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Weight loss at age 40: Tips for making it work

By Maggie Brown | July 14, 2017 | Employee Spotlights

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Back in January, I set out with the goal of losing 20 pounds before my 40th birthday in June.

I did not make my goal. The truth is that weight loss is tough. It takes discipline. It takes time. It takes courage. It takes constant motivation. And life, especially when you’re raising little humans, does not always set you up for success when it comes to weight loss.

There are things like vacations, sleep deprivation, and summertime cook-outs that get in the way.

While I did not make my goal weight, I still lost 15 pounds, 8.25 inches, 3 percent body fat, and my BMI went down by 2.4 points. And that was all in just five months, and not doing anything drastic.

I’m not finished.I now view losing weight and becoming healthier as a lifelong journey, not one that has a start and end date.

Here’s what I learned these past several months that might help you.

  • Tracking calories is key. When I consistently tracked my calories using a smartphone app, and stayed within the calorie limit recommended by a nutritionist, I lost weight. I’ll be honest that it got to be tiresome. But when I stopped tracking, I stopped losing.
  • Exercise has so many benefits. I went from hardly exercising at all to getting 10,000 steps most days of the week. I could be doing more, but at least it’s a good start. Tracking my steps helped me stay accountable. Just be mindful that you can walk all day, but if you overeat you won’t lose weight. Exercise is hugely important, but weight loss is mostly about eating less.
  • Professional guidance is valuable. I don’t enjoy strength training, but working with a personal trainer made it much more bearable (even fun!). I’d recommend at least starting out with a personal trainer for a few months, for your accountability and their expertise.
  • The support has been amazing. This journey – trying to lose “baby weight” before a milestone birthday – has resonated with so many of you. We may have different stories, but we all want to look and feel just a bit better. So be brave and share your journey with others – the support will be worth any discomfort you may feel at first.

All of my progress has been a series of small changes that have added up. For example, giving up soda. Not buying potato chips. Taking lots of walks. Just being more mindful and aware of my activity level, and what kind of food I’m putting in my body.

My plan moving forward is also simple. I plan to track my calories until I reach my ideal weight. It may take me another full year, and that’s okay. I’m going to continue to exercise on most days, and strength train twice a week. I’m going to attempt to get better sleep. There’s so much more I could do, but “simple” is all I have time for right now.

Now that I’m 40, I know that weight loss will be a little different than it was in my 20s or 30s. And by different, I do not mean impossible. I know many people who are in their 40s and in the best shape of their lives.

I talked to our onsite dietician nutritionist, Diana, and our fitness center manager, Kerry. Here’s what I found out from them about “fitness over 40.”

Fitness over 40.

From Diana Wilson, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

  • Diana says, “Women’s bodies start to produce less estrogen in their forties, or even mid-thirties, which leads to increases in body fat, especially around the abdominal area. The hormonal changes make you store fat more easily and make burning fat more difficult.” Bummer.
  • But there is good news! She says “physical activity helps you stay lean and decreases your risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes or heart disease. The recommendation is to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week.”
  • She also says, “In order to maintain muscle mass, it is important for women over 40 to get enough protein, spread throughout the day. Include some at each meal. Good sources include Greek yogurt, eggs, low-fat cheese, chicken, turkey, tofu, fish, lean meat, and legumes.”
  • She suggests cutting back on alcohol, coffee drinks, and smoothies, to help cut calories and control blood sugar. This is important since it is not uncommon for women to develop pre-diabetes in their forties.
  • And she says, “Another concern is the loss of bone mass. Getting adequate calcium, vitamin D, protein, not smoking, and exercise are keys to maximizing bone growth and minimizing losses as we age. It ‘s hard for most women to meet their calcium needs without a supplement.”
  • And if you’re not completely depressed yet, here you go: “Hot flashes and insomnia are also common as women transition to menopause. Sleep loss causes increased hunger and a decreased ability to sense fullness, which make it easier to gain weight. Avoid caffeine for six hours before bedtime and alcohol for three hours before bedtime. Eat a smaller dinner, and follow a regular sleep routine.”

It may sound like a bunch of bad news, but it’s all about knowing the possibilities and being prepared for it. I see all of Diana’s information as great motivation to continue taking care of myself.  

From Kerry Thornton, Fitness Center Manager, BS, NASM Certified Personal Trainer

Kerry says, “The old saying, ‘use it or lose it’ is very true when it comes to our physical abilities as we age.”  She suggests making the following tips (from part of your lifestyle to help slow down the aging process:

  • Work on flexibility and balance. Both suffer from muscle loss and joint stiffness as you age.Decreased flexibility increases your risk of injuries and makes it harder to stay active. Add yoga to your routine and learn foam rolling and dynamic stretching techniques.
  • Functional strength training is critical. Functional strength training is a coordinated effort between multiple muscle groups which imitate everyday activities; such as walking, getting up and down from chairs, lifting, pushing, bending, pulling, twisting and turning. Learn exercises that use free weights, medicine balls, and kettlebells.
  • Research has shown the overall effectiveness of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) over the typical cardio exercise. HIIT even boosts your body’s natural production of human growth hormone, which will help address the muscle loss and atrophy that typically occurs with aging and improve your ability to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Work your core. Learn how to do a plank and plank variations with good form and technique. Planks are excellent for balance and posture. Working the deep inner core muscles will help you develop a strong foundation for all your activities.
  • Move more and sit less. Strive for 10,000 steps each day.

Thanks for letting me share this (beginning of my) journey with you. And thank you, Kerry and Diana, for your expertise. If you’re looking to make some changes – lose weight, eat better, or exercise more – my main bit of advice is to simply start!