Weight loss over 40; Avoid these 10 pitfalls for greatest success

Pitfalls to Avoid

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We’ve all heard the lament of the over-forty-something or the over-fifty-something.

Lose the weight while you’re young, because once you get to MY age, it’s next to impossible.


If you struggle to lose weight, check to see if you fall into some or all of the following pitfalls.

Pitfall #1 – Spending too much time in your head

I’m certainly no exception for falling into this one.  It seems like the older I get, the longer I need to think things through before actually getting started.  It’s like I need to know exactly what my game plan is going to be.  I have to know everything involved so I feel well informed before making a decision.

For some things, it’s wise to be cautious.  But too often, people get stuck in thinking mode.  Unfortunately, it’s usually impossible to know everything before starting something new.

If life has taught me anything, it’s taught me that no matter how prepared I think I am before starting, something unexpected or unknown is going to pop up.  Always.  That’s not a bad thing.  It means learning as I go, but in order for that to happen, I have to get started!

Pitfall #2 – Talking about taking action instead of taking action

I won’t hide it.  This one drives me nuts.  Especially if I catch myself doing it.

How many of you know at least one person who says the same thing every time you talk to them?

I’d like to lose about ten pounds.  I need to figure out how to change my diet and maybe exercise more to make that happen…

DiscussionWe all spend some time talking instead of doing, but when you’re still saying the same thing six months down the road or twelve months down the road, it’s time to shut-up and do instead of talk, Darling.

So don’t be that person.  I guarantee you’re driving somebody nuts with your inaction.  Either you want to do it or you don’t.  Make a decision and move on.

Pitfall #3 – Expecting weight loss to happen faster than is safe or wise

It’s funny how we can watch our weight creep up five pounds here, ten pounds there, year after year, but the second we decide to lose weight, we want it gone in a matter of months.

If it took a year or more to get to your current weight, you can’t expect the weight to come back off faster than that unless you use severe calorie deprivation or diet tricks, which are very temporary tactics.

That does more harm than good.  It messes up your metabolism, decreases your lean muscle mass, and stops being effective the second you return to your old way of eating.

The closer you are to your ideal weight, the longer it takes to lose weight.  A morbidly obese or obese person might be able to lose five pounds per week, but that will gradually slow to two pounds per week for an overweight person.  For someone who needs to lose the last ten to twenty pounds, weight loss could be as slow as one to two pounds per month.

That can seem depressing, but at the end of the year, would you rather be down six to twelve pounds or up another ten?

Pitfall #4 – Destroying metabolism by overuse of calorie-restricted diets

Being over forty is rarely to blame for lack of weight loss.  Most people in this age bracket already have been on three or more calorie-deprivation diets.  So we reach this age with a slowed metabolism that no longer wants to respond to the diet tricks that worked for us when we were younger.

The other problem is muscle mass naturally diminishes as we get older, as well.  Double whammy.  There’s probably no way of getting around needing to add some kind of exercise to create lean muscle to boost your metabolism once you’re over forty.

But that doesn’t mean suddenly going out and running five miles per day or spending an hour per day in the gym.  That’s asking for injury.  If you haven’t been in the habit of exercising, you have to start slowly.

There are countless ways to get started that don’t require a lot of time or special equipment.  Weight resistance using your own body weight is a great place to start.  I also do yoga, kettle bell swings and hula hooping.  These are all things I can do a few minutes at a time so they fit into my hectic schedule.

Pitfall #5 – Setting goals that were great for when you were 20 but aren’t realistic for someone over 40

Put the scale awayThis is a common pitfall and I used to fall for it, too.  When I was 18 years old, I would have been underweight if I weighed less than 103 pounds.  At that time, my weight ranged from 105 to 115 pounds depending on the time of year.

Now, at the age of 44, I’m considered underweight if I weigh less than 115 pounds.  In 2010, my weight dropped to 109.  I did not look like an 18 year old version of myself.  I looked haggard and the low weight made me look older than my age.

So if you’re older, think twice about just how low you want your weight to go.  You might do yourself a disservice by dropping too low.

Pitfall #6 – Skipping meals to reduce caloric intake

The great debate over whether you should eat three, four or six times per day likely will rage forever.  One thing is certain, however.  The worst thing you can do is skip meals and eat only once or twice per day.

Your body doesn’t think the same way you do.  When you skip a meal, you think you’re saving yourself tons of calories so that should translate to weight loss.  But your body responds by preparing for starvation.  It’s not sure when you’ll eat next, so whatever calories you DO eat will be stored as fat.  Translation?  Weight gain, not weight loss.

If you want to eat fewer calories, spread them out over the day as smaller meals, not less meals.

Pitfall #7 – Failing to reduce stress and anxiety

Forty-somethings are in a unique stage of life which can be highly stressful.  Their children are possibly now in their teenage years and learning how to drive.  Their parents’ health may be failing, at this point, creating greater demands on their time.  They may have a health issue or two of their own to deal with as well.

This is on top of life’s other typical stresses.

When stressed or full of anxiety, the body prepares to react in one of two ways.  Down to a cellular level, it becomes ready to either fight off the stressor or run from it.

This translates to an inability to lose weight, because systems are too preoccupied with these other functions.  As one example, if blood is being diverted to muscles so you can fight or flee, it’s not in the digestive tract to properly process your last meal.

Now, more than ever before, it’s important to take time for yourself to reduce stress.  Yoga, meditation, a walk in a park or wilderness, reading a good book; whatever allows you to unplug and unwind (without resorting to drink or food) will help lower cortisol levels in your body so it can divert its energies back to normal functions.

Pitfall #8 – Maintaining an imbalanced exercise routine

exercise timeImbalanced can mean one of two things here.  Exercise is imbalanced if you do exercise 5 times in one week and then do nothing for the next week or two.

Exercise is also imbalanced if everything you do works only one part of your body.

I’ve noticed a lot of women in their late forties and fifties develop an interest in walking, hiking and bike riding.

These are all great exercises, but there’s one problem.  They all work the lower half of the body only.

To keep metabolism at its maximum, find activity you can do three to six times per week and engage in a variety of activities that work all parts of the body.

Pitfall #9 – Underestimating the importance of sleep

Getting regular sleep really can aid weight loss.  When fatigued, you want to eat more and will make more poor food choices than you will when fully rested.

A good night’s sleep also helps lower stress levels.

While asleep, your body undergoes all kinds of cellular repair which keeps you looking younger and more vibrant.

When you have plenty of energy, you’re more likely to maintain proper posture, which makes you look thinner.

Create a schedule that allows you to get 7+ hours of sleep per night.  Consider sticking closely to this routine even on weekends for best results.

Pitfall #10 – Believing you can’t afford to “eat healthy”

Defining what it means to “eat healthy” could be an article all by itself.  For some people, eating healthy means simply not drinking soda and avoiding bread.  Others feel it means eating everything organic, fresh, whole and possibly raw.

Most of us probably fall somewhere between those two extremes.  But healthy doesn’t have to get complicated or expensive.

healthy eating on a budgetKeep processed sugar consumption low, avoid artificial sweeteners, and make sure your carbohydrates come from sources that greatly contribute to your fiber consumption and you’re well on your way toward a healthy diet.

Right now, my family of three is eating our definition of healthy on $115 per week.  All of our macronutrient needs are met, fiber consumption is roughly 35 grams per day and we satisfy Food Pyramid guidelines.

So it can be done.  Processed food costs more than food you have to cook yourself.  Paying for convenience always costs more.

Wrapping it up

Are you falling for the myth that weight loss is next to impossible once you get older?  If slowed metabolism is the culprit, weight loss could take longer to get going, but it’s not impossible.  Also remember; the closer you are to your ideal weight, the more slowly weight comes off.

Your turn

Please share in the comments below which pitfall you resonated with the most.

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  1. Just stared my pre-summer diet so this was great to bump into. My husband and I actually have a rule that we’re not allowed to wax poetic about dieting and call each other on it. Do it, don’t talk about it!

    • Lori Stalter says:

      Nice! I like that rule. It always feels great shedding the winter pounds, doesn’t it? Thanks for stopping by, Amy.

  2. Tammy R says:

    Lori, at one time or another I have fallen under many of the items on your list – and all when I was age 38 or younger. Now that I am almost 42, I am the healthiest I have ever been (ever – even counting when I played sports in high school!). We are very careful with money, yet we eat healthy. We noticed our legs looked muscular but our upper bodies were blowing in the wind a bit, so we added weights a few times a week to supplement our daily walk. Someone on our walk asked me, How much have you lost this past year? I honestly didn’t know – it wasn’t some big number. Slowly and steadily over the past five or six years, I have modified my diet and exercise into something that is easy to prepare and fun to do. Go out and run a marathon? Although I’d love it, it just isn’t the right exercise for me. We all have to find the right plan for us, but there are many out there that are just plain foolish and unhealthy.

    I am so glad you called bullshit on your doctor. That is a lame excuse people use to not do anything! Of course my skin hangs a bit differently (ok, a lot differently) and the veins pop out on the backs of my legs, but I don’t have to settle for less than MY idea of what I want for myself (and no, it’s not looking like Jennifer Anniston!). 🙂

    GREAT as always, Lori! I am sorry I didn’t answer your specific question. I just love this topic! PS – love the look of the site! And I love that your Nutrition, Meditation, and Yoga MP3s are on this page. They really are helping me!!!

    • Lori Stalter says:

      Hey Tammy! Thanks for the compliment! You and CJ are doing awesome with continuing to challenge yourselves to improve upon what you’ve already built. Even with my routine, I have more I want to tweak and I know there are other things I need to address. I think I might break out my dumbbells soon too to do some tricep kickbacks. Compared to everything else, they still flop. And who wants saggy granny arms? lol

      Speaking of those mp3’s…I need to update them so they say loristalter.com instead of blitheniche.com and get them back up and available to the public. Thanks for the reminder! I’m so happy they’re helping you so much.

  3. cj says:

    Great article Lori!!! Good daily habits cut right through all of our bullshit excuses. I am 43 and Tams 41 and both of us are in better shape now than when we were in our 20s. You are right on here as usual!!!

    • Lori says:

      Awww, thank you, CJ. Most definitely, putting together a daily routine helped. I’m pretty sure I have an article title saved somewhere to write more about how important that is.