Weight Loss for Women of a Certain Age

After women reach the age of forty, they may begin to experience difficulty in maintaining a healthy weight, even if they have not changed anything in their lifestyle or behavior. There are several reasons why this happens, and understanding them can be very helpful in addressing this weight management challenge.

  • Slowing Metabolism - Metabolism slows for everyone as they age. That means eating the same calories can actually cause weight gain. A gradual reduction of high calorie foods, eating smaller portions and just cutting total calories gradually is advisable. Exercise also can increase metabolism, burn calories and create muscle, which burns more calories.
  • Estrogen Balance - As women age, they usually begin to produce less estrogen. However, the body has a strategy for compensating for this change in hormone production.  It adds a layer of fat from the waist downward because fat helps to produce more estrogen, which the body thinks it needs.

    Plant based hormone replacement may be necessary to help offset the hormone compensation process. A saliva hormone test can determine hormone levels, which can then be balanced with safe, plant-based hormones.
  • Digestion Changes - As we age, our bodies make less hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes and intestinal bacteria. This is because we are programmed to die and our genes begin to alter our nutrient absorption system to help hasten the aging process.

    It may be necessary to make some adjustments, such as eating more raw fruits and vegetables, to get the enzymes we need, or even take a digestive enzyme supplement. It may also be necessary to consume a low fat/low sugar yogurt to increase intestinal bacteria, and even take a supplement with acidophilus and bifidus type bacteria in it.
  • Exercising and Muscle Mass - As we age, the level of physical activity in our lives often declines and muscle mass declines about 1 percent each year. This means we are burning fewer calories and losing muscle mass. Muscle burns 400 percent more calories at rest than fat does.

    It is important to do both aerobic (ie: jogging, biking, etc.) and weight bearing exercise in order to maintain a high level of calorie burning. About thirty minutes per day of each type of exercise is considered adequate for most people. Quick bursts of exercise increase fat burning.
  • Nutritional Value and Absorption - Most people consume too many processed foods (ie: foods that have been altered from their original form) and not enough organic whole foods. When our cells do not get sufficient nutrients, they crave more food, which causes weight gain.

    Eating only foods with the highest nutritional value and chewing food properly (20 - 30 times for most foods) will ensure sufficient nutrients to stop this craving cycle. Nutritional supplements may also be needed.
  • Brain Chemistry - The previously mentioned nutritional deficiencies are especially noticeable in terms of our brain chemistry. Women often have cravings for wine and chocolate, which is usually caused by the brain's need for more magnesium in the case of chocolate, and serotonin in the case of wine.

    Magnesium can be found in dark green vegetables and legumes, while serotonin comes from the amino acid tryptophan, found in tuna, eggs, cottage cheese and poultry.  Eating more of these foods will reduce the cravings for chocolate and wine.
  • Meal Planning - Many people eat too much at one sitting, causing the body to store what is not used immediately. Eating small meals and snacks every three hours is preferred, keeping meals under 400 calories and snacks under 200 calories. People should eat calories equal to ten times their body weight in order to stay at that weight.

    And, these should all be calories with a very high nutrient value, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, omega 3 rich fish and lean organic poultry. Reducing sugar and flour consumption is crucial. Eating no bread, sweets or starches after 4 p.m. is also important because the body will store it as fat in anticipation of not eating again until the morning.
  • Thyroid Function - Many women have underactive thyroids. The thyroid regulates metabolism and how our bodies use energy. Testing for thyroid function is important, and then using diet, and possibly medication, to achieve thyroid hormone balance is important.
  • Vitamin D3 Levels - Many women have low vitamin D3 levels, which is a causal factor for several metabolic functions related to weight gain. Also, women with high levels of vitamin D3 (50-90 ng/ml) have a 77 percent reduced risk of breast cancer.
  • Behavior and Attitude - Many women are stressed due to working at home, as well as at the "office." Food is often seen as a reward for their high level of work and stress.  Stress produces cortisol, which contributes to weight gain and "comfort eating" is a way to rationalize what we eat. Having strong goals for eating healthy, such as avoiding disease or being healthy enough to enjoy life, can help to overcome these behavior and attitude barriers.

While all of these factors are important, none is more important than the scientific fact that weight is determined by "calories in and calories out." If a women or a man eats only the healthiest foods, eats 10 times their body weight, or 10 percent less to lose weight, it is virtually impossible to be overweight.  

One urban legend reports that people going to a weight loss spa were fed only what they said they ate every day. The average weight loss was 10 pounds the first week. Honesty and commitment is the only way to achieve a sustainable healthy weight.

About the Author

Dr. Bens is a wellness consultant with his company Healthy at Work in Sarasota, Florida. He works with progressive brokers and employers to help employees prevent and reverse chronic disease with evidence-based educational programs.

He has written nine books, over 200 articles and three university courses. He is one of the highest rated health speakers for Vistage International, the largest CEO organization in the world and was recently named the Vail Visiting Professor for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.