Your metabolism gets slightly slower as you age, so it's common for a woman in her 40s to carry more excess weight than she did in her 20s. That doesn't mean you can't modify your diet and exercise program to lose extra pounds -- including belly weight -- though. Burning belly fat not only boosts your self-confidence, but staying lean helps keep your brain healthy. People in their 40s who carry excess belly fat have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's in 30 to 40 years, explains the Harvard School of Public Health. Following a healthy weight-loss diet nourishes your cells and tissues with essential nutrients, and strength training and cardio can boost bone health.
Restrict Your Calorie Intake
While you might have been able to overindulge regularly when you were young, you'll need to make a concerted effort to restrict your calorie intake to lose belly fat in your 40s. Eating fewer calories -- so you're burning more than you eat each day -- means you'll start metabolizing the fat stored in your fat cells for energy. Each 500-calorie daily deficit corresponds to one pound of fat lost per week, and you should aim for a calorie deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day.
Exactly how many calories you'll need varies, depending on your exact age, as well as your activity level and body size. For example, a 43-year old woman who is 5-feet, 5-inches tall, weighs 155 pounds and leads an inactive lifestyle can maintain her weight weight with 1,913 calories per day. She could cut her intake to 1,413 calories daily and lose 1 pound a week.
Alternatively, she could eat 1,200 calories per day -- the minimum number of calories women need to meet their nutritional needs -- and burn 287 extra calories through exercise. That would create the 1,000-calorie deficit needed to lose 2 pounds per week.
Plug your height, weight, age and gender into an online energy needs calculator to estimate your daily calorie needs; then plan for a calorie deficit that allows you to lose 1 to 2 pounds weekly.
Stay Full With Nutritious Foods
You'll get the most satisfaction -- and the most health benefits -- from your diet if you get your calories from wholesome foods. That means low-calorie -- but filling -- fare like vegetables and fruits, along with healthy proteins -- like eggs, low-fat dairy, poultry, fish and beans -- whole grains and healthy fats, like nuts and avocado. Include vegetables at every meal to add bulk to your food without overindulging on calories, and include lean protein in every meal and snack to feel satisfied. Add beans, salmon or skinless chicken breasts to salads and stir-fries for healthy entrees, or snack on hard-boiled eggs, almonds, string cheese or sliced chicken and carrot sticks for a satisfying snack.
Focus on eating diet-friendly foods high in calcium. People who follow higher calcium diets are less likely to be obese, according to a review published in The Journal of the American Board of Family Practice in 2005, and calcium might increase your body temperature, which would boost your calorie burn. Calcium is also especially important for women in the 40s and beyond, since it plays an essential role in bone health and preventing osteoporosis. Choose nonfat dairy products, like yogurt and milk, as diet-friendly sources of calcium, as well as calcium-rich veggies like kale, bok-choy and broccoli.
Lose Belly Flab With Cardio
Adding cardio to your daily routine can help you increase your calorie deficit and blast body fat. However, you shouldn't jump right into a strenuous aerobics routine, even if you were an avid runner when you were younger. At age 40, it's especially important to work up to higher-impact forms of cardio -- like running or jump rope -- to avoid joint pain and discomfort. You should always check with your doctor to discuss any concerns with starting your exercise routine, as well.
Keep your joints healthy by easing into your workout routine with low-impact aerobics, such as brisk walking, water walking, swimming or water aerobics. A 155-pound person will burn almost 300 calories in an hour-long water aerobics class, and 167 calories in walking for 30 minutes and 4 miles per hour. Your individual calorie burn might vary -- if you weight more than 155 pounds, you'll burn more; if you weigh less, you'll burn less.
If your doctor gives the OK, you can start incorporating more vigorous forms of exercise to burn more calories. Moderate-intensity cycling, for example, burns 260 calories in 30 minutes if you weigh 155-pounds. Always listen to your body; if you notice joint pain or discomfort, or you find yourself demotivated by too-tough workouts, give yourself permission to try lower-impact exercise.
Strength Train for Health Past Your 40s
Women already tend to maintain less muscle mass than men, and it's natural to lose muscle as a result of aging. However, strength training can slow or stop your muscle loss, and it improves your posture and increases bone strength, which can keep you feeling more healthy and active as you age.
Strength train two to three times per week on nonconsecutive days to work the major muscles of your body -- your arms, shoulders, abdominals and core, and your legs. Using free weights -- like dumbbells and barbels -- under the supervision of a professional can strengthen all the muscles of your body, and also works stabilizer muscles you'll need to improve and maintain good posture. An expert can also recommend exercises that are best suited to your fitness level, flexibility and balance, accommodate any mobility issues or prior injuries, and ensure you're using the proper form to avoid injuries.