Once you’ve hit the big 4-0, you will be well aware that sticking to a healthy weight really is more challenging in middle-age (and beyond).
Where once you could devour junk food without consequence, now it feels like a mere glance at the fridge adds 10lb.
Perhaps you’re struggling to sleep or you can’t find time for a 10-minute walk, let alone a fitness class.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. A revolutionary new plan, The Midlife Method, is here to change that, promising to help you drop pounds – and, more importantly, feel great – in a matter of weeks. Author Sam Rice, tells Fabulous: “The importance of our health as we age has been in the spotlight more than ever this year.
"We know that both age and obesity are big risk factors for Covid-19, as well as heart problems, diabetes and even dementia.”
So if your health is top of your 2021 priority list, The Midlife Method can help you make a few simple changes. Life really can begin at 40, after all!
The method’s strength lies in a combination of light and regular days. The four-week meal plan starts with six lighter days, where you aim for 800 calories and one regular day of 1,600 for women and 2,000 for men.
Once you’ve got into the swing of it, the plan eases to just three light days by the fourth week, which you stick with until you hit your goal. Then comes the maintenance phase of one to two lighter days a week.
I don’t have to worry about my weight for the first time in my adult life
Alongside nutritious meals and within your rough calorie allowance, you’re allowed anything else you fancy – including wine – in moderation. Hooray! “Just because you have a calorie restriction, doesn’t mean it’s all dull diet foods,” says Sam.
“There are more than 80 recipes in the book (developed with dietician Sarah Schenker, a member of the British Dietetic Association) such as lamb curry, salmon chowder, chicken chasseur and sweet treats like black bean brownies. You don’t have to be a saint when you lose weight. It’s about consistently eating nutrient-dense foods that don’t leave you hungry and deliver a balance of macronutrients: fat, protein and carbs.”
Stop the spread
There are three main reasons for middle-aged spread, according to Sam: “First, your hormones go through changes around the perimenopause and menopause, while for men, testosterone levels start to decline.
"Secondly, your metabolism naturally starts to slow, and thirdly your gut health can decline as you get older, which affects the amount of energy you burn from food and the amount that’s stored as fat.”
Get in the habit
The most important thing is to work out your motivation. “In midlife it’s less about looking good in a swimsuit and more about living a longer, healthier life. We want to do all the things we love, for as long as we can,” says Sam, who came to appreciate her own health after losing her 27-year-old brother Ben following complications connected to Type 1 diabetes.
Focus on why you want to lose weight, whether it’s wanting more years with your family, increased energy levels to tackle a new phase of life, or lowering your risk of an illness that runs in your family.
How to fit it in?
When you’re running around like a headless chicken, healthy habits are usually the first things to go. “It’s a mindset thing,” says Sam.
“We all need to eat, and it’s about realising that making a bowl of porridge or a smoothie is just as simple as reaching for the cereal packet. Try cooking up a batch of soup on a Sunday to give you a healthy option to look forward to during the week.
"If you’re spending an hour a day on Instagram, or procrastinating in some other way – I’m not judging, we all do it – try carving out 30 minutes a day to prioritise your health instead.”
As for exercise, Sam recommends making a weekly plan to help you hit the recommended 150 minutes a week.
It’s far better to plan a few workouts that you actually do than one a day that never happen.”
Move on up
The biggest factor in weight loss is what you eat, but exercise can play a supporting role.
“Exercise will burn calories, but more importantly it will raise your metabolic rate by countering the muscle loss that comes with age, meaning you burn more calories throughout the day, even when you’re not exercising,” says Sam.
“Each week I recommend doing two 30-minute strength/resistance training sessions, two lower-impact sessions like yoga or walking, and one longer cardio session – an hour of tennis, cycling or running.
Strength work will help you maintain muscle – even if it’s just using hand weights at home.”
Try some YouTube strength classes, or punching out with a hand weight as you go up and down stairs.
“Studies have shown that ageing is associated with changes in your circadian rhythm – so you find it harder to sleep and your sleep quality isn’t as good,” says Sam. As well as being a mood-dampener, feeling tired makes you more likely to want to skip exercise or eat more calorific foods.
As well as basic sleep hygiene – such as fitting blackout blinds and not using screens in the bedroom – Sam advises eating well to improve shut-eye. “Some foods contain melatonin – known as the sleep hormone – such as milk, cherries, grapes, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers and pistachios, so these are good things to eat in the evening,” says Sam.
Take the pressure off
Middle-age can be a stressful time – you might be working, raising kids and be responsible for looking after ageing parents all at once.
This can have an impact on everything from your brain to your gut, not to mention increasing your risk of high blood pressure and diabetes and meaning your immune system doesn’t work as efficiently as it should.
The key, according to Sam, is to prioritise.
No matter how busy you are, it’s not worth sacrificing your health and happiness
"Learn to say no to things that aren’t essential. At home, delegate tasks and ask family for help.”
And there are also foods to reduce the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline – Sam recommends avocado, oranges, and dark chocolate.
The Midlife Method: How To Lose Weight And Feel Great After 40 by Sam Rice (£14.99, Headline) is out now.
- Get more: Read “I had no idea my bloating could be ovarian cancer at 49” at Fabulousmag.co.uk.
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