If you are 40-something, you know that
it is getting harder to manage your weight. This is true for most, but it doesn’t mean you cannot still maintain a healthy
First you may need to re-frame your outlook.
If you are dreaming about your high school weight, you may need a reality check. For some, this may be possible, for others
it may simply be unrealistic and unnecessary. When determining what your goal weight is, consider this: ﬁ Calculate
your BMI (see below). This is the best way to assess whether you really need to lose weight, or you just want to look better
in your jeans. If your BMI is in the healthy range of 19-24, then you can be assured that your weight is not adversely affecting
your health. If it is over 24, then you could reduce your risk for disease by losing a few pounds.
Love yourself first. If you think
that losing fifteen pounds will solve all of your body image problems, you are probably wrong. Work with a therapist or life
coach so that you can come to peace with who you are and the body shape you were born with. Try not to let your appearance
be your biggest motivator to eat well and exercise. ﬁ Consider inches, not just the scale. Take your waist, arm and
thigh measurements now. Then compare every two weeks for three to four months after you have been exercising and eating better.
You may not always see huge losses on the scale, but lost inches means lost fat and better health.
Secondly you need to make some changes
in your eating habits. Most women at this age are pretty busy. They may be juggling a family, career and aging parents. This
often adds up to skipping meals, eating junk food, and being dehydrated! Keep these tips in mind each day to get you out of
a bad habit: ﬁ Sit down and take a lunch break. While breakfast may be quick, lunch should not have to be on the run.
Often we think that we are saving time by eating at our desks or in our car! But your body and mind need some downtime and
a twenty to thirty minute break will likely leave you more focused and energized. Plus, sitting down will help you eat more
slowly, which will help you eat less and stop when you’re full.
ﬁ Plan two to three snacks a day.
If you work out of the home, bring two snacks with you each day. If you work at home, choose your snacks in the morning or
the night before. You may even want to post a “Healthy Snack List” on your refrigerator to help you make good
choices. Portions are important. Snack ideas: Low fat yogurt; 1-2 ounces pretzels; low fat string cheese with 6 wheat crackers;
low fat granola or high fiber bar; 10 animal crackers and a glass of skim milk; a piece of fresh fruit or a cup of melon or
berries; raw carrots; hummus with 6-8 wheat crackers; a glass of low fat chocolate milk. ﬁ Consider keeping a food
log. Writing down what we eat helps keep us accountable for all the little tidbits and go into our mouth. ﬁ Be patient.
Weight loss after forty is slower than it was before. You have to simply accept this. Make small changes, stick with them,
and you will eventually see results.
Finally, exercise is more important than
ever. Again, with the busy and often content lives that 40-something women may lead, they may get relaxed on exercise. It’s
never too late to start an exercise program. Check with your doctor first to find out if there should be any restrictions,
then shoot for exercising 3-5 times a week. While this may seem like a lot, keep in mind, household activities count too.
So consider more formal exercise (like jogging, walking, weight lifting) to be done 3-4 times a week.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and American Heart Association (AHA) have released updated
physical activity recommendations for adults and older adults. The recommendations are an update and clarification of the
1995 recommendation on the types and amounts of physical activity needed by healthy adults and older adults to improve and
maintain health. Specifically, the guidelines recommend all healthy adults aged 18 to 65 years need moderate-intensity aerobic
physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes on five days each week or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity for a
minimum of 20 minutes on three days each week. So the good news is that once you increase your intensity, you can get by with
3 days a week of activity. Keep these ideas in mind when planning out your activities: ﬁ
If you are not active at all, start walking. A nice walk outside each morning will be a great way to start your day. Even
if you only have time for a 30-minute walk, start there. Some activity is always better than no activity.
ﬁ If you are
already a walker, try jogging. Increasing the intensity of any activity will help boost your metabolism. Start by jogging
for 30 seconds, then one minute, and continue alternating minutes of jogging with walking. Before you know it you will be
jogging two miles. ﬁ Don’t hire it all out. Often individuals may have a comfortable lifestyle at this point
and be able to hire folks to do the weeding, mulching, dig a new garden, mowing, or housework. Consider doing some of these
old chores yourself. Shoveling mulch builds muscle and burns lots of calories! ﬁ Try weight lifting. Weight training
doesn’t mean you have to turn into a body builder nor does it mean you have to go to a gym. If you want to join a gym,
that’s fine. It is a good idea to get some initial training from a personal trainer to be sure you are doing the activities
with good form, but once you have the form down, you can easily work out at home. Invest in a set of light hand weights (usually
2, 3 and 5 pounds each) and start doing repetitions. We lose muscle as we age and weight lifting is one way to build some
back and burn more calories.
Take your weight loss goals one at a time
and you will see results eventually. In the meantime, think about your short-term goals and how eating healthy foods and using
your muscles keeps your body well. Before you know it you will be inches smaller and a few pounds lighter
Rosanne Rust, MS, RD, LDN
Consulting, Writing, Lectures
Licensed Provider for Real Living Nutrition Services®