Feed your muscle
If you’re in your 40s and have noticed your weight creeping up even though your diet and exercise routine haven’t changed, you can blame your muscles (or lack thereof—here are five daily habits for preserving your muscle). “Beginning in your thirties, you will lose about one percent of your muscle mass each year, and in the following decade, you will lose muscle at a higher rate,” says Caroline Apovian, MD, director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at the Boston Medical Center. Muscle is metabolically active, meaning it’s burning calories on your behalf, even if you’re just binge watching House of Cards. “All lost muscle will be replaced by fat—and your metabolism will slow down correspondingly—unless your habits actively counteract this process,” says Dr. Apovian. “Eat a diet rich in lean protein sources and incorporate at least two strength training sessions into your weekly routine.” Shoot for about 30 grams of protein per meal.
Shift down on sugar
The changing hormone levels you begin to experience in your 40s could feel oddly like your tumultuous teen years, except now there’s the added bonus of hot flashes in addition to fatigue and mood swings. It may be tempting to reach for sugary comfort food, but any happy feelings will be short-lived when you suffer a post-carb crash. (Already over-indulged? Here’s how to reverse a sugar binge.) Worse, eating like this will lead to weight gain and exaggerated hormonal responses. “During menopause, your hormone levels affect your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar,” warns Dr. Apovian. “In addition, added sugars cause energy surges and crashes, and lead to cravings for more sugar later on, without providing any nutritional benefit for the calories consumed. Eating a diet low in added sugars will benefit weight loss at any age, but especially during menopause when blood sugar is less stable.”