Let’s face it. While getting older does has many advantages, carrying around the excess pounds that often show up at this stage of our lives, is most definitely not one of them. It seems as though our body decides to play a cruel trick on us by tacking on the extra weight, seemingly overnight. It’s important to understand why this happens and more importantly, what can be done to reverse this universal trend so that we can actually become healthier versions of ourselves, turning the “fat forties” into the “fit forties”.
Why do we gain weight more easily in our forties?
Loss of muscle mass - One of the reasons we gain weight is that as we age, we tend to lose lean muscle mass. That’s important because muscle mass burns more calories than fat. This explains why we can gain weight even when we haven’t increased our caloric intake. In other words, if I ate pasta 3 times a week in my twenties and still do in my forties, I will burn fewer calories now than in my twenties.
So, knowing this, it’s time to visit some of our “youthful” eating habits and see how we might need to adjust them to better control our caloric intake and subsequently curb the tendency to gain those extra pounds. Might be time to make pasta a once-a-week staple instead.
Hormonal changes – As women age, their estrogen levels drop. As men age, their testosterone levels drop. For women, this can translate into excess belly fat settling in. For men, lower testosterone results in less productive calorie burning.
While hormonal changes may be challenging to deal with, increased physical activity can prove beneficial in helping maintain healthier body weight as well as keeping age-related disease at bay.
Older equals a slower metabolism – We’ve all heard this one before and it’s true. As we age, our metabolism, which is responsible for converting calories into energy, does indeed slow down. Again, increasing our level of activity could help in this department.
Less movement and more stress – At this time of our lives, we are often overburdened with responsibilities, engagements, commitments and often lack time and/or energy to maintain an active lifestyle and a balanced sense of well-being. Taking “mental health” breaks and sticking to a dedicated exercise routine is essential if we want to reverse this packing on of the pounds.
Little changes can lead to positive results
There is no magic formula to curbing this weight gain in our forties. Many of the recommendations to induce weight loss can be experienced at any age. Adding and/or increasing exercise to our daily lives is beneficial and muscle-building activities are highly favored. Destressing activities such as meditation, yoga, and visualization can also have a profound effect on body weight. Of course, diet also needs to be revisited. A few simple tweaks and food additions could make all the difference. One study showed that “increases in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy, as part of a calorie-controlled diet, help both achieve and maintain weight loss” and that “Fruits and vegetables…provide few calories, but considerable amounts of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.”
So, although it’s undoubtedly more challenging to maintain a healthy weight in our forties and beyond, the benefits of a few lifestyle and dietary changes can be well worth the while. Should be doable, right? After all, you are wiser now that you’ve hit that 40 benchmark, right?