“If you’re going to solve a weight-loss problem - or smoking problem for that matter - you must address both the psychological and physiological.” ~ Tony Robbins
What Makes Losing Weight So Difficult?
If you are over 40, have you noticed certain routine parts have become more challenging to maintain? Do you rely more on apps, devices, wearables, and others to keep you up to speed with all the daily tasks and duties that inundate your life? Is this due to a busier life? Is life just getting more active for everyone? Or does aging affect your ability to perform at the same standard you remember keeping in your 20s? There is good news if you are struggling to lose weight after turning 40.
It is more than likely not a curse of aging. You are not destined to keep those extra unwanted pounds. Unlike our struggles to continue to produce new muscle (also known as sarcopenia), weight loss is something people can master over until very late in life.
It does take more effort and planning, so finding reliable resources or hiring a professional is highly recommended.
Why is it Harder to Lose Weight as We Get Older?
There are numerous reasons people over 40 struggle to lose weight – changes in hormones and metabolism, increased stress, decreased quality sleep, access to more food options, lack of planning, etc.
The list goes on, and it doesn’t begin to cover all the nuances for everyone. Programs like Decode 2.0 at Tiger Medical Institute, similar clinics, and specialized dieticians can help people understand the complexities of their health (testing for hormones, DNA, gut microbiome, and allergies). Bodies change with age, and this can be compounded by a loss in activities that were once routine when younger (such as exercise, training, movement, limited resources to provide indulgently, high-calorie foods, and more time to make good decisions). An example would be the professional that routinely works 10-12 hours. They meet up with colleagues for happy hour, then come home to a house full of other busy people that decide convenience food is the only way to go that night (which happens more often than not). They stay up late binging the latest must-watch show (and likely binging a favorite snack or two), which leads to a night of poor-quality sleep. The busy professional then wakes to a racing mind, a growling stomach, and a restless brain. Decision fatigue creeps in, and before they know it, they are in the drive-thru for breakfast, with no time or energy for the workout they keep intending to get in. If this sounds familiar, know you are not alone. Unfortunately, this has become a staple of life for too many people.
Where Does One Start to Make a Change?
One of the most effective strategies to make any change is to start small. Micro habits are little changes in a routine or existing habit that offer a quick taste of success and can be stacked with other micro habits to build towards a larger goal. In his book, Tiny Habits, BJ Fogg uses the example of flossing one tooth as a micro habit. Commit to flossing just one tooth for a week. The following week, commit to two teeth. It may seem silly, but mastering a new habit can be very difficult. While some people can jump in with two feet or quit something cold turkey, most struggle to make lasting changes. If you can tie this new micro habit into an existing one, you will likely find even greater success. Floss that individual tooth each time you brush your teeth!
Three Strategies to Begin Your Weight Loss Journey
1. Time-Restricted Eating (TRE) Time-restricted eating limits the time you consume calories to a specific period in a 24-hour window. For example, someone practicing TRE would finish dinner no later than 8 p.m. and refrain from breaking that fast until 9 a.m. This would be a 13-hour window of fasting and 11 hours for caloric consumption. If that is a monumental task, start with a minor habit. Try to focus simply on cutting out any snacking after 9 p.m. You may have difficulty with a 13-hour window to begin, but avoiding late-night snacking could have tremendous benefits. 2. Caloric-Restricted Eating Caloric-restricted eating is tracking how many calories one consumes in 24 hours. The daily recommended caloric intake in the United States is roughly 2,000 calories. For many people, this guideline feels arbitrary and impersonal. Each person needs to understand the optimal number of calories to maintain a healthy weight, sustain energy to perform daily activities and keep their mental health at an optimal state. The other part of CRE to consider is the benefit of tracking caloric intake, even if it is a rough estimate. One of the issues for people struggling with poor diets and carrying extra, unwanted weight is a lack of knowledge as to how many calories they consume each day. This is also important if someone is practicing TRE because, too often, people will overconsume out of concern that they aren’t getting enough nutrition to outlast their fasting window. 3. Hydration Hydration and fiber are two elements of every healthy diet. While there is no exact amount of water each person should drink, research shows that most people do not drink enough water daily. One of the benefits of water is that it provides the sensation of feeling full, which can help curb feelings of hunger longer. Fiber, found most abundantly in fruits and vegetables, also provides the sensation of fullness. Those benefits can last even longer than water because the foods most abundant in fiber also provide energy through glucose, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. A tiny habit around hydration and fiber would be to commit to drinking 8 ounces of water before your first meal of the day, possibly before every meal, and loading up on fiber for breakfast.
Ready to Take Next Steps?
If you struggle to find a balanced diet and notice that excess weight is more complex and harder to lose, consider making a few behavioral changes before committing to the latest fad diet. Short-term success through dieting, exercising, and resolutions provide temporary comfort. Still, if those habits aren’t maintained, the weight will likely come roaring back, with shame and guilt for not being able to keep up the routine. Consider hiring a coach with a nutritional background, or a dietician, that can recommend not only healthy food choices but will help offer guidance on behavior management and accountability. Small, sustainable changes often lead to long-term success and new habits that feel routine.