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How to not get fat over 40 in 13 simple steps (spoiler alert: starving won’t work)

HITTING the big 4-0 (and beyond) is hard enough, but these easy expert tips will help you fight fat, build muscle and lower stress while you’re at it.

Getting older can come with some frustrating changes – weight gain being one of them.

Taking a cold plunge or having cold showers can slash stress levels

Over 40, we often become more inactive, our lives are more pressurised, and hormones can interfere, too (thanks, perimenopause and menopause!).

Nutritionist Nicki Williams, author of It’s Not You, It’s Your Hormones, says: “Increased stress in midlife, as well as changing hormones, can increase levels of stress hormone cortisol, leading to stubborn belly fat.”

Our metabolism can hit the rocks, too. Dean Zweck of Total Fitness says: “By the time we reach 40, we’re burning significantly fewer calories each day.”

After 30, we also start to lose muscle mass – as much as 3-5% a decade* – which makes exercising harder, increases injury risk and contributes to a lower metabolic rate.

None of this helps your waistline. But with age comes wisdom, and beating the middle-aged spread is doable with these easy tips. 

Get Chilly: Taking a cold plunge might not sound appealing, but it can slash stress levels. A study in the European Journal Of Applied Physiology found cold water immersion can significantly increase metabolism.

Cold showers – you only need two minutes a day – or natural swimming, improves mood,” says Piroska Cavell, obesity and weight-loss specialist at Clinic Sese. It can also calm the nervous system, reducing cortisol levels and quashing cravings for sugary, fatty foods.

Do 5:2 On ‘CRAP’: CRAP stands for Carbonated beverages, Refined sugars, Artificial and Processed foods. “These foods are filled with toxins and other ingredients your body can’t process adequately, which raise your insulin levels unnecessarily and lead you to gain weight and feel sluggish and tired,” says Julia Keller, women’s health specialist at Anatome.

If it’s too tough to cut all CRAP out of your diet long-term, start small. Julie says: “Do a 5:2-type week, where for five days you eat healthily, allowing yourself two days to indulge.”

Head to bed early: If you needed an excuse to hit the sack an hour earlier, this is it. “Poor sleep not only makes us tired and cranky the next day, but is also a major risk factor for weight gain, due to its link with increased levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite,” says Nicki.

Another reason to spend more time in bed is to relax fried nerves, banish stress and trigger a flood of feel-good endorphins. “Sex is great if you’re feeling anxious, as orgasms release all that tension,” says Piroska

Fast Overnight: Put late-night munchies to bed and try not eating for 12-16 hours between dinner and breakfast. “This helps the body to burn more fat,” explains Nicki, as it gives it a longer window in which to burn through your last meal and then start on stored fat.

Evening eater? Brush your teeth after dinner to help avoid the urge to snack

The best fats include coconut oil, olive oil, grass-fed butter (not the spreadable kind), avocado, nuts, seeds, and oily fish like sardines, mackerel and salmon

Go TeeTotal During the Week: Alcohol doesn’t do you any favours when it comes to weight loss. A pint of beer contains around 200 calories, a 175ml glass of wine contains 130, and a double G&T is around 125.

Aim to go Monday to Friday without alcohol, and give yourself a limit at the weekend, or an alcohol “curfew”, which stops you from drinking after a certain hour – and don’t exceed NHS guidelines of 14 units a week

AEXERim to go Monday to Friday without alcohol

Make Friends With Fat: You may not like the stuff on your thighs, but when it comes to diet, certain fats are worth appreciating. “We need them for hormone production, especially when oestrogen declines in menopause, and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, C, E and D.

“Plus they help keep blood sugar levels stable, so you’re not hungry between meals,” explains Nicki. She says the best fats include coconut oil, olive oil, grass-fed butter (not the spreadable kind), avocado, nuts, seeds, and oily fish like sardines, mackerel and salmon.

Stop snacking: “If your house is full of snacks, you’ll eat them sooner or later,” says Dean. “It’s easy to say: ‘Don’t buy these foods!’ but if you have kids, that may be unavoidable.

“A good tactic in that case is to buy snacks they like, but you don’t. That will limit the temptation to tuck into their treats, helping you keep your calories down.

Lift Weights: Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself, especially during menopause. “Resistance training can improve menopausal symptoms and their associated risks, slowing down the ageing process and keeping your weight and body fat at healthy levels,” says Emily Servante, personal trainer at Ultimate Performance.

And though weight training burns fewer calories than an hour on the treadmill, after a weights session you’ll burn more for longer.

Don’t Go OTT. There’s no need to go overboard on exercise to swerve weight gain. “Thirty minutes of exercise (which includes walking) five times a week is usually enough to stay on top of your health, so get moving,” says Keoghan Bellew, personal trainer at Fitness Superstore.

The NHS recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate, or 75 minutes of vigorous, activity a week.

There’s no need to go overboard on exercise, The NHS recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week

Rise and shine: If you have commitments after work or are too tired to even think about exercise, then schedule in morning workouts.

“Have your gym kit ready the night before, set your alarm and exercise first thing – it makes it harder to procrastinate and gives you the rest of the day for other activities,” says Dean

Rope Others In: There’s no need to exercise alone. “Planning activities with friends, such as bike rides, runs or gym sessions, will provide the support and accountability you need to stick to your goals,” says Dean. Involve your family, too.

“A walk, trips to the park, active computer games or joining in with your kids’ extra-curricular activities will all add up to help maintain your weight, or even lose a few pounds.

Eat protein: To combat muscle decline, a good level of muscle-building protein is crucial. You can still build muscle after 40, it just takes longer, according to Dean. “Aiming for 30-40g of protein per meal will stimulate muscle growth.

“Protein has the added benefit of helping control hunger and cravings, too. Opt for lean sources, like chicken, fish, Greek yoghurt and low-fat beef, which contain fewer calories,” he says.

Opt for lean sources, like chicken, fish, Greek yoghurt and low-fat beef, which contain fewer calories

Fake it away! Delete your takeaway apps and the number for your local Chinese! If you’re tired and hungry, they just offer more temptation. Dean says: “Having to reinstall the app and log back in creates a barrier and may help you avoid the enticement.

“If your kitchen is stocked with things like microwavable rice, frozen veg, rotisserie chicken, yoghurt and fruit then you’ll have tasty and filling food that’s faster than a takeaway, with far fewer calories.”  

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