If there’s anything we’ve learned from celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Jennifer Lopez, it’s that turning 40 doesn’t mean the middle-aged spread is upon us. And while most of us don’t have access to the kinds of personal trainers and meal planning services that the Jennifer’s do, there are still plenty of things we can be doing in our 40s and beyond that will lead to weight loss.
First, the bad news: Your metabolism does slow down
If it seemed like you suddenly started struggling to lose weight around a certain age, it wasn’t your imagination. Most women hit their peak metabolic rate in their late teens and their early 20s, while most men’s peak before age 25. At around 40, your hormones start to tank, and your metabolism follows suit.
This doesn’t mean you should give up. With a little knowledge and tweaks to your diet and daily routine, you can still shed pounds and maintain a healthy weight.
Stop trying to ‘make up for’ your food choices with exercise
You may have been able to work off a huge sundae with a long run in the past, but the fact is, we need fewer calories in our 40s. You would have to do more exercise to “work off” a smaller treat than you used to, which will only lead to disappointment.
Instead, just allow yourself treats in moderation and try to avoid major food binges.
Go for quality calories over empty ones
It’s not just how you eat, but what you eat that matters. Adding more protein to your diet and watching your intake of carbs can help you lose weight at any age. But if you choose nutrient rich foods every chance you get, you’ll keep your metabolism revved because the body has to work harder to digest them. As an added bonus, you’ll help keep age-related muscle loss at bay.
Choose fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and some complex carbohydrates (think whole grains and sweet potatoes) and you’ll notice a real difference.
Avoid excess sugar, fast food, and alcohol
It goes without saying that these are three things that should be avoided by anyone who wants to lose weight. But for both men and women, cutting back on them is even more essential to maintaining a healthy weight. Don’t eliminate them entirely (unless you really want to) — you’ll just set yourself up for failure. Just be more conscientious of your choices. For example, forego a slice of cake at a party in favor of a glass of red wine.
Pick up the weights
Luckily, thanks to our knowledge about the benefits of weightlifting, more people than ever are choosing to focus more on weights than cardio (although both are essential). But those over 40 especially should focus on weight training. You’ll lose more body fat, increase your physical strength, and can even reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Master the art of meditation
Encouraging stillness for weight loss may seem counterintuitive, but in fact, a recent Georgetown study showed that mindful meditation had a huge impact on reducing stress hormones and inflammatory proteins. These are big contributors to weight gain as well as a host of diseases we all hope to avoid, like heart disease and cancer.
Not everyone has 30 minutes to meditate each day, but even spending five minutes in complete silence and stillness helps.
Carry that mindfulness over into your eating
If you don’t already do so, pay careful attention to your meals. Our 40s are usually a very busy time, whether we’re raising a family or pursuing a career (or both). But if you grab food on-the-go all the time, you’re much more likely to overeat. Take a little time to plan your meals for the week, prepping everything you can. And when mealtime comes around, sit down, eat slowly, and allow yourself to savor every bite. You deserve it.