Why Is It So Hard To Lose Weight After 40?‎ ‎

Losing weight after 40 is difficult, but not impossible. Learn why it’s so hard and what you can do about it with Thrivelab.
Medically Reviewed By:
Dr. Nayan Patel

As we grow older, we witness changes in our physical appearance and overall well-being, including our weight. Weight gain that occurs after the age of 40 is primarily due to hormonal changes, a decrease in metabolism, and lifestyle changes. 

This happens not just because you're burning fewer calories but also because fat is stored differently as you age. However, this doesn’t mean that sustained weight loss is impossible after 40 — so in this post, we'll explore why it's hard to lose weight after 40 and some tips to help you through it.

Why Is It Hard To Lose Weight After 40?

Whether you’re in menopause or perimenopause, you’ve probably noticed that it’s harder to lose weight in your middle ages than it was in your 20s. We know this can feel discouraging, but the reality is that there are plenty of reasons why this happens. Here are just a few.

1. Hormonal Imbalances

As you approach menopause, hormonal changes, specifically a decrease in estrogen levels, can wreak havoc on your metabolism — ultimately making it harder to lose body weight. 

Additionally, having lower levels of estrogen can also lead to a reduction in muscle mass, another factor that affects the way your body burns calories.

Estrogen is a hormone produced by the female ovaries that helps regulate key bodily functions such as menstruation, fertility, and even sexual desire. Estrogen levels in the body fluctuate as women pass through different stages of life, such as puberty, pregnancy, and menopause.

These levels can also be affected by external factors such as diet and exercise, medications, stress, environmental toxins, and more. Low levels of estrogen can result in a slower metabolism and the accumulation of fat around the midsection.

If you've crossed the 40-year-old mark and feel like weight loss is harder than it used to be, talk to your doctor about checking your hormone levels. They can help you determine if you have a hormonal imbalance and how to address it.

2. Slow Metabolism

It's no secret that our metabolism slows with age, but it's more drastic once you reach 40. This is because your muscle mass starts to decline, and the body no longer requires as many calories to function normally. 

You may be more prone to gain weight as your calorie needs decrease, making it harder to maintain a healthy weight. Since muscle burns more calories at rest than fat, having less muscle mass means you're burning even fewer calories.

3. Certain Medications

Certain medications can also contribute to weight gain or make it more challenging to lose weight. These may include antidepressants, steroids, and some blood pressure medications. 

Some medications, like antidepressants, can interfere with serotonin production — and while this is how they’re designed to work, it can have the unintended side effect of impacting your appetite.

On the other hand, medications like hormonal birth control can contribute to weight gain by affecting your hormone balance. When estrogen and progesterone levels are imbalanced, you may notice a few extra inches around your waist or generally have a more difficult time losing weight.

If you suspect that a medication you're taking is causing you to gain weight, it's essential to talk to your healthcare provider before making any changes. 

4. Poor Sleep

Adequate sleep is essential for overall health, but it's especially important when you're trying to lose weight. Not getting enough sleep can negatively affect your health in many ways, including when it comes to your hormones. 

Inadequate sleep can disrupt the delicate hormonal balance in your body, leading to an increase in appetite and cravings for unhealthy foods. It can also lead to a decrease in energy levels, which can make it even more difficult to stay motivated and active.

Unfortunately, as important as adequate sleep is for your health, sleep disturbances are common after 40. This is often due to the hormonal changes that occur with menopause. During this time, the body's natural rhythm can be disrupted, making it harder to get a good night's rest.

Cortisol levels also tend to increase with age, making it difficult for the body to relax and drift off to sleep. As a result, losing weight can be more challenging.

5. Stress

Stress can wreak havoc on the body, and if you're over 40, your stress levels have likely increased for one reason or another. Life generally gets more complicated as we get older — from kids to careers, aging parents, financial obligations, and more, there are plenty of reasons why our day-to-day lives may become a bit more stressful. 

Stress has been linked to weight gain, as it stimulates the release of the hormone cortisol, which can trigger cravings for unhealthy, sugary, and fatty foods. Cortisol can also disrupt sleep, cause fatigue, and make it harder to concentrate — but that's not all: chronic stress can also lead to digestive issues and inflammation, both of which can contribute to weight gain.

Why Is It Important To Maintain a Healthy Weight?

Maintaining a healthy weight is important for many reasons, so we’ll start with some of the most significant. For starters, obesity can be a risk factor for chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes, so maintaining a healthy weight is important for your long-term wellness.

However, maintaining a healthy weight can also help support your energy levels, overall mood, and well-being in a more general sense.

Staying within a healthy weight range can even make it easier to move around and do physical activities, which is essential for maintaining bone density and muscle strength.

How Can You Lose Weight After 40?

All in all, maintaining a healthy weight has numerous benefits and is essential for living a healthy life. With this in mind, let's take a look at a few tips that can help you stay fit and healthy after 40. 

1. Increase Your Protein Intake

Getting enough protein is essential for staying healthy, particularly after 40. This is because our body's ability to absorb and process protein decreases as we age. 

Additionally, having less muscle mass means you need more protein to maintain your muscle health. Increasing your protein intake can help you feel fuller for longer, reducing cravings and helping you to maintain a healthy weight.

In addition to increasing your protein intake, consider adding strength training to your exercise regimen. Strength training can help build muscle, which can help boost your metabolism and aid in weight loss.

2. Get Enough Exercise

Getting enough physical activity is essential for staying fit and healthy, regardless of your age. However, after 40, it's important to make sure that you're not overexerting yourself. 

That's why it's important to talk to your doctor before starting any sort of exercise program and make sure you get adequate rest after physical activity. Aim for around 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each day, such as brisk walking or biking.

3. Get Your Thyroid Checked

If you're struggling to lose weight and nothing seems to be working, it could be a sign of a thyroid imbalance. Your thyroid is responsible for regulating metabolism, and when it's not functioning properly, your body may be unable to burn calories efficiently. 

Thyroid disorders are quite common in women over the age of 40, namely because the decrease in hormone levels during perimenopause can affect the way the thyroid functions.

If you believe a thyroid imbalance may be to blame for your weight gain, see your doctor or healthcare provider for a check-up. They can test your thyroid levels and determine whether any treatment is needed to help restore balance.

4. Get Adequate Sleep

Getting enough sleep can help regulate hormones such as ghrelin and leptin, which are responsible for controlling hunger and food cravings. Adequate sleep is also important for maintaining muscle mass and boosting your energy levels and mood. In general, aiming for seven to nine hours of quality sleep per night is the ideal ballpark.

Try setting a consistent bedtime, staying away from screens (like your phone, TV, and laptop) at least an hour before bedtime, and avoiding caffeine in the evening. You may also want to establish a relaxing bedtime routine to help you calm down when it’s time to go to sleep.

5. Reduce Stress

Stress can take a major toll on the body and contribute to weight gain, so it’s important to incorporate stress-reducing activities into your routine. 

This could be anything from yoga and meditation to journaling or simply taking time to relax. Find what works for you, and make sure to be consistent for the best outcome.

6. Consider Hormone Replacement Therapy

As women age, our hormones — particularly estrogen and progesterone — start to decline. This can lead to a number of uncomfortable symptoms, including weight gain. 

Fortunately, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help restore these hormones to their optimal levels, helping to ease symptoms of menopause and maintain a healthy weight. When your hormones are balanced, you may also experience better sleep, improved mood, and increased energy levels, all of which are essential for maintaining a healthy weight.

If HRT sounds like something you'd like to consider, schedule an appointment with one of our qualified providers. 

7. Drink Plenty of Water

Staying hydrated is essential for keeping your body healthy and functioning properly. Not only can water help flush toxins from the body, but it also helps keep you feeling full so that you don't overeat. Aim to drink eight to 10 glasses of water each day — this can help keep your metabolism functioning properly and prevent you from eating too much.

You can also flavor your water with slices of cucumber, orange, or lemon for a refreshing twist. For extra health benefits, try adding herbs like mint or basil.

8. Cut Back on Refined Carbs

Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, pasta, and processed snacks, cause a quick spike in blood sugar. This can lead to cravings and overeating, which can then lead to weight gain. 

When choosing carbs, it’s generally best to opt for whole-grain options such as quinoa, oats, and brown rice instead of refined options like pasta and white rice. 

It’s also important to make sure you’re eating plenty of healthy fats, veggies, and fresh fruits during mid-life health changes. If you’re not sure where to start when incorporating whole foods into your diet, enlist the help of a nutritionist or registered dietitian.

9. Supplement Your Diet

If you have gaps in your diet that are keeping you from getting enough vitamins and minerals, supplements such as fish oil, probiotics, and omega-3s may help support your body's natural processes and aid in weight loss.

When choosing a supplement, look for one that is high-quality and tailored to your specific needs. Before you make it a part of your daily routine, just be sure to get the go-ahead from your doctor — especially if you have an underlying medical condition or are taking other medications.

10. Eat Regularly

It's a common misconception that eating less will help you lose belly fat. The truth is, eating too little can actually slow down your metabolic rate, leading to a decrease in the number of calories you burn. 

Additionally, if you're not eating enough to meet your body's needs, your body may go into "starvation mode," which is when the body starts storing fat in an effort to conserve energy.

To keep your metabolism running smoothly, try to eat regular meals of smaller portion sizes and snacks throughout the day. A well-balanced diet and healthy eating habits can give you all the nutrients you need to stay healthy while preventing cravings and managing calorie intake.

The Bottom Line

There are several reasons why it's harder to lose weight after 40, from hormonal changes to decreased metabolism and lifestyle factors. However, with the right approach, it's still possible to lose weight and keep it off. A healthy diet, regular exercise, stress-management techniques, and good quality sleep are all ways that you can support your weight loss plans.

By incorporating these elements into your life, you can overcome the challenges of losing weight after 40 and achieve your goals. Remember to track your progress, seek support from friends and family, and set realistic expectations. 

Here at Thrivelab, our goal is to empower people of all ages to live their happiest and healthiest lives. Whether you're looking to lose weight, balance your hormones, or simply live a healthier lifestyle, we can help. Book your consultation with a board-certified provider today. 


  1. A review of the role of estrogen in dermal aging and facial attractiveness in women | PCM 
  2. Estrogen: Hormone, Function, Levels & Imbalances | Cleveland Clinic 
  3. Muscle tissue changes with aging | PMC
  4. Sleep Deprivation: Effects on Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance | PMC
  5. You Guessed It: Long-Term Stress Can Make You Gain Weight | Cleveland Clinic 
  6. You Think It’s Menopause, But Could It Be Your Thyroid? | Cleveland Clinic

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