What is so different about weight loss when you're a woman over 40? As I described in the first article of this series, there are two main differences: (1) Crash diets the might have worked for you in your 20s and 30s don't work any more; and (2) exercise just isn't enough. In this article (like the second of this series), I'm going to focus on practical advice for weight loss.
So here are 8 more weight loss tips for women over 40.
1. Stop turning desired foods into the enemy.
One thing I notice with many clients is that when they eat foods that they perceive as "bad" (but that they love), they eat them in the worst possible way. Have you ever eaten a chocolate bar as if you were committing a crime and wanted to finish it before you got caught? This is a terrible way to eat a food that you love! Not only do you not take the time to enjoy it, but the entire experience is suffused with guilt and regret.
Remember, food is not the enemy, it’s your thoughts about the food. Give yourself permission to eat foods that you enjoy. Second, instead of rushing, take your time. Put the food on a plate. Savor it. When you allow yourself to enjoy food that you love, it loses some of its power over you.
2. If you know you're likely to overeat certain foods, make them harder to access.
Eating something you love should be a deliberate decision. The problem is, if you like chocolate and it’s lying around on your desk, your decision is no longer driven by desire, but by convenience.
You want to make snacks and other foods like that as inconvenient as possible. This ensures that you're making decisions based on what you really want and not just because it’s in front of you.
You create inconvenience by not keeping snacks readily available. It puts a barrier between you and impulsive food decisions. Do you always get an afternoon chocolate bar from the vending machine at work? Make a rule that you can still have a chocolate bar, but you have to walk to a shop a few blocks away to get it.
3. What foods do you really really love?
You probably think you know what foods you love. But there is more to it than that. Part of developing a healthier relationship with food is gaining more self-knowledge about what you really want.
Some questions to ask are:
- Which foods do you really enjoy?
- Which foods could you do without?
- Which foods make you feel good?
- Which foods feel good in the moment but make you feel bad later on?
- Which foods make you feel the most satisfied? For how long?
If you look at everything you eat, you'll notice that there are some foods on that list which you don't absolutely love. For instance, someone who loves chocolate but isn't so jazzed about cakes shouldn't order chocolate cake at the cafe with her friend.
4. Go easy on the booze.
I have some clients who obsess over the extra baked potato they had at dinner, but forget the 500 calories of red wine they had with their meal. Alcohol is liquid calories. And many women find that when they drink, they make bad food decisions and feel extra-hungry the next day. A triple whammy!
Because of the tolerance aspect of alcohol, you need more and more to get the same effect. What might have started off as one glass of wine with dinner, can soon end up as half a bottle. You don't necessarily need to eliminate alcohol entirely, but you should try to ensure that it doesn't undermine your health and weight goals.
5. Don't write off things as unavoidable. Always look at eating situations and see if there is another, better way of handling them.
Some things happen because we don't even question them. Some clients say things like "They were having a birthday cake at work and so I had to eat that." Unless someone grabbed you and shoved the food down your throat, you didn't have to do anything.
6. If you're feeling deprived, you're on the wrong path.
Let’s say you’re trying to lose weight, and you decide to eat a really small lunch. After, you're still hungry but you convince yourself it's the right thing to do. You almost feel proud of yourself for restricting your food. But a few hours later, you’re so hungry that you end up eating a big slice of chocolate cake with cream.
What just happened here?
You fell for the diet-based thinking that going without food and depriving yourself is part of losing weight. It’s not. Deprivation will just make you feel more hungry and intensify your cravings. It's not sustainable. I often tell clients that "if you think you're being 'good', you're probably cutting back too much". Deprivation is not the path to long-term weight loss.
7. Share food as much as possible.
It's a win-win. You get to experience a variety of different foods without having to eat all the calories. When eating with others, always look for ways to share.
8. Figure out whether you need snacks or not.
There are no hard and fast rules with regards to snacks, because different people react differently. Are you the kind of person who does well with three good meals, or do you need snacks in between to keep you going?
It doesn’t matter which you are, but you need to know which one you are. There’s no sense in eating snacks when you don’t need them. Or only eating main meals and then feeling insatiably hungry in between.
This speaks to a more general principle. Don't feel compelled to do what someone else did to lose weight. Do what works for you.
Khandee Ahnaimugan, M.A., M.D., is a medical doctor and weight loss expert based in London, England. He is the author of "Slim and Healthy without Dieting" and "Losing Weight After 40". Learn more about his unique approach and try his FREE "How to Lose Weight without Dieting" e-course at LosingWeightWithoutDieting.com. At his clinic and through his online programs, Khandee helps women over 40 lose weight without dieting using a behavior-focused approach.