Losing Weight in Your 30s, 40s, 50s, and Beyond

Losing weight in your 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond

Losing weight may never feel easy, but it also never gets easier. Fitbit users ask all the time—is it harder to lose weight as you get older? Is it impossible? Is there anything else you can do? “Yes, it’s definitely more difficult to lose weight as you get older,” says Kim Larson, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. “There are so many physiological changes as you age, through your 30s, 40s, and 50s. Most people think of middle age and menopause as the big moment, but there’s more to it than that.” To start, here are three major factors.

  • Muscle loss: Starting in your 30s, you lose as much as 3 to 5 percent of your muscle mass per decade. Lean muscle burns more calories, so the less muscle you have, the fewer calories you burn. 
  • Metabolism slows: As you lose muscle, your metabolism slows down. You simply need fewer calories as you get older, and excess calories accumulate as fat. Plus, if you’ve done any yo-yo dieting in your day, you may have slowed down your metabolism more. 
  • Hormonal changes: For women, the hormonal changes leading up to menopause contribute to weight gain. As your body loses estrogen, it becomes much more efficient at storing fat, particularly belly fat. Body composition is definitely different for women and men. But for men, testosterone also decreases as you get older, and body fat increases.

But also, life happens! There’s a lot more context that contributes to slow and steady weight gain over the years, which Larson sees in her clients and practice every day. Here’s how to think about it by decade. Plus, what you can do to stay fit at every age.

Losing Weight in Your 30s

“Your 30s are an awesome time,” says Larson. “This is the decade you want to get and stay physically fit, and focus on maintaining.” In your 20s, you could binge on pizza and wine and work it off quickly, but in your 30s, it takes a little longer. As your muscle mass and metabolism dip, you lose the margin for error. You’re also leaning into your career, experiencing more stress. And women are having babies, losing sleep, and get into irregular eating patterns. “Don’t wait to lose the baby weight,” says Larson. “You don’t want to take 5 to 10 pounds with you into the next decade.”

Losing Weight in Your 40s

“The 40s are a prevention decade,” says Larsen. “It’s time to get on track and stay there.” If those babies are now big kids, and you’re juggling commuting and carpools, it’s easy to slip into sedentary habits. “I see a lot of people let themselves go,” says Larson. “I’m honest with my clients. You do not want to go into middle age or menopause overweight. Because you will not know what hit you. Eat well, stay active, and practice healthy habits as a family.”

Losing Weight in Your 50s

“The 50s come as a shock to many people,” warns Larson. “People who have never had trouble losing or maintaining their weight suddenly find it’s a real struggle.” You might have better life balance at this point, but your body is downshifting to a different gear, and getting super efficient at storing fat. “That doesn’t mean you give up, now or ever!” says Larson. “But you have to adjust your mindset, expect changes to come slowly, and set a new weight goal.” Larson recommends tapping up your activity and reducing your calories by 300 to 400 per day, in order to maintain.

What You Can Do

“There is no miracle pill for weight loss or aging,” says Larson. “You have to go back to basics: Eat well and exercise every day.” Specifically, there are a few key things you can do, to keep your metabolism burning bright across your whole life.

  • Strength training is the best way to maintain your muscle mass and body composition. Women should be doing it. Everyone should be doing it. So find workouts you love that make you feel strong. 
  • Protein becomes even more important as you get older, to build muscles and manage your hunger. Larson recommends 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. Spread it throughout the day, hitting at least 20 to 25 grams of protein at breakfast. 
  • Calories have to come down, even if you’re active, even if you’re eating healthy foods. Do the math on how many calories you really need, and try food logging for a few weeks, to figure out where calories are sneaking into your diet and ways you can easily cut back.

Frustrating? Of course. Impossible? Hopefully not. “You just need to be a little more savvy and prepared,” says Larson. “Be in the best physical and mental health possible right now, so you can move gracefully into the next decade of your life.” Most important, maintaining a healthy weight helps you avoid scary diseases, so you can enjoy a long and happy life—and play with your grandkids.  

76 Comments   Join the Conversation

76 CommentsLeave a comment

  • So true! I never had trouble with gaining weight until I hit the big 5O. My big challenge is cutting back on chocolate and other sweets.

  • Can you explain the effects of stress on gaining weight. I am 65 and have actively fought to maintain my weight for years, but oh so much worse now. I have been under extreme stress the past 2 years and have gained over 20 pounds on top of being overweight. I am just in tears.

    • I’m 64 and was in the same boat, Barbara. Stressed, long hours at work, family obligations, with no time for the gym or to go on weekend bike rides with my friends. I started walking the 3 miles to and from work as the most efficient way to get daily exercise. As a bonus, the walking helped relieve my mental stress, to some degree. (I am lucky to have a pleasant and safe 3 mile route to work, and realize not everyone is so lucky.) Despite all that walking, though, I gained 15-20 pounds over 2 years. This year, I got a little more time to take up weekend biking again, but still the weight did not budge. So, I decided to try Weight Watchers when I found that there is an on-line only option (who needs another weekly meeting to go to when she is already stressed for time?). It turned out to be the key for me. I have lost 37 pounds in 4.5 months and am now only 6 pounds from my target (what I think is my ideal) weight. You can have your Fitbit feed into the WW app on your phone, making it easy to track your walking and biking contributions to “fitpoints”, which help to determine how much you can eat and still lose weight. What WW really does is make you mindful of everything you eat (because you log it all on an easy to use phone app), and guides you to making better choices (basically, avoid processed foods, white flour, white rice, sweets, etc most of the time, though you can have all of these once in a while and still stick to the plan). For me, the plan has been easy to follow; I rarely feel deprived on it. There are no special foods or supplements to buy, I can go to restaurants or to meals at the homes of friends and relatives and either choose the most suitable items available to eat, or make up for excesses pretty easily either before or after the fact. I don’t know if my plan will work for you or others, but wanted to throw it out as an option in case it might.

    • Me too! I have upped my activity and reduced my calorie intake and my body is resistant to any change in actual weight and to top it off, there is all this conflicting ‘advice’.

    • I am now 75 and have a BMI of 26 which is technically overweight for my height but not by much. I have found that I have had to make changes to my diet so that they become a habit. For example I only have fruit and yogurt after a meal and never a pudding. When at events where cake is handed around I can happily say no as I find it too sweet now. People sometime say oh you are being so good, but I’m not I just don’t enjoy it anymore and I won’t eat it just to please others. I have also discovered that it is good to eat plenty of protein usually in the form of poultry and a high protein low fat cheese I have discovered.

    • I am now 69 and over weight. I have a dog boarding and grooming business; also, have a small herd of alpacas. As busy physically as I am, I can not loose weight. Any Ideas on what I can do. Physically in good shape, just over weight.

    • Hi Barbara,

      I am not an expert but have been where you are. My doctor told me that due to stress my cortisol hormone was quite high and this can make it difficult to lose weight. I was told to do more soothing exercise (long walks), yoga, and strength exercises. I also was told to eliminate sugar, flour, no red meat etc. it is working. I also have to watch my calories and it is working. You can conquer this Barbara, I wish you all the best.

    • Hi Barbara, I can relate to that. I am 63 and had a lot of stress when my mom got cancer and passed away last year. Is there anyway you can avoid the things that are stressing you out? if not, can you at least try getting away from it by going in your room and listening to music once a day. Try to find little things to make you feel better, like feeding the birds or growing a new plant. I know it sounds trivial, but anything to distract from the stress. Exercise helps me more than anything else. Even when mom had Hospice coming over everyday, I would squeeze in that 30 minutes of exercise three times a week. I use a walking workout DVD by Leslie Sansone. Anyone can do these workouts, very easy. It works wonders. Also, try eating more protein and green fresh veggies (I love steamed broccoli). I hope you start feeling better soon.

    • You don’t say what the stress is caused by so I can’t tell you exactly what to do but it is clear that this is what has to be tackled before you can start to think about your weight. I know that I am stating the obvious here but sometimes we ignore the obvious. It’s easy to fall into that vicious circle of eating to try to cope with the stress and then getting depressed about eating too much and so on. You really need to get some help to cope with the stress and if possible get rid of the source. It’s not easy to do it alone. Have you consulted your doctor? I really hope you can find an answer to your problem and I wish I could help more.

    • The same thing happened to me but I am now following Jay Tavare on Facebook his advice has made a big difference to me.

  • I have MS & everyday is an adventure, actually moment to moment. Plus I can’t eat gluten. (Why ppl think it’s a diet thing is wrong) I do like a couple glasses of wine-both parents are really sick so stress is high & doesn’t get along w/MS. I’m 48, 5’6, & weigh 127. I was anorexic from my teens to mid 30s. I can’t get rid of my belly & love handles. I’m SO disgusted in my own body.
    HELP

  • I just turned 78 I struggle everyday with my weight I walk 2 to 3 miles a day go to the gym three time a week… do cardio and wieght training… watch and weight every thing I eat and I still have a problem with keeping the weight off.

    I guess I should just give up as I am soooo old.

  • I’m 44 and extremely overweight, I have started walking 2 miles 5 times a week, currently I’m trying to increase my water intake as well as increasing fresh fruits and veggies. Any suggestions as helping with weight loss?

  • Hello, all. I am 76 years old and just learning how to take care of myself. Coming from an age where women were not taught about nutrition, exercise, etc., this is proving to be a challenge. I now find that rarely is there any information for this age group. I just joined a gym and have a personal trainer and a new health care provider all who are making my life better and more enjoyable. I would like for articles to be expanded to include those of us in our 60s-80s. I like going to the gym and like the people that I meet there. I also see more seniors my age exercising but mostly men. I am welcomed there and everyone is very supportive. I wish more women would discover this opportunity. I like to also be around young people. Thank you.

  • It isn’t so much the metabolism slowing in my 50’s as it is the bad habits associated with youth. A box of Mac and Cheese was not a bad choice when competitive and highly active, I needed the carbs. But the mindset that a full box is a single sized serving remains despite the slow down in activity and metabolism. That’s where the real challenge lies. Too many years of eating rabbit food only after it was processed into a rabbit (or steer preferrably) with potato or corn as the only acceptable vegetable.

  • Can you explain your qualifications to make these statements? I didn’t see M.D, nurse, or dietitian in your description, or even that one was consulted for the article, just that you happen to live in a cute area

  • I’m 48 and had my last kid at 41. I stayed in good terms with my waight and exercise routine and eating habits. But from last year to now I suddenly started gaining waight at a scary speed and I cannot get it off me. I am eating much less (1000 kls) a day and I try to burn 2500 at least. Why is it so much difficult ? I am so disappointed of it… it’s like , I’m stoked and I’m moving nowhere! Any advice?

  • IF our bodies work to store fat when we turn 50, what is the reason for fighting the extra weight – and particularly, the belly fat? The statement that we “should never give up” frankly sounds like you are directing us to torture ourselves for the rest of our lives. Doing 10,000 steps, eating well and sleeping well, surely must be more important than conforming to society’s standards of beauty.

  • You may find it fascinating that there are hundreds of older adults losing weight and maintaining it with Susan Peirce Thompson’s
    Bright Line Eating. Her book by that title came out in March. I can testify to its effect. I lost 50 pounds within six months of faithfully following the plan. Check it out! It’s amazing!

  • Having a hard time trying to lose weight I’m 55 yrs old and weight is 223 & 5”4..I also have a bad back & knee which is getting better.. what can I do please help!

  • I appreciate the information. I think an inclusion of weight issues for those beyond 50’s would be helpful.
    Being 50 and being 65-over are 2 very different times of wellness. It really does not get easier. I do know this population uses Fitbit trackers and is concerned…We have not given up the good fight!

  • I am now in my sixties (61) and could also do with advise.. I’m still active but I’ve got both the weight issue and the sleeping problem

  • Apparently after the fifties we aren’t worth advice! Why are we categorised as ‘beyond’ ? It is really ageist and insulting

  • Do think IMPOSSIBLE think I’M POSSIBLE, you can do it. I’m 58 and healthier and slimmer than at any point in my adult life having lost 4 1/2 stone in around 40 weeks (I have maintained this now for 18 months) by changing how I prepare food and substituting good food for bad and believe it or not I now eat more than before losing weight. As for exercise, I now walk to work, when the weather permits, always take the stairs and using my Fitbit to track my walks, always try to make sure that I complete 10,000 steps a day. To be honest the difference in the way I feel is incredible, I’ve gone from being out of breath walking upstairs to completing the MacMillan mighty hike, I can’t describe how good that felt. Good luck …. YOU can do it.

  • As a 62 year old I have always struggled with my weight but have joined slimming world. They encourage you to eat healthily by essentially using a low fat & carb method. So far it seems to be working and you are never hungry on their plan and I can still have a glass of wine. Combined with using the fitbit to monitor my steps I have upped my walking. So being in you 60s is not a deterrent to losing weight. It is never too late.

  • In my 70 s and working on the extra 10kg that has accumulated over the past 15 years, I find a low carb/high protein diet works for me. Carbs only after exercise. I exercise daily, mainly walking, alternating fast and slower intervals. Pilates classes twice a week. Housework and gardening also keep me active. I have lost the weight without feeling hungry. I also enjoy a glass of wine most evenings. Although I understand the logic of calories consumed v calories burned I feel that I am consuming more calories on this diet but still losing weight.

  • I have found this information very interesting about being over 50. I am in my early 50 need to loose some weight not massive amount, however I am going to give this a try. I have just joined a gym around the corner from where I work. I am definitely going to give it ago. Now I understand the proteins and calories intake.

  • Oh indeed, I can empathise with the weight gain over 60. I am now overweight for my height and need to lose 10 kilos. I have no reasons, only excuses, but at 70+ with two hip replacements and a troublesome knee, doing the 10000 steps is a bit of a struggle. I am vegetarian, (50years), always did exercise (modern dance and aerobics), but I love my food, without overdoing it. I guess it’s old age creeping on, but I shall still struggle to eat well and lose a bit of weight.

  • It can be done! I’m male in my mid 50’s and have now retired from a desk job. I’ve managed to lose around 30lbs over 12 months, and have my weight down to around 170lbs – back to around my weight 30 years ago! Now, freed from a desk, I walk much more – nothing crazy – around 8-9 miles per day ( according to my fitbit), but only around 4-5 miles of that is actually “going for a walk” the rest just general moving about!

    I would love to say that I was particularly careful around what I eat, but that would be untrue – essentially I just eat what I choose without overdoing it too often.

    Walking my dogs is my panacea to keeping my weight, stress levels and general wellbeing under control – ‘works for me! The very thought of a gym brings a shudder to me!

    My fitbit helps immensely – my tip would be to re-set the defualt targets ( up or down) to a level that requires just a wee bit of effort beyond what you might otherwise acheive in a “normal” day/week. Unrealistic goals will very quickly drain motivation, and ones that are too easy to attain acheive little.

    Good luck on your journey

  • I had my 60th last week and I’m half a stone lighter than this time last year (9st12) and stable. I worked out my problem is bread – so I don’t have it in the house. I eat tons of fruit – it’s my go-to when peckish. Of course I ‘sin’ but I count every hour of ‘good behaviour’ as a positive (I count how many good hours in a day), and each ‘sin’ as a one-off and not a signal to ‘give up dieting for the rest of the day’. We are all different so it’s about understanding what inspires you and what never to have in the house (if you don’t buy it you can’t eat it).

  • Absolutely agree. I’m coming up to 64 years old and have managed to loose weight, gain lean muscle and strength by a combination of healthy eating and regular vigorous exercise. I prefer to do my gym sessions in a functional gym where I can combine HIIT training with some basic weight training and strength exercises such as prowler pushing, battle rope exercises or tyre flips. Over the past 6 months I’ve seen an amazing change in my body shape and I’m now maintaining a healthy weight and body mass index as I shed fat and gain lean muscle. The key to success is to enjoy a varied training schedule and not get stuck into repeating the same exercises every session.

  • Absolutely agree. I’m coming up to 64 years old and have managed to loose weight, gain lean muscle and strength by a combination of healthy eating and regular vigorous exercise. I prefer to do my gym sessions in a functional gym where I can combine HIIT training with some basic weight training and strength exercises such as prowler pushing, battle rope exercises or tyre flips. Over the past 6 months I’ve seen an amazing change in my body shape and I’m now maintaining a healthy weight and body mass index as I shed fat and gain lean muscle. The key to success is to enjoy a varied training schedule and not get stuck into repeating the same exercises every session.

  • I have an under active thyroid, does this contribute to finding it difficult to loose weight. I am 65 years old and have had the condition for 25 years.

  • I’m a 50 year old man , recovering from 1st and secondly cancer.my weight was around 18st before I got I’ll ,it got up too 24st at one point I’m now 22st 7lbs.when I was 18 st I jogged cycled and walked to keep fit .
    I was fairly fit for a big guy.
    Really could do with some ideas and help with losing 4to 5 st.

  • 2 months before my 65th birthday I was diagnosed as diabetic. I followed the low carb high fat diet on the DiabetesUk website and lost nearly 15kg in 4 months. I reversed my diabetes and dropped my cholesterol level too.

  • I am seventy one years old , female , I was disappointed that the age groups discussed seem to stop at , fifty it just says and over ,
    I walk my ten thousand steps per day often more , and walk ten stairs each day ,I am a stone overweight , and know I could cut out the chocolate etc , just need to get motivated , hence I bought the Fitbit Charge two
    So my goal is to get to ten stone , I am five foot three , any advise or helpful reading articles would be appreciated.
    Thank you
    I am not a gym fan or cardio workout fan , walking is my exercise

  • I am 61 and have lost 3 and a half stone in the last year. I joined Slimming World who recommend that you fill up on foods that are less calorie dense, and I have a cross-trainer at home. I built up the exercise gradually as I lost weight and got fitter. 15 minutes at first, I now do an hour on 6 days a week. I really think eating healthier and being more active is something we have to push ourselves to do. Only discovered it late in life, but thankfully not too late.

  • I’m 86 and have discovered that a 6-10 K walk every day will help keep the weight down. The walk, combined with intelligent eating will serve you well.

  • Am 61 i go spinning and other classes 4 times week i do a slimmers world diet aswell i have lost some weight but the last few weeks my weight will not move

  • Do we stop existing after 50? I am 75 wear my Fitbit & log statistics. I try to eat healthily, I joined two exercise & diet classes for the over 60’s and am now fitter than I was five years ago.
    There may only be a minority of us golden oldies who still care, but we want to live a quality of life, so will these “health gurus” please stop treating us as though we do not exist

  • It helped me to focus on a reason for me to lose weight. I decided that when I retire I want to be in the best shape possible to start this new phase in my life. I lost 35 lbs. in my early 60’s and have kept it off for 2 years now. It was not easy but my reason kept me focused. I will be retiring in a couple of months and have more energy than I did when I weighed more. Good luck ladies, put yourself first. You can do this!

  • My fitbit has been the best purchase I’ve made in a long while. Got me walking to work, lost a stone in weight over the year!

  • My husband died 2 years ago. Six months later I joined Weight Watchers and started losing my extra 100 pounds. By now, at age 70, I have lost 72 pounds! So yes, it’s possible to lose weight when you are older!

  • Not liking your article on weight loss! I am a very fit 60 year old and you have placed me in the beyond category,so how do the beyonds loose weight?? Discrimination you bet.

  • I am a 58 year old female and weigh exactly the same as I did at 16. I have always had a huge appetite and I still eat as much as the children and the men in the family. I have always exercised (I am a marathon runner) but have not found any of the scare stories to be true – I have not accumulated belly fat and my metabolism has not slowed down. I think these articles can be misleading and cause unnecessary worry about the ageing process.

  • Actually it does not have to be a stress factor, true logging food gives a great insight In August i decided that enough is enough looking atbmyself in the mirror. I reached a point that I weighed a colossal 134 kilos. I started with a 500kCal deficiency diet an started to be more active! Two time a week to the gym for cardio and core training (half hour each) an two times walking fast (not running to spare my knees) for at fist 5km upping this every time, now at 8km. I started loosing abt 1 kilo a week, now i’m 22 kilos down and counting.

  • my problem is I don’t eat breakfast or lunch during the week cause of work I join the Kennedy Ave Wellness to help loss weight but I eat a big salad and some turkey sausage when I get home then drink I have trouble keeping food down so the clinic gave me something to take with my meal at work can’t eat while cooking therefore when I get done cooking it’s almost time for me to come home

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