Nutrition & weight loss for women after age 40 Print

Why gaining weight is so common and what to do about it

calgary_HeraldIn our nutrition counselling practice we see a distinct spike in women struggling with their weight for women after 40 years of age. We also see more referrals from physicians for women in perimenopause and after menopause both related to weight concerns as well as common health issues such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes and cancer that are more common at this phase of life.

With a little planning and tweaks to your overall eating plan, you can prevent weight gain and manage common health issues that show up in mid-life.

Why is weight gain common for women after 40?

Have you noticed that you haven’t necessarily been eating more or exercising less but gaining weight? The truth is as you age unless you are eating less or exercising more you can expect to gain weight.

Women after age 40 lose muscle mass about twice as fast as men. After age 40 your metabolism slows about five per cent per decade. Since muscle burns more calories than fat cells on your body, losing muscle causes body fat gain and hinders the ability to shed extra pounds.

Hormonal changes during perimenopause (which can begin in your ’40s but in some cases even in the mid ’30s) can cause more fat storage especially around the midsection. As your body stores more fat around the midsection this can also change insulin sensitivity and changes in blood sugar management. This can further increase weight, heart disease and diabetes risk.

The good news is there are things you can do to prevent weight gain and sail through mid-life looking and feeling your best.

What can I do to prevent weight gain?

Stop fad dieting

Anyone can lose weight, but can you sustain it? Avoid unnecessary restrictions, labelling food as good or bad and following a diet based on celebrity endorsement or food fads. It is far more effective to bite off small changes you can do for life than attempt “binge change” (an extreme diet makeover) that you follow for a few weeks. Also remember, we all want what we can’t have. The more you try to deprive yourself of enjoyable foods, the more you will likely obsess about them and overeat. Yo-yo dieting damages not only the relationship you have with food and your body but is counter-intuitive since it typically leads to further weight gain.

Nutrition trumps exercise (but a combination is slightly better)

Research consistently shows that although you can lose small amounts of weight by initiating an exercise program, much bigger weight-loss results come from nutrition changes. Exercise is of course good for overall health, improving muscle mass to increase metabolism and maintaining weight loss over time but note that you can’t burn off a bad diet in the gym.

nutrition weight loss women over 40 imageIf you don’t know where to start, examine your nutrition and keep a food journal. Be honest, non-judgmental and set specific achievable goals.

When we are counselling our clients on weight loss we are looking to see what, when, how much and why you are eating. All of these factors can either increase or decrease your overall calorie balance. Meals need a good mix of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats to keep your belly full and your brain satisfied. Meals and snacks also need to be spread out throughout the day so that you can manage appetite control and night eating issues. You need to understand what a good mix of healthy foods ideal for weight loss looks like and how to prepare them in a yummy way that encourages eating these for life. You also need strategies on how to include and manage your favourite soulful foods such as sweets and savory foods chosen for fun and enjoyment. Without this real life such as dinner at a neighbour’s house, family birthday parties and vacations are hard to manage. Of primary importance is also learning strategies on how to tackle emotional eating and environmental triggers that may be causing you to overeat.

Seek support

Who you hang out with says a lot about your health. If you are trying to get healthier and prevent weight gain seek out friendships and support from like-minded individuals. Meet your girlfriends for a walking coffee date rather than sitting at a coffee shop. Cook healthy meals together. Have an accountability partner to check in with regarding your weekly goals. Work one-on-one with a registered dietitian (university trained, regulated health professionals that will ensure you are getting scientifically sound advice). Seek out a psychologist that specializes in health change and emotional eating. See your health as an investment, not as a cost. Simply seeing a dietitian or psychologist once or twice may get you started but if you are like most people, change is impossibly hard and usually requires longer-term support.

Click here for a printable PDF of this article.

 

About Andrea Holwegner

CEO, Registered Dietitian, Counseling Practice Director & Professional Speaker

Andrea the «Chocoholic Nutritionist» is founder and CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. since 2000. She is an online nutrition course creator, professional speaker and regular guest in the media. Andrea is the recipient of an award by the Dietitians of Canada: The Speaking of Food & Healthy Living Award for Excellence in Consumer Education....Read more

Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. Andrea and her team really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Andrea is an excellent teacher and motivator. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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