Losing Weight after 40: 8 Strategies for Weight Loss

Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA

Reviewed by Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA

Written by Rachel Sacks

Published 04/05/2024

Updated 04/23/2024

Some things come with the privilege of getting older — more gray hairs, more birthdays, more wisdom and, for some, weight gain. Gaining weight as you age is normal. Losing weight after 40 can be tricky, with metabolism changes and an evolving lifestyle, among other factors.

But losing weight in your 40s isn’t impossible — or all that complicated.

Wondering how to lose weight after 40? Healthy habits, like the ones below, can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight while optimizing your overall well-being.

Weight gain is common as you get older — for both men and women.

What makes weight loss goals after middle age more difficult for women in particular are factors like hormonal changes after menopause, a dip in muscle mass and other influences that can get in the way of healthy lifestyle habits.

While weight gain isn’t directly caused by menopause, decreasing estrogen levels can increase body fat, especially around the stomach.

As you get older, you might experience sleep disruptions and may not feel up for as much physical activity as you used to — which can lead to weight gain.

Maintaining a healthy body weight is important for managing blood sugar levels and reducing your risk of heart disease, cancer and other health conditions.

Though everyone’s weight loss journey is different, weight loss for women over 40 can be achieved through simple lifestyle changes like adding more movement and making smart food choices.

Speaking of — there’s no one particular best diet for women over 40 to achieve weight loss goals. However, middle-aged women managing their weight may have a slightly different set of nutritional needs than middle-aged men.

These are our best tips for how to lose weight in your 40s.

1. Eat More Vegetables

While the amount of veggies you should eat depends on your gender, age, physical activity and other factors, the average recommended amount is two to three servings a day.

While only one in 10 adults gets this amount, maintaining a healthy weight often calls for eating more vegetables.

Aim for a variety of colors in your vegetables, from dark leafy greens to red bell peppers to orange carrots. Starchy vegetables are good too — think beans, peas, sweet potatoes and lentils.

How this helps: The fiber and nutrient content in vegetables can help you feel full without overeating and power you through your workouts.

2. Swap in Whole Grains

You certainly don’t have to deprive yourself of carbohydrates to lose weight after 40. In fact, cutting out carbs completely can lead to fatigue, constipation and irritability.

Carbs are great for overall health, energy and wellness — especially whole-grain carbohydrates. Instead of banishing carbs completely, choose whole grains such as whole-wheat bread, rye, barley and quinoa for optimal nutrition.

How this helps: You need carbs for energy, but not all are created equal. Choosing complex carbs (whole grains) instead of the simple, sugar-laden variety can give you energy to work out, plus essential nutrients and fiber.

3. Eat More Whole Foods

Adding more whole foods to your meals and healthy snacks could help in your journey of losing weight after 40.

Besides vegetables and whole grains, aim to eat more lean protein, seafood, nuts and unsaturated healthy fats like avocado and olive oil. The more processed, refined or sugary foods are consumed, the more likely age-related health conditions are to develop.

How this helps: Whole foods are full of fiber and nutrients. They can help you feel full, provide energy and potentially reduce cravings for less-healthy foods.

4. Go for the Dark Chocolate

Did you think eating chocolate would be included in a list of tips for how to lose weight in your 40s?

Go ahead and reach for some dark chocolate the next you want to treat yourself or if you’re stressed out.

How this helps: Not only is it rich in antioxidants, but 70 percent dark chocolate contains a number of nutrients, including fiber, iron, magnesium, copper and manganese. It even gives you a little dose of caffeine.

5. Drink Lots of Water (and Maybe Less Alcohol)

If you’ve been trying to lose weight, you’ve probably heard to drink more water. Beyond drinking more water to stay full and hydrated, reducing your alcohol intake can help with weight loss after 40.

A 2016 study of participants who had excess weight or obesity found that alcohol lowers inhibitions and could lead to overeating. Those who drank less were more likely to lose weight.

How much is okay? Moderate alcohol consumption for women is no more than one glass each day.

How this helps: There’s some truth to drinking water to lose weight after 40. Drinking at least 50 ounces a day can help you lose body fat and suppress your appetite so you don’t feel hungry all the time.

6. Find Healthy Ways to Manage Stress

You’re not alone in experiencing stress, whether from daily stressors like work or other life problems. However, long-term stress can cause a spike in stress hormones like cortisol, which can lead to weight gain.

Stress hormones help regulate your appetite and hunger levels. If they’re out of whack, it can lead to overeating as well as craving more foods high in fat or sugar.

How this helps: Stress eating might make you feel better in the moment — and there’s definitely a time and place to enjoy a cookie or share a pint of ice cream. But healthy long-term solutions to handle stress, like meditation or mindfulness, will have the same effects while helping you stay on track with your weight loss goals.

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7. Rest Up

Not only is sleep sublime, but getting more shut-eye is another method of how to lose weight after 40.

A study published in 2021 found that people with irregular sleep schedules, poor sleep satisfaction and late sleep timing (when your internal sleep-wake cycle, aka circadian rhythm, is off) lost fewer pounds than others in a year.

To reach the recommended seven to nine hours a night, try improving your sleep habits like the environment you sleep in (think black-out curtains or breathable bedding), limiting screen time before bed and following a sleep schedule.

How this helps: Sleep and weight loss affect each other because poor sleep messes with your hunger hormones. So getting good shut-eye can help you make better food choices throughout the day and maybe avoid stress eating.

8. Prioritize Daily Movement

There are numerous benefits to working out, whether it’s a bike ride, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) or walking to lose weight. But beyond keeping you strong and helping you live longer, daily movement is important when losing weight in midlife.

While 150 to 300 minutes of moderate exercise are recommended each week (that’s about 20 to 40 minutes a day), this is just a suggestion. Start where you’re at and slowly work your way up.

In addition to aerobic exercise like cardio (anything that gets your heart rate up), strength training two or more days a week is also encouraged. Again, do what you can until you’re ready to increase your movement.

How this helps: Moving your body daily can help burn body fat, build muscle and help keep your blood pressure in check — all keys to a healthy weight loss plan.

Walking is a great place to start — and every step counts. Our blog has insight into how many steps a day you need to lose weight.

Weight loss medications are incredibly popular right now, but how do you know when to ask your healthcare provider about them?

These medications are popular for a reason. People who take them as part of a weight management plan can lose up to 12 percent more body weight than those who don’t.

And while several brand-name weight loss injections are available, there’s no one “best weight loss medication” — only what’s best for your particular needs.

For women who have already celebrated their 40th birthday, weight loss can be tricky. Both men and women tend to gain weight as they age, but weight loss for women after 40 can be a challenge.

Though it can take time — slow and steady is the name of the game — the fundamentals of weight loss for women over 40 are mostly the same as other adults.

Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • Weight gain for women over 40 is often due to decreased activity levels, disturbed sleep and changing hormone levels (like less estrogen), which impacts weight.

  • Tips like eating more vegetables and whole grains, drinking more water, managing stress, aiming for seven to nine hours of sleep a night and getting more physical activity (like walking and weight training) can help women over 40 lose weight.

If you’re curious about medication for weight loss, talk to your healthcare provider for medical advice and to explore your weight loss treatment options. And if you’re interested in other weight loss treatments online, we can help.

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