A person is holding onto two yellow dumbbells.

Why We Gain Weight After 40 & Tips To Prevent This

After age 40 most women start to gain weight and they tend to blame it on their age, or on their hormones. This may be a small part of it, but it’s certainly not out of your control. If you’re eating enough of the right foods, minimizing empty calorie foods, doing the right workouts, and living a healthy lifestyle, you can lose, and keep off, the unwanted pounds, regardless of your age.

There are other reasons, besides hormones, was to why most people tend to gain weight with age. When we are born, and until we are age 20, are bodies are building muscle. We use food to fuel this, and muscle burns calories, so as we grow our calorie needs do too. After around age 20 this stops. This means that the only way to build and maintain muscle mass in order tomaintain a healthy weight and metabolism, is through exercise and diet.

First, we need to be eating small frequent meals that are high in protein. Your body can only utilize 20-30 grams of protein at a time for protein synthesis. It’s important to take in at least this amount of protein at all your meals, and ideally include high protein snacks as well. If you’re not taking in enough protein, your body will take it from your muscle mass. This is called lean muscle protein breakdown. Lean muscle protein breakdown decreases muscle mass percentage, increases fat percentage, and slows the metabolic rate. Muscle burn calories. Fat doesn’t.

There is also a very high correlation with stress, lack of sleep, and weight gain. When women are stressed about losing weight they are making it much more difficult for themselves! Stress produces adrenaline, this puts us in flight or fight mode. If you were being chased by a wild animal back in the hunter and gatherer days, this would come in handy, and afterwards your appetite would soar. In this day and age, it’s not likely that you’ll be running form a wild animal, your appetite, however, will still soar. You will also produce more cortisol leading to the storage of belly fat.

It’s a similar case with sleep. Your body produces higher levels of cortisol when you are not getting enough sleep, leading to an increased storage of belly fat. Also, when a person is tired they may reach for high carb, or sugary snacks to get a feeling of instant energy. This is almost always followed by a crash and it becomes a vicious cycle. Lastly, when a person is sleep deprived they are much less likely to make the best decisions. This means less planning in advance, and less care with food choices. All of this equates to weight gain.

Another problem that I see all of the time, and what led me to write my last book, Fill Your Plate Lose the Weight, is when women want to lose weight they think that if they exercise more and eat less this will happen. This is not the case. Logically it makes sense, calories in versus calories out. However, I see this mistake often, and it backfires every time! Your body perceives these as 2 major stressors, so your metabolism will slow down to preserve body fat, and keep you from starving. Too much cardio also leads to a big appetite! Strength training is essential to build muscle mass and keep the metabolism humming.


Bottom Line:

Listen to your body. Eat when you’re hungry not “starved”, and stop when you are satisfied, not “stuffed”.

Fuel your body evenly throughout the day with protein, vegetables, and healthy fats.

Exercise daily for at least 20 minutes. Try to include strengthening exercises at least 3 times a week, and regular exercise 20-60 minutes per day.

Make sure to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.

Practice yoga, breathing, or meditation to decrease stress levels.