ExerciseNutritionWeight Loss

Why It Is Harder to Lose Belly Fat In Our 40s, 50s and 60s….

A few weeks ago, I asked for suggestions on what you wanted me to discuss in my next newsletter, and the overwhelming request was to give my insight on how to get rid of the extra belly fat we often accumulate as we get older. This is a topic I am asked about on a relatively regular basis. Please know that I am no expert, but as a physical therapist, group exercise instructor and health coach, I will give you a little insight in what I know and what I have experienced.

There is a good book out there called Fight Fat Over Forty by Dr. Pamela Peeke. This is the book I read after I hit the big 4-0. She points out that after 40, our reproductive system, libido, body composition, moods, skin and hair all change in preparation for the next 40 years of life. A 40-year-old woman has a very different body to the one she had ten years earlier.

A woman’s metabolism declines at the rate of at least 5 per cent per decade of life, starting at the age of 20, due to the natural loss of muscle mass that comes with age. The less muscle mass you have, the fewer calories your body is able to burn.

Calories your Body needs:

  • At the age of 20, you may have required 2,000 calories a day,
  • At the age of 45 you usually require 300 fewer calories a day.
  • At the age of 65 you usually require 600 fewer calories a day than you did in your 20s.


If you continue to consume those extra calories, you will gain 1lb every 12 days or about 30lb per year.
While exercise and careful eating can minimize this effect, it doesn’t completely erase it.

According to Dr Peeke, this is because once we turn 40, our metabolic rate — in other words our ability to burn calories — drops. We lose muscle tone. We get stressed and eat more calories than we need, when what we should be doing is exercising more and controlling portion sizes.

Much of the fat gained during this time will accumulate around the waist. Many experts call it Stress Fat since it is the main source of fat that gives you energy to fight or take flight during stressful situations. Too much of this belly fat is dangerous since it places a woman at risk of heart disease, high-blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

You may be tempted to resort to extreme calorie restriction to make up for this loss of calorie-burning metabolism. Don’t. Extreme calorie restriction depresses the metabolism further and is virtually impossible to sustain. A healthy body starts with a healthy mind. It’s not about squeezing into a size six or trying to lose 20lb before your daughter’s wedding. Look at each day and ask yourself….”What can I do TODAY to make myself healthy and strong”.

What You Need to Do Now!

  1. Consult your physician finding out if you are healthy for exercise and to rule out any underlying pathology.
  2. If you struggle with eating habits, consult a registered dietician for recommendations for proper eating
    habits you need to create.
  3. How you look and feel is 80% what you eat and 20% what exercise you do.
  4. Portion control is key….Portion sizes are easier to measure than calories and, in my opinion, more
    important because declining metabolisms mean women over 40 should eat less. In the morning, try measuring out your breakfast cereal serving as dictated by the food label on the carton. It may appear small, but memorise it. This is what a serving looks like. You can also try using a smaller sized bowl or plate than normal. This will make it difficult to over-eat.
  5. Remember all calories are NOT created equal….meaning your body processes the 500 calories you consume from a grilled chicken salad differently than the 500 calories you consume from a piece of chocolate cake. “Saving you calories” for the end of the day will completely throw your body off track.
  6. Calories consumed from Alcohol goes straight to the gut…..one should decrease the amount of alcohol we consume as we get older.
  7. Exercise, exercise, exercise – 5-7 days per week you need to exercise….You have to include aerobic exercise, strengthening, balance and flexibility. Strolling around the block does not count as aerobic exercise.

When your best intentions for healthy eating and exercise are thwarted by events outside your control, understand that you haven’t failed — as I often say, “It’s Just a Blip in the Radar”…. something unexpected has happened. Acknowledging this and moving on helps get your diet back on track.

ABS Pilates of Sunbury, Ohio offers health coaching if you would like more help or information on this topic.

Amanda B. Smith is a licensed Physical therapist and ACE-certified health coach with more than 25 years of experience. ABS Pilates serves the central Ohio area including Columbus, Westerville, Sunbury, New Albany, Gahanna and Deleware. Contact ABS Pilates today and get your mind and your body back on track to a healthier tomorrow!

Amanda Smith

Amanda Smith - Licensed Physical Therapist, certified Pilates instructor, ACE certified Group Exercise Instructor, ACE certified Health Coach, Certified McKenzie Therapist. Ready to help you become stronger and healthier in a safe, fun and holistic manner.