woman in mirror
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Age Matters

If you’re over 40, you may have noticed that it’s easier to gain weight -- and harder to lose it -- than it used to be. Changes in your activity level, eating habits, and hormones, and how your body stores fat all can play roles. But a few simple steps may help you slim down.

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grilled veggies
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Eat Your Fruits and Veggies

Fill half your plate with them at every meal. Produce tends to have more nutrients and less fat and calories than meat, dairy products, or grains. And it may help you feel satisfied, even if you eat less. Fresh fruits, like apples and berries, are also great in place of high-fat or high-sugar snacks.

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oatmeal with fruit
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Don’t Skip Breakfast

Experts recommend a healthy morning meal like oatmeal or whole wheat toast with fruit. It can help curb that mid-morning hunger that leads you to grab something unhealthy on-the-go or overeat at lunch. Small meals or snacks every few hours can keep your appetite in check all day long.

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Man eating dinner
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Eat Less at Night

If you get most of your daily calories at lunch (before 3 p.m.), you might lose more weight than if you have a big meal later. But the most important thing is still what you eat, not when.

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man baking
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Cook Healthy Meals

A lot of extra fat and calories can come from the way you prepare food. Instead of frying food or cooking it in butter or lots of oil, try grilling, baking, or broiling. This is good advice at restaurants, too: Skip foods that are fried or that come in creamy sauces. 

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Calorie counter app
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Don’t Make a Second Trip

You tend to be less active as you get older, and you may need a few hundred calories less than you used to. To lose weight, you may need to cut your calories back even more. Smaller portions and tracking your calories with a food diary or an app can help you eat less.

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neon pizza sign
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Pay Attention

When you’re busy with work, kids, and life, you can be tempted to grab food on-the-go or multitask through a meal. But you’re more likely to overeat -- and be hungry again soon after -- if you don’t focus on your food. Sit down for meals and tune in to what’s on your plate (not what’s on your TV or computer screen). That helps your brain realize when you’ve had enough.

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Cans of soda
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Lay Off the Soda

If you drink sugar-sweetened coffee, tea, soft drinks, or energy drinks, switch to water or another zero-calorie beverage. Your sweet drinks have lots of added sugar, which can make you gain weight and raise your risk for diabetes.

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beer and remote
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Cut Back on Alcohol

Beer bellies aren’t always caused by booze. But a “spare tire” is common in middle age, and alcohol can have something to do with it. A glass of beer or wine is about 150 calories, and that can add up if you drink often. Plus, alcohol can make you hungry, so you may eat more while you drink.

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mother daughter gardening
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Make Time for Exercise

Between desk jobs, commutes, and family activities, many 40-somethings don’t have a lot of free time to work out. But it’s important -- for your weight and your overall health -- to fit in at least 2 1/2 hours of moderate physical activity (like brisk walking or light yard work) every week. Pencil times in to your calendar, and make them a priority.

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Female weight lifting
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Build Muscle

People naturally lose muscle after 40, especially women after menopause. Because muscle burns more calories than fat, this can slow down your metabolism and make it harder to shake those stubborn pounds. Strength-training exercises -- lifting weights or doing body-weight exercises, like push-ups and squats -- at least twice a week can help you keep those muscles.

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group tai chi
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Relax, Don’t Stress

Stress can make you more likely to binge on unhealthy food, and it makes it harder for your body to break down fat. Try yoga, deep breathing, meditation, going for a walk, or reading a good book. Stress relief is different for everyone, so find what works for you.

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texting in bed
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Get Good Sleep

All kinds of things can mess with your sleep after age 40 -- health problems, stress, medications, and, for women, menopause. But people who don’t get good-quality sleep are more likely to gain weight. If you skimp on sleep because you’re busy or stressed, try to change your habits and settle into a regular routine.

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thyroid check
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Have Your Thyroid Checked

If you eat healthy and exercise regularly and still can’t lose weight, your thyroid might not be working like it should. This happens in about 5% of people, and it's most common in women and people over 60. In addition to weight gain, it can also cause fatigue, joint or muscle pain, and depression. Medications can help, so get it checked if you think it might be an issue.

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group therapy
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Get Support

For many people, it’s easier to lose weight with others than to do it alone. You might enter a weight-loss contest at work, join a group on social media, or ask a friend to go for early-morning walks or classes at the gym. Other people who share your goals can help keep you accountable and cheer you on as you make progress.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 09/16/2016 Reviewed by David Kiefer, MD on September 16, 2016

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

Thinkstock Photos

 

SOURCES:

American Council on Exercise: “Is it true that eating after 8pm can make you gain weight?”

American Psychological Association: “How social support can help you lose weight.”

Bandín, C. International Journal of Obesity, May 2015.

Bertoia, M. PLoS Medicine, September 2015.

Caton, S. Physiology & Behavior, March 2004.

CDC: “How to Use Fruits and Vegetables to Help Manage Your Weight,” “Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight.”

Chowdhury, E. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 2016.

Garaulet, M. International Journal of Obesity, April 2013.

Harvard Medical School: “Beer belly,” “Mindful eating may help with weight loss,” “Preserve your muscle mass,” “Why stress causes people to overeat.”

Mayo Clinic: “Is too little sleep a cause of weight gain?” “Menopause weight gain: Stop the middle age Spread,” “Stress Management.”

Mishra, N. Journal of Mid-Life Health, July-December 2011.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: “Maintaining a Healthy Weight On the Go: A Pocket Guide,” “Try These Steps to Lose Weight,” “What Causes Overweight and Obesity?”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid),” “Weight-loss and Nutrition Myths.”

Nutrition.gov: “Interested in Losing Weight?”

Rethinking Drinking: “Alcohol Calorie Calculator.”

University of Minnesota: “Reading for Stress Relief.”

Reviewed by David Kiefer, MD on September 16, 2016

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.