Turning 40 is a big milestone for many women. And while you may be experiencing success at work and in your family life, the same may not be true when it comes to your weight loss efforts.
In fact, you may be struggling with your weight now more than ever. And if that’s the case, you’re not alone: Nearly 40 percent of women in the United States ages 40 and older are obese, <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db131.htm#x2013;2012“>according to the 2013 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Fluctuating hormones tend to be behind weight gain at this age, says Sylvia Garcia, MD, a family practice physician at Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital in Whittier, California. Plus, the medications you take, the foods you eat, and the amount of stress in your life can also impact the number on the scale.
The good news is there are many ways to combat weight gain in your 40s. Follow this advice to stay slim for many years to come.
1. Check your meds. Beta-blockers for high blood pressure and certain depression and diabetes medications can cause weight gain, says Robert Ziltzer, MD, an obesity medicine physician at Scottsdale Weight Loss Center in Arizona. If you suspect that your prescriptions are causing you to pack on the pounds, tell your doctor and see if any substitutions can be made. It’s important to note that over-the-counter meds can also cause weight gain. For example, allergy medications that contain diphenhydramine can increase your appetite and cause weight gain, says Ziltzer.
2. Manage perimenopause. The hormonal shifts that occur during perimenopause (the years leading up to menopause) can cause hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, and – you guessed it – weight gain. If you’re dealing with any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor about hormone therapy, which can improve your sleep patterns and anxiety, and in turn, improve your eating habits, says Dr. Garcia. Just be sure to ask him or her about the risks to make sure they outweigh the benefits for you.
3. Plan your meals. “When you have an actual plan for what to eat, it’s easier to say no to unhealthy extras,” says Debra Anne DeJoseph, MD, an internist at University Hospitals in South Euclid, Ohio. Figure out your meals for the week, create a shopping list, and then designate a day to hit the grocery store, suggests the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
4. Sip water before eating. Researchers found that when people who were obese drank 17 ounces of water (about the amount in most water bottles) before meals, they lost nearly three pounds more over the course of 12 weeks than people who only imagined feeling full before sitting down to eat, according to a 2014 study published in the journal Obesity. Start making it a habit to drink a bottle of water before each meal and you might just find yourself eating less.
5. Fill up on veggies. Make it your mission to cover at least half of your plate with veggies at every meal, says Dr. DeJoseph. The reason: Vegetables are filled with fiber, which helps you feel fuller, longer. Plus, they’re low in calories.
6. Cut back on carbs. You don’t have to delete carbs from your diet entirely, but peri- and postmenopausal women do better with weight loss and maintenance when they eat a low-carb diet, DeJoseph says.
7. Hit the weight room. Muscle mass and function decline as you get older – a condition known as sarcopenia – and it actually begins around the age of 40, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF). In addition to affecting your ability to perform day-to-day tasks later in life, sarcopenia can also increase your risk for a fracture and cause you to gain weight. When you lose muscle, you may gain fat and fat doesn’t burn as many calories as muscle, explains DeJoseph. Aerobic exercises like walking, biking, and swimming will help you burn calories and prevent sarcopenia, according to the IOF. But you should also add weight training to your daily routine to keep your muscles strong.
8. Limit technology before bed. Your body burns the most fat when you’re exercising and sleeping, says Ziltzer. But most people don’t get enough shut-eye. The reason? They use technology before bed, says Ziltzer. Electronics throw off your sleep cycle because they emit light that makes your brain think it’s daytime. Turn your gadgets off about an hour and a half before you hit the hay to ensure you can drift off easily, he suggests.
9. Rethink your priorities. Too often, women put everyone else first, and that causes them to skip meals, stay up late, and forgo exercise, which inevitably leads to weight gain. Sound familiar? “First, it’s important to recognize that you’re putting other people first,” says Ziltzer. “And that’s not necessarily in the best interest of your health and probably not in the best interest of your family’s health.” Next, start making healthy changes. That may mean asking others for help or learning how to say no when someone asks you for a favor.
10. Do downward dog. Perimenopause symptoms and lifestyle factors, such as children leaving for college, work pressures, aging parents, and financial concerns, can make life stressful. And stressing too much can lead to overeating. To keep emotional eating at bay, de-stress by practicing yoga and doing relaxation techniques like guided meditations, Garcia suggests.