Diet and exercise may be key components of weight loss for women, but many other factors play a role.
In fact, studies show that everything from sleep quality to stress levels can have a major impact on hunger, metabolism, body weight, and belly fat.
Fortunately, making a few small changes in your daily routine can bring big benefits when it comes to weight loss.
Here are some weight loss tips for women, especially for those over 40 years of age.
1. Don’t Go Overboard
Cutting calories too drastically or working out 24/7 may actually backfire when it comes to weight loss. Most people think shedding pounds requires draconian measures to get results, but allowing yourself adequate recovery time is more productive.
Many people, when they get frustrated that they haven’t lost weight, will double down on the stressor (i.e. catabolic phase) that they are doing. For example, they’ll run extra miles, double up on the amount of time they spend at the gym and/or eat less food. However, all of the results we desire from doing the above things actually occur during the anabolic recovery phase.
During the anabolic phase, the body builds muscle mass and loses fat mass while recovering from the stressor. So, instead of pushing yourself to a breaking point, which ends up leading to overtraining and diminished results, put as much energy into rest and nutrition as you do into workouts. To create sustainable results, try to balance your ratio of stress to recovery.
2. Check in With an Accountability Partner
Sometimes losing weight can feel lonely, but you don’t have to do it all by yourself.
Research shows being accountable works. In one study, two-thirds of participants who joined a weight loss program with friends maintained their weight loss for six months after the meetings ended, compared to just a quarter of those who attended on their own. Of course, many organizations also suggest having a sponsor or champion on your path to weight loss.
One of the best ways to consistently eat better and shed weight steadily is to check in every day with an accountability partner. Your accountability partner doesn’t need to be your bestie, favorite co-worker or partner. Just find someone with similar weight loss goals. You don’t need to talk every day, either. Just text each other to share that you’re eating healthy foods and staying on track. If you’re tempted by junk foods, you can lean on your partner, too. That’s when you may want to call them.
3. Watch Less Television
Couch surfers wanting to lose weight should turn off the TV—in fact, the more television people watch, the more weight they gain.
One study that collected data from more than 50,000 middle-aged women over six years found that for every two hours the participants spent watching television each day, they had a 23% higher risk of obesity and a 14% higher risk of developing diabetes.
Excess television watching is correlated with extra pounds primarily because it’s a sedentary activity that often also leads to mindless eating. So, turn it off or maybe change the channel to an exercise program instead.
4. Reconnect With Your Satiety Cues
Speaking of mindless eating, you can reprogram your brain for weight loss by tuning back into your body’s natural “I’m hungry” and “I’m full” cues.
Dieting combined with eating on the run or while multitasking—driving, watching TV, playing with your phone—can really disconnect you from your natural signals of hunger and satiety. Plus, as children, we also learned to clean our plates rather than eat until satisfied.
Add the fact that portion sizes have grown significantly—as much as 60% for things like snack foods— and the result is consistent overeating.
Instead, try to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you are satisfied rather than stuffed. Instead of tracking your food, try tracking how hungry you are before, during and after meals to get back in touch with these signals.
5. Get More Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best things you can do to maintain a healthy weight and overall health. Studies show that poor sleep is associated with weight gain and other health disorders. When researchers analyzed 16 years’ worth of data on 68,183 middle-aged American women, they found those who slept no more than five hours per night were 15% more likely to have obesity compared to those who slept seven hours a night.
Insufficient sleep may also affect the production of appetite-regulating hormones ghrelin and leptin, which can lead people to feel hungrier throughout the day. Additionally, poor sleep increases cortisol and can result in harder-to-lose body and belly fat.
Most of us can’t control what time we have to get up, but we can control when we go to bed, so counting back seven to nine hours from the time you have to wake up is a great tip. Follow the 3-2-1 rule, which means stop working three hours before bed, stop eating two hours before bed and stop digital stimuli one hour before bed to improve your deep sleep and REM.
6. Find Non-Edible Substitutes for Self-Soothing
There’s a reason it’s called “comfort food.” However, emotional eating can quickly derail all weight loss efforts.
When you feel stressed, which raises cortisol levels, rather than reaching for food to feel better—since eating triggers the release of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine—raise levels of oxytocin, the love hormone, either by soothing touch, playing with a pet or getting a hug.
Animal studies have found oxytocin reduces calories consumed and has positive effects on metabolism. A small human study also found that giving men oxytocin over an eight-week period promoted weight loss.
While more research is needed to understand exactly how increasing oxytocin can impact weight and appetite, if you’re experiencing difficult emotions, a self-compassion break will allow you to give yourself the care you need so you will be less likely to eat. Remember the acronym ‘HALT,’ which stands for hungry, angry/anxious, lonely and tired. If you are physiologically hungry, eat. If you are experiencing difficult emotions, ask, ‘What do I need?’ and give yourself what you truly need. If you’re not hungry, it isn’t food.