The strategies used to lose weight in your 20s still apply to the middle-aged population. Aging, muscle loss, hormonal changes and lifestyle factors all play a factor in weight gain after age 40, but you're not doomed to be overweight. Healthy lifestyle changes can have you losing weight and keeping off the weight. Always consult with a physician before starting a new diet and exercise program.
Calories are the most important factor when it comes to losing weight. This doesn't mean go on a crash diet by reducing your calories for the next couple of weeks since the pounds lost from a crash diet are almost guaranteed to return within six months of stopping your diet. Cutting calories doesn't mean skipping meals, it means replacing your high-calorie choices with nutritious alternatives. Your diet should mainly consist of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. As a general rule, avoid the center aisles of the grocery store since most of the healthy foods will be on walls — fresh, not in boxes. There are 3,500 calories in 1 pound of fat, so reducing your diet by 500 calories per day allows you to lose 1 pound per week.
Cutting calories alone does allow you to lose weight, but the results will be far more significant if you combine cutting calories with an exercise program. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150 to 250 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity for modest weight loss and over 250 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity for significant weight loss. Once you're at your desired weight, you must get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week to maintain your weight. If you stop, the weight will return. Moderate-intensity exercise includes brisk walking, jogging, cycling, dancing or swimming laps at an intensity that causes your heart rate to increase, but allows you to carry on a conversation without feeling out of breath. Stop exercising and consult with your doctor if you feel lightheaded, dizzy, chest pain or irregular heartbeats.
As you age, your muscle mass decreases, which decreases your body's ability to burn calories. This factor alone makes it no wonder it's easy to gain weight once you hit middle age. You can counteract the muscle loss by including strength training that targets all major muscle groups at least twice per week. Tools used for strength training include dumbbells, a barbell, medicine balls, resistance bands or even heavy cans or books. Squats, lunges, biceps curls, triceps dips, pushups and plank holds are all examples of strength-training exercises. Strength training is often done in repetitions and sets, so a general rule is to perform three sets of eight repetitions on each muscle group while allowing your muscles to rest for one minute between sets.
Since busy lifestyles play a role in your middle-age spread, it's important to see what areas of your life have room for improvement. Anytime you can fit a 10-minute walk into your day or take the stairs instead of the elevator, take advantage of that extra physical activity since every extra step you take helps. Bring healthy snacks to work, so you can avoid high-calorie vending machines and the treats co-workers bring. There is likely a coworker or friend who wants to lose weight, so join each other for motivation and maybe even some healthy weight-loss competition.