• Dr Sally Norton


Updated: Aug 27, 2020

Every day I am contacted by women in their 40s and beyond asking why weight loss seems to be so hard now. The quick diet that shifted the pounds when you were in your 20s no longer seems to work. The weight is slowly and surely piling on. Waistbands, in particular, seem to be getting tighter and women are in despair. Sound familiar? Is it just a sad fact of getting older, is it the menopause or is it just that you have run out of willpower?

The first thing to say is that it’s not your fault. You’re not weak-willed and useless, so stop blaming yourself. The fact is, we hit a perfect storm around this age and it’s hard to fight back.

A combination of ageing, hormonal changes and poor nutrition and exercise habits that we have picked up along the way are part of that perfect storm. Poor sleep quality that is linked to perimenopause may be hitting us hard too– as well as stressful life changes such as kids leaving home and elderly parents to care for. Finally, years of yo-yo dieting are starting to catch up with us. How can we expect to tackle that lot with willpower alone?!

What can you do about it?

Rather than fighting with our willpower on another fad diet, we should get our natural weight control mechanisms back in sync so they do the hard work for us.

That may mean looking at hormonal issues. The years before and after menopause (the perimenopause) can play havoc with sleep, mood and more. And the drop in oestrogen encourages weight gain around the middle. Any perceived risk of HRT may be counteracted by improving your health with weight loss, so it’s worth considering.

And poor sleep, poor eating behaviour and high stress are associated with other hormone imbalances too so need addressing.

Focusing purely on cutting calories just lowers the metabolism whereas reducing snacking, lowering processed carbs or even short fasts can boost it.

Plus, processed food in general is so easy to come by, but often full of sugar and chemicals that our body doesn’t recognise – how is it expected to work efficiently? But it’s actually addictive, so we are powerless to resist. Instead, studies show we can retrain our brains to appreciate healthier foods in around 3 months….that means that those junk food cravings can subside!

And some of us may be cooking for growing teens or partners who may need larger portions than us – but we often serve up equal measures!

Then there are our gut bacteria – overweight people have different strains than people of normal weight and amazingly, they interact with us every day. Eating fresh, high-fibre food and cutting sugar and many artificial sweeteners helps them to help us.

Losing muscle as we age, something called sarcopaenia, is also an issue as muscle burns more energy than fat. And yo-yo dieting increases muscle loss too. So, we need to build muscle rather than lose it

The stress that some of us are under in middle age due to job changes, financial worries, kids or parents needing support, or even just the gloom of getting older can contribute to weight gain too via the effect of cortisol that adds to that belly fat. Taking time to relax, breathe and even meditate can help – it’s genuinely worth trying. And it’s far better than resorting to alcohol – you may think it helps you unwind and sleep better but actually sleep quality is worse and alcohol knocks your willpower too.

We can get all these weight loss mechanisms back into sync with various small and relatively painless changes. Then weight loss becomes less of a battle and more like something we can keep up for life.

All of that and more is covered in my 12 week online Weight Loss for Life programme. Learn how to get your body and brain working with you, not against you, and see how much easier weight control becomes.