The aging process varies from person to person and depends on various factors, such as genetics and lifestyle choices. One thing that is consistent, however, is that lean tissue (your muscles and organs) begins to shrink through a process called atrophy, where cells shrink in size. In turn, fat goes up steadily, especially around the center of the body, and combined with a slowing metabolism, you’ll most likely experience weight gain.
One way to combat the aging process is through keeping a healthy lifestyle—especially when it comes to your diet. Losing weight after 40 years old doesn’t have to be hard. If you’re not following the Jenny Craig program, here are a few diet changes you should make when you’re 40 to help deter weight gain:
- Eat regular meals—and snack, too. If you’ve been one to typically skip meals, now is the time to commit to eating three meals with snacks in between. Skipping meals makes you more susceptible to eating higher calorie foods, especially when you’re on the go and fast food options are everywhere. So, make sure to eat and have healthy snacks on hand to keep your blood sugar even to avoid an energy crash later.
- Eat healthy fiber. Foods that are high in fiber help keep you fuller longer, and can help with weight loss and maintenance. Vegetables, fruits and whole grains are high in fiber, and vegetables and fruits are also high in water content. Some delicious vegetables to start with are carrots, broccoli, leafy greens (spinach, kale) peppers and onions.
- Eat lean protein. Protein can help with muscle health. Your protein choices also contribute to your overall health, such as the omega-3s from fish, which helps with heart health. Choose lean proteins like chicken, fish, legumes and Greek yogurt, but also keep an eye out for how they are prepared, as each preparation adds calories, too. When it comes to preparations, look out for words like “grilled” and “baked” and limit choosing the “fried” option.
- Drink plenty of water, and monitor other drinks. Water flushes your system and helps nutrients circulate around your body to help with normal bodily functions. Keep an eye out for how many alcoholic beverages you may be consuming, too, as those can be calorie-laden choices. If you are going to drink, consider using seltzer water as your mixer, and have a glass of water next to you to ensure you’re hydrated.
- Know your portion sizes. While choosing leaner, lower calorie foods is great, it may all get thrown off by overindulging. For example, you may have a square of dark chocolate, but if you know that once you have one square you typically eat a whole bar, then that’s something to be mindful over. If you find that you’re still hungry even after eating your portioned-out meal, consider drinking water since hunger can sometimes be mistaken for thirst, or bulking up on more vegetables since they are low in calories.
Health Risks to Be Aware of As You Get Older
Knowing the health risks that are common in women in their 40s and older is important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Here are two of the most common health concerns:
- High Blood Pressure - A woman’s risk of developing high blood pressure, or HBP, increases once menopause is reached, if she is overweight or if there is a family history of it. It’s often hard to catch because it carries no signs or symptoms. High blood pressure makes the heart work harder than normal and if left untreated, it can lead to several other health problems, including heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure is preventable by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes a healthy diet and regular physical activity.
- Heart Disease - Heart disease is the most common cause of death for women in the United States. Symptoms of heart disease include pain, pressure, or discomfort in the chest. Other symptoms may be completely unrelated to chest pain, such as nausea, pain in arms, or unusual fatigue. Heart disease risk factors include pregnancy complications, diabetes, and inactivity, among many others. In order to reduce these risks be sure to get the recommended amount of exercise, maintain a healthy weight and eat a healthy diet.
If you are approaching the 40th mark, these diet changes are all wonderful places to start, but remember that your overall lifestyle plays a role in how aging affects you. Stress and lack of movement may allow signs of aging to become more prevalent, so find ways to deal with stress and move more throughout the day. Whether you’re making these changes earlier or later than 40, the important thing is that you’re starting now to help your body stay strong, healthy and active to experience all life has to offer.