Best Ways to Lose Weight After 40

Maintaining a healthy weight and body image undoubtedly improves self-esteem. But as we get older, keeping off the pounds and staying fit can seem like a full-time job.

Challenge of Losing Weight in Middle Age

As people inch toward middle age, their waistlines also start adding inches. An estimated 44% of those ages 40 to 59 are considered obese, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Being overweight increases the risk of developing or exacerbating many health conditions, such as:

Can You Increase Your Metabolism?

Weight and metabolism go hand-in-hand. Your metabolism is the complex chemical process that converts calories in what you eat and drink into the energy you need to go about your daily life.

Your resting metabolic rate is the number of calories that your body burns while at rest to maintain these functions. The majority of calories you consume go towards running these important activities.


The amount of calories different cells use depends on their role within the body. For example, two people who have different proportions of muscle and fat cells but who are the same weight and eat the same amount of calories will have different caloric needs. This is because muscle cells burn more calories than fat cells.

For ages, it was thought that a slower metabolism was to blame for those extra pounds many people find themselves saddled with in middle age. However, a large 2021 study published in Science debunks this conventional wisdom.

Using data from nearly 6,500 people from eight-days old to 95-years old in 29 countries, researchers found that the baseline metabolism in both men and women, even during pregnancy, actually remained stable from ages 20 through 60 before it began to decline. This slowing at age 60 results in a 20% decline by age 95. Researchers made sure to control for other factors – such as body composition, caloric intake and physical activity levels – in their analysis.

“The research results were a surprise when they showed that metabolism was so steady through middle age,” says Herman Pontzer, principal study investigator and professor of evolutionary anthropology and global health at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. “I’m in my 40s, and I know my body feels different than it did 10 years ago. I had assumed the general consensus of a slowing metabolism in middle age was true, but the data said otherwise.”

What Affects Weight?

Your metabolism is only one factor in how much you weigh. Many factors that are both within your control and outside of it work in tandem. On average, people gain approximately one to two pounds each year during adulthood.

Factors that play a role in weight gain include:

  • Diet.
  • Genetics.
  • Hormones.
  • Inadequate sleep.
  • Medications.
  • Physical activity.
  • Reduced muscle mass.
  • Stress and other emotional factors.

10 Weight Loss Tips After Age 40

It is never too late to adopt healthy habits that will help you maintain a proper weight over the long run.

While it can be very gratifying to step on that scale and have it reflect a big dip in a short amount of time, it’s important to remember that the initial drop in weight is often due to loss of water weight. After that, those who are more successful at keeping the weight off lose a steady one to two pounds per week.

Sticking to the basics and not making too many drastic changes at once while you find your groove can help you find success.

Here are 10 tips to assist you in your midlife weight-loss journey.

1. Keep track of your diet and activity

Part of keeping on track is knowing what you are doing well with and what may need some fine tuning. Writing down what you eat, how much you exercise and even how you feel can help you see patterns that may not be as apparent at first glance.

2. Develop a plan

Changing ingrained lifestyle habits as we age can be extremely challenging. Start by identifying your main motivations for weight loss and what lifestyle factors contribute the most to weight gain. Once you nail these down, put together a plan as to how you can realistically and specifically change them.

Figuring out the day-to-day mechanics that inevitably trip up so many is just as important, especially at first as you are learning new habits. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What recipes meet your new dietary requirements and realistically fit into your lifestyle?
  • How will you handle meals on those days where you just don’t have the time or energy to cook?
  • What foods should you have on hand if you are on-the-go and need a quick pick me up?
  • What exercise plan do you think you can stick to and how do you fit in this new time commitment?

Nobody is perfect, and an all-or-nothing approach will set you up for frustration and failure. Focus on changing a few habits at a time. Your overall goal could be losing 25 pounds and reducing your cholesterol levels, but changing habits with smaller, manageable short-term goals, like increasing daily vegetable intake or drinking more water, gives you a better chance of long-term success.


3. Exercise regularly

Like diet, your level of physical activity is one of the most powerful tools you have in the quest to maintain or lose weight. A study in the Journal of Public Health Research found significant differences between the physical activity level of obese and non-obese groups in adulthood.

Whether it’s running, doing yoga or high-intensity interval training, exercise is beneficial whenever you can squeeze it in, but exercising in the morning has the added weight loss benefit of helping control your appetite during the day, making it easier to consume less calories. Also, depending on your personality, you may be more likely to find success with group classes at a gym rather than working out solo.

4. Work your muscles

A decline in muscle mass is a natural part of aging. Remember that muscle cells burn more calories than fat cells, so a decline will reduce your caloric needs and, naturally, have an effect on your weight.

Strength training and other exercises can help slow that decline. Strength training is important to help you retain your muscles. Because muscle cells burn more calories than fat cells, increasing your muscle mass gives a boost to your metabolism.

5. Limit alcohol

One of the most effective ways to get your younger physique back is to cut back on your alcohol intake – or avoid it completely. A couple of glasses of wine with dinner or a couple of beers while watching a football game is 300 extra calories. What’s more, alcohol can increase your appetite and make you crave calorie-rich choices. In one study, researchers found that men who had one alcoholic drink before lunch ate, on average, 85 additional calories – that’s 11% more calories – during their meal than when they did not drink wine, beer or a spirit.


6. Eat a protein-rich breakfast

A high-protein breakfast – think one with eggs or Greek yogurt – is proving to be a winning weight-loss strategy. Studies show that dieters who eat high-quality protein as part of their first meal help ward off hunger pangs, reduce cravings and help them lose fat while maintaining lean muscle mass. One study published in the International Journal of Obesity, for example, found that overweight women who ate eggs for breakfast as part of a reduced-calorie diet lost 65% more weight and 34% more belly fat than women who started their days with a calorie-matched bagel breakfast. Another study with overweight adults found that those who had an egg-based breakfast significantly reduced their calorie intake throughout the day and snacking between meals compared to those who ate a bagel-based breakfast with the same number of calories.

7. Be mindful of your diet

Controlling what foods you put in your body is one of the most important things you can do to reduce weight. What and how much you eat impacts your weight and health. Emotional or mindless eating, as well as needing to get dinner on the table quickly and relying on more processed foods can create an unintentional slide into a less nutrient dense and higher caloric daily diet that significantly impacts weight.

Data supports what we’ve known for years now: Healthy eating is the most important part of your lifestyle for managing your weight. The calories you burn are important, of course, but they don’t change much as we age or even as we push ourselves to be more active. Focus on eating nutritious, whole foods. Avoid sugary, overly processed foods with little nutritional value.


8. Get more sleep

It can be a challenge to get sufficient sleep in middle age, but research has shown that there is a link between inadequate sleep and obesity. A review paper in the journal Obesity of 36 studies conclusively found that lack of sleep contributes to obesity.

Lack of sleep causes your appetite to surge and increases the desire for higher-calorie foods. Sleep deprivation affects your levels of ghrelin and leptin, two hormones that control your hunger signals – telling you when you’re hungry and when you’re full. Studies show that adults who routinely get less than six hours of slumber a night are more likely to have significant weight gain over time than those who sleep seven or more hours on most nights. While optimal hours of sleep are highly individualized, most adults need somewhere between seven and nine hours a night.

9. Check your meds

Certain medications can have an effect on appetite, nutritional absorption or metabolism. Check with your doctor to see if your medication may play a role in weight changes.


10. Seek help

It can be overwhelming to find the “best” diet, the “right” exercise or the “top” supplements. But consulting with health experts – including your doctor, a registered dietitian and a certified personal trainer – to get personalized, evidence-based guidance can help you cut through the noise and figure out what will work best for you.

Also, looking for support from friends, family or co-workers can help give the encouragement and motivation you need to stick with your efforts.

Can Weight Loss Medications Help?

Originally developed to treat diabetes, GLP-1 receptor agonists – such as Ozempic and Wegovy – have become widely sought after for their ability to help people lose weight quickly. These weekly shots work by mimicking certain hormones, called incretins, that aid in blood sugar control and digestion. They show great promise as one weight loss tool, but there are two caveats: They are expensive and are only temporary solutions, as weight is typically regained if a patient discontinues use.

“I consider all medications as ‘helpers’ on top of a healthy lifestyle,” says endocrinologist Dr. Richard Siegel, co-director of the Diabetes and Lipid Center at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. “People need to learn skills for weight loss and maintenance that can be used over a lifetime. We only have about 15 to 20 years of experience with the incretin class of medications, but so far they appear to be safe over this period.”


What Is a Healthy Weight?

The standard calculator that measures weight is called the body mass index. Anything from 18.5 to 24.9 falls within the normal range, while anything between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight. Anything over 30 is obese. You can find the CDC’s BMI calculator to determine what category you fall into here.

However, a growing number of experts say that BMI is an inaccurate indicator of body fat. That’s because your BMI only tells part of your weight story, as individuals each have varying factors that are also important – such as muscle mass to fat mass ratios, age, sex and genetics.

For example, some people with a BMI in the 25 to 30 overweight range may have a high muscle mass with lower fat mass. “A person can certainly be in this range and be healthy,” says Siegel.

There are other measures that can be used to assess metabolic risk, including waist circumference and waist circumference to height ratio.



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