Venturing further into adulthood has its perks. You likely have stronger relationships, a better vocabulary, a more robust bank account, and maybe even a family of your own. But sometimes it can feel like you had to trade in your fit figure to obtain all of these “grown up” perks.
Sure, it can be harder to maintain a flat belly as you age, but it’s not at all impossible. So long as you continue to prioritize your health, fitting into your skinny jeans is an obtainable goal—and one that doesn’t require you to starve yourself or spend hours in the gym, either. (Seriously!) Read on to discover the top diet and exercise tips that can help you get the lean stomach you’ve always wanted. Read on, and for more on healthy eating, don’t miss Simple Ways to Start Losing Weight Immediately, According to Science.
Eat Less Added Sugar
“Sugar leads to insulin spikes which can cause fat storage—especially around the middle. Try to eat less of it.” — Dianne Rishikof, MS, RDN, LDN, IFNCP For help, see these 10 Easy Ways to Eat Less Sugar From a Celebrity Nutritionist.
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Nix the Fake Stuff
“Diet, low-carb, and many sugar-free foods and drinks contain artificial sweeteners that aren’t completely digested by the body. Bacteria that lives in large intestine tend to ferment them, causing gas and bloat. Always check food labels to avoid sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, and lactitol.” — Amanda Russell, certified personal trainer and YouTube fitness star
Hit the Weights
“Strength training is a must over 40. It builds lean muscle mass, which, over time, will help boost your resting metabolic rate which slowly declines with age. So long as you have good form and proper coaching, don’t be afraid to lift heavier weights than you have in the past. — Jennifer Cassetta, clinical nutritionist, personal trainer, and health expert from ABC’s My Diet Is Better Than Yours
“For many women in their 20s, it’s relatively easy to drop 10 pounds by cutting back on calories for a few weeks. But as you age, your metabolism slows, so what worked in your 20s may no longer be effective. The trick is to stay the course and be patient. Eventually, the scale will drop.” — Martha McKittrick, RD of Martha McKittrick Nutrition and City Girl Bites
Dial Back on Cardio
“Don’t overdo it with the cardio. Spinning up the wazoo isn’t going to give you the results you want. Declining estrogen leads to declining muscle mass which leads to declining metabolism. While that sounds depressing, there’s an easy solution: weight-bearing work. If traditional weight lifting isn’t your thing, try barre classes and pilates.” — Lauren Slayton, MS, RD, of Foodtrainers
Nix Processed Carbs
“Cutting back on processed carbohydrates is essential for weight loss after 40. Maintaining blood sugar and insulin levels is vital to weight loss, so cutting back on foods that spike blood sugar and insulin is a must. Any foods that contain added sugars, as well as foods that quickly break down into blood sugar, should be reduced. These include white bread and pasta, baked goods, cereal, candy, sweetened drinks, chips, and conventional crackers.” — Jennifer Cassetta, clinical nutritionist, personal trainer and health expert from ABC’s “My Diet Is Better Than Yours”
Start Your Day with Protein Instead of Carbs
“Starting your day with protein instead of carbs prevents blood sugar spikes and insulin activity (our fat-storage hormone). It also prevents bloating. Ditch the cereal and toast and start your day with two hard-boiled eggs, a protein shake, a veggie omelet, or a Greek yogurt with chia seeds and berries, instead.” — Amy Shapiro MS, RD, CDN of Real Nutrition NYC
For some inspiration, check out these 25 Best Yogurts for Weight Loss, According to Nutritionists.
Pop a D3 Supplement
“Hormonal changes in your 40s can affect your appetite hormones, ghrelin, and leptin. Both supplemental vitamin D3 and extra lean protein can help keep your appetite under control.” — Lauren Slayton, MS, RD of Foodtrainers
RELATED: 30 Reasons Why You’re Always Hungry
Eliminate Foods That Bloat
“Consider taking out foods that cause bloat, including dairy products. As we age, our bodies can’t break down lactose as efficiently. When we can’t efficiently digest something, it tends to cause gas and bloat, which is the opposite of a flat stomach. Avoid dairy foods, and you’ll likely see some improvement!” — Amy Shapiro MS, RD, CDN of Real Nutrition NYC
Stop Doing Crunches
“It’s no exaggeration to say at 47, I look far better in the midsection area than I did at 27. It’s not about the crunches or even the planks. I firmly believe that a flat belly is a result of cardio and a wholesome diet.” — Carla Birnberg, personal trainer and fitness blogger
Stop Pursuing Weightloss
“No diets work long-term. Not to mention, weight-loss diets typically promote disease, not health. We are not supposed to look like we did when we were in high school. As women, we need to respect that our body changes throughout life to support our needs. Fighting our body promotes negative body image and disease.” — Julie Duffy Dillon MS, RD, NCC, LDN, CEDRD
Stay Away from Salt
“Stay away from the salt. Too much sodium in the diet contributes to edema and bloating, and seems to affect us more as we age. So if you have to zip up a pencil dress or wear your ‘fitted’ suit, I recommend consuming no more than 1,500 milligrams of salt per day. Avoid ready-made meals and canned foods, which are loaded with salt. And when you’re at restaurants, simply ask for no or little salt in your food. Small changes can make big changes to your waistline.” — Amanda Russell, certified personal trainer and YouTube fitness star
If you’re over 40, check out these 25 Foods High in Sodium You Should Watch Out For.
Identify Your Why
“Pause and identify your why. Anything from a high school reunion to a beach vacation is reason enough to want to get in shape! Just be certain that your motivator is something that motivates you enough to sustain forward momentum on those days when you’d rather slack. — Carla Birnberg, personal trainer and fitness blogger
Consume More Omega-3s
“Many types of healthy fats can help you lose body fat. Omega-3s are one type with these superpowers. Try to have one omega-3 rich food every day. Eggs, fatty fish, chia seeds and walnuts are some good options.” — Lauren Slayton, MS, RD, of Foodtrainers
“In your 20s, you can get away with late nights and minimal sleep. But in your 40s, your body doesn’t rebound as well. Getting too little sleep will hit you hard the next day. You’ll likely have less motivation to exercise and have increased hunger for fat and carbs. — Martha McKittrick, RD, of Martha McKittrick Nutrition and City Girl Bites
Eat This! Tip
How much is enough? The National Sleep Foundation suggests seven to eight hours of sleep for most adults.
Stop Calorie Counting
“Restricting your caloric intake will only backfire. Instead, focus on food quality over quantity. Consume a balance of protein, low-glycemic carbohydrates, and healthy fats like avocado, nuts, nut butter, seeds, and olive oil. This balance of macronutrients will help to keep you full, while also maintaining blood sugar levels. Also, be sure to partake in moderate exercise and get adequate sleep.” — Susan Stalte, RD, LDN, MBA-Candidate
Make Small Changes
“Stop thinking of weight loss as a grand process and, instead, think of it as a series of small daily commitments. To fit more activity into your day, play with your children or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Once you’ve committed to these small changes, the easier it’ll be to advance to the bigger workouts that can lead to a flat belly.” —Rick Richey, NASM-CPT, CES, PES, owner of the Independent Training Spot
Don’t Deprive Yourself
“Swap calorie-loaded indulgences like ice cream for blended frozen fruits or lightened up, decadent-tasting desserts like Halo Top. Halo Top has just 60 to 90 calories a serving, 6 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fiber which work together to keep blood sugar stable so that you won’t crave more sugar. This simple swap will save you calories and help you lose the belly fat.” —The Nutrition Twins, Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT & Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT
Eat This! Tip
Can’t find Halo Top in your area? Buy a pint (or three!) online at Amazon.com (from $5.49) or IceCreamSource.com ($6.99). The ice cream will be shipped to your front door on dry ice.
Move Every Day
“Before you groan at the thought of hitting the treadmill every day, hear me out! Performing any type of exercise that gets your heart rate up and blood flowing will keep your metabolism going and fat burning. This can be as simple as waking up earlier and going for a 30-minute walk or incorporating a 10-minute interval workout in your living room. (Here is one I like to do: HIIT Total Body 12 Min Workout.) Whatever it is, make sure to get your heart rate pumping at least once a day to help burn fat and get lean.” — Amanda Russell, certified personal trainer and YouTube fitness star
Add Veggies to Every Meal
“No matter what you’re eating, mix it, or serve it with vegetables. Having Chinese or Italian takeout? Making a stir-fry, burrito, or fajita at home? Split the dish in half, saving the other half for another meal, and mix in at least 1.5 cups of steamed vegetables right into your meal. Not only will you eat less of the heavier fare and slash the calories nearly in half, but you’ll also have a second serving for another day.” —The Nutrition Twins, Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT & Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT
Manage Your Stress
“Have a mindfulness practice. Stress can be overwhelming in your 40s. Whether you have small children, a consuming career, or both, you’re most likely busy taking care of other people and have less time for yourself. Try meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, or breathing exercises to bring down stress hormone levels like adrenaline and cortisol, which can trigger fat storage.” — Jennifer Cassetta
For more ways to reduce your stress, check out these 32 Foods That Turn Off Stress Hormones.