Over 40? Metabolism slowing down?*

Monday, 7 March 2016, By George Sheba

For many of us losing weight in our 20s and 30s seemed simple; just eat a bit less, move a bit more. Back then, we could eat whatever, whenever and we remained in shape- regardless of whether or not we ate chocolate eclairs every day. But now we've reached 40, everything has changed.

Ever felt like everyone is looking at you thinking 'Ooh, she'll be popping that baby out soon'?. And you weren't even pregnant! That's when you start to look at yourself and say, "it's time to make that change!! I no longer want to be overweight, or look like I'm about to give birth"; not to mention, time has caught up and you're now 30kgs heavier than at you're slimmest, aged 25.

So you tell yourself again that losing the stubborn extra weight is simple; that "if I drink less or cut down on carbs, the kilos are bound to drop". But reality hits and in actual fact, you've well and truly lost that magical ability to shift the kilos.

Like so many women our age, you were working flat-out looking after your children and the older members of your family. It was impossible to find the extra time to concentrate on 'dieting'. And in last-ditch desperation, you turn to those celebrity-endorsed, gossip magazine 'fad diets', that simply don't work! Living on barely vegetables for a week, eating only orange and yellow-coloured food. Nothing works!

It is simply not possible to maintain an eating 'program' like this because once we turn 40, our metabolic rate - in other words that magic ability to burn energy - drops. We lose muscle tone. We get stressed. We eat more high energy dense foods than we need. When what we should be doing is exercising more and controlling our portion sizes.


After age 40, the rules of self-care change. We need to embrace this and re-evaluate our lifestyles.

Your reproductive system, libido, body composition, moods, skin and hair all change in preparation for the next 40 years of life. A 40-year-old woman has a very different body to the one she had just ten years earlier.

A woman's metabolism declines at the rate of at least 5 per cent per decade of life - starting at the age of 20 - due to the natural loss of muscle mass that comes with age. The less muscle mass you have, the fewer calories your body is able to burn. So the simple fact remains: eating the same amount now as your younger self, inveitably means the only place you'll be magically shifting those kilos, is to your hips (or tummy).


Yes, it is a hard truth that fat gained during this time will accumulate around the, perenially stubborn, hips and waist. And too much fat is dangerous since it places a woman at risk for a multitude of cardiovascular diseases, like: coronary heart disease, high-blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

Again in desperation, you may be tempted to resort to extreme calorie restriction to make up for this loss of calorie-burning metabolism. Don't! Calorie restriction only depresses the metabolism even further.

A healthy body starts with a healthy mind. It's not about squeezing into a size 8 or trying to lose 15kgs before your daughter's wedding. You need to be a fitter and healthier version of yourself. Not a thin, unnourished and invariably unsustainable version.

As once famously said, "there is no one giant step that does it; it's a lot of little steps".


Over-eating in the late afternoon and evening is one of the biggest culprits behind stress-induced weight gain in women over 40. The danger hours between 3pm and midnight - the time when levels of the stress hormone cortisol plummet - are when those mindless, unfocused, stress-driven eating habits dominate.

Rather than acknowledging this and building it into their planning, most people choose to fight it…but unfortunately the wrong way, desperately seeking energy, grabbing energy drinks and eating sugary foods in the hope of boosting energy levels.

Once stress-eating has started, it creates a mindset of hopelessness, invariably leading to continued (over)eating.

But instead of succumbing to this hopelessness, take control; plan and be realistic. If you know the day is going to be tough, prepare yourself in advance with a healthy daily eating plan, as well as a nice long, stress-relieving walk.


Because of hormonal changes that women experience as they get older, they naturally lose bone density, putting them at increased risk for developing osteoporosis. Routinely lifting weights will not only slow and reduce this bone deterioration process, but can actually help your bones grow stronger, while maintaining strength. Regular resistance training also plays a major role in our bodies' ability to burn more energy at rest. And who doesn't want the ability to burn fat while they sleep?!


You can start a healthy new routine with the best intentions, but then some unexpected event occurs and throws a spanner in the works. 

Many women put their self-care on hold at times like these - and often, the unfortunate but very real result is weight-gain.

When your best intentions for healthy eating and exercise are taken away by events outside your control, it's important to understand that as long as you have planned, you haven't failed; you've just been thrown a curveball, something unexpected has happened. Acknowledging this, planning to overcome those boundaries and moving on positively is your fail-safe program to get your healthy lifestyle back on track.


By George Sheba

Director Vision Personal Training Hamilton



*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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