How To Avoid Gaining Weight In Your 40s

How To Avoid Gaining Weight In Your 40s

As most of you know, I’m turning 40 this month. Aging is not something women look forward to but there’s been a shift in society. While 40 is technically midlife, most of us feel YOUNG! We feel good and we aren’t willing to settle into a frumpy destiny. The best is yet to come and we want to look and feel our best. 

Keep reading to learn how.

So why do women gain weight anyway in their 40s and beyond? 

Perimenopause can start as early as 35 and last through 52 (the average age of menopause).

As a woman approaches menopause, the hormone estrogen goes through waves of lower and higher levels than before, with an ultimate drop in estrogen production. Perimenopause, the time before menopause when hormones start to shift, can last anywhere from a few months to several years. This is the phase in which many women experience symptoms such as hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, and weight gain, though some women do not experience any of these symptoms. Menopause weight gain is preventable!

Loss of strength, referred to as age-related sarcopenia, can occur during this time unless addressed with proper fitness and adequate protein intake. Resistance training (lifting weights or using bands) is extremely important to stop the loss of muscle mass. Yes, it is even possible to increase strength during this time of your life! It is possible to implement lifestyle changes at any age.

Here are some additional factors for why women tend to gain weight as we age:

  • A sedentary lifestyle: We are busy driving kids around, working from home and rarely get in the recommended number of steps. We burn less calories as a result.
  • Poor nutrition: We begin to rely on take out, processed and high sugar foods and/or drink too much alcohol. These dietary choices can sabotage weight loss efforts, affect mood and energy levels, and impact long-term health.
  • Aging metabolism: As people approach 40, their metabolism naturally begins to slow down due to loss of muscle. This biological shift makes it harder to lose weight and maintain muscle mass, making it an indirect enemy to achieving their ‘ideal’ physique and energy goals.
  • Stress and Lack of Sleep: High cortisol levels aka stress levels and insufficient sleep can lead to hormonal imbalances that encourage weight gain and make it difficult to lose weight. Stress and sleep deprivation also deplete energy levels, making it harder to be active and engaged with family.
  • Time Constraints: Many of us in this age group juggle demanding careers, family responsibilities, and social commitments, which can make it challenging to find time for regular exercise and healthy meal preparation.
  • Information Overload and Fad Diets: The overwhelming amount of conflicting health information, quick-fix diets, and fitness fads can lead to confusion and discouragement, often deterring sustained health and fitness efforts.
  • Hormonal changes caused by menopause and perimenopause: We’ll get into that below!

In addition, loss of bone mass can occur as we age due to bone being broken down more quickly than it is created. Increased weight-bearing exercises and diets designed to optimize calcium, vitamin D, protein, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus absorption can blunt or even reverse this process.

Here is what happens during perimenopause and menopause:

First, we’ve got metabolic changes!

  • Slower Metabolic Rate: As women age, their basal metabolic rate (BMR) – the number of calories their body needs to maintain basic bodily functions at rest – gradually decreases. This decline is partly due to the loss of muscle mass that occurs with age, as muscle burns more calories than fat even when at rest.
  • Reduced Calorie Needs: With a slower metabolism, the body’s energy requirements decrease. Women in their 40s may notice that eating the same amount of calories as they did in their younger years leads to weight gain, making it important to adjust calorie intake or increase physical activity.
  • Insulin Sensitivity Changes: As our bodies change with menopause and perimenopause, often our sensitivity to the hormone insulin decreases. This is the hormone that responds to blood sugar levels. Insulin sensitivity is crucial for maintaining a healthy weight and preventing many chronic illnesses, including but not limited to type II diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. There are various ways in which we can improve our insulin sensitivity to avoid insulin resistance.

Next, we’ve got hormonal shifts, too!

  • Perimenopause to Menopause Transition: Women typically enter perimenopause in their 40s, a period that can last until menopause (the point when a woman has not had a menstrual cycle for 12 months usually around 53). During this time, levels of estrogen and progesterone (even testosterone) fluctuate significantly, affecting weight distribution and making it easier to gain weight, especially around the midsection.
  • Estrogen Levels Decline: As estrogen levels decline, the body tends to store fat more readily, and the distribution of body fat shifts, leading to a greater accumulation of belly fat. This type of fat is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Don’t worry, you can reverse this and I’ll tell you how below. 
  • Other Hormonal Adjustments: Other hormones, such as thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism, and cortisol, the stress hormone, can also become unbalanced during this period. Leptin and grehlin the hunger and fullness hormones can become unbalanced as well. These hormonal imbalances can contribute to weight gain, changes in mood, anxiety, depression even, fatigue, and a decrease in muscle mass.

How to Avoid Weight Gain in your 40’s 

Combating Metabolic and Hormonal Challenges

  • Nutritional Adjustments: Adopting a whole food diet, aka a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help manage weight and support hormonal balance. Limiting processed foods, sugars, and alcohol is also beneficial. Also, be sure you are eating enough! Eating too few calories will also slow down your metabolism. 
  • Track your macros: Tracking your protein, fat and carbohydrates will ensure you’re eating enough of the right nutrients so that your bdoy is able to optimally function, balance hormones and maintain muscle mass! It’s also important to aim for 25g of fiber each day through fresh fruits and veggies. 
  • Physical Activity: Engaging in regular physical activity, including both cardio and strength training exercises, can help counteract muscle loss, improve insulin sensitivity, and boost metabolic rate. However, strength training is really the one to squeeze in when it comes to preventing muscle loss! Be sure to get 4-5 days of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every single week.
  • Stress Management: Since stress can exacerbate hormonal imbalances and lead to weight gain, finding effective stress reduction techniques (e.g., yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises) is crucial. Be sure to eat enough calories, avoid excessive exercise, adopt healthy eating habits loaded with vitamins and nutrients. 
  • Adequate Sleep: Ensuring sufficient, high-quality sleep supports hormonal regulation and can help with weight management. It is recommended to get at least 8 hours of sleep. 

Lastly, cholesterol levels, or at least the not-so-nice type of cholesterol (LDL), also tend to increase with this transition. This does not mean you can no longer have eggs or other types of ‘good’ cholesterol, but you may want to avoid processed dairy, chips, and fried foods. My clients eat a high fat diet twice a week but five days a week only 30% of our daily calories come from heart healthy fats.

To optimize how you look and feel, grab your free copy Wellness for Women in their 40s and Beyond.

  • Want to learn step by step how to look and feel your best? Grab my my free guide that includes:
  • What Happens as we approach or are beyond menopause? 
  • Nutrition strategies and hacks for women over 40
  • Protein cheat sheet for women over 40 
  • What workouts are best and most effective?
  • The best foods women who are 40+ 
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