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Midlife weight loss and how to achieve it. (Yes it can be done!)

How was your January? Did you make the promise on New Year's Day of finding that perfect diet and sticking to it until you'd lost all the weight you felt you needed to lose? If you are still going strong on the diet and it's working for you, well done! If, like so many other's you hit a stumbling block (delete as appropriate: long work days; family demands; lack of time; boredom from the very short list of 'good' foods that your new diet plan allows you to eat) then you're not alone.

I've been there, I used to research the various diet plans promising me if I cut out a certain food or way of eating then the flat stomach, trim waist and the ability to get into a pair of jeans without needing to stand on my head would all be mine. I start the diet convinced that this is it, the start of the 'new me' more meno-belly, be-gone bingo-wings! But the problem is, I like food and I like eating out and to be honest, the longest I've ever really stuck to a diet was for 2 weeks and all other attempts didn't make it past day 3 mostly because there was something infinitely more exciting to eat than what my new regime would allow.

Then of course, the menopause throws in the declining hormones and the lower metabolic rate and as we age we lose muscle mass, all of which don't help the weight loss mission and so the weight creeps on and seems harder to lose and we're tempted to go back on a diet - again (that's if we can really hack the low carb, low fat, no solid food after 5pm, grain free, dairy free, junk-food free, gluten free diet plan that is doing the rounds)! There is another way....I promise (read on).

First of all, my issue with diet culture is the promise of a diet plan where you can lose XXX over a period of weeks.....great, but then what's next. What happens when you go back to eating and living your life as you did before, doesn't the weight just creep back on? Wouldn't it be easier to find a way of eating that is sustainable in the long term and is more about the process rather than the outcome?

I lost weight when I chose to go into calorie deficit; simply put this is using more calories than I take in. Yes it involved weighing food initially but ultimately it was liberating; I didn't have to restrict food groups or cut anything out (this meant I could enjoy the process). I could go out to eat without worrying if my menu choices meant that I'd ruined any progress I'd made and I could eat that square of chocolate without fear of the diet God's frowning down on me for choosing such a sinful food. The outcome was, I did lose weight and I've kept it off but most importantly, I didn't feel deprived in any way.

I also didn't make things too difficult for myself, because isn't life challenging enough in midlife without adding dietary restrictions into the mix. So here's what works for me...let me know how you get on. I promise you in the long run it's much easier to live with than a quick fix weight loss solution!

  • I made small and sustainable changes initially. I started to reduce my portion sizes - I didn't stop eating the foods I loved, I just ate a little less of them and added more vegetables and salad to the plate. I increased my activity to 10,000 steps per day just by increasing by 500-1000 daily until I'd reached the 10,000 target. Small and sustainable habits will lead to a big change...the key is to stick with them and research shows that smaller changes are much easier to stick with and therefore more effective.

  • I use a calorie and exercise tracker to log meals and activity aiming for a 500 calorie deficit on a daily basis; however, if I don't achieve it every day I counterbalance it by managing my intake on subsequent days. For example, if I only achieve 300 calories deficit today, I will aim for 550 calorie deficit for the following 4 days. Try MyFitnessPal. app to track food and activity,

  • I increase my protein intake but definitely don't eliminate any other food group. Protein takes longer to break down by our body. It therefore uses more calories during this process and also keeps you full. It is also highly beneficial for those of us in midlife.

  • I include lots of fibre rich foods. So important for gut health and helping to remain fuller for longer. Ignore the boxed breakfast cereals promising high fibre as they are often calorie rich. Fibre is found in fruits and vegetables, switch white rice for brown rice, add lentils and beans to recipes such as chilli and bolognese - switch out some of the meat or go meat-free and use these fibre and protein rich food sources instead.

  • Initially, I weighed out items so that I could log them and check their calorie count but very quickly you get to learn what calories are in certain foods so it becomes easier to manage. I also use visual aids to estimate calories; for example I use the palm of my hand to determine a suitable portion size for a piece of chicken breast or fish. I use measuring cups to weigh out oats, pasta and rice etc initially determining the caloric values of them but once that's done, I know what they are and there is no further need to weigh them out, just use the cups!

  • I plan my meals out for the week (without being too rigid). If I don't have time to plan all my meals, I plan my evening meal so that I know what I have to work with earlier in the day. I find breakfast and lunch easier to manage as my main meal is always in the evening.

  • I enjoyed my food without feeling deprived or restricted; food to me is so much more than something to fuel my body - it is a thing of pleasure and I don't believe you have to forego that just to lose weight! You will find my recipes on Instagram @still_35_inside ... mostly calorie counted but sometimes not!.

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