

8. Introduce Strength Training

You don’t need to become a bodybuilder to justify such a workout routine. Building muscle mass can be done in a subtle way, and as you age, it becomes the best way not to lose muscle mass.

And because muscle burns calories a lot more effectively, your metabolism will improve too.

FAQs

How Can You Boost Your Metabolism After 40?

You can boost your metabolism after 40 by avoiding carbs, switching to nutrient-dense foods, and doing more regular intensive exercise. Add more healthy fat and protein from plant sources, and you should notice a big change.

How Do You Get Rid of Belly Fat After 40?

You get rid of belly fat after 40 by reducing your calories from carbs and going through intensive exercises. You simply cannot have the same content in your meal plans at 40 as you did at 20, and you will need to work harder for effective weight management.

Have You Analysed Your Personal Data And Weight Loss Goals?

While you can still keep a healthy weight goal in your 40s and older, it just takes a different and more careful approach.

To help you lose weight faster, take some effort to cut out simple carbs and make sure that half your plate is veggies and some fruit for every meal.

Then, step up your exercise levels and monitor everything in an app like Noom.

And if you have some tips to share, then leave a comment below or reach out to us on social media.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2880224/
  2. https://www.mdpi.com/2227-9032/4/3/42

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