Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why Weight Loss After 40 Is So Hard...And What To Do About It

I often have clients come to me after a hiatus from working out regularly and tell me they are doing the exact same thing that worked for them before, but they are not seeing any results. And while I've had people in their early to mid twenties tell me this, I hear it more often from clients in their late 30's and older. Provided there isn't a medical issue at play, many of these changes happen as a result of the natural aging process.
However, there are ways to understand and overcome these challenges.
Taken from the article, "Weight Loss After 40: Why It's So Hard -- and What Works" (, here are 10 steps to follow:

1. Get to know your body's new biological rhythms -- and adjust to them
Interesting fact: eating just 100 extra calories a day (100 more than what your body burns), will lead to a nine- to 10-pound weight gain over the course of a year. We need to balance our food intake with our activity to avoid this increase.

2. Eliminate underlying metabolic conditions
Thyroid problems affect 1 in 5 adults over age 40. The most common is hypothyroidism and it is one of the primary reasons many people over 40 can't lose weight. You can ask your doctor to give you a TSH (a thyroid blood test) if you think this may be a factor in your weight gain. 

3. Adjust your eating habits for maximum energy  
This is advice I give all of my clients and friends who have questions about weight loss, regardless of age: eat more frequently, but consume less at each sitting. Don't go more than three to four hours without eating. If you're on the go, then bring a healthy snack with you. This will also keep your blood sugar steady, avoiding peaks and valleys that contribute to fatigue.

4. Time your eating to take advantage of your body's natural rhythms
What you eat in the mornings, when your metabolism is revved up to its optimum operating speed, is much more likely to be expended efficiently. One of the only factors those who've lost more than 30lbs have in common is that they eat breakfast.

5. Trick your metabolism with fat-fighting foods
It's really not just about how much you eat, but how much of which foods. Make a few simple tweaks to your diet, incorporating foods that actually fight fat instead of those that trigger it. Then eat other foods in moderation, and you should be OK.

6. Make muscles an ally in your weight-loss campaign
If you've ever asked me why strength training is important to weight loss, then you've already heard this! The more muscle mass you have, the more effectively your metabolism burns calories. But sad to say, a natural tendency of aging is to lose muscle, gradually replacing it with fat. So in order to enlist the calorie-burning abilities of muscle, we do have to work at it.

7. Get more sleep to burn more calories
Oh, I can hear my moms laughing now! However, here is an interesting fact: significant research has shown that lack of sleep is directly connected to weight gain because of the actions of two hormones, leptin and ghrelin, that control hunger and satiety, or feeling full. When you're sleep deprived, your ghrelin levels increase at the same time that your leptin levels decrease. The result is more craving, less feeling full. Add to that the fact that sleep-deprived people often crave "energy" foods, which tend to be sweet or salty, and you can see how small changes in your routine can add up to big weight gain.

8. Strike up a healthy relationship with your sweet tooth
Who knew we had to trick our brains? Cut what you're craving in half, before you start eating, carefully wrapping the second half up to "save for later." You may or may not want it -- sometimes if you eat the first half slowly and consciously enough, you'll feel satisfied. But knowing it's there if you do plays a nice trick on your brain, which tends to crave things it perceives as being in short supply. Also, don't try to substitute artificially flavored sweets. Researchers have recently discovered that artificial sweeteners fail to trigger the body's natural satisfaction response.

9. Forget dieting. Instead, focus on your fuel-to-energy ratio
Have you ever had a week where all you eat is junk food, followed by two weeks of eating well and working out, only to find your weight hasn't changed? Frustrating! Here's why: if you've gradually gained weight over time, your body has adapted to the new weight and now does its best to hold onto it. So here's what you do: You make slow, gradual adjustments to each end of the equation. And you -- and only you -- decide which end of the fuel-in, energy-out equation to emphasize and when. In other words, eat to live, don't live to eat.

10. Make slow, realistic changes in tune with your lifestyle
For all of you who've been to a nutritionist, we know "it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle change." Set out to lose one to two pounds a week for the next five to ten weeks, instead of 10lbs in two weeks. It's up to you to find that balance between intake and how you'll be burning the extra calories you consume.

Remember: "Your primary goal should be making small, gradual lifestyle changes that you can incorporate into your daily routine and stick with over time. That's the ultimate secret to combating over-40 weight gain."

Now it's your turn! Have you been trying to lose those last few pounds without success for too long now? What changes do you plan to make to lose them? Maybe you've lost those pounds and you have some great advice for others looking to do the same. Share your questions, resolutions, and advice with the Body By Kelly community. Remember, you can post anonymously. I look forward to reading them!

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