When we’re in our teens and twenties, losing weight is often as simple as turning down that extra scoop of ice cream or adding some occasional exercise to our routines. However, as we age, our metabolic rate has a tendency to plummet, turning what used to be an effective diet and exercise plan into a recipe for serious weight gain. For women in particular, hormonal changes including menopause, can make weight loss after 40 difficult. However, just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to upgrading your wardrobe with the next size up ever year. Weight loss for women after 40 is definitely possible. And it doesn’t have to be an uphill battle every step of the way.
So follow our tips to get the body you’ve always wanted, no matter what your age.
1 Start Weight Training
Women generally have a lower natural muscle mass than their male counterparts, and aging can deplete the little muscle tissue we have, sometimes by as much as 5 percent in a 10-year period, starting after age 30. Fortunately, building some muscle with a light weight-training routine can kill two birds with one stone: you’ll burn some calories doing the exercises, and research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology reveals that, even though weight loss is often associated with a slower metabolism, women who added resistance training to their routine actually maintained their resting metabolic rate.
2 Keep a Journal
Keeping a journal is great for preserving more than just memories; it’s an amazing tool for maintaining your weight loss, too. When every calorie you put in your body counts, it’s immensely helpful to account for things we eat in a day. That way, we can track the culprits of unwanted weight gain and successful weight loss. A study from Kaiser Permanente’s Center For Health Research reveals that individuals who consistently tracked their eating habits enjoyed a nearly 50 percent greater weight loss than those who skipped the journaling.
3 Take a Daily Walk
Adding a daily walk to your routine means you’ve taken the first step toward achieving a healthier weight. Staying active can help you burn more calories and lower your chances of suffering an injury. Research suggests that regular exercise can reduce a person’s risk of osteoporosis, and shaving off those extra pounds means you’re putting less strain on your joints, making it easier to prevent a fall that can keep you sidelined.
4 Up Your Omega-3s
We all know by now that adding omega-3–rich foods to your meals can aid weight loss—flaxseeds, avocado and avocado oil, nuts, and oily fish like salmon are all good options. Research published in Obesity Reviews shows that adding some omega-3s to the subjects’ diet helped them lose more weight, keep it off longer, and stave off hunger pangs. But there are other health benefits that omega-3 fatty acids can have for women over 40. A study published in the journal Menopause suggests that it may help reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes, as demonstrated in test subjects between the ages of 40 and 55.
5 Turn Up the Fiber
Hormonal changes in middle age can wreak havoc on our weight and our waistlines, but boosting the amount of fiber in your diet can help. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reveals that increasing fiber intake helped participants shave off 4.6 pounds over an 8-week period and maintain that weight loss over the course of a year. Even better, dialing up the fiber in your meals can help combat the bloated belly and sluggish digestion that often accompany hormonal changes. Need ideas for ingesting more fiber? Start with the best high-fiber foods!
6 Skip the Sweeteners
Kick off your weight loss today by skipping the artificial sweeteners. Researchers at Yale University have found a link between artificial sweetener consumption and an increased risk of obesity and excess belly fat, but nixing them from your diet could help you get rid of those unwanted pounds.
7 Add in a Leg Day
Adding a leg day to your workouts can help you tone up your lower half and make it easier to shave off unwanted weight. Not only will increasing your muscle tone help you burn more calories, research conducted at Chungnam National University suggests that individuals with more muscle tone in their lower bodies have a lower risk of falls and fractures that may keep them from getting adequate exercise for months, if not years. A study published in Gerontology also suggests that strong legs are a good indicator of the strength of another important muscle: your brain.
8 Start Swimming
Hitting the pool is a great way to get your body into the best shape of your life, no matter your age. A 155-pound woman can expect to burn nearly 500 calories an hour swimming at a relatively leisurely pace, adding another 200 calories to that number by doing some faster laps. For women over 40, low-impact exercises, like swimming, are particularly beneficial, thanks to the limited wear-and-tear they cause on joints, making it less likely an overuse injury will keep you benched.
9 Stick to a Schedule
Keeping a regular eating schedule could be the key to ditching those extra pounds after 40. Researchers at Hebrew University found that feeding mice high-fat foods on a regular schedule kept them leaner than when they were fed the same foods on a sporadic basis. Sticking to a consistent eating schedule can also help you fend off the hunger pangs that can prompt cravings for high-fat or sugary foods, which often get worse around menopause.
10 Sip on Green Tea
A little green tea in your cup could yield a lot of weight loss. A study published in The Journal of Nutrition reveals that adding green tea to subjects’ meal plans increased their fat-burning ability by a whopping 12 percent over the course of 12 months. Even better, green tea’s combination of antioxidants and caffeine can give you the boost you need to fend off those energy lulls that often accompany middle age.
11Limit Your Eating To an 8-Hour Window
Closing up the kitchen for the night makes it easier to shed those unwanted pounds at any age. By limiting your food intake to a certain daily window of time, aka using the principles of intermittent fasting, you’ll reduce the likelihood of gaining weight. Research published in Cell Metabolism reveals that mice who spent 16 hours a day fasting and the other eight hours eating high-fat food remained relatively lean, while those who ate the same number of calories and the same amount of fat over the course of the day significantly increased their risk of obesity.
12 Boost Your Calcium Intake
Want to maximize your fat-burning potential after 40? Start by making sure you’re getting plenty of calcium in your diet. The results of a study conducted at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville reveal that obese women who consumed more calcium (via three servings of yogurt) lost 11 pounds of body fat in over a 12-month period. Even better, increasing your calcium intake can help increase the strength of your bones, reducing your risk of a fall or fracture.
13 Opt For Organic Foods
Eager to shave off a few pounds after your 40th birthday? Start by opting for organic produce instead of the conventionally-grown stuff. A review in Interdisciplinary Toxicology found that organochlorine pesticides can alter the levels of thyroid hormone in the human bloodstream, potentially increasing weight gain and causing thyroid issues. Considering that older women are already at an increased risk for thyroid problems, like hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, it’s a good idea to go organic ASAP.
14 Make Whole Grains a Priority
There’s no time like the present to ditch those refined carbs and opt for whole grains instead. Whole grains are higher in fiber than their refined counterparts, which will not only help you stay full for longer, but can also be an effective means of battling the belly-bloating effects of menopause.
15 Drink More Water
When it comes to weight loss, what you drink is just as important as what you eat. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics reveals that well-hydrated people ate up to 206 fewer calories each day than those who skimped on the H2O. And by “well-hydrated,” we mean increasing water intake by just 3 cups a day! For middle-aged women, staying hydrated can have particularly profound effects; drinking ice water is a recommended solution for battling the hot flashes that often accompany menopause. For more ways to hydrate and shed those unwanted pounds, add the best teas for weight loss to your lineup.
16 Snack on Almonds
Trading in your usual snack for some almonds can help you shed weight and improve your health. Loaded with fiber and protein, almonds can help keep you feeling full for longer, and may even help you slash the stress that can lead to weight gain. Research published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine also reveals that adding magnesium-rich foods, like almonds, to your diet can help reduce anxiety, lowering cortisol levels, and decreasing your body’s tendency to store belly fat.
17 Pile on the Protein
Want to slim down over 40? Try increasing your protein intake. Research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggests that low-protein diets prompted greater lean muscle loss in postmenopausal women, potentially slowing their metabolisms along the way. If you’re not a big fan of meat, try adding some extra beans, nuts, or whole grains, like quinoa, to your menu.
18 Opt For Red Wine
If you drink, try opting for red wine instead of white and you might just find yourself a few pounds —and inches— smaller in no time. Red wine is a good source of resveratrol, which has been deemed effective at reducing belly fat and improving memory retention in the aging brain. Even better, a 2014 study published in the Journal of Translational Medicine reveals that resveratrol supplementation was effective at improving hormonal issues in overweight postmenopausal women, potentially bolstering your weight loss efforts.
19 Cut the Cocktails
Say so long to those sugary happy hour drinks. A single flavored martini or blended drink can pack upwards of 600 calories per 8-ounce pour, and many menopausal women find that the blood vessel dilation that occurs with alcohol consumption can make hot flashes worse. If you do choose to drink, make sure you check out the tips for choosing healthy alcoholic drinks first.
20 Add Some Flax to Your Meals
Boost your fiber intake and slim down by mixing some flaxseed into your favorite food. Flax is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help reduce inflammation and promote weight loss, and they may even help you fend off another sign of aging, too: the dreaded wrinkle. Flaxseed is loaded with alpha-linolenic acid, which researchers at Winnipeg St. Boniface General Hospital and Cuba’s VI Lenin University Hospital have linked to improvements in weight and cardiovascular status among study subjects. The omega-3s in flax have also been shown to trigger improvements in the texture and hydration of skin, fighting wrinkles in the process.
21 Increase the Intensity of Your Workouts
Losing weight as you age isn’t always about how much time you’re spending at the gym, but what you’re doing while you’re there. If you’re frustrated with your rate of weight loss, try adding some high-intensity interval training to your routine; a review of research published in the Journal of Obesity reveals that it’s a more effective means of improving overall fitness, increasing lean muscle, and improving insulin sensitivity than traditional aerobic exercise.
22 Snack on Citruses
Easier weight loss over 40 could be as easy as peeling an orange. The results of a study published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry & Nutrition reveal that citrus polyphenols can help undo some of the damage caused by a high-fat diet, helping you ditch those extra pounds in no time. Better yet, research published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science reveals that the vitamin C found in citrus fruit can help boost your collagen production, helping you fight wrinkles, too.
23 Get Eight Hours a Night
Getting a good night’s sleep is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and also a surprisingly effective means of slimming down. The results of the Nurses’ Health Study reveal that, among a group of 60,000 women studied for 16 years, those who got 5 hours of sleep or less at night increased their risk of becoming obese by 15 percent. Getting adequate rest can also reduce your risk of dementia, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Luckily, you’ll be heading off to the Land of Nod in no time once you learn the ways to improve your sleep quality!
24 Calculate Your Metabolic Rate
If you want to lose weight and keep it off, the best way to figure out how much you should be eating or scaling back is to calculate your metabolic rate. Fortunately, using the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation, it’s easy to figure out how many calories you’re actually burning, and even better, it’s adjustable for your age, so, unlike cookie-cutter diet plans, you can use it year after year and continue enjoying results.
25 Switch Up Your Fragrance
It’s time to sniff your way slim. Switching up your fragrance can do more than make you smell delicious, it can also help you shed those extra pounds as you age. The results of a study published in the Journal of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgery reveal that sniffing scents like apple and mint increased weight loss among study subjects, so seek out fragranced products, like tea tree shampoo or apple-inflected perfume, for maximum effect.
26 Buddy Up
Hitting the gym with a pal will not only keep you accountable, it may help you lose weight faster, too. Researchers at the Society of Behavioral Medicine have found that bringing a buddy along when you hit the gym boosts calorie burn and can help you increase the duration of your workouts.
27 Keep Your Hands Busy
They say that idle hands are the devil’s playthings, and that’s certainly true when it comes to weight loss. Keeping your hands busy with activities like knitting, origami, or even those dreaded fidget spinners, can prevent you from reaching for the closest fatty or sugary snack. Research also suggests that using your hands to fidget throughout the day can burn upwards of 800 calories, making it easier to slim down in an expeditious manner.
28 Skip the Salty Snacks
Skipping those salty snacks will put you on track for more weight loss in a hurry, no matter what your age. Research conducted at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine reveals that, contrary to popular belief, salt tends to make people hungry, not thirsty. Two groups on simulated missions to Mars were examined over the course of 105 and 205 days, respectively, with one group receiving saltier foods during the final weeks of their mock voyage. Researchers discovered that those given saltier foods actually drank less water than those on a low-salt diet, but complained of hunger more often. However, as expected, the saltier food did increase study participants’ water retention, meaning it can exacerbate the water retention and bloating issues associated with menopause, too. Salt isn’t the only habit making you heavy; the worst breakfast habits for weight loss could have you packing on the pounds with every passing year.
29 Turn Off the TV
Sure, we’re in the golden age of television, but one of the easiest ways to increase your over-40 weight loss is by turning off the TV (as much as it may break your heart to miss the latest GoT). A review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals that people who snacked while watching TV ate 10 percent more per sitting than those who focused on their food. Even more depressing, research published in the Journal of Consumer Research indicates that seeing beauty advertisements can trigger feelings of inadequacy in women, which can often lead to emotional eating.
30 Get Some Sun
While sun-worshipping can have you looking more leather bag than human, a little-controlled exposure to UV rays can yield some serious benefits for your weight. According to research conducted at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, overweight women between 50 and 75 who had adequate vitamin D levels shed more weight and more body fat than those whose levels remained low. A study in Psychopharmacology also reveals that subjects with depression who popped a vitamin D supplement experienced improvements in their mood in just five days, so don’t be afraid to let the sunshine in.
31 Add Yoga to Your Routine
Tired of your usual workout? Try adding some yoga to your lineup and you might just find those pounds melting off easier than you ever thought possible. A 160-pound woman can expect to burn approximately 477 calories per hour of hot yoga; if you’re up for power yoga, that number jumps to 594. Fortunately, yoga is also low-impact and great for improving muscle tone, reducing stress on your joints and providing support for your bones that may reduce your risk of osteoporosis-related fractures.
32 Get a Thyroid Check
If you’re having trouble losing weight after your 40th, it’s time to ask your doctor about a thyroid screening. Women are more likely to develop thyroid health issues than their male counterparts, which can lead to symptoms like weight gain, fatigue, and depression. Fortunately, for many people, the problem can be fixed with medication and dietary modification, getting you back on track to the body you want in no time.
33 Manage Your Mental Health
Not everyone relishes the idea of getting older, but if you’re experiencing serious blues you just can’t shake, you could be putting yourself at risk for pounds you can’t shake, either. Research published in JAMA Internal Medicine reveals a link between depression and severe obesity, particularly among women, but found that weight loss improved mental health outcomes, potentially breaking you out of this vicious cycle for good. Start on the path toward a happier you today by kicking the foods that put you in a bad mood off your menu.
34 Don’t Eat Like a Kid
Spending time with your kids can be fun and may even lower your risk of dementia. However, all that time spent in the land of chicken nuggets and pizza might have you packing on the pounds before you know it. Many busy caregivers find themselves mindlessly eating the leftovers from their little ones, adding hundreds of calories to their daily total.
35 Cool Off
Lower your thermostat and you may lower your weight, too. Research suggests that sleeping in a 66-degree room can increase the amount of healthy, brown fat on your body, boosting your metabolism and helping you shave off those unwanted pounds.
36 Get Some Social Support
Our obligations to our families, jobs, and community tend to increase with age, making it harder to find time to attend in-person weight loss groups. Luckily, research published in the International Journal of Medical Informatics suggests that online social support can encourage weight loss every bit as much as in-person meetings, making it easier to shed the pounds, even if factors like your schedule or mobility issues are making it hard to leave the house.
37 Indulge Those Carb Cravings
If you’re cutting carbs or limiting your whole grain intake to a single slice of toast in the morning, you could be doing yourself a disservice when it comes to weight loss. Research conducted on members of the Israeli police force found that eating carbs in the evening actually increased weight loss and body fat loss, and consuming whole grains throughout the day can help you fight the bloating and sluggish digestion that often become an issue around menopause. Make healthy carbs a staple in your home by adding the best overnight oats recipes to your routine.
38 Feed Your Gut
Getting your gut health in order is a good idea no matter what your age, but after 40, it’s essential. Improving your digestive regularity with prebiotic fiber-rich foods, like asparagus and leafy greens, may help reduce your risk of colon cancer, and can even help regulate the hormonal challenges that come along with menopause. Researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine have also found fiber effective at reducing estrogen concentrations in the bloodstream, helping you avoid the hot flashes and mood swings that can hit around mid-life.
39 Spice Up Your Sex Life
A little action between the sheets can mean a lot less weight on the scale. Not only is sex a great stress reliever, helping to lower the amount of belly fat-storage hormone cortisol in your bloodstream, but the results of a study published in Breast Cancer Research suggest that even moderate weight loss can help postmenopausal woman achieve a more favorable hormonal balance, making it easier to get in the mood. Fortunately, kicking the foods that kill your sex drive off your menu will have your libido soaring in no time.
40 Adjust Your Expectations
While weight loss after 40 is absolutely possible, keeping your expectations about how fast you’ll shed those pounds in check can help you stay on track in the long run. Managing your expectations about your weight loss can help keep you from getting discouraged if you’re not slimming down as fast as you had hoped, making it easier to stick to your plan and recover from those little hiccups that could otherwise send you face-first into the next brownie sundae you see.