Now that you’re entering your 40s, you may find that it’s becoming harder to maintain a healthy and fit physique. Hormone levels change in our 40s, especially during perimenopause (two to 10 years before menopause) as well as during menopause, causing a shift in how weight is distributed across our body. One change you may notice is that your belly isn’t as flat as it used to be and your clothes feel tighter around the middle. As a woman over 40 who is also experiencing these changes, I’ve noticed that as I get older, my metabolism is also slowing down, making it more difficult to not only lose any unwanted pounds, but also to keep off that dreaded increase in belly fat or fat around my middle.
In her article, “Shape-Shifting: Why Our Bodies Redistribute Fat as We Age, and How to Handle It”, Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP, author of Body for Life for Women, calls this extra fat around the belly, a “menopot.” Peeke says that while you may not be able to get the flat belly you had in your 20s back, it’s important that you work to maintain a flatter stomach, and not just so you can look good in those jeans. This is because the extra fat around your abdomen increases the risks of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
In the Girls Gone Strong article, “The Guide To Managing Menopausal Symptoms“, Brooke Kalanick Larson, ND, MS, LAc, says that it’s important that as we age women maintain as much lean muscle mass as possible. Unfortunately, the estrogen hormone that helped burned fat in our younger years decreases in our 40s and 50s, causing many of us to experience an increase in the fat around the belly. Not helping is that a drop in the levels of our progesterone hormone also impacts our middle as well.
So what can a woman in her 40s and 50s do to combat this? Here are 3 tips you can use now to keep fat around your middle at bay:
- Lift Those Weights—It’s a fact that muscle burns more calories than fat so become friends with the weights, either at the gym or at home. Aim to lift 2 to 3 times a week. Studies have shown that women can build muscle even after 60.
- Eat Clean—Go for the veggies, fruit, and foods high in protein (lean meats, eggs, beans, and edamame). Look for healthy fats such as nuts and avocados and limit sugar, even fake sugar. The fewer ingredients the food labels on a package has the better, and make sure to also control your portions.
- Get Your Sleep—Insomnia sometimes affects women during menopause and perimenopause. Look at factors you can control, such as eliminating caffeine at least three hours before bedtime, maintaining a cool temperature in the bedroom (especially if you have hot flashes) and moving the TV in the bedroom to the living room or family room. Keep your bedroom as a restful sanctuary. Lack of restful sleep may also chronically increase your level of cortisol, the stress hormone, keeping you constantly on edge.
Follow these tips and don’t believe the myth that you can’t be healthy and fit over 40. Challenge yourself! Hitting your 40s and 50s isn’t the time to give up! It will take some additional work and adjusting your exercise and nutrition, but you can still be your fittest and healthiest self through all the decades of your long life.