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Weight Loss in the 40-Something Woman

Setting reasonable weight goals as you age

by Rosanne Rust  |  6753 views  |  3 comments  |        Rate this now! 

I am, as the title suggests, 40-something. Remember that old show Thirty Something? We thought they were so much older than we were then; and so much more stressed out!

Now, here we are, 40-something. I still feel like I’m twenty-eight, both mentally and physically (as long as I stay in denial of my occasional knee, hip and shoulder pain). My body, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be burning the calories it did when I actually was twenty-eight years old. My mother occasionally flashes me a warning: “just wait until menopause”, when, in her experiences, “everything goes” (weight gain, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, oh my!). Still, she lived through it, is eighty-one, and looks pretty darn good.

So, let’s stay in the moment. We’re forty-something, and we had a baby or two (or more). If you are like me, your size six jeans don’t fit any more and they were forsaken to a garage sale or second-hand store long ago (I won’t even bring up the size 4 jeans). So, here we are in our size eight, fourteen, or whatever, and every year we say “I want to lose five-ten-fifteen pounds!” Well, that depends.

As we age, our metabolism really does change. We lose muscle mass quickly, through the aging process and by default (“use it or lose it”). Other things take over in our lives. It’s not all about “me” any longer. There are children to take care of, work to fit in, a household to run. So, there is little time to devote to maintaining muscle mass, and this is one of the keys to weight control later in life.

In addition, as we get older, we often “settle in” to our lives. We are working, and have been working for many (yes, twenty) years. We can afford to eat out, buy good wine and good chocolate, and eat it all! Many of us may manage to continue to fit some physical activity in, but when it comes to weight loss, it is a new challenge every decade. Still, you can lose weight as you age, or at least maintain weight, if you are patient, stay focused and set reasonable goals. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • While some clinical trials have suggested that one should maintain the same weight as they were in high school for the sake of health, I disagree. This simply is not realistic for most people. You can use it as a marker, or a better bet: maintain a weight within ten percent of your weight at age twenty five (if you were at a healthy weight at that point).
  • Set reasonable weight loss or maintenance goals. If you are small or short, it will be much more difficult to lose five or ten pounds, since that is all you need to lose. You may need to focus on weight maintenance.
  • If you do need to lose fifteen or more pounds, you certainly can do it. I always tell clients that they have to lose five pounds before they can lose twenty. Weight loss is a gradual process.
  • Do start a weight training routine if you haven’t already. This is something I am just figuring out. Sure, I knew it was a good idea, and building and maintaining muscle helps increase metabolism; but I just realized that I have to lift weights to do it. I can’t just depend on walking, running, or my usual activities. I have to focus on all muscle groups. The good news: twenty to thirty minutes three times a week can be all it takes to build and tone all muscle groups. Invest in a class, a personal trainer to get you started, or even just a good DVD set.
  • Always consider your health. Obesity is a leading cause of type II diabetes and is a risk factor for heart disease. Set a weight loss goal that works toward reducing these risks. If a size twelve is right for you, then fine. Your goal is to improve your overall fitness and the content of your diet, not to worry about those size six jeans. They’re history and they are over-rated, face it.
  • Focus on the process, not the long-term goal. By taking baby steps, you will create big change. If your goal is to weight train for twenty minutes two or three times a week, simply focus on that. Do not focus on whether that action is promoting immediate results, just focus on doing it. I guarantee the sense of accomplishment will keep you motivated, and the work itself will eventually pay off.

About the Author

Rust, is a registered dietitian who provides online weight loss counseling as a licensed provider for Real Living Nutrition Services®. Go to for more information.

Read more by Rosanne Rust

3 comments so far...

  • Good article. I am 41 and entered menopause in my late 30's, which seems to be the pattern with women in my family. The pounds started to creep on overnight it seems. I'm definitely over the weight I want to be but not obese either. I pay attention to my diet but seem to maintain a certain weight. Early menopause and hormone issues certainly make it harder to loose those extra pounds.
    I'm also not very good about exercising.I used to love it, hiking and walking. Then I had kids with a full time job. Exercise takes a back seat. Recently I started on walking more and going to the office gym. Let's cross our fingers.
    I like your approach about focusing on the process not the result. I get impatient and annoyed when it doesn't seem to have an effect.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Catootes on 11th July 2008

  • Love this article Rosanne! :)

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Meri Raffetto RD, LDN on 8th August 2007

  • I am in my forties, and the only healthy-weight person in a family of obese men and women. My mother, my aunt, my brother and sister - all obese and even morbidly obese. I'm not just fighting my age, I'm fighting my gene pool!

    When the pounds started slipping on in my late thirties, I didn't worry much - I wasn't fat, and a little weight gain as you age is normal. Then, about ten months ago, I stepped on the scale, and for the first time in my life, I was overweight. Only by a pound or two, but the point for me was that the pounds kept accruing and I wasn't able to stop it! I didn't want to end up like my sister, who can't walk across a room without wheezing, or any other family member, all of whose excess weight is affecting them in negative ways.

    "Baby steps" was the key for me. I took it in baby steps. I tried very hard not to compare where I was with where I wanted to be. Just did one thing at a time, creating habits and patterns that could keep me healthy.

    I am now within ten pounds of my goal weight. I'm wearing clothes that haven't fit in two years. I am 46, and I feel GREAT.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 2nd August 2007