Losing weight post 40s- All you need to know

Livewell: Health Insurance & Wellness Blogs | Max Bupa


Max Bupa

07 August 2019

As you enter your 40s, the needles on the scales seem to become just a wee bit more obstinate. None of the ‘fad’ diets or new discoveries in training methods seem to help in shedding those stubborn kilos, and instead leave you feeling drained and lethargic. Our bodies go through a huge series of changes once we enter our 40s. The growth rate of our cells slows down mainly due to hormonal changes and are part of the natural aging process.

Here are a few ways to understand the challenges that prevent weight loss after 40 and how to overcome them.
  • Burning calories: An important first step to understanding how weight loss works is the system of burning calories. Calories are how energy in the body is measured. Food provides you with calories, and any activity; exercise, walking, even breathing, burns them. When you consume more calories than you burn in a day, you put on weight, and vice versa, and to burn 1 pound (approx 0.45 kgs) of fat, you need to be in a deficit of 500 calories. The two ways, therefore, to bring about a caloric deficit are controlling how much you eat and exercising more. Finding out how many calories you require to maintain your weight (based on your age, height, weight, and activity levels) is the first step, based on which you need to tailor your exercise and dietary plans. 
  • Note: You can find out your maintenance calories through the various resources available on the internet.
  • Cut out metabolic conditions:  Thyroid problems are known to show up in as many as one out of 5 adults over the age of 40. Hypothyroidism is one of the primary reasons for those over 40 not being able to lose weight. The tiny gland that produces hormones regulates metabolism, and when it's underactive, it throws everything else off gear. Symptoms of thyroid disorders include feeling cold all the time, poor circulation in the hands and feet, clammy hands, tiredness and lethargy, hair loss (including eyebrows and eyelashes), and weight gain -- despite real attempts to exercise and eat well. Consult your doctor and ask for a thyroid test.
  • Adjust eating habits:  Your metabolism tends to slow down after 40 and it is important to adjust your eating habits accordingly. The calories you require to maintain your weight may reduce, and consequent reductions in the amount of food you consume must also be brought about. Moreover, you should opt for foods that are filling and nutritious rather than fried, sugary, fatty foods that are sources of ‘empty calories’ and cause insulin spikes. This leads to fatigue, leaving you craving for more food. Green, leafy vegetables, fibrous foods, and protein all leave you satiated and reduce your tendency to binge-eat.
  • Time meals with body's natural rhythms: Eat a hearty breakfast - what you eat in the mornings when your metabolism is revved up to its optimum operating speed, is much more likely to be expended efficiently. A hearty breakfast will also keep you satisfied until lunch time and fight the urge to snack in between the two meals. Opt for a light, low-carbohydrate dinner as you don’t expend too much energy at night.
  • Make muscles your ally: The more muscle mass you have on your body, the higher your Basal Metabolic Rate (which determines how many calories your body burns without any activity, thus determining how much you can eat without gaining weight.) But muscle mass is known to suffer after 40 due to a decrease in activity levels as well as hormonal changes. Incorporating resistance and strength training into your routine is important to build and retain muscle and allows you to eat more without putting on weight. Joining a gym and performing basic compound lifts, or even using the endless resources on the internet to learn effective exercises you can perform at home can go a long way in keeping you looking lean well into your 40s.
  • Sleep off your calories: Yes, you heard right! Sleep gets elusive with age not just because we’re busier and more stressed, we also have multiple physical issues, from back pain to snoring and night sweats, all or any of which can interfere with getting a good night's sleep. Recent research has shown that lack of sleep is directly connected to weight gain because of the actions of two hormones, leptin and ghrelin, that control hunger and satiety, or feeling full. There is also some research that shows that our bodies are the most metabolically active while we sleep! So, the longer we sleep, the more we rev up our inner fat-burning engines. Finally, adequate sleep is also needed to effectively build muscle, so catch up on your Zs to keep looking lean.
  • Make a healthy connect with your sweet tooth: If you cannot avoid sweets, have it but savor it slowly to ensure that it registers fully with your brain's pleasure sensors. Experts recommend cutting the treat in half before you start eating, carefully wrapping the second half up to "save for later." You may or may not want it; sometimes if you eat the first half slowly and consciously enough, you'll feel satisfied. But knowing it's there if you do plays a nice trick on your brain, which tends to crave things it perceives as being in short supply.
  • Avoid artificial sweeteners: Researchers have also discovered that artificial sweeteners fail to trigger the body's natural satisfaction response. So eating a 100-calorie artificially sweetened cookie only adds to your wanting the real thing! So perhaps it’s wiser to eat a small amount of the real deal slowly and mindfully to satisfy yourself.
  • Make slow, gradual adjustments: Every day we are bombarded with various ‘Get fit fast’ schemes and plans that promise instant results and never deliver. It is important to get out of the mindset of expecting instant results because losing weight and getting fit takes time. It’s important to take small steps, set realistic goals, and make concrete, sustainable changes to your lifestyle that you can learn to live with. Cutting out all sugar and running 10 kilometers a day might get you thin, but if you’re miserable doing it, there’s only so much you can take before you quit and lose all your progress. Take small steps, incorporate cheat days, work out a few days a week, and don’t give up. Slowly but surely, you’ll see a change, and what’s more, your lifestyle would’ve changed to allow you not to just get fit, but to stay fit.


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