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Weight Loss Tips From Trainers And Doctors

By Published On: June 12, 202411.8 min readViews: 1070 Comments on Weight Loss Tips From Trainers And Doctors

Turning 40 can be an empowering experience. It’s the start of a new decade and another opportunity to get stronger and healthier than ever. That said, when it comes to losing weight after 40, it can be tough to make progress due to the natural changes your body is going through.

For one, you naturally lose muscle mass in your 40s, which can change your body composition, says Keri Peterson, MD, an internal medicine physician and Women’s Health advisor. “Having higher muscle mass raises your metabolism, so your body burns more calories,” she says. If you’re losing muscle mass, your metabolism will slow down, you expend fewer calories, and weight loss may become more challenging.

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That’s why if you’re in your 40s, one of the most effective ways to jumpstart the weight loss process is developing and maintaining muscle mass, says Dr. Peterson, although hydration, sleep habits, and other lifestyle changes can all play a role. But how do you go about it, exactly? Here’s how to lose weight in your 40s safely and sustainably, according to doctors, dietitians, and trainers.

Meet the experts: Keri Peterson, MD, is an internal medicine physician based in New York City. Ellen Bari, CNS, is a personal trainer and nutrition specialist based in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. Laura Purdy, MD, is a family medicine physician and medical director of SWELL Medical (SMed). De Bolton, CPT, is a NASM-certified personal trainer, corrective exercise specialist, and weight-loss specialist at FaithFueled Mom. Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, is a nutrition and diabetes expert based in Sparta, New Jersey. Sarah Mirkin, RDN, is a dietitian and the author of Fill Your Plate Lose the Weight.

11 Tips For Losing Weight In Your 40s

1. Start slow and steady.

If you’re trying to lose weight in your 40s, you may feel compelled to commit to an intense fitness routine right away. However, there are many safe, practical ways to start a consistent movement practice at home, says Pennsylvania-based personal trainer Ellen Bari, CNS. Exercises like high-knees, sidestepping, or jumping jacks are cardio-based movements that can help you get started, she says.

Walking for 30 minutes five times a week can also be helpful if you’re trying to lose weight, says Laura Purdy, MD, a family medicine physician and medical director of SWELL Medical (SMed). No matter what your age or wellness goals, don’t feel pressured to overdo it. “Start with small steps, listen to your body, and meet your body where it is, then make goals from there,” Dr. Purdy says.

2. Try strength training.

    Although it may seem counterintuitive if you’re trying to drop pounds, strength-training activities that help you increase muscle mass will enhance your ability to burn fat and lose weight long-term. “The most effective way that women over 40 can boost their metabolism is by building muscle through weight-lifting and resistance training,” says Dr. Peterson. You don’t have to lift super heavy weights, either—strength training can be as simple as using light weights and doing a few bicep curls, arm circles, or lateral extensions, says personal trainer and weight loss specialist De Bolton, CPT.

    You can also incorporate a full-body strength workout into your routine around one to two times per week, says Bolton.

    3. Eat more protein.

    Adding more protein to your diet may help you accelerate weight loss in your 40s, says nutrition and diabetes expert Erin Palinski-Wade, RD. “Although I don’t promote very high-protein diets, increasing your protein intake from 15 percent of your total calories to 30 percent can help you boost the calories your body burns during digestion,” she says. (Here’s a helpful guide for calculating how much protein is too much).

    Clinical trials have found that a high-protein diet may help you lose weight and potentially keep it off, according to a 2020 review published in the Journal of Obesity & Metabolic Syndrome. That’s because it increases your satiety and energy expenditure. To that end, aim to incorporate 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal, says dietitian Sarah Mirkin, RDN, the author of Fill Your Plate Lose the Weight. “It’s important to take in that amount of protein at all your meals, and ideally include high-protein snacks as well,” Mirkin says. Remember that individual protein needs differ, though. To find your bare minimum protein needs, multiply your body weight in pounds by 0.36 or use this handy protein calculator.

      4. Have more fruits and veggies, too.

        Making produce the star of your meals can help with portion control and weight loss, says Palinski-Wade. “If you aim to fill half your plate with vegetables, it can help you reduce the amount of other foods you eat while feeling just as satisfied,” she explains. “And since vegetables provide few calories, this strategy can reduce your overall calorie intake at each meal, helping to promote weight loss.”

        Increased consumption of fruits and veggies is consistently linked to weight loss in women, per a study in Nutrients. “Veggies [especially] are rich in fiber, which makes you feel full, and they’re nutrient-dense,” says Dr. Peterson. Vegetables in particular are generally low in cals, yet still packed with vitamins and minerals, so you can really go to town on them.

        5. Consider meal timing.

          What you eat in the morning can set the tone for the rest of your day as far as weight loss goes, says Palinski-Wade. “A breakfast rich in lean protein, fiber, and plant-based fats is the best option for curbing hunger and cravings later in the day,” she says. In other words, start your day with a breakfast option that fits this bill, and you may end up slashing calories throughout the rest of the day, which will ultimately help with long-term weight loss.

          On the flip side, it may help to be more mindful of what you eat at night. It’s a myth that eating at night leads to weight gain, Palinski-Wade says—it’s more about what you’re eating at night that can be an issue for weight management. “Since most of us don’t have a salad for a midnight snack, if you find you tend to eat calorie-dense, high-sugar foods in the evening (like a bowl of ice cream), setting guidelines as to when to stop eating may help you to lose weight faster,” she says.

          6. Eat slowly and mindfully.

            Eating slowly, eliminating distractions at meals, and even putting your fork down in between bites all allow you to get in touch with your body’s satiety signals and to stop eating when satisfied,” says Palinski-Wade. And there’s science to support this: Some researchers think that having food in your mouth longer may promote the release of gut hormones that reduce appetite, according to a 2022 meta-analysis published in Nutrition Bulletin.

            The key is listening to your body and practicing intuitive eating whenever possible. “Eat when you’re hungry, not starved,” Mirkin says, and stop when you are satisfied, not stuffed. “Try to include small, frequent meals that are high in protein and vegetables with a small amount of healthy fat to fuel your body evenly throughout the day,” she adds.

            7. Reduce stress and prioritize sleep.

              If you’re in your 40s, chances are, you have work, family, and countless other responsibilities that can rev up your stress levels. The stress hormone, cortisol, can cause your body to store fat rather than burning it—which can ultimately make weight loss a lot harder.

              Fortunately, there are many ways to relieve stress, like doing breathing exercises every day, especially before bed, Palinski-Wade says. If you prefer a nutritional approach, prioritize foods rich in vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids, which Palinski-Wade says have been found to reduce the levels of stress hormones circulating in the body.

              Sleep is a must when it comes to stress reduction, but difficulty sleeping can be a symptom of perimenopause, so it’s not uncommon for women in their 40s to struggle with getting enough shut-eye. Unfortunately, this can also cause weight gain. “When you get less than seven hours of restful sleep, metabolic changes occur that can make it significantly harder to lose weight,” says Palinski-Wade. “The appetite hormone ghrelin is increased while leptin (which controls hunger cues) is reduced, triggering an increased desire to eat, especially foods rich in fat and sugar,” she says. Insulin resistance increases, which can trigger the body to store fat and make weight loss harder.

              8. Stay hydrated.

                Increased water intake can suppress your appetite and ramp up fat breakdown, research shows. Health experts used to recommend eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day (about 2 liters, or half a gallon). The daily water recommendation per the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) a day for women. If you’re exercising, you’ll likely need even more. But, there are many other factors that could affect how much H2O you really need, so it’s a good idea to set personal #hydrationgoals.

                Looking for some fun sips that aren’t plain H20? Try a low-sugar sparkling water or sip on some hot water with lemon, Bari says.

                9. Limit soda, alcohol, and sugary drinks.

                  If you’re in your 40s and love a sweet drink, by no means do you have to give it up entirely—but some experts say your daily soda could be hindering your weight loss goals. “Soda is just empty calories from sugar and provides no nutritional benefit,” says Palinski-Wade. Drinking these bubbly beverages has been directly linked to weight gain, even for people who exercise on the reg, in a 2020 study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

                  Weight loss aside, drinking simple sugars isn’t great for your health because it can spike blood sugar and insulin levels, causing your body to store more fat, Palinski-Wade says—and that fat is tougher to shed over 40. To help support your fitness goals, scale back on sugary drinks—including alcohol, which has been shown to cancel out the beneficial effects of weight loss in premenopausal women with obesity, evidence has shown.

                  Behavior-wise, drinking alcohol can often lead to poor food choices, Dr. Peterson adds. Try to reserve your glass of wine for one day a week or cut back on the number of cocktails you order on your next night out.

                  10. Track your food intake using a journal or app.

                  Keeping track of food and weight loss progress isn’t always the healthiest decision for everyone, so exercise caution with this recommendation, especially if you have a history of disordered eating (or simply aren’t motivated by numbers!). That said, people who track what they eat tend to lose more weight than those who don’t, Palinski-Wade says. “It’s most likely because these individuals are more aware of what they are putting into their body, which can help them to make better choices and better moderate [their] portion sizes,” she explains.

                  If you’re just getting started, it may help to start a journal and make note of what foods you’re eating and how they make you feel. Weight loss apps can help with this, or you may find support from intuitive eating resources that help you recognize your hunger cues and even emotions around food.

                  11. Get support from friends and family.

                  Being in your 40s and trying to lose weight isn’t always an easy thing, and it can help to have support from family and friends along the way (at any age, in fact). Having both accountability and support from family members can affect one’s long-term commitment to a weight loss program, a recent study found.

                  It’s much easier to eat nutritious meals when your family and friends are supporting you, says Palinski-Wade. And if you can recruit a friend to become your workout buddy for motivation and accountability, even better, she says. Even if you don’t go to the gym together and do the same workout, an accountability buddy can be someone you text (and receive texts from) when you don’t feel like sticking to your planned routine and need a reminder of your motivation, for example.

                  When To See A Doctor

                  If you’ve tried all the above measures for at least three months without success, talk to your doctor, Dr. Purdy says. “Start with the basics, go to your annual checkups, and explain your concerns and goals,” she says. “Your doctor can help you come up with a plan that is tailored to you and your changing body.”

                  That said, if you notice dramatic weight gain or you have a sudden lack of energy, it’s best to schedule a visit with a healthcare provider because it may be your thyroid, Dr. Purdy says. “Feeling worn out with a loss of energy is an immediate sign of hypothyroidism (a condition where the body doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone, and can sometimes lead to weight gain), and you may feel exhausted, mentally tired, and have a lack of motivation,” she explains.

                  Additionally, if you’re constipated, have dry hair and nails, and/or trouble staying awake, it’s worth considering getting your thyroid levels checked, adds Dr. Peterson, which you can talk to your general practitioner about.

                  Addison Aloian (she/her) is the assistant love & life editor at Women’s Health. Outside of topics related to lifestyle, relationships, and dating, she also loves covering fitness and style. In her free time, she enjoys lifting weights at the gym, reading mystery and romance novels, watching (and critiquing!) the latest movies that have garnered Oscars buzz, and wandering around the West Village in New York City. In addition to Women’s Health, her work has also appeared in Allure, StyleCaster, L’Officiel USA, V Magazine, VMAN, and more.
                  Headshot of Andi Breitowich
                  Andi Breitowich is a Chicago-based writer and graduate student at Northwestern Medill. She’s a mass consumer of social media and cares about women’s rights, holistic wellness, and non-stigmatizing reproductive care. As a former collegiate pole vaulter, she has a love for all things fitness and is currently obsessed with Peloton Tread workouts and hot yoga.  

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