8 Diet Rules to Ditch After 40

PHOTO: Weigh in once a week for a more accurate number than daily weigh-ins can provide.
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You weigh yourself religiously, work off any splurge, and heck, you even eat baby carrots like they're potato chips. And yet your scale has suddenly come to a screeching halt, or worse—it's moving in the wrong direction.

What gives?

Turns out the same weight management and diet rules that worked for you in your 20s and 30s can backfire in your 40s. Try swapping these 8 outdated beliefs for ones that can work for you today.

8 Diet Rules To Ditch After 40

1. Ditch: Weigh yourself every day

Although studies show stepping on the scale every day helps some people keep their weight under control, daily weigh-ins can be frustrating after 40. "Hormonal fluctuations in your 40s can add to fluid shifts, which could alter weight on a daily basis," says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, a board certified specialist in sports dietetics and the Dallas Cowboys' sports dietician. "In reality, it takes a 3,500 calorie deficit to lose a pound, which is nearly impossible to do overnight." Weigh in once a week, ideally around the same time of day on the same day of the week, for a more accurate number.

8 Diet Rules To Ditch After 40

2. Ditch: Make up for that cookie by doing extra cardio

Erasing that extra slice of cake with a half hour on the elliptical doesn't work so easily after 40. "We need fewer calories, since metabolism decreases approximately 2 to 3% each decade," says Goodson. "You have to work harder to maintain or lose weight as you age, so it's not so easy to make up for those extra calories." To burn off an average doughnut of 250 calories, you'd need to walk for nearly an hour or do a 30 minutes aerobics class just to equal it out. Instead, allow yourself small treats in moderation and avoid major calorie splurges.

(These 10 comfort food makeovers can satisfy a craving with fewer calories.)

8 Diet Rules To Ditch After 40

3. Ditch: Skip a meal or two to drop a few pounds

Skipping a meal was never wise, but you used to get away with it in your 30s. Not so much anymore. "Skipping meals sets you up to overeat more than if you ate small meals or snacks," says Goodson. "And after 40, you're also more likely to crave sweets and sugars if you haven't eaten enough during the day."

A better approach: eat more during the morning and daytime when you're moving, exercising, and working, and eat less at night when you are burning fewer calories.

8 Diet Rules To Ditch After 40

4. Ditch: Shop the perimeter of the grocery store

Typically shopping around the perimeter of the grocery store is a good rule of thumb, since it's where you find most fruits, vegetables, lean meat, dairy, and whole foods, says Elisa Zied, MS, RD, author of Younger Next Week: Your Ultimate Rx to Reverse the Clock, Boost Energy and Look and Feel Younger in 7 Days. "However, some foods in the center aisle are essential for the 40-year-old women." Center aisles contain high-fiber whole grains such as oats, quinoa, and couscous, for example. Eating soluble fiber (most women need between 25 and 30 grams of fiber daily) helps lower cholesterol, which tends to increase with age, and it helps you feel full faster, says Zied.

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8 Diet Rules To Ditch After 40

5. Ditch: If you're short on time, fast food will suffice

This is one time when living in the moment will totally backfire. While it may be easier to run through a drive-thru than to prepare something yourself, fast food's gobs of excess calories, fat, and sodium can come back to haunt you, says Zied. Hormonal shifts after 40 and the tendency to add weight to the mid-section/belly area—plus eating high sodium foods—makes water retention a big issue. "It's also a bad idea since sodium and excess fat can also harm the heart, contribute to high blood pressure and stroke risk, lower bone mineral density, and lead to bone loss," says Zied. Grab a whole-grain granola bar or other healthy portable snack in place of fast food.

8 Diet Rules To Ditch After 40

6. Ditch: Drink a daily glass or two of wine

An additional 100 to 200 calories from a couple glasses of wine can easily contribute to weight gain over time—a fact that applies to anyone. But when you get older, it gets more complicated: Aside from calories, as we age our bodies also do not metabolize alcohol as easily, making its effects more toxic, Zied says. Opt for a lower calorie option like seltzer or club soda with a splash of 100% fruit juice, and do not exceed 7 drinks a week, says Zied.

8 Diet Rules To Ditch After 40

7. Ditch: Be mindful when you eat

While it's a good idea to be mindful (focus only on eating without any distractions) of what you eat, it's not always practical. "The 40s are a time when you should cut yourself slack—and not put so much pressure on yourself to always do the right thing," says Zied. When you don't have time to sit down to a healthy meal, planning becomes key, she says. Keep non-perishable snacks or easy-to-transport perishable items packed on ice when you're out and about. Low-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt, string cheese, dried (unsweetened) fruit, and whole grain cereals fit the bill when you're short on time (these 6 grab-and-go proteins also work).

8 Diet Rules To Ditch After 40

8. Ditch: Avoid white foods

Choosing whole-grain foods over "white" foods made from refined sugar and grains ensures you're getting the most nutritional bang for your buck. But not all white foods are unhealthy, says Zied. Take popcorn, for example. "It's 100% whole grain and packs in complex carbohydrates, fiber, and some protein. It also provides manganese and 12 other nutrients." Potatoes also deserve a spot on the menu, as they're low in fat and sodium, and contain complex carbs and fiber (from the skin). "Potatoes are also a source of resistant starch, a fiber-like complex carbohydrate that helps regulate blood sugar and boosts fullness to promote weight management," says Zied. Keep portion control in mind, of course, when eating other white foods such as rice or pasta.

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