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40 Proven Ways to Lose Weight After 40


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No one said losing weight is easy—and it can be even tougher as you add more candles to your birthday cake. We tapped experts who coach people 40-plus on losing weight successfully. We also combed through scientific research to double down on exactly what you can do, from food to fitness, sleep, stress, and more.

Want to get in the best shape of your life? In Fit After 40, Natalie Jill coaches you though routines to help you drop pounds, firm up, and transform your entire body—in your 40s, 50s, and beyond.

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ID your why

People who are successful at losing weight after 40 do so after having an epiphany—whether that’s because your clothes no longer fit or because your doctor recommended it for your health. “You need to have a mental awakening that puts you in a state of readiness to change. If you’re not engaged mentally, it’s not happening,” says Pamela Peeke, MD, author of The Hunger Fix. Find your why and remind yourself of it often.

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Put food first

“When it comes to losing weight, what actually moves the needle is always dietary change,” says Caroline Cederquist, MD, a weight management specialist in Naples, Florida. People make the common mistake of going hard on exercise and then stopping when they don’t see results, she says. At the outset, focus your efforts towards changing what you eat, once you start to lose weight, then add exercise.

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Cut back on portions

When you’re trying to lose weight over 40, even healthy foods require portion control. “Think about your stomach as being the size of two of your fists put together. When there’s a lot more on your plate than that—you might be over-filling yourself with more than you actually need,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It – Taking You from Label to Table. To painlessly reduce portions, shave just a spoon or two less than you normally eat, she says. “Often, we don’t even need the extra we eat at mealtime,” says Taub-Dix.

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Control carbs

As you reach 40, your body becomes more insulin resistant, making it easier to gain weight (especially belly fat) and harder to lose it, explains Cederquist. To offset this, controlling carbs is a must, she says—even when eating healthy sources like whole grains. For example, measure out a true serving (like a half cup of cooked brown rice) when you sit down to eat, rather than eyeballing a scoop.

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Reign in fruit

Fruit is healthy, bottom line. It supplies a wealth of phytonutrients and fiber. But it does contain carbohydrates. “After 40, you have to watch your intake of healthy carbs,” says Dr. Cederquist. Don’t eliminate it completely but stick to two servings of fruit a day. Berries, which are lower in sugar and carbohydrate, are top choices.

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Load up on protein, and spread it out

After 40, you have to work hard to preserve muscle mass as you cut calories and lose weight. To best do that, eat 30 grams of protein at three meals a day, says Dr. Cederquist. You’ll find that in about four to five ounces of chicken or fish.

Drop pounds, firm up, and transform your entire body with Fit After 40.

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Protein-pack your breakfast

Did we mention how important protein is? It’s especially critical for breakfast, when people are more likely to reach for carb-heavy choices. “Research shows that people who eat protein for breakfast rather than carbs lose more weight,” says LA-based Tiffany Wright, Ph.D., “The Skinny Coach.”

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Start walking

Ramping up the time you spend walking is important for everyone, but especially if you have more than 50 pounds to lose, says Dr. Peeke. One common mistake is thinking you have to go all-out on exercise, so you start an intense exercise regimen. “That’s the worst thing you can do because it increases your risk of injury,” she says. Brisk walking, on the other hand, helps you shed pounds and keeps you pain-free. Aim for 10,000 steps a day.

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Space breakfast and lunch

Timing out your meals can be a useful strategy to maintain and lose weight, suggests a study in The Journal of Nutrition. The researchers found that eating less frequently was helpful in reducing intake, and they recommended eating breakfast and lunch five to six hours apart. That’s relatively easy to do if you have breakfast at 7 a.m. and lunch at noon, but it’s an important reminder that timing matters.

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Ditch the diet mentality

In a cruel twist, “dieting” has been found to be one of the best predictors of weight gain. That’s disappointing news, to be sure. However, “restrained eating” wasn’t associated with gain, according to a study in Frontiers in Psychology. When you want to lose weight, lose the “dieting” lingo.

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Ramp up your workouts

After you have a regular walking routine down, “look into other enjoyable ways of moving your body,” says Dr. Peeke. That may be dance, hiking, biking, swimming, or martial arts. The key is that physical activity should be enjoyable to you—not based on the latest fad or overly punishing. When you look forward to it, you’re more likely to stay consistent.

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Have a salad at lunch

There are many ways you can build a gut-busting salad, including loading on a ton of calorie-heavy toppings. A smart lunchtime salad includes a heaping pile of vegetables (lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers), a four- to five-ounce portion of lean protein, and a vinaigrette for some healthy fat. “One of the reasons I love lunch salads is that you can have a large amount of food, which will keep you full until dinner,” says Cederquist.

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Fit in favorite foods

Dieting doesn’t have to be a terrible experience. “Just because you need or want to lose weight doesn’t mean you should feel punished or deprived,” says Taub-Dix. Finding a way of eating that lasts long-term is what will prevent yo-yo weight gain. Even when losing weight, don’t completely cut out your favorite foods, she says.

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Manage stress

In a study on adults age 54 and over, people who had a higher marker for the stress hormone cortisol were more likely to weigh more, have a higher BMI and a larger waistline, according to UK researchers. High cortisol levels promote fat storage, particularly belly fat. Learning stress reduction strategies—and using them when necessary—can help you lose weight without needing to change your diet.

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Drink it up

In a study on nearly 10,000 adults, “inadequate hydration” was linked to higher BMIs and obesity, per research from the University of Michigan. Those who are overweight may be eating fewer water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables. It’s also worth sipping more H20. One tip to get more in: many people notice they can drink more water when it’s at room temperature, says Taub-Dix.

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Enjoy a weekly treat

Weekends often go off the rails because they lack the structure of the week. Approach Friday night through Sunday just like the weekend in terms of your structured meals. Once per week, go for a “treat” meal where you will have something that you absolutely love, like your favorite pasta at your favorite Italian restaurant, says Cederquist. It helps stave off feelings of deprivation.

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Shift your thinking

When you’re trying to lose weight, it’s easy to see all the food opportunities that pop up around you—like those donuts or cookies at work. When those cookies show up, tell yourself you hold the power and you’re making a choice. Say, “I’m choosing not to have those because I’m choosing something I enjoy more,” Cederquist recommends. This is where the promise of your treat meal comes in—when you focus on that, you can ignore the so-so food opportunities coming your way.

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Read labels

It’s easy to see the front of a package and get lured in by misleading claims, particularly those that say they’re “free-from” something, says Taub-Dix. She points out that gluten-free foods may also be high in sugar, salt, calories, and fat and contain less fiber—and thus be weight-promoting. Reading the nutrition label will give you the real truth for what you’re buying.

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Plan ahead

Flying by the seat of your pants hoping to make nutritious choices throughout the day is a disaster for your diet, says Wright. There are too many things that pop up that can get in the way of good intentions. “Plan your meals the night before and commit to them. The next day, you’ll know exactly what you’re eating,” she says.

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Pack in more plants

Eating a plant-based diet may be key to long-term weight loss. In a review of 12 randomized controlled trials in 2016, dieters who ate vegetarian lost nearly five pounds more than meat eaters. (Vegans lost even more.) Beans, lentils, and tofu are great plant proteins to get more of.

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Stick to three square meals

There’s an idea that eating constantly throughout the day will keep your metabolism revved. “That’s true, but the effect is extremely minimal,” says Wright. Having three meals a day means you can eat and move on and not have to think about food again until the next time. “It’s very freeing,” she says.

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Skip artificial sweeteners

Fake sugar may contain zero calories, but it reinforces your taste for sugary food, says Wright. (And yes, this goes for Stevia, too.) “If you eat sweetener of any kind, you’ll never have ‘orgasms’ in your mouth over apples,” she says. Joking aside, the less you rely on these, the more you’ll appreciate the natural sweetness found in foods—even vegetables.

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Sip green tea

When you feel that mid-afternoon energy lull take hold, you may want to reach for something sugary in hopes of a pick-me-up. Instead, Wright recommends sipping a green tea, which contains antioxidants that may increase fat burning and quells hunger. She also says that if you’re taking omega 3 supplements, now is the perfect time to do it. “They’re fat, so along with the tea, they’ll help tide you over until dinner,” she says.

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Get strong

Strength exercise is absolutely imperative for women over 40, says Dr. Peeke. It’s at this time when muscle mass begins to decrease. “If you’re not paying attention, you’ll drop muscle incredibly fast,” she says. Forget going to the gym. She recommends popping in a workout DVD (like Fit After 40) that focuses on bodyweight resistance training, like squats, lunges, pushups, and burpees.

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Fill up on fat

The right fats won’t make you fat—they can help prevent the middle age spread. In a study in The Lancet, people who ate a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil or nuts had a lower weight and waist circumference over five years compared to a control group. Even better: no one had to count calories.

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Eat more yogurt

Make this one of your go-to breakfast staples. One research review in 2016 concluded that eating yogurt was associated with having a lower BMI, a smaller waist circumference, and less body fat. Yogurt is high in protein and calcium, two nutrients that favorably affect weight, says Wright. Choose plain versions to avoid added sugar.

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Pair protein and carbs

This is a winning combo: protein takes longer to digest, so leads to a more stable blood sugar response after eating carbs, says Wright. Pair a banana with peanut butter, rice with chicken, or a string cheese with a small piece of fruit.

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Take control

Emotional eating happens—and you shouldn’t feel ashamed when it does. But working through those triggers and identifying alternative soothing activities that don’t involve food can increase your chance at successfully losing weight by 70 percent, per research in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

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Snack at night

“Most of my clients have come to me and said that they like to snack at night,” says Wright. If that sounds like you, go with that natural tendency. Otherwise, you’ll spend the evening suffering. Besides, says Wright, a nighttime snack will keep blood sugar levels stable as you sleep. Wright likes to microwave an apple (to get it soft), then toast it (to get it crunchy) and tops with yogurt and cinnamon for a winning carb-protein combo.

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Close the kitchen

If possible, get your snack in early in the evening. Then, close the kitchen at 8 p.m. “Restrict eating to 12 hours per day, with your biggest meal at lunch,” says Dr. Peeke, as it works with your body’s natural metabolic rhythms. Think of the hours you’re not eating as “rejuvenation,” when your cells are doing the housekeeping needed to drop body fat.

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