Once you hit 40, losing weight can feel like a lost cause. Dr. Robert Kushner, director of the Center for Lifestyle Medicine at Northwestern Medicine Center in Chicago and author of “Six Factors to Fit: Weight Loss that Works for You,” told TODAY that the total amount of calories burned every day diminishes for most people with each passing decade.
“Our metabolism slows due to reduced muscle mass, and our daily physical activities, particularly the time spent in exercise, declines,” said Kushner. “If these biological changes are not met with a corresponding reduction in dietary calories, we will experience a slow and steady increase in our body weight.”
1. Tweak your diet
It’s critical to be mindful of your calorie intake in order to adjust to your body’s sluggish metabolism, according to Kushner. He stated that eating nutrient-dense foods will still make you feel full and pleased even though they have less calories per bite.
“Instead of eating less of everything and feeling deprived, you want to replace more calorie-dense foods with nutrient-rich, lower calorie-dense foods, such as vegetables, fruits, salads, bean dishes, broth-based soups, and whole grains like oatmeal,” said Kushner, adding that the high water and fiber content of foods like these increase their volume, making them more satisfying for fewer calories.
Here are three more ways to tweak your diet after 40:
- Make sure your meals and snacks contain lean, lower-fat protein sources. This strategy will help you feel more satisfied between meals, according to Kushner.
- Be aware of your starch portions. Few people overeat broccoli and salad, but it’s common to eat oversized servings of pasta, rice and cereal.
- Make sure you have a mix of food groups at meals and snacks. Instead of a big bowl of cereal with milk, try a smaller amount of cereal with fruit and a portion of nuts mixed in.
2. Keep track of what you’re nibbling on
You can be in a calorie surplus even though you eat generally well. All that snacking adds up, whether you’re eating excessive portions, munching mindlessly while preparing family meals, or nibbling as part of a new work-from-home habit. Monitoring your dietary consumption can be beneficial. In one 24-week study, researchers discovered a strong correlation between the amount of time spent tracking one’s food consumption and weight loss. Consider that by the end of the study, those who were still committed to tracking spent just 15 minutes a day doing it — roughly the same amount of time you might spend scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. If tracking your food (even with an app) sounds difficult, keep in mind that it only takes a few minutes a day.
Here are four other strategies for maintaining food awareness:
- Pay attention to when you start to feel content and stop eating at that point.
- Try to use a plate (or a napkin or another substitute) every time you eat and put your food down between bites.
- Reduce or totally eliminate digital distractions while eating.
- Ask yourself what you’re enjoying about your food. Pay attention to taste, texture and temperature.
3. Aim to get multiple types of movement each week
It’s crucial that we incorporate a “movement portfolio” into our daily lives if we want to reach and maintain a healthy weight as we age, according to Kushner. The activities of daily living (such as walking, using the stairs, and housecleaning), active fitness activities (such as riding a bike and using an elliptical machine), and resistance-training exercises should all be included in your portfolio, he said. Also, Kushner advised attempting to cut down on your time spent engaging in sedentary activities like watching TV. According to him, “these focused action steps will enhance metabolism and aid in maintaining muscle mass.”
Three approaches are listed below to incorporate more activity into your life:
- Set a reminder to take stretching or standing breaks every hour.
- Try a free trial of popular fitness apps, like Peloton or Aaptiv, to figure out what types of formal exercise you enjoy.
- Make a plan to work out and then get the plan in motion. For example, if you intend to go for a power walk in the morning, set your alarm earlier, get out your workout clothes and have your water bottle ready.
4. Develop a set of stress management tools
When you approach midlife, the demands increase. Just consider the usual sources of stress, such as taking care of children and aging parents, coping with debt, and juggling the obligations of a work. Your body responds to stress by releasing the stress hormone cortisol. When you experience less stress, your hormone levels return to normal, but if you continue to feel stressed out from “adulting,” your cortisol levels will stay high. This may trigger a chain of biological processes that could result in an uptick in desires, an increase in appetite, and a propensity to retain fat in your belly.
Deep inhalations and exhalations are part of the breathing technique known as diaphragmatic breathing. It causes the body to go into relaxation mode and can lessen cortisol levels. Try establishing a practice
You can also try these stress-reducers:
- Participate in a Zoom yoga class.
- Use a weighted blanket when you sleep.
- Carve out a few minutes to think about what you’re grateful for.
5. Establish good sleep habits
Your hormones that control appetite are short-circuited when you are sleep deprived, causing your appetite to spike while your hormones that alert you to fullness are delayed. Also, studies show that sleep deprivation impacts how you think about food, leading to increased cravings for sweets and other unhealthier foods.
Although regular exercise and effective stress management strategies will benefit your sleep, you might still need to take additional measures to improve your sleep. For instance, schedule your bedtime and wake-up time in advance and give yourself 30 minutes each evening to relax and unplug from technology. A diet high in nutritious foods and plants and low in added sugar can help.
- Stick to the healthy alcoholic drink limits of one drink a day for women and no more than two a day for men. More than that can lead to sleep disruptions.
- Skip long and late afternoon naps.
- Cut the caffeinated drinks by early afternoon.