If you’re over 40, you may have noticed that losing weight is much tougher than it used to be in your 20s and 30s. As you age, your body begins to lose muscle mass, causing your metabolism to slow down.
For women in particular, hormonal changes after age 40, including menopause, can make it harder to lose weight and keep it off. As you age any previous injuries you may have incurred can worsen, or you may get new ones that don’t heal as fast as they used to when you were younger, if at all. Full recovery is something that may not even happen in some cases. I am an occupational therapist, and have dealt with several patients that were in top shape and one bad step was enough to give them a bad ankle or a bad knee for life. Terrible to see in people that like to hike or jog for their exercise.
There are of course many things we are trained to do to help, but sometimes the person’s body will simply not cooperate leading to an incomplete recovery. I remember when I was still studying to become one, the most common stories you would hear came in two types: horror stories on how difficult the certification tests were, and horror stories related to perfectly healthy individuals with promising sporting careers that lost it all to one injury, at times completely out of their control. The first made me ask teachers and look online for a way to prepare for these tests, and soon I wasn’t worrying all that much. Amidst all the online courses available to future OT’s, the NBCOT® Exam Prep by PasstheOT stands out because of its structured approach that adapts to your unique learning style. I was able to go to a couple of sessions where we would just talk about what my goals were, and gauge how to better help me. The course felt so molded to me that I lost that worry very quickly. The one that has never gone away is fearing an injury. I work out regularly, and I keep those stories in my mind just as often. I may not have a sports star career ahead of me, but I would hate to feel pain in my hips, knees or ankles just going up stairs or something horrible like that.
So the bottom line is that as you age both dieting and working out lose their effectiveness, but thankfully not their benefits. We only wish that opting out of that decadent dessert, or taking a few extra steps a day would help drop the pounds. Fortunately, there are some slight changes in your eating habits, exercise routine and lifestyle that can help you slim down, while keeping your safety in mind.
People naturally lose muscle after 40, especially women after menopause. Muscle weighs more than fat making it a metabolically superior calorie burner. So while you may enjoy your cardio routine, add resistance and strength-training exercises such as lifting weights, push-ups and squats, to help keep your muscles healthy.
Strength training will also help accelerate your metabolism and replace your current body fat with muscle. Strength training provides many other wonderful health benefits as well, including stronger bones, lower blood pressure, a sharper memory, and reduced risks for heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
Eat good fats
Fat in the mid-section is metabolically active and we gain more of it as we age. That’s not a good thing. As opposed to the fat we gain in our thighs and rear, abdominal fat can lead to several chronic conditions.
A 2014 study found that the type of fat we consume might make all the difference. Participants in the study were asked to eat 750 extra calories every day for seven weeks. Those having excess calories from saturated fats had activated cells that promoted fat storage in the belly and increased insulin resistance. However, individuals who had had a high consumption of polyunsaturated fats found in fatty fish, nuts and seeds, gained less abdominal fat and were more likely to increase muscle mass instead.
Multiple studies have demonstrated this connection between saturated fat intake and belly fat, especially when it is coupled with reduced levels of estrogen.
Eat the right type of foods to feed your body, especially those muscles. Lean protein sources such as fish, lean meats, and eggs preserve our muscle mass; keep us feeling full longer than other foods. Eating the right foods also helps keep your blood sugar steady, preventing the energy spikes and lows that can lead to overeating.
Eat more vegetables
Fill half your plate with vegetables with every meal. Produce tends to have more nutrients and less fat and calories than meat, dairy products, or grains. Fresh fruits, like apples and berries, are also great in place of high-fat or high-sugar snacks. Fruits and veggies are rich in fiber and mostly water, which makes you feel fuller longer.
Track what you eat
When you’re busy with work, kids, and life, you can be tempted to grab food on-the-go or multitask through a meal. You may think you haven’t eaten more than you should, until you actually write down your food intake throughout the day.
Tracking your calories with a food diary or an app can help you eat less, and help you stay on track with your weight. Sit down for meals and tune in to what’s on your plate; savour every bite. Also, be mindful of late-night snacking too.
Track what you drink
If you drink sugar-sweetened coffee, tea, soft drinks, or energy drinks, switch to water. Your sweet drinks have lots of added sugar, which can make you gain weight and raise your risk for diabetes. Don’t reach for that diet drink either; researchers at Yale University have found a link between artificial sweetener consumption and an increased risk of obesity and excess belly fat. A glass of beer or wine is about 150 calories, and that can add up if you drink often. Plus, alcohol can make you hungry, so you may eat more while you drink.
Get Good Sleep
During sleep, the hormones linked to our metabolism regulate, our bodies and minds rest, and our brain functions are restored. But when we don’t sleep enough, our hunger and stress hormones surge the next day, causing us to crave fatty foods and sweets, and be tempted to overeat.
We also lose our lean muscle mass and burn less fat when we don’t sleep enough, setting us up for weight gain. Make sure you’re getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, and you’ll notice you’ll start losing weight.
People who are stressed lose less weight than those who aren’t stressed. Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, is released during times of stress. Too much cortisol makes it difficult to lose any weight as it can make you more likely to binge on unhealthy food.
Try deep breathing and meditation to help relieve stress. One of the best ways to manage stress is through exercise, particularly yoga. Yoga has been known to release mood-elevating chemicals within the body, and it is effective in promoting weight loss.